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*Believer’s Baptism *
*Doctrines Class Handout for October 28, 2007*
490 years ago this very week – something very significant happened – Oct. 31, 1517.
Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door in Germany, sparking the Reformation in response to RCC’s unbiblical and extrabiblical teachings and abuses.
He addressed true repentance as well as forgiveness and indulgences and papal authority.
This Wednesday marks Reformation Day, a chance to remember the courage and contributions of these Reformers and the Reformed ~/ Protestant heritage they left.
In the “Reformation Study Bible” James Montgomery Boice defines Reformed Theology:
Doctrine of Scripture – sufficiency, sola scriptura (along with other sola’s)
Sovereignty of God – high view of God and His Word
Doctrines of Grace – total ~/ radical depravity, God sovereignly elects those He saves, particular ~/ definite redemption, effectual ~/ irresistible grace, perseverance
Cultural mandate – Christianity affecting our world, especially by evangelism.[1]
With those essential distinctives, I would be reformed, without pledging allegiance to any man or system or confession or covenant theology – I greatly appreciate the contributions the Reformers made although I would have different views on end times, infant baptism, and a few other areas.
The Reformation needs to continue and I pray that we would always be reforming our church and ourselves and also /transforming/ by God’s truth.
When I introduced the doctrines class a number of months ago, I said in the beginning I am not ashamed to stand on Reformation soil, or call myself “reformed” with a little “r” but I want to be Biblical with a capital “B.”
After all, the key Reformation motto was /sola scriptura /– scripture alone.
Whatever labels or terms summarize my theology are subordinate to that and I spell them lower-case: evangelical with little “e”, calvinist with little “c”, premillennial with little “p” and even baptist with little “b” – but Biblical is with a capital “B”.
The Bible is uppercase and uppermost and we need to make sure all areas of theology remain subordinate.
That doesn’t lessen the importance or conviction I have in those other areas, but my allegiance is not to a label or system, it’s to the Bible.
I bring that up again because we all have to guard ourselves against forming our views based on traditions or trust of godly men from the past or present.
Some of the greatest men in church history since the Reformation have held different views on the ordinances of communion and baptism.
In fact the Reformation really splintered and split and divided along these lines among Lutherans, Reformed, and the Anabaptists.
Last week Ron spoke on the RCC view of transubstantiation, and Luther taught an in-between view called consubstantiation (real presence “in, with, and under” the bread and wine) as opposed to the rest of Protestant Christianity thought Calvin (real spiritual or mystical presence) or Zwingli (symbolic ~/ figurative only) was more biblical.
There was a famous debate between Luther and Zwingli that was also this month (October 1529), that Tom Ascol has written about in a helpful article called “Contending for the Truth in Love”:
‘It was obvious that the disagreement over the presence of Christ in the supper constituted, at least in the minds of Luther and his cohorts, an insurmountable barrier to fellowship.
At Philip's insistence Luther drew up a confession consisting of fifteen articles, including statements on the Trinity, Christ's person and work, sin, justification by faith and the Holy Spirit.
On all these points there was perfect agreement among the participants.
The fifteenth article deals with the Lord's Supper.
On the main points even of this article, both the Reformed and Lutheran parties were agreed.
At the prompting of Philip, a final paragraph was added which states,
And although at present we are not agreed on the question whether the real body and blood of Christ are corporally present in the bread and wine, yet both parties shall cherish Christian charity for one another, so far as the conscience of each will permit; and both parties will earnestly implore Almighty God to strengthen us by His Spirit in the true understanding.
All the participants signed the confession--including Luther and Zwingli.
On Monday morning, after the conference ended, the two reformers met together for one final time.
It would be their last meeting on earth.
With tears in his eyes, Zwingli held out his hand toward Luther as an expression of brotherly fellowship.
But Luther refused to grasp it and instead said, "Yours is a different spirit from ours."
… even though it was a commendable love of God and truth which motivated his actions, Luther cannot be completely exonerated.
His refusal to allow room for disagreement on the sacrament caused him to write Zwingli off as an unbeliever.
On the final day of the Colloquy he professed astonishment that the Swiss contingency considered him to be a brother.
He turned to them and said, "You do not belong to the communion of the Christian Church.
We cannot acknowledge you as brethren."
At this point Luther illustrates the following maxim: The greatest strength of Christians who take doctrine seriously can easily become their greatest weakness.
Devotion to truth and a passion to have an accurate understanding of it can lead a believer to dismiss all those who do not agree with him at every point.
Love for truth, however, is never an excuse for not loving people.
And genuine love for people, especially for brothers and sisters in the faith, necessarily requires a willingness to forebear with weaknesses, including weaknesses in understanding.
… A better course is to recognize that all those who hold to the essentials of the faith are to be received as brothers and sisters in Christ, even if they hold to distinctive ideas with which we disagree.
Furthermore, while we unashamedly affirm our own distinctive beliefs which we find in the Bible [including our view of baptism for professing believers only] we … are liable to make mistakes in our understanding and are in constant need of having our thinking reformed by the Word of God.
For this very reason Christians who disagree on certain distinctives ought to argue their points of contention with a desire not only to be understood but to understand those with whom we disagree.
It is possible to be both rigorous and humble.
All who love Christ and His Word should welcome the efforts of those who strive to clarify revealed truth at any point … We do so knowing that the river of orthodox Protestant Christianity is much broader than our Baptist stream, and we have openly acknowledged our agreement with Presbyterian and Reformed brethren on the nature of salvation and the doctrines of the gospel.
We see ourselves as a part of that greater work which God is doing in recovering the gospel of God's grace to a generation of evangelicals who seem to have doctrinal amnesia.
And we applaud and try to encourage all who are working for reformation and renewal--regardless of whether or not they agree with us on baptism.
The essentials are more important than the distinctives [but still] those who disagree with us need to be challenged to reexamine the Word of God to see if their beliefs are properly grounded.’[2]
Persecution over ordinances used to be severe – Catholics or Church of England would at times put to death those who refused to view Lord’s Supper or baptism as they did.
Even among Protestants, the Anabaptists (re-baptizers who felt only believer’s baptism was valid) were tortured and killed among fellow Protestants in the Reformed tradition.
I am thankful we live in a day where the way of dealing with different views is not by the sword or the State, but by the Scriptures.
Our forefathers weren’t perfect, but I appreciate their zeal for the truth, and that they were willing to die for their scriptural convictions on the ordinances.
What doctrines are you willing to die for?
I am also thankful for the examples of godly men who differ strongly on the issue of baptism but who contend for the truth in love with their fellow brethren and who have a real fellowship and friendship and unity in the gospel of grace (ex: Sproul and MacArthur friendly debate,[3] Ligon Duncan & Dever~/Mohler “Together 4 Gospel” –
Charles Spurgeon loved the Puritans but departed from their infant baptism heritage and firmly believed in conversion before baptism, yet he also could joke about it with non-Baptists.
His mother wrote that she often prayed that Charles might become a Christian, but not necessarily a Baptist.
He replied with wit that it was just like the Lord to not only answer prayer, but to bestow more than had been asked.[4]
*Definition of baptism*: /<Read Matthew 3:1-8>/
From Greek word /baptizo /(to immerse, dip).
‘Christian baptism … (like John's pre-Christian baptism), is a sign from God that signifies inward cleansing and remission of sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor.
6:11; Eph.
5:25-27), Spirit-wrought regeneration and new life (Titus 3:5), and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as God's seal testifying and guaranteeing that one will be kept safe in Christ forever (1 Cor.
12:13; Eph.
Baptism carries these meanings because first and fundamentally it signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom.
6:3-7; Col. 2:11-12); and this union with Christ is the source of every element in our salvation (1 John 5:11-12).
Receiving the sign in faith … commits them to live henceforth in a new way as committed disciples of Jesus.
Baptism signifies a watershed point in a human life because it signifies a new-creational engrafting into Christ's risen life.’
– J.I. Packer (not a Baptist)[5]
\\ *Baptist* – sees baptism as an act of obedience for professing believers only
*Paedobaptist* – (or “pedobaptist” from Greek word for children, ex: pediatrician) sees baptism as valid for infants of believing parent(s) as well as for adult converts to Christianity who have never been baptized
‘Some Christians view the act as effecting regeneration; others see it as the symbol of God’s grace extended to the infant prior to personal response; others suggest that, like circumcision in the OT, infant baptism marks an infant as a member of the covenant community.’
(/Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms/)
For responses to the latter evangelical view of covenant pedobaptists, see:
*Views of Baptism:*
Outside of true Christianity, Mormons believe in baptisms for dead family members and Roman Catholicism believes infant baptism is one of seven sacraments for salvation:
If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation: let him be anathema - /The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent/.
Found in Philip Schaff, /The Creeds of Christendom/ (New York: Harper, 1877), Decree on Justification, Chapter IV, p. 91; Canons on Baptism II, V; pp.
Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments, is necessary for salvation, either by actual reception or at least by desire.
By it people are freed from sins, are born again as children of God and, made like to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church.
It is validly conferred only by a washing in real water with the proper form of words - /The Code of Canon Law/ (London: Collins, 1983, Canon 849).
Lutherans believe in a form of baptismal regeneration of infants
Churches of Christ believe in salvation upon adult immersion into their church (esp.
For articles against baptismal regeneration~/salvation, see http:~/~/
A few groups do not believe any form of baptism is for Christians - Quakers, Friends Church, Salvation Army, “hyper-dispensationalists” (who follow Bullinger)
Evangelicals in Reformed and Protestant tradition believe baptism is important and necessary, but they do not believe salvation is caused by baptism of infants or adults.
The most up-to-date books treating the various views are:
/Understanding Four Views on Baptism, /Armstrong and Engle, editors, 2007, Zondervan.
/Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, /Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright, editors, 2007, B&H Academic/./
/The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism, /edited by Gregg Strawbridge, 2003.
v. 2 – Message of repentance was message of John the Baptist, central to his ministry
(see 4:17 which shows this was message of Jesus as well)
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