Ten Things I Believe: Number 4: Believer’s Baptism by Immersion

In the video above, Mark Driscoll says, “What does it mean to be a Baptist? We dunk adults. Anything else? Uhm, no.”

I am concerned at what I see happening to our Baptist distinctives in modern times. A loss of our distinctives can be seen in both the Emerging and the Emergent movements. Worse than that many Baptists do not see this as a problem and seek to promote these views. The same loss of Baptist distinctives can be seen in mainstreasm churches which begin to question whether believer’s baptism by immersion is necessary for church membership. In the past few years, John Piper’s church has debated this question and Henderson Hills in Oklahoma questioned requiring baptism for membership but stopped before the vote.  

To me Baptist distinctives mean more than “dunking adults.” I believe the New Testament gives regulatory rules for how a church should operate. I believe a church should have regenerate church membership, believer’s Lord Supper, church discipline, congregational rule, meaningful membership, expository preaching, beleiver’s baptism by immersion, and be missional (evangelistic or missionary Baptist or whatever popular term you wish to use in order to say winning people to Christ).

I follow in a line of theology that has deemed believer’s baptism by immersion a hill on which to die. In fact many men have died on that hill throughout centuries of persecution from state churches. I am Baptist by conviction and I pray that we are raising a new generation who is also Baptist by conviction. I believe that Jesus was baptized by immersion after a long travel both ways just to be immersed by John the Baptist. If it was that important to Jesus, then it is important to me.

Jesus singled out “baptism” in the Great Commission. It immediately follows making disciples. Jesus could have mentioned a host of other items after “making disciples.” He could have said, “make them pray a prayer, sign a card, walk an aisle, or lift their hand.” He could have said, “Teach them about church disicpline.” He could have said, “Practice the Lord’s Supper.” He could have said any number of things. However, other important matters of theology fall under “teaching them all things that I have commanded you.” What does Jesus single out? Baptism. Listening to some popular modern speakers, I am shocked Jesus didn’t say, “as you go, make disciples and dunk adults if you want, or not, whatever…it’s not that important anyway.”

Then there is Peter in Acts. I seem to remember a verse known as Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Peter connected baptism so closely to salvation that many have erred by thinking it was essential for salvation. We have erred in the opposite way by minimizing the importance of baptism. While baptism is not essential for salvation, it is very important. Baptism is the public profession of faith. Baptism is the first step of obedience. Baptism is of believers by immersion.  

Okay, perhaps you think that I am a little too passionate about this topic. You may be right. I do not wish to insult Mark Driscoll, John Piper or any other fellow believer. However, I do wish to passionately support the guideposts our Baptist fathers established known as Baptist distinctives. The trail of our fathers is long and strong in following the New Testament and Christ’s commands. I pray that the future of Baptist distinctives may be just as long and as strong.  

Perhaps I have not discussed my scriptural support for baptism enough. If you want to know more of my beliefs, I have already written papers on this topic that are more elaborate. You can access my paper titled The Proper Subject of Baptism or you can read my paper titled What Makes Baptism Valid. These two documents do much more than what I can afford to do here. Here is a summary of the contents of “What Makes Baptism Valid.”

Six Necessary Categories of Discussing Baptism

  1. Subject:  The subject of baptism must be a believer. Any other subject cannot make a profession of faith or identify with Christ or His church.
  2. Mode:  Immersion is the proper mode of baptism. No other mode is supported by Scripture.
  3. Meaning:  Baptism is not essential for salvation and does not grant an elevated status of sinlessness. Baptism is the profession of the believer placing his/her allegiance with Christ, and the initiatory ordinance into the local church. Baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  4. Church:  Proper baptism must be performed in connection with a true church. Baptism is a church ordinance and not a Christian ordinance. As this is perhaps the least understood view, a necessary discussion of the definition of a true church must also occur.
  5. Administrator:  The administrator should be someone selected by the local church. Overemphasis on this can lead to problems, as it did with the Donatists.
  6. Formula:  The traditional formula is baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost in older times). Valid baptism must at the very least be in Jesus’ name.

I believe the baptism of believer’s by immersion is biblical. I believe God’s truth is immortal, and baptism means more to me than dunking adults. That is why I believe in believer’s baptism by immersion.

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8 Comments

Filed under 10 Things I Believe, baptism, Baptist Identity, Southern Baptist Convention

8 responses to “Ten Things I Believe: Number 4: Believer’s Baptism by Immersion

  1. cbscott

    Mark Driscoll is simply wrong. Period. The sad thing is he is a leader who others follow for various reasons. Several of those reasons have nothing to do with biblical theology.

    It is a fact that you, Thomas, did not say these things of Mark Driscoll. I did. It is also a fact that the things you did say are true. It is also a fact that more people would argue against the truth of what you have said than would have in the past. It is that fact which gives me the greatest concern.

    The question that constantly comes to the surface for me when I read of such a theological lacking among us is; What shall we do to correct this problem before it grows?

    cb

  2. Dr. White,

    Have you seen the latest back-and-forth between Dr. John Piper and Dr. Wayne Grudem on the issue of Dr. Grudem’s change in his Systematic Theology book? It is an interesting exchange. Also interesting to note, Dr. Piper is arguing that refusing anyone membership into a church based on believers baptism is equal to excommunication.

    Dr. Piper’s initial blog:
    http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/757_response_to_grudem_on_baptism_and_church_membership/#Respond

    Dr. Grudem’s response:
    http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/758_wayne_grudems_response_to_piper/

    Blessings,
    Tim

  3. Tim,

    I have seen the dialogue between Piper and Grudem. I think it is very interesting, and I am pleased that Grudem has strengthened his stance. As to Piper’s position, I think that may be worthy of a future post so I will hold off on commenting until then. Thanks for stopping by. God bless.

    Thomas White

  4. Rob

    Thomas,

    Good post, it is well written and helpful. The internet needs more voices like yours.

    I tend to lean your way theologically (from what I can tell) but since moving to a new culture and dealing with issues that are more similar to what the infant / 1st century local churches faced rather than the much more mature “Western church”, I’m constantly having to go back and evaluate what is BIBLICAL and what is simply TRADITION (good and otherwise.)

    Having said that, would you mind explaining the BIBLICAL basis for point #4. (clarification – when you say “true church” in this context, are you talking about “local church”?)

    I ask because quite often people where I minister come to faith independent of a local church and there are very few, if any at all, options for healthy local church involvement. That means that usually the first several believers of what eventually becomes a church plant are baptized independent of a local church. Are you saying that BIBLICALLY, these baptisms, done outside the context of a local church, are invalid? How do we deal with Biblical examples of baptism that do not seem connected to any local church?

    Thank you for the time and effort you put into this!

    In Him,
    Rob

  5. Rob,

    Thanks for you question. If you look at the paper linked in the articles on “What is Valid Baptism” you will find an explanation of a true church and some of why I believe baptism should be connected to the local church. I do mean the local church when I state that. I will post on this further as time allows. God bless.

    Thomas White

  6. Rob

    I read the white paper (pun intended?) that you wrote and now understand clearly what you mean by “true church.” However, I am still in want of BIBLICAL support for connecting believers baptism and the local church.

    Please know, I’m not disagreeing with the connection so much as I’m seeking understanding of the issue from a Biblical rather than traditional viewpoint. When we teach, disciple and mentor believers involved in church plants, we admonish them to default to a strict and literal understanding of Scripture and to be wary of mandating church traditions that are not connected to Scripture.

    They study Scripture and see a young church that looks alot like theirs, they also see Baptism happening immediately, or very soon, after conversion with connections to identifying with Christ, but not a local church.

    Thanks for any clarity you can lend to this.

    Blessings,
    Rob Stevens

  7. Rob,

    Your question is an excellent one. I will give you a short answer and try to post something on this topic in the future. Establishing the case that believers baptism belongs to the church is harder than doing so with the Lord’s Supper and in addition there is not chapter and verse. However, here is why I believe as I do…

    1) Christ said upon this rock I will build my church and not individual believers. I think our society focuses on individualism and not the community of believers which results in a few errors.

    2) Second, baptism is the public profession of faith. To whom is this profession made? In the book of Acts, it is made to the church (believers) that decides to accept or reject the candidate into their fellowship. There is no need for a personal profession as that has already happened and God knows whether it was true or not. The need is the public identification with Christ. This identification with Christ begins with baptism and continues through connection to Christ bride which is his church.

    3) I believe that both ordinances rightly belong to the church. I can easily prove the Lord’s Supper from 1 Cor 5. It would be odd to have one belong to the church and the other not. In addition the community of believers determine discipline and practice Lord’s Supper so I see no reason to individualize baptism while the others are clearly not.

    I could go on, but time is short. I will attempt to give a more detailed answer to you later. Thanks for the question. I hope this helps as you think through the issues.

    Thomas White

  8. Great article. But I do have a question. The Acts 2 quote from Peter. How do you reconcile the fact Peter says repent AND be baptized for forgiveness of sins? Yes, I’m aware that salvation is by grace through faith alone. But, grammatically, how else can you view what Peter says here, other than concluding baptism regenerates you?
    Thanks,
    Ed

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