Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Is Biblical Baptism "Easy Believism"?


In recent discussions on other blogs with those who believe in Calvinism, I have a noticed a curious perspective that continues to raise its head. The curious perspective to which I refer is that one has to answer a set of questions to the satisfaction of a pastor before one can be baptized. Even David Platt alluded to this in his sermon during the SBC Pastor's Conference when he chastised our churces for "easy believism." 

In Holy Scripture, do we see anyone requiring a sinner to go through a questionnaire before he or she was baptized? Absolutely not. The model we do see in Scripture is preaching, response,, baptism,
then teaching. The Great Commission is very clear about how to make disciples.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. Matthew 28:18-20

Let's pay very close attention to what Jesus said. Jesus said for us to go and make disciples of all the nations. I hope we are all clear on that. Now watch this. Immediately following his imperative for us to make discples, He tells us how to make disciples. The first thing we are told to do is baptize and then teach. Baptize and teach. Baptize and teach. This is the biblical formula for making disciples: baptize and teach. Notice it is not teach and baptize. It is baptize and teach.

This formula is exactly what we see happening in the New Testament. First, there is preaching, then people respond, they are baptized and then they are taught. We see these principles in how John the Baptist conducted his ministry (Matt. 3:1-6, John 3:23). We also see these principles in Jesus and His apostles (John 3:22). In the book of Acts, we see Peter preaching and more than 3000 people were baptized that day (Acts 2:36-41). I don't imagine the apostles interrogated 3000 people on whether or not they completely understood the intricacies of the atonement. The Scripture says, "those who gladly received his word were baptized" (Acts 2:41a).

One final biblical example of this biblical formula is found in Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). The Holy Spirit directed Philip to a divine encounter with the man from Ethiopia. When Philip preached Jesus to him, the Ethiopian asked, "What hinders me from being baptized?" Now notice what Philip did not do. He did not take the Ethiopian through a theological quiz in order to make sure he knew what he was doing. He did not tell the Ethiopian he had to take a baptism class or a new member class before baptism. What did Philip say? He said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." The Ethiopian replied with a confession in Christ and was baptized immediately.

Are you hindering the lost from being baptized? Are you requiring the lost to jump through theological hoops before they can be baptized? Are you reversing the biblical formula for making disciples and insisting on in-depth teaching prior to baptism? If you are, then I submit that you are not practicing the biblical principle of making disciples.

Throughout the New Testament, we see the discipleship process as preaching, response, baptism, and then teaching. Any other approach to making disciples is unbiblical and is man's requirement, not biblical teaching.

When someone gladly receives the word of God, baptize them and then begin to teach them how live a life that is pleasing to Christ. Do not hinder the work of the Holy Spirit by implementing artificial obstacles to someone coming to Christ. If this is easy believism in the eyes of men, then so be it. I will choose to follow the biblical model. 

Comments are open on this post.

10 comments:

Bill said...

Les: I don't it is quite fair to couch this issue as Calvinists vs non-Calvinists. There are a lot of non-Calvinist churches, probably many more than Calvinist churches, that require some type of class or instruction before baptism. I think it is a good discussion, I just don't think it is a dichotomy between Cal and non-Cal.

Les Puryear said...

Bill,

Thanks for your comment. I wasn't saying that Calvinists did this more than non-Calvinists. I only indicated that this subject had been brought out in the Calvinism debate.

I agree that non-Calvinist churches are just as likely to add man's practicality to the process.

Regards,

Les

Anonymous said...

I was a member of a Calvinist church with a pastor who had just come out of Southern Seminary. He stopped giving invitations and then he decided every member had to go through a "New Members" class with him. Those who weren't able to answer questions to his liking at the end of the "New Members" class had their membership put on probation at the church til it could somehow be determined what their "status" as a Christian was. If you missed a class you had to make it up or take the whole course over again.

This man stopped the invitations and when anyone expressed a responsiveness to the Gospel they were then thrown into the New Members Class and if they "passed" the class then they would be Baptized. After four years only two people qualified for Baptism.

Steve Martin said...

Les,

You hit a homerun here, my friend.

Nice work! Baptize first. Then teach. It is a gift, for all. And then when faith comes...baptism is complete.

He commanded it. So He must have a good reason for it. Our Lord was not into empty religious ritual, just for kicks.

Thanks!

Christopher Burcham said...

Great post, Les! I agree that we must not be complicating what God intended to be easy!

Mike Woodward said...

I don't necessarily think that the "easy believism" concept was tied to baptism. In my mind, if someone clearly hears the gospel (and not simply the gospel-lite version of God has a plan for you), repents and calls on the name of the Lord and wants to be baptized, that is valid "proof" they are indeed converted. I would guess that the majority of SBC, and by extension evangelicals, believe this to be true.

I think the problem most have with the "easy believism" concept has more to do with getting someone to recite a prayer, pronounce them as right with God, and they DO NOT want to get baptized, or even hear more about Christ.

To me that is compelling evidence that they were just making sure their bases were covered.

Les Puryear said...

Mike,

Agreed. Those who shun baptism and continuing teaching do not exhibit true conversion.

There are many churches who make an obstacle course to be baptized. My experience has been that those church leaders would probably refer to immediate baptism or community baptisms as easy believism.

Good to hear from you.

Chris Roberts said...

What do you think of the practice of men like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick who have an open baptistry, available for all who want to be baptized at the end of the service? This sounds in line with the way you think things should be?

Les Puryear said...

Chris,

I don't have a problem with that at all. The only question I would have is: are they followed up with training? Of course, training is the next step in the Grat Commission.

We do the same thing with our Community Baptisms. We follow up by starting bible studies in their homes, hoping they will grow into new churches.

Crowder said...

This is a problem across the Christian world a movement away from the simplicity of what the Bible requires to conditions to fit a model. The Church needs to get back to the basics that was building the kingdom and away from these ideas which are killing us. God's kingdom doesn't need us to guard against people coming in why people think that is there job is beyond me. Plus the way some of these Pastors such as the one mentioned by Anonymous run the Church it's a disgrace they are nothing more than spirtual bullies. It's not the role of the Pastor to interogate the members of the Church. A Pastor is suppose to guide, encouage, and lead not be a prosecutor on a holy inquistion.