Is a Church That Believes Baptism Is Not Commanded a True Church?

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

In Romans 6 Paul hinges his entire argument on the correlation between physical baptism and spiritual rebirth. From this one can conclude that baptism should not merely be regarded as a surface level tradition done simply because it is what Christians do. Rather baptism carries with it much significance as it connects the believer, even if only symbolically, with Christ in his death and resurrection. As Mark Dever points out:

“baptism is performed in obedience to Christ as a confession of sin, a profession of faith in Christ, and a display of hope in the resurrection body.”[1]

These are not trivial things to be passed over, they are pillars of the Christian faith. Baptism is a command given in the Great Commission by Jesus himself and reinforced by the Apostles.

So the question remains: Is a church that believes baptism is not commanded a true church?

Well, a plain reading of several passages of scripture makes clear that baptism is commanded, so on the one hand they are denying the word of God. However, even if one were to concede that baptism is not a command, it is still clear from scripture that baptism is strongly emphasized, and has been and remains a key practice in the life of the Church, thus it begs the question: Why would a church not observe baptism? It would seem that a church that fails to observe baptism, at best, fails to be fully centered on Christ and the word of God, and at worst is not a true church at all.

 

[1] Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2012), 30.

 

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10 thoughts on “Is a Church That Believes Baptism Is Not Commanded a True Church?

  1. Makes sense to me.
    While on the topic…what about covenant baptism as practiced by Presbyterians?
    I was brought up Baptist, so it is strange to me.

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    1. I’m a firm believer in Covenant Theology so I see where they draw it from, but there seems to be little scriptural support for the practice. Basically they believe it replaces circumcision. It is more an inference than something explicitly stated in scripture. Although, the earliest writings from the Church, outside of scripture, show that infant baptism was how they did things, so I don’t know.

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  2. I think it all comes down to perspective. We all know that there are some circumstances where believers enter heaven without being baptized – such as death-bed conversions. In Matthew 3, John the Baptist says that one was coming who would baptize with fire and with the Holy Spirit – a water-less baptism takes place for everyone who calls upon Jesus’ name. A Church might view that the water baptism is version 1.0, and fire/Holy Spirit baptism is 2.0.
    When I look at the Salvation Army, a church that doesn’t believe in baptism, but see their good works and charity programs – they seem more like a true church to me than churches around here – ones that baptize but have no outreach or charity.

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      1. None of my statements suggested that in order to be saved you must be baptized. It is not a question of whether or not someone must be baptized to be saved, rather it is a question of whether or not we need to keep the command.

        The thief on the cross is an exception not the rule.

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      2. I remember reading the about various times baptism became a major sticking point in theology. I know that the Amish believe that if you get baptized once, their way, you’re good. If you get baptized again, then your first baptism is null and void. I know that in the middle ages, fans of immersion baptism very nearly drowned their opponents in order to prove a point about proper baptism. My great, great, great, great grandfather was a Dunkard preacher – who would baptize people by immersing them in water three times, once in the name of the Father, once in the name of the Son, and once in the name of the Holy Spirit. One of my churches baptized infants, others didn’t. Everybody believes something, all of them different. Who can say who’s right?

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      3. Again, this post was not about any of that. It was about whether or not we should baptize at all. There has always been much debate about the method, mode, and purpose of baptism, but all major branches of Christianity have always agreed that we are commanded to baptize. Some immerse and some sprinkle; some do infants, others say you have to be a believer; some say it has to be at their church specifically others don’t care. However, they all say that churches must baptize.

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      4. First: Atheists, Luciferians, Buddhists, Muslims, and many others do charity and good deeds. Charity and good deeds are not markers for true Christianity. Second: I again put forth what I put forth in the original post. This is an issue of following God’s commands in scripture, and he commands baptism. So personal preference and perspective carry no weight in this matter, either we obey the command or we don’t. This is why the Salvation Army actually states that it was never a command, they do this because they know that the only way to get around baptism is to first say that scripture never actually says we should baptize. So again, even with the Salvation Army, it is a question of God’s commands in scripture, the argument is over God’s word, not baptism.

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