As I mentioned in an earlier post the church over which John Piper serves as elder, Bethlehem Baptist Church, has voted to allow confessing believers to join the church membership even if they refuse New Testament baptism. To be clear, they say that they will not allow someone to join if they have never been baptized at all, but this simply begs the question. “What is baptism?” If baptism is something done to professing believers only and by immersion, then nothing else qualifies as baptism at all. If that premise stands, then Bethlehem Baptist has voted to allow non-baptized members to join the membership of the congregation.
I understand the impulse behind this move. (Since I last posted, I have read over sections of the statement that Bethlehem Baptist has put out on this issue.) If I am consistent in my position, I would have to withhold the Lord’s Supper from R.C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, and if they were alive, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield and John Calvin and Martin Luther. All of whom are tremendous heroes of mine. All of whom I trust are safe and secure by grace alone to Christ alone forever. I embrace them as brothers, and I love their work and exhortation dearly, and I am grateful to God for them.
But they are and were wrong about baptism. It is not for infants. Baptism does not replace circumcision. Baptism cannot bring the faithless into the fold of the church. Baptism does not regenerate the soul. With all of the statements of this paragraph, I trust, the elders of Bethlehem Baptist would agree. Yet, they have still decided to allow members into the church based on a profession of faith alone without submitting to the clear New Testament teaching of baptism.
Here is where I am really upset about this. The Lord Jesus Christ left us with two ordinances. Two. That’s it. Was the practice of baptism and the commandment of our Lord so unclear that we cannot even figure out how to practice the only ordinances He left us! Can we not stand, without wavering, on the New Testament practice of believer’s baptism without capitulating to the tug of our heartstrings? Yes, I love Sproul and Calvin and Edwards, but love requires me to say that they were wrong. If I am in error on this, I would expect the same courtesy from them. In point of fact, I spent a good portion of my day yesterday in dialogue with John Calvin via his Institutes on this very subject. I listened intently. I took notes. And may I say that he had very harsh words for me. He lumped me into a category with a man that was beheaded in his Geneva (Michael Servetus). He railed against my position as ridiculous. It was no minor matter to my dear friend Calvin. I respect him for that.
I respect him for another error which I believe he avoided. It is an error that is rampant in our society and our churches. While he held to the priesthood of all believers, he never elevated the individual over the health of the church as a whole. The church of God is more important than you and I. I do not care if it hurts my brother’s feelings and breaks my heart, infant baptism is wrong. I do not care how ancient the practice or how venerated its advocates, it is nowhere taught in the Sacred Scriptures and its practice cannot now be presumed as if we were at liberty to presume on God’s Word! If it is taught there, then produce the evidence. Believer’s Baptism is as clearly presented as the Trinity.
Here is what I explicitly and exclusively see in the New Testament:
- Believer’s are baptized. That’s all I ever see in the New Testament.
- They are baptized by immersion.
In future posts, if God permits, I am going to deal with a few subjects that relate directly to this subject:
- Can we bar someone from communion and still believe that he is regenerate?
- John Bunyan’s unsuccessful attempt to convince Baptists of this very position.
- The nature of The Lord’s Supper in the Church. (open vs. close vs. semi-close.)