A Tough Question for Biblical Baptists

As I read the discussion on Bart’s post yesterday my mind went back to a story I heard a Baptist leader tell not too long ago. I wanted to pose this tough question for our discussion. We ought to form our theology based on biblical teachings, not on difficult quandaries such as this, but it is still interesting to ponder what we might do in particular circumstance.

For the sake of this article, we need not argue the basics of biblical baptism. Apologies to our Presby friend Les who hangs out here, but the readers of Voices are pretty much exclusively people who are convinced that biblical Baptism is 1) by immersion, 2) of believers, 3) a command of God that is incumbent on new converts as a public profession of faith in Christ, and 4) a requirement to membership in an SBC church.

I know there are a few Baptist churches who are experimenting with the idea that one could accept into membership pedobaptists, but most of us reject that out of hand. It is clear, we believe, to anyone who simply reads and follows the scriptures and does not interpose some kind of theological system on it, that baptism is what I described above.

What Would You Do? A Difficult Scenario

Mrs. McGillicuddy has recently been saved at her advanced age. However, she is frail, needs oxygen to breath, and is within days of receiving the inheritance in Christ she so recently came into. She wants to be baptized, but immersion is simply not a possibility. Out of the question. Ol’ Beatrice has only two options.

1) She can die without being baptized.

Like the thief on the Cross she can be with Christ in paradise without ever entering the waters of baptism. She is saved by the finished work of Christ. Salvation is not mediated by baptism, but testified to in baptism. So, as a pastor I could just explain to her that God accepts her in Christ and that baptism is not necessary.

2) We can make an exception. 

The Baptist leader I mentioned above made a one-time exception in a situation like this. He “baptized’ the person who could not enter into the waters for the correct form of baptism – immersion – by sprinkling or pouring (don’t remember which).

Church membership is not really an issue here, since the lady is bed-ridden. She just wants to follow the Lord in baptism.

I am not trying to use this exception to set the rule. I agree with the rule. Baptism is AFTER profession of faith by immersion. That is the policy of Southern Baptists because, I believe, it is the biblical policy. But in a narrow moment, in an exceptional situation, would you baptize this new convert, Beatrice McGillicuddy, by extra-biblical means like sprinkling or pouring? Or would you simply remind her that baptism, while an important act of obedience, is not essential to salvation and stand by your Baptist guns?

What would you do?

What’s Your Story?

This is my article for my church’s July 2014 newsletter…

Psalm 145:1-7

1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.  2 Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.  3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.  5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.  7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

If someone were to ask you to “share your testimony,” what would you think they meant? For many Christians the first answer to come to mind would be: to tell the story of how I came to Christ. While this is true, it is also incomplete. Testimony should mean so much more.

If you have been a follower of Jesus for five years, ten years, twenty five years, sixty years, or however long you have sought to live devoted to him; then God did not merely save you and leave you be. Rather, throughout your life God has been dwelling within you (the Holy Spirit), shaping and changing you.

A testimony is about much more than what God did some time ago. So, what if we were to change the question? What has God been doing in your life recently? What have you learned from God today?

In Psalm 145, David spoke about a personal yet other-focused and multi-generational understanding of God and our worship of him. Personal and daily: Every day I will bless you and praise your name; other-focused: They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness; and multi-generational: One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

Why do these things matter?—because the Bible speaks about evangelism and discipleship in much the same way (consider: Titus 2:1-8 and Deuteronomy 6, for example). God tells us about himself through the story of Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation, God the Father speaking about his Son, Jesus, and how he interacts with and gives life and hope to humanity and the rest of creation. The Bible speaks to us as the stories of God and the stories of men and women of years past and their relationship to God. If we are followers of Jesus, then we devote ourselves to a relationship with him through the Bible and prayer.

Daily, God interacts with our lives and he does so, in part, that we might have something to share with other people. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul wrote, “Copy me, just as I’m copying the Messiah” (The Kingdom New Testament). In other words, as Paul loved and followed Jesus, that transformed him to imitate Jesus more and more, which included a love for others. Out of a love for others, Paul shared with them his life and the message of Christ. Through him, they knew who God is, how God had changed Paul, and how God continued to change Paul. They also knew what it meant to live as a follower of Jesus in this world.

So…what does your life tell other people? Do you know God, do you love and follow Jesus, and does this provide an example for others? This encapsulates evangelism and discipleship. By living a life that is different, transformed by Jesus, and by sharing with others about who he is and what he continues to do in your life, then you are evangelizing. By building relationships with other followers of Jesus and letting them see how you live while sharing stories about how Jesus is shaping your life and insights you are gaining from the Bible, then you are making disciples.

We live in a culture that largely looks to professionals for good service. We want professionals to build our houses and fix our cars. We want professionals to cook and serve us meals at restaurants (or, we watch professionals on tv as we try to learn how to cook better for ourselves). We want professionals to teach math and English to our children. We want professionals to diagnose our ailments and prescribe us medicine.

So we’re cultured (or perhaps conditioned) to think that ministry, including evangelism and discipleship, is something left to the professionals. The thing is, however, the Bible never puts ministry into the hands of professionals. Every follower of Jesus (also known as a disciple or saint in Scripture) is called by God to do ministry work (Ephesians 4:11-12). Every follower of Jesus is a part of a holy priesthood that offers spiritual service to God, including declaring his greatness to others (1 Peter 2:4-12). Every follower of Jesus is a disciple called to make other disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching what Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:16-20).

In fact, even among the apostles there was not a sense of professionalism as recognized by the world. Acts 4:13 records, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John were ordinary, everyday men—fisherman, workers in a common trade; but they were empowered by the Holy Spirit, and filled with a love for Christ and his word. They main thing that set them apart was, “They had been with Jesus.”

Have you been with Jesus today in the Bible, in prayer, and in fellowship with other followers of him? What difference has he made in your life today? This past week? This past year? These are the things that matter, these are things that will make other people take notice, and these are the things that have the power to change the world.

Early in the life of the church, the good news of Jesus did not spread through extraordinary means. It was through people who loved Jesus and who were changed by him spreading the stories of Jesus and how their lives were changing to anyone they knew or could find who would listen.

What’s your story? How is God changing you today?

I want to challenge you to what David did and what he called for us to do in Psalm 145: to praise God every day and to share stories of him from person to person and from one generation to the next. Here are some things to help you with this:

  1. Make sure you are seeking to be with Jesus on a daily basis through reading his word and spending time in prayer, and by staying in the habit of meeting with other followers of Jesus for true fellowship.
  2. Take some time and think about how Jesus is changing you day to day, week to week. Write it down if that will help you process your thoughts. Ponder the questions: How am I different today than I was a few months ago? What is something new that I learned from the Bible or something from Scripture that stood out as I was reading it this past week? What has God taught me today that I may not have known yesterday?
  3. Then, over the next couple of days intentionally share this with at least two other people. Have one of them be a friend or a family member—someone with whom you interact on a regular basis; and have another one be someone from a younger generation or maybe even someone from an older generation. Share and encourage one another with God’s work in your lives!

FIRST-PERSON: How should we treat immigrants?

Terry Dorsett, a church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board, encourages Christians to reach out to their immigrant neighbors. "If God has accepted those from other nations into His family, how can we do any less?"