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AN UNWARRANTABLE STRESS ON BAPTISM

By Curtis Pugh

Baptists have often been charged with putting an emphasis on baptism that is neither justifiable or excusable, i.e. unwarrantable. Doubtless this has been the case from the days of the apostles when “they went out from us” (1 John 2:19) and surely increased later when those who left the Lord's congregations adopted the damnable heresy of baptismal regeneration. It certainly was the case in Britain during the ministry of Strict Baptist preacher Abraham Booth (A.D. 1734 to A.D.1806). Because the Strict (closed communion) Baptists were being greatly slandered with this false charge he wrote a book in defense of the Baptists. We cite his lengthy title as one piece of evidence of the charges often laid at the feet of the Baptists. Take note of his title: AN APOLOGY FOR THE BAPTISTS. In which they are vindicated from the imputation of laying an unwarrantable stress on the ordinance of baptism; and against the charge of bigotry in refusing communion at the Lord's table to paedobaptists. So it is we borrow a bit of his title in giving a name to this present effort. (Paedobaptists, modern spelling pedobaptists, are those who in one fashion or another put water upon a baby thinking such an act bestows saving grace upon the recipient. Included in the group so named are the Eastern Orthodox etc. who dip at least a part of the infant's body, but nevertheless so “baptize” babies.)

First of all we assert that today's strict Baptists lay no more emphasis upon baptism than is warranted by the Word of God. Like our lineal forefathers through whom we claim a valid succession reaching back to the first congregation established by Christ, we continue the same baptism which they first administered. First of all we demand a proper candidate: a believer in Christ, i.e. one giving satisfactory evidence of regeneration before a congregation of Christ. As demonstrated by Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8:37-38 so say we: “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” The so-called baptisms of the pedobaptists conform neither in the character of the candidate nor in the mode of administration to New Testament baptisms for no records of either infants being baptized nor of anything other than dipping can be found in God's Book.

Not only do we demand a proper candidate, we require a proper mode. It is a thing of amazement to me that most of those who are so insistent that baptism is necessary for salvation are so loose as have no respect for the seriousness of the very nature of baptism: i.e. that there exists such a thing as a proper mode. Protestants generally will accept dipping for baptism (which is the meaning of the Greek “baptizo”) and at the same time insist that sprinkling and pouring are equally legitimate. This claim of theirs that sprinkling is acceptable is completely baseless both from the meaning of the Greek “baptizo” and from the teaching and examples found in the Bible. If pedobaptist ministers were an uneducated lot we could perhaps excuse such inconsistency, but as they are generally educated above the level of most of their ordinary members, we think such inconsistency must be not due to ignorance, but rather to a disregard for the meaning of words themselves due to a prejudice for denomination or convenience above the Scriptures.

It is a notable fact this: every competent Greek scholar regardless of denominational affiliation admits that “baptizo” and related words signify and indeed demand the meaning “to dip” or “to plunge.” No serious Greek scholar states that “baptizo” and related words mean to sprinkle or to pour! While there are multiple instances of historical evidence to be cited, strict Baptists of today cite not only the meaning of the word, but various Scriptures in support of the requirement of a proper or scriptural mode. We furnish one here: “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized,” (John 3:23). Weymouth translates “much water there” as “many pools of water there.” The Jordan was well known for the small amount of its flow during the dry season, but the place selected by John – indeed demanded by the nature of the ordinance – had pools or as we say “holes of water” sufficient for the dipping of repentant sinners. Today's strict Baptists, like John the Baptist, require “much water” whereas protestant pedobaptists are quite satisfied with a tiny amount.

Perhaps we should interject here that since pedobaptists did not get their practice of sprinkling or pouring from the Bible it is worthwhile to ask whence this practice came. Sprinkling was occasionally accepted as baptism for reasons of health by the Catholic party after their formation. Generally, however, sprinkling remained at least somewhat suspicious among the Catholics until in A.D. 1311. That year the Roman Catholic council that was held in Ravenna, Italy proclaimed that sprinkling was equal to dipping as an acceptable mode of “baptism” among the Catholics. Of course this did not alter the practice of the Baptists of that day since they regarded the Pope as an anti-Christ and rightly refused to obey him. Sprinkling, then, is a part of the “baggage” brought out of the Roman Harlot by the Protestants in their halfway attempt to reform the evils of their mother. In obeying this practice it is not the Bible which is obeyed, but ultimately Mother Rome.

In the third place we strict baptists demand a proper motive for our dipping of repentant sinners. Most protestants, along with most other pedobaptists (baby baptizers) teach that baptism is administered in order to convey necessary saving grace to the candidate be he adult or infant. We could cite numerous denominational statements that say the same, but as the Methodists are well known in our country their statements should be sufficient to prove what I say. From the United Methodist liturgy we quote the words specified by the denomination to be said by their minister: “1. The pastor makes the following statement to the congregation: Brothers and sisters in Christ: Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy Church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.” After completing either the dipping, sprinkling or pouring (as may be demanded by the candidate or its parents if an unconscious infant or young child), the United Methodist liturgy specifies that their minister say, “Now it is our joy to welcome our new sisters and brothers in Christ. Through baptism you are incorporated by the Holy Spirit into God’s new creation and made to share in Christ’s royal priesthood. We are all one in Christ Jesus. With joy and thanksgiving we welcome you as members of the family of Christ.” (Anyone may “Google” the phrase United Methodist liturgy baptism and find the foregoing quotes on their official denominational site).

So it is that the United Methodist church position on baptism is that the act is not a mere ordinance, but a sacrament, i.e. a conveyance of saving grace. To them it is an act by which unknowing and unwilling and unconscious babes are made disciples of Christ. Again we take space to offer one Scripture which clearly shows that the Baptist position is correct: baptism does not make disciples. “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,” (John 4:1). This verse clearly says that both John and Jesus (1) made disciples and (2) baptized disciples. It says that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John. Notice it is one thing to make a disciple and quite another to baptize a disciple and it is clearly stated that Jesus here baptized disciples. He did not baptize sinners in order to make them into disciples. They were already disciples when they were baptized if English words and sentences convey meaning at all! Strict Baptists today do what John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus (through His disciples) did: we baptize those who are already disciples! We do not think to make sinners into disciples via baptism or sprinkling as pedobaptists do.

And finally, in the fourth place, today's strict Baptists demand a scriptural administrator. Such an individual who meets the biblical pattern for valid baptism is (1) a man, (2) a baptized man, (3) a congregation-ordained male teacher and (4) a man in good standing as a member of a previously existing congregation of Christ's having been given authority by that assembly. Thus the authority for baptism lies not in the man physically administering the ordinance, but in the congregation which authorized his act. This is according to the New Testament pattern and is seen in that which is specified in Acts 13:1-4: “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost...” In this text God called, the congregation fasted and prayed. The Holy Ghost directed the congregation regarding the called men and after more fasting and prayer hands were laid upon the called men marking them out as set aside for special work. The congregation determined this, not a board, not a “bishop,” not a denomination nor an association or convention. In this way true evangelists were sent forth by the Holy Ghost to carry out the great commission left to the congregations. Anyone who knows the practices of today's protestants will agree that they do not require what today's strict Baptists require as meeting the biblical standards for valid baptism.

But we insist that we lay no more emphasis upon baptism that do the Scriptures for at every turn we have shown by those very Scriptures that we do what was done in the days of Christ and His apostles. And while we insist as Tertullian said, “Doubtless those who are not baptized aright are not baptized at all,” we do not place the emphasis, the unwarranted unjustifiable emphasis on baptism that pedobaptists do for they make baptism a necessity.

While strict Baptists insist that submission to Scriptural baptism as specified above is a righteous act – by it both the administrator and the candidate “fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) by obeying the Lord who sent John the Baptist to institute baptism (see John 1:33). We do not lay the stress – the unscriptural stress – upon the act as do the pedobaptists. Today's strict Baptists, like their lineal forefathers, insist that baptism is a matter of obedience and so teach and practice. But it is the pedobaptists who make what they term “baptism” to be critical, vital and necessary for salvation. It is they, not we, who claim all importance for their so-called baptism! We require submission to the ordinance in the same manner and for the same purpose as we see in the baptism of John the Baptist, Christ and His apostles. We say it is a matter of obedience.

It is rather the pedobaptists who insist that baptism is not a matter of acceptable service to Christ, but rather a saving act. We say scriptural baptism is necessary as a matter of obedience to Christ. It is they who claim for it something the New Testament does not. It is they who lay an unwarrantable stress upon baptism by making it a saving sacrament: a work that saves – if the one baptized keeps on working, of course for they almost always believe in what they mistakenly term “falling from grace.”

So, again it is seen that there are only two religions in the world: one of works and the other of grace. God says through Paul, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And we cite the following: Romans 4:6: “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” 2 Timothy 1:9: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Note this last: it is the regeneration that washes. Regeneration is an act of the Holy Spirit not of man. No washing regenerates!) Biblical Christianity teaches salvation by grace, not by works nor by an imagined and impossible thing called works plus grace or grace plus works for the attempted mix the two is to corrupt and change the nature of each. Grace is unmerited favor and is not earned, obtained or attained unto by any work whatsoever. The result of work(s) is reward, payment, earned compensation or as Paul says, “debt” in Romans 4:4 where it is written: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” The very idea that some act or acts or work or ritual can merit grace is contrary to the nature of grace. Wages are not unmerited, but rather are the debt owed to the worker.

Regardless of the name given to the religion – whether Christianity or some other name – and whether the act is so-called baptism or taking a bath in the Ganges River or making a pilgrimage to Mecca or doing “temple work” in Salt Lake City or going door-to-door spreading a false gospel – there is as much saving grace obtained by any one of these acts as by another of them. Sincerity does not sanctify an unscriptural act whether it be a so-called baptism for salvation or any action unwarranted – unjustified – by the Scriptures.

So it is seen that it is the pedobaptists, not the strict Baptists, who lay unjustified stress and importance upon baptism – i.e. what they falsely label as baptism. Strict Baptists acknowledge that there are doubtless many like the thief lifted up beside Christ Jesus who was regenerated on his tree without baptism – many who shall be in Heaven never having obeyed the Lord in baptism for various reasons. Consistency demands that pedobaptists declare that since baptism has at least a part in regeneration all those dying unbaptized shall be cast into the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. Obviously, then, it is pedobaptists who lay unwarrantable stress on their so-called baptism and not strict Baptists. Let the pedobaptist glory in his priest-craft for priest-craft it is when it is taught that God cannot alone by His Spirit regenerate a spiritually dead sinner, but that there must be another, a mere man, to administer regenerating water to accomplish the initial step in salvation. We say all glory to the Lamb that was slain for “Salvation is of the LORD,” (Jonah 2:9) not by means of sprinkling or even by immersion!


Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726

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