I am Baptist. Are you?
I am Baptist by conviction. Yes, I was raised as a Baptist. As a small child, I was raised in an independent Baptist church, and then as a teenager in a Southern Baptist Church. I have degrees from three different Baptist institutions. However, I am not Baptist because my parents were, or because my grandparents were. I am Baptist because I am convicted that Baptist doctrine best aligns with Scripture.
So what does it mean to be Baptist? There are several distinctions Baptist hold to; distinctions such as our congregational polity, our local church autonomy, and our symbolic interpretation of the Lord’s Supper. I want go deeper on the distinction that we derive our name from though, baptism.
Baptism is a word in English that looks and sounds just like the Greek word. Every Christian denomination believes in some sort of baptism, but that is about as far as agreement goes. There is disagreement about the meaning of baptism: Is it symbolic or is regenerative (does it save)? There is disagreement about the subject of baptism: Who should be baptized? or Should we baptize infants? There is disagreement about the mode of baptism: Do we sprinkle, pour, or dunk? Even among those who argue for immersion, there are those who believe one immersion is sufficient, as we do, and there are those who believe three immersions are necessary; one in the name of the Father, one in the name of the Son, and one in the name of the Spirit. Questions arise about who should be the one to administer baptism: some argue that only the pastor, some argue that the person who led the new believer to Christ, and there are even those that argue for a self-baptism (exactly what it sounds like).
I am Baptist. What does that mean?
Believer’s Baptism. This answers a couple of questions: who should be baptized and what baptism means. We believe that only believers in Christ should be baptized. The implication is that we will not baptize infants because infants cannot make a conscience decision to follow Jesus. This also means that baptism is not regenerative. Baptism does not save anyone. Rather, a person is baptized after Jesus has saved them, after their heart has been regenerated. The order of events matters. Baptism is for believers only.
Not only is baptism for believers only, but believers should be baptized. Some of the last words of Jesus before his ascension were instructions to his followers, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19).” New Christians should be baptized. Like circumcision, it is a means of marking new family members as such. Believers should be obedient and submit to baptism.
Baptism is Symbolic. This too answers multiple questions. Paul described it this way, "In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (Col. 2:11-12)."
Much like circumcision did not justify anyone in the Old Testament (Romans 4:10-11), baptism is not saving. It is a sign of the new covenant, received to signify the faith the believer has before baptism.
Immersion. Should we sprinkle, should we pour, or should we immerse? Baptist baptize by immersion for a few reasons. First, the word in the Greek translates into the idea of immersion. Further, immersion best symbolizes the nature of baptism. In Colossians 2:12, baptism is clearly a sign, thus it represents something. It represents being united with Christ in burial and in resurrection. It seems that sprinkling and pouring do not provide the visual symbolic image of being buried and being raised that immersion does.
Our distinctives about baptism are just that, our distinctive. We are Baptist. This is a second tier doctrine though, meaning that this doesn’t break our Christian fellowship that we have with our Methodist brothers and sisters or our Presbyterian brothers and sisters. It does mean that we will have gather with different local bodies on the Lord’s Day for worship, and that’s okay.
I am Baptist. We are Baptist. We are West Canton.
Watch the sermon, I Am Baptist: