I posted this comment on a Facebook page regarding an article about a churches stance on water baptism. That church believed new believers should somehow prove themselves before being baptized. I hope my opinion helps your understanding.
This is just my soapbox here. Just my opinion.
First of all, I think folks place way too much importance on baptism. The madrs are hell bent on removing water baptism from the doctrines and practices of the church, and totally reject it. “Dry cleaners” they’re called. Then there’s the groups that require water baptism as a secind work of grace. Both groups are wromg. There is no power in water baptism. In John’s day, it was a picture of the death burial and resurrection of Jesus and a public testimony and co identification with Jesus. Not much has changed in 2000 years. Today, just as the Lord’s supper is a remembrance of Jesus death, baptism serves as a MEMORIAL and reminder of Jesus death burial and resurrection. Very simple.
In the article I read, the church was using baptism as a type of behavior modification, or control tool. while their actions may have been well intended, it is not Biblical.
Their ignorance Is saddening. Their zeal is not according to knowledge.
Agreeing with the Apostle Paul, and Peter, my personal opinion is that baptism has nothing to do with salvation, or forgiveness, or membership in the body of Christ. To be clear, I don’t teach or preach baptism as part of salvation.
Ours is a SPIRITUAL baptism that takes place at the moment we believe. Water baptism has nothing to do with it.
I was baptized in water after my salvation at the age of 9. I was not a mature Christian then, but even at that young age, I had sense enough to know it had nothing to do with Jesus saving me. I accepted the Lord into my heart a long time before I hit the water, but I wanted to be publicly identified with Christ. It was NOT required, it was simply my first public testimony.
Baptism was required under the Kingdo gospel in Acts 2 but only as the MEANS by which they received the Holy Ghost. Many received it by the laying on of hands also. Not today. Today the believer receives tbe GIFT of the Holy Ghost the instant they believe. Using the thief on the cross as an example, water baptism was NEVER a requirement for salvation.
I write all this now because I have a good understanding of it. The preacher who baptized me also explained that I was saved before I ever got to the water. I knew I was publicly declaring identification with Jesus Christ. Most new believers aren’t Bible scholars. This we must keep in mind.
I think if a new believer seeks baptism based upon his own understanding, and is motivated by his conscience and a desire to publicly co identify with Christ, then by all means, if he is doing it unto the Lord, he should not be forbidden, compelled, or delayed, or have to pass some sort of examination or assessment period to receive it.
If a grace believing church compels, or puts requirements on baptism, then they are just as guilty, and no different than the works based religions and cults out across the world.
Concerning salvation,the Lord knows his own, he needs no assistance. It is not our place to judge, condemn, or to verify any one’s salvation. Nor is it our place to compel a person to prove himself, or his salvation. It is our place to share the gospel,and the love of Jesus. Leave the saving up to God.
As Peter said, baptism is a matter of conscience. It has nothing to do with salvation under today’s gospel found in 1 Cor. 15, and Ephesians 2:8-9. To teach baptism as a condition of, or having ANYTHING to do with salvation is a perversion of the gospel.
That being said, I have known new believers who saw no point in baptism at all. I have also saw new believer’s who knew water baptism had nothing to do with salvation, but wanted to be baptized as a testimony and public identification with Christ Jesus. Neither individual should be compelled or condemned.
Peter called baptism the answer of a good conscience towards God. Paul said it had nothing to do with salvation or his gospel, but never condemned it outright. In Acts, Paul also baptized , AND CIRCUMCISED a few people for the sake of the Jews CONSCIENCE,* (key word) and to get his foot in the door so to speak, to preach to the Jews. Note That Paul’s actions were often dictated by the Jews CONSCIENCE and level of understanding, and not his knowledge to the contrary. Paul called himself a pattern to us. This is the key principle.
As we all know, Water baptism by immersion is universally associated with Jesus. It is most patently Christian, and recognized as such, on sight, the world over. Many believers in America aren’t aware that public baptism is illegal in many parts of the world, especially communist countries and dictatorships. In other anti Christ nations, public baptism can get you killed, persecuted, tortured, or imprisoned. It is a bold public statement for the Lord. It is not required for salvation, nor Is it a second work of grace. A new believer should be led by conscience and common sense, and educated and informed about baptism, but not encouraged, compelled, or forbidden, and certainly not delayed if they seek such for their CONSCIENCE sake.
Often times, churches get confused when it comes to the difference in a church attendee, a church MEMBER, and a church OFFICER. Logically though, there are different standards expected of each, but not with regards to salvation, or “worthiness for baptism.”
The church attendee, or new believer should be viewed and treated as one seeking the Lord. The new believer seen as a babe in Christ Jesus, and the church member as a growing Christian, while the elder, teacher, deacon or Pastor are seen as direct representatives of the local church, and logically should be held to a higher moral standard.
Our Apostle Paul laid out different qualifications and standards for different officers in the church. But outside of this, Paul provided no standard for local church membership. We do have an example of sorts though.
Our example is seen when the Apostles extended the “right hand of fellowship” to Paul after his salvation, and the Apostles heard his testimony, and perceived that he had been with the Lord. While Paul went on to preach our gospel to the Gentiles, Paul was no expert at that particular time either. He too was a babe in Christ at that time.
So it should be with most local churches today. Membership in the local church comes by “the right hand of fellowship” after a profession of faith unto salvation. This has NOTHING to do with his salvation.
It is not fair to judge a new believer by his conduct, or examine him, that is for GROWN CHRISTIANS seeking an office or the pulpit in the church.
While a period of examination IS biblical for appointment as a church officer, Pastor or Deacon, It is not for us to challenge or examine the authenticity of a new believer’s salvation, or their sincerity, or to task them with “walking the walk”, or make them beholden to anyone. The new believer is, spiritually and doctrinally speaking, just a babe that can barely crawl, not a mature Christian, or an expert in sound doctrine, nor a saint in his habits and behaviors.
In closing, while I personally don’t teach baptism, I would not compel, nor forbid a new believer. It is an issue that is not worth being right about one way or the other, no matter one’s opinion, and can become a point of contention instead of common ground among believers.
One has to keep in mind that new believers are not Bible experts. They seek confirmation and co identification with Jesus for their CONSCIENCE sake, not according to knowledge.
Testing, challenging, and examination is for our officers, teachers and Pastors, not new converts.
ANY group that tests, or treats new believers as mentioned in the article is more akin to a “religion”, or a cult, than a church, and I strongly suggest avoidance of such associations.