Baptism Questions part 2

Sunday, November 14, Taido Chino, our pastor to students, did some Q & A about baptism.  We didn’t have time to answer all the questions during the service so our pastors answered those here.

6.  What about the phrase “for remission of sin” in Acts 2. Does that mean it (baptism) is the point of salvation? How do we balance that scripture with the belief that baptism is “going public?”

Let me quote from one respected theologian who precisely expresses my understanding of this verse.  “It would indeed be a mistake to link the words “for the forgiveness of sins” with the command to “be baptized” to the exclusion of the prior command to repent. It is against the whole genius of the biblical  religion to suppose that the outward rite could have any value except insofar as it was accompanied by the work of grace within. In a similar passage in the next chapter (3:19) the blotting out of the people’s sins is a direct consequence of their repenting and turning to God; nothing is said about baptism, although no doubt implied (the idea of an unbaptized believer does not seem to be entertained in the New Testament). So here the reception of the Spirit is conditional not on baptism itself but on baptism in Jesus’ name as the expression of repentance.” F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts (1988) p. 70.

7.  Can I help baptize my child?

Yes! A parent’s involvement in the baptism of their child can be a deeply meaningful experience for both parent and child.

8.  What does “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” mean? Matthew 3:11

I think most wouldn’t see this as a reference to fire in the sense of destruction or judgment or hell.  Rather, since it is linked to the Holy Spirit, it is more likely that John is using fire as a metaphor for the refining/sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, which certainly does incorporate a sense of judgment. But it is the sort of judgment that leads to repentance, not eternal condemnation. The association between God’s presence and fire is not uncommon in the Scriptures (Exodus3, Exodus 13:21-22, 2 Kings 1, Acts 2:3-4, 2 Timothy 1:6, Hebrews 1:7)

9.  Why did the church start baptizing babies? What is Fellowship North’s view on baptizing children? Some seem too young. What are your thoughts on those who do believe in baptism as a baby?
I am nine. Am I too young to get baptized? If I was baptized in the Catholic church as a baby, do I need to be re-baptized?

Lots of questions relating to baptism and children here. I’ll try to be clear as I know how to be.  While at Fellowship North, we recognize baptism of believers by immersion as the clearest pattern established in the New Testament, we recognize that the scriptural evidence doesn’t settle the matter beyond a shadow of doubt. It seems to be the most natural reading of Scripture, but that othertraditions read the same texts and come to different conclusions.

Those who would say that the pattern for infant baptism was established by Scripture and not a later church practice would generally cite the following verses:

Acts 16:15, Acts 16:31-34, 1 Corinthians 1:16.

All three of which make mention of households being baptized. Supporters of infant baptism presume that there must have been children in those households, even children so young that they are not yet able to verbalize a faith commitment.

In my opinion, lots has to be presumed in order for these verses to provide support for infant baptism.  No explicit mention is made of babies being present in these households. Also, reading these verses in this way doesn’t necessarily do justice to the fluidity of language. It is possible to speak of baptizing a household without it necessarily meaning every single person in that household. My sense is thatanyone who believed (and it sounds likely that everyone who was capable of belief did believe) was baptized. In Acts 16:31-34, there is a particular emphasis on the word being preached to the entire household. If an active response of faith weren’t necessary, then it seems unlikely that Luke would have recorded Paul and Silas evangelistic efforts.

However, those who hold to the view of infant baptism have a certain understanding about this ordinance that we would do well to appreciate. Baptism isn’t solely about me and my relationship with God. There is also a communal dimension to baptism. Baptism (whether as an infant or adult) is a way of entering into a larger community of faith. We don’t travel alone in our journey with God, because we can’t. We need the body of Christ in order to faithfully live out our commitment to God. When we celebrate Child Dedications, we do so in this spirit and with that intent.

Now, to turn from infant baptism to the issue of baptizing children. As soon as a child is able to understand that God loves them, that they have sin in their lives, that Jesus died for the forgiveness of those sins, and was raised so that we might have life eternally with him, then they can not only express a desire to commit their life to Christ, but also to be baptized. My sense is that a child is able to understand those simple and powerful truths at an age that is younger than we tend to think.

Our children’s ministry staff work hard to help students not only grasp the truths of the Christian faith, but also help them determine when they are ready for baptism. They take their work seriously, and would welcome conversations with any parent trying to determine their child’s readiness for baptism.

On the question of re-baptism, there are some instances where re-baptism might be a good thing, and some when it isn’t. If a person who was baptized as an infant understands the rich significance and meaning of that mode of baptism, and would like to continue to recognize that as their baptism, we would support them in that choice. On the other hand, if a person who was baptized as a child has no real understanding of what that baptism meant and signifies, and desire to have a baptism that follows a profession of faith rather than precedes it, then we would welcome them to be be baptized again.

On re-baptizing someone who was baptized as a child, it is a little different. While we wouldn’t necessarily expressly forbid it, I (Taido) might discourage it. I would be sad if anything we did now somehow invalidated the ways that God might have been at work in us as a small child. I believe a child’s expression of faith are innocent, pure, and good.

Wow… this is getting long-winded. One final summing up thought. Our baptism, no matter when it is, (infant, child, adult) only carries as much significance as we allow it to have. We are the one’s who invest the event with meaning. So, as has been said before, if you are happy with your baptism, we are happy with it.

10.  Were John’s baptisms the first noted in scripture? If baptism is not mentioned in the OT (is it?), what is the origin of baptism?

While John’s is the first “baptism,” it does have roots in Jewish practice. Numbers 19 describes some ceremonial washing that look baptism-like. While there is some overlap in meaning (cleansing), there seems to be a lack of inward repentance necessary for the observance of the ritual in the Old Testament. Furthermore, the cleansing in Numbers 19 appears to have been for hygiene purposes as it was for religious observance.

11.  Why do people disagree about this so much?

Because of sin.

And… because of the historical problems associated with this question.

And… because the evidence in the New Testament doesn’t specify with absolute clarity the nature, mode, and effects of baptism.

All this should cause Christians with varying opinions to appraoch the subject of baptism (and frankly, most everything else in life as well) with a great deal of humilty.

Categories: baptism, sunday mornings, Taido Chino