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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Being Certain in Uncertainties

1 John 3:1-2
 "SEE WHAT an incredible quality of love the Father has given us that we should be permitted to be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! The reason that the world does not know (recognize, acknowledge) us is that it does not know (recognize, acknowledge) Him. Beloved, we are even here and now God's children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be hereafter, but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall as God's children resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He really is" [AMP]. 
This resemblance to Christ is not something we earn as a goal where we set out today and tomorrow to make a $1000, do a job, or meet with a person. Being Christlike is not something we can grasp with our hands. Yet we can become God’s children by choice of will through faith. Even this, though, cannot become the goal of man as a means to avoid eternal death. Becoming a follower of Christ must be a choice of the soul (heart, mind, and spirit), a whisper of the being, to want something more than this world can give.   

We chart our days and say, “Today I will clean, work, and cook. Tomorrow I will do the same. In thirty years I will take my leisure and be taken care of by what I have saved as surety for my life.” We cannot be sure of that for which we plan and grasp. Things change in this fallen world on an hourly and daily basis. We cannot put our stock and faith in the world’s ways. We cannot be so precise in this living of the earthly, human life. Planning is commonsense, we say, to prepare for the next or the inevitable. Even the rich man made plans, but we still saw him in hell pleading with God to let Lazarus touch his lips with a cool drop of water (Luke 16:19-31)? Our commonsense cannot be what drives us. Commonsense is human, fallible, and changeable.  

We can be certain of one thing that is not commonsense. We can be sure of God - who He is and what His plans are. We can throw away our commonsense and rely on that which makes no sense and sounds impractical. We can be confident in God though we are uncertain in our human sense (commonsense). Is it impractical to be certain in our uncertainties? We do not have knowledge of what tomorrow will bring, but in our humanity, we presume to plan our tomorrows. God is certainty. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God, we have certainty. In our conviction about God, we recognize who has ultimate control. Our uncertain future has an excited anticipation of what God will do and where He will call us to join Him.   

People in our world and the world at large misunderstand the abandon we have, this faith we can have in an unseen God. They do not accept us and we should not be surprised by this. Did they not reject the Son, too? Jesus said since people rejected Him those who follow Him can expect to be rejected. Yet their gain as His followers is to be called the children of God. We followers of Jesus become heirs of salvation and the kingdom of heaven upon our step of faith towards what looks to be uncertain into the arms of our certain God. God is not an uncertainty; what God will do next is uncertain. This uncertainty is where the breathless anticipation exists.  

Will we abandon our plans and our fallible race for the future and grasp with our hearts and souls the certain God with a sure future even in the face of uncertain days? This is relationship to the Father. This is the faith of a child of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 18:3. If our certainty is just in ourselves, we become self-righteous, smug, and sarcastic. By being in a right relationship with God, we receive joy in uncertainty and certainty in the future.

Be joyful because God will break in to humanity and the world and
be excited about how He will do it.
Be thankful God calls you His child and you will resemble Him.
You can be absolutely certain He will come.

Remain faithful.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sacrifice to Purity

Genesis 22:1-12

1AFTER THESE events, God tested and proved Abraham and said to him, Abraham! And he said, Here I am. 2[God] said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I will tell you. 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and then began the trip to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5And Abraham said to his servants, Settle down and stay here with the donkey, and I and the young man will go yonder and worship and [a]come again to you. 6Then Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on [the shoulders of ] Isaac his son, and he took the fire (the firepot) in his own hand, and a knife; and the two of them went on together. 7And Isaac said to Abraham, My father! And he said, Here I am, my son. [Isaac] said, See, here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt sacrifice? 8Abraham said, My son, [b]God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering. So the two went on together. 9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there; then he laid the wood in order and [c]bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar on the wood. 10And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took hold of the knife to slay his son. 11But the [d]Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham! He answered, Here I am. 12And He said, Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear and revere God, since you have not held back from Me or begrudged giving Me your son, your only son


It seems so easy to read this as if it is obvious that, of course, Abraham would do as God asked.  I mean, look, he listened as God told him to leave his home, his family, and his country and walk to where God leads him; why wouldn’t he follow this?  But is actually so obvious; we have just heard the story so many times that we don’t doubt Abraham’s faith. 

The first verse states that God tested and proved Abraham.  God gave Abraham the option of bowing out from this sacrifice.  Abraham walked for three days.  He had plenty of time to think of what God wanted to do.  He had lots of time to come up with a reason for not doing it.  (Wouldn’t we?)  He had people to talk to about it and get their opinion and surely they would agree with Abraham that he shouldn’t offer Isaac.  Why would God promise you descendents through your seed if He was going to ask for him as a sacrifice?  I can hear the servants’ reasoning and Abraham’s thoughts.  Yet, Abraham continued on in following God’s command to him.  Even Isaac asked where was the ram or ewe.  I am sure that Isaac was scared, too.  Look, even though he was probably frightened, the passage does not show that Isaac was fighting God’s command.  Did Abraham teach him to trust God so much that he obeyed willingly?  Would that we taught our children so well that they trusted the Father as much.

Abraham and Isaac reach Mt. Moriah and prepare the altar, probably of earth and rocks.  Abraham places the wood he personally chopped in order on the altar to be Isaac’s funeral pyre.  Nothing from God yet; God seems to really want him to offer up his last hope.  He binds Isaac’s feet and hands and places him on the altar.  Still God does not stop him.  Could we do this or would we be pleading to God with tears and continued prayer and reluctance that God not let this happen?  We do not see Abraham doing that.  We see him continuing with the process of preparing the sacrifice.  There is only one further step in the process, the killing of the offering.  Abraham pulls out his knife and poises it above Isaac to kill him.  And then…a voice from heaven, a voice that Abraham recognizes, not something that he wonders if it is God.  It is God, the God who called him out of Ur and the God he worships every day. 

The question, would we have wondered if we interpreted God’s telling us to offer our child as a sacrifice and questioned again?  Or, would we have known his voice and followed His command?  Even further, would we actually know God’s voice?  Abraham loved this child that God had given him in his old age.  He would not have thought he heard wrong if the Lord told him to offer him as a sacrifice; look, he proceeded immediately to offer the sacrifice.  Abraham did not question if it was God speaking to him; he knew God’s voice.  Now our question, do you know God’s voice intimately enough to know God speaking and not doubting his calling you to action?  Would you prepare to do what He told you to do or would you question it?  (Moses questioned God and then he was not allowed entrance to the promised land.)  A person’s character determines how he or she interprets God’s will.

God wanted to purify Abraham’s faith.  Based on Abraham’s belief, he interpreted that he had to sacrifice Isaac.  For the point Abraham was at, God could only purify Abraham’s faith in this way.  Maybe this was the one big thing, at this time, that stood between Abraham and God.  Likewise, God purifies us for Him.  God will take us through an ordeal that will serve to bring us into a better knowledge of Himself.  Are we like Abraham, are we willing to do anything for God?  He was willing to obey God in this even though it was not a belief he held from his background.  If his God required it, he would do it.  If you will remain true to God, God will lead you directly through every barrier and right into the inner chamber of the knowledge of Himself but you must be willing to give up all of your own convictions and beliefs to embrace God.  Abraham remained true to God and He purified him.  We must remain true to God, even when the thing He asks is not in our beliefs.  If we do that, God will purify us beyond our selves and our thinking.  He will bring us closer to Himself and we will know Him better and we will become more like Him.  Now the question, what has God asked you to do today; have you heard His voice?

(Thanks to Oswald Chamber for some of the commentary.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Be ready

Be Ready
2 Timothy 4:1-5 
1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His coming and His kingdom: 2herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency, stand by, be at hand and ready, whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you, as preacher of the Word, are to show people in what way their lives are wrong. You are to convince them, rebuking, correcting, warning, urging, and encouraging them, being unflagging, inexhaustible in patience, and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not tolerate sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching for something pleasing and gratifying, they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, 4and will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions. 5As for you, be calm, cool, and steady, accept and suffer unflinchingly every hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fully perform all the duties of your ministry. [AMP]

Paul was at the end of his earthly ministry when this He wrote this. He wrote to Timothy to encourage him. Paul told him to be steadfast in the faith. More than that, he exhorted him always to be ready to minister in the name of Christ, whether by acts of service and mercy, or the harder side, by rebuking, correcting, and warning others.    

Be always ready to preach Christ and Him crucified is what Paul taught Timothy and what he teaches us. Do not think today is your day off. Today may be the time when Jesus puts a person in your path who needs ministering services. If you mentally unplug from the ministry, you choose not to be an instrument of His service on the day that person most needed the kind touch, encouraging word, or the teaching of Christ. Be prepared in everyday; “keep your sense of urgency.”

Always walk with God in mind so you do not walk right by God's purpose for your day. When the time comes, be it a good time or not, lookout for the person whom God brings into your path. Be the shining light for God to this loved child. You never know when he or she may become closed to the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do not delay in telling them about God’s love for them because it is your “day off.” “Speak in season and out of season.” (1 Tim. 4:2 [KJV])

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Children and Baptism: At What Time Should It Occur?

        In order to discern the correct age of baptism, infant or believers, specifically children’s baptism, New Testament texts are examined, writings and lectures of various theologians are reviewed, and a survey of ministers are conducted.  In Matthew 28:18-20, Christ commands His apostles to go make disciples and baptize them.  Baptizing people is what all Christian churches do because of Christ’s command though the timing of baptism differs and is a divisive issue between Christian denominations.  Some churches believe infants should be baptized while others believe only professing believers should be baptized.  Of the latter, there is a segment which believes that, if the new believer is young, he or she should wait to be baptized, which is found to be a common practice by South African pastors.  The research shows that anyone, regardless of age, who repents and believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior has received God’s gift of salvation and is to be baptized immediately, as shown in the New Testament.
            Matthew 28:18-20 clearly states Jesus Christ’s command to His disciples before His ascension into heaven, to go make disciples and baptize believers; this commissioning of His disciples becomes the hallmark of the Christian church.  For the Christian church, baptism, a visible testimony of regeneration, is one of the sacraments or ordinances of the church, which sets it apart from all other religions.  In His command, Jesus says, “Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20, Amplified Bible). This command of Jesus sparks a revolution for the Jewish nation and the Gentile world.  From this command, His disciples go forth and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, that of salvation from sin and life eternal with God, the Father, for those who believe in Jesus, the Son of God, as his or her Savior.  Mark also records this event in his gospel when he quotes Jesus in saying, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16, Amplified Bible).  It is from Jesus’ last command that the believing church was born. 
The Bible records many baptisms of believers.  The Bible, in these records, shows the formula, if you will, of salvation through Jesus.[1]  Beginning with the two scriptural accounts above and continuing through the New Testament, the people are recipients of the gospel taught to them.  They choose to believe that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah and repent of their sins.  Their belief enacts God’s grace gift, salvation, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “For it is by free grace that you are saved through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves but it is the gift of God; not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, Amplified Bible).  The book of Acts records the majority of the baptisms during the apostles’ ministries.  In it, the salvation formula is iterated and reiterated.  Acts 2:38 records Peter telling the crowd at Pentecost how to be saved, “repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of and release from your sins” (Amplified Bible).  Farther in Acts finds Philip having preached in Samaria and the people “believed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ…they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12, Amplified Bible).  In verses 36-38 of Acts 8, Philip teaches the Word to a eunuch and then baptizes the new believer.  The book of Acts records six more instances where the salvation formula is followed.  Hebrews also shows this salvation formula in chapter 10, verse 22, “Let us all come forward and draw near with true hearts in unqualified assurance and absolute conviction engendered by faith, having our hearts sprinkled and purified from a guilty conscience and our bodies cleansed with pure water” (Amplified Bible).   It appears this definition of salvation is where the disagreements begin to arise in the history of the church after the apostles.
            From the beginning of Christianity, salvation is seen to be for believers though some churches believe infants should be baptized while others believe only professing believers should be baptized.  Roman Catholicism sees baptism differently than the apostles; baptism conferred God’s grace of salvation for Roman Catholics.[2]  Roman Catholics and other denominations have instituted infant baptism so they would be saved from original sin should the infant die before he or she could make a faith decision for him or herself.  There is no explicit verse in the Bible that speaks of infants and small children being baptized but there are a multitude of passages speaking of believers being baptized as an outward sign or testimony of their faith.  Historically, though, research finds Tertullian speaking against the baptism of infants in the late 2nd century or early 3rd century.[3]  The beginning of Roman Catholicism in history occurs in the early 3rd century.  Augustine, in his wrestlings with theology and practice, is an early patristic father who felt compassion for the parents of infants who die early and have not received God’s grace.  Origen is one of the early church fathers to support infant baptism.  In Roman Catholicism, the command of Jesus to baptize believers becomes a sacrament which confers God’s grace, salvation, to the child who is baptized.  For them, it removes original sin from their young lives.  Since then, this practice is perpetuated in the Episcopalian, Anglican, Methodist, and Lutheran churches.  Scottie May state that the sacramental tradition sees infant baptism as “the means to remove the effect of original sin.  The administration of this sacrament begins the process of salvation.”[4]   
In the covenantal tradition, baptized infants are seen as a part of the new covenant because they have been born of believing parents.  The parents, by their professions of faith, are the “seed” of Abraham and are, thus, a part of that covenant.  They state, in essence, that their child is part of the new covenant which ties them to the Abrahamic covenant. God requires circumcision to be a part of His grace with the old covenant.  He now requires, it is believed by covenantalist, baptism to be a part of the new covenant.[5]  The new covenant, as Jeremiah states in 31:27-34, is for after the captivity of Israel; it requires each man to bear responsibility for his own spiritual condition before God in a new way.  The new covenant that Jesus heralded, they purport,  requires something of the inner man and also something outward, baptism, a sign of a person’s promise to God.  To be a part of the Abrahamic covenant, a man has to meet a physical requirement and become identified with an outward nation.  Believing parents have their infants baptized to affect the new covenant in their child, to confer God’s grace upon them.[6]
 Covenantalists, like Roman Catholics, baptize their infants to confer God’s grace.  To support infant baptism, sacramental and covenantal theologians refer to the household baptisms of Acts 16 and 18 (see Hammett, Malone, Davis, Grenz).  In Acts 10:44, readers encounter Cornelius and his household and find that “the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to the message” (Amplified Bible).  Further, in verse 48, after the Holy Spirit caused Peter’s hearers to speak in unknown tongues, Peter orders that they be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Amplified Bible).  Likewise, in Acts 16:14-15, Lydia and her household come to faith.  Because of their faith and due to Paul’s preaching, she and her household are baptized.  Other household baptisms, that of the Philippian jailer and his household in Acts 16:30-34, Crispus and his household in Acts 18:8, and Stephanus and his household in 1 Corinthians 1:16, as well, are used by sacramentalists, like Roman Catholics, and covenantalists as proof that children and infants were baptized and should be baptized still.  They argue that there must have been small children and infants in the household.  Though these passages do not explicitly state that infants were baptized, to them infants are not excluded and, thus, their non-mention does not assume that children are not baptized.  Gerhard Forde, in “Something to Believe,” states that “Faith must have something to believe, something that happens in the living present to which it can cling in all adversity.”[7]  He further states “that the promise and sign from without comes first, and only then the internal, the faith that receives it comes second.  The fire of faith within is always kindled by the flame of the external event.”[8]  Covenantal and sacramental theologians hold to infant baptism, paedobaptism; whereas, Baptists hold to believer’s baptism, credobaptism.
Baptist theologians, such as John Hammett, Stanley Grenz, Fred Malone, and Ronald Davis, hold to a purely believer’s baptism approach; any person who is able to hear the message and respond with repentance and belief, as per the formula noted above, can be saved.  They believe the Bible does not specifically state that infants are to be baptized and their inability to reason, listen, and respond in faith precludes them from being baptized.   It is believed that small children and infants do not have the cognitive ability to understand these concepts of belief and faith, sin and salvation; therefore, they are not at an age of accountability.  They can, however, in a few years do just that, hear, respond and believe that Jesus is the Christ and, thus, be baptized at their own request.  Baptists firmly stand upon the interpretation of the New Testament about believer’s baptism and have since their founding when they were called “the baptisers.”  Two extraordinary papers presented by two Baptist ministers provide a very strong defense against infant baptizing and a statement of support for all those who are looking to join a New Testament church.  Dr. Fred A. Malone, a trustee of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a pastor in Louisiana, and Dr. Ronald E. Davis, a professor at the Cape Town Baptist Seminary, both make solid points about believer’s baptism. 
Davis states that John’s baptism of Jesus brings the Abrahamic covenant to its conclusion. “Jesus fulfills the moral demands of God’s will.”[9]  Davis states that baptism is not the sign of the new covenant like circumcision is the sign of the old covenant.  According to Malone and to the apostle, Paul, Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant; Jesus is the Seed of Abraham.  “God does not say, and to seeds, as if referring to many persons, but, and to your Seed, obviously referring to one individual, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16, Amplified Bible).  Believers of Jesus as the Savior become adopted children of God.  They are not a part of the new covenant like as being a part of the old covenant, by external physicalities; they are part of the new covenant by hearing the Word, repenting and believing.  This belief can occur at any point in their lives, from young child to senior adult.  There is not a time frame requirement except it be at a time they can understand for themselves and make a profession for themselves.
The controversy of the timing of children’s baptism comes through history from the time of Tertullian.[10]  If one is a sacramentalist or covenantalist, baptism automatically occurs in infancy.  During the apostles time and then from the Reformation period by the Baptist Protestants, another understanding for baptism is used.  They choose to baptize only confessing believers, based on their interpretations of New Testament passages, not infants.  The earliest known writing beyond the apostolic period, the Didache, which was written about 100AD, includes seventy rules for baptism and none of them mentioned infant baptism.[11]  This fact plus their interpretation of the New Testament by the early church fathers and Reformation Baptists, leads current credobaptisers to assume that believer’s baptism and not infant baptism was taught by the apostles. 
At what time, then, should children be baptized?   Many different church leaders, writers, and theologians, such as May, Dever, Lane, and Bampton, coming from several denominations have come to the point where they believe that children should be baptized when they repent and believe, not in infancy and not at a future time after their profession of faith when they are more “mature.”  Looking from a 20th and 21st century perspective, theologians from Anglican, Episcopalian, Congregational and Baptist churches are finding that baptism upon faith and repentance is more meaningful and lasting for children.  They find that those who were baptized as infant, unless they are raised by a Christian parent, tend not to come to make the faith into which they were baptized their own personal faith.[12] [13] In addition, their looking at the apostolic time finds that people who are saved are baptized immediately after their acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior.  In none of the New Testament passages about salvation is baptism delayed for any significant amount of time.  Vern Poythress, in “Indifferentism and Rigorism in the Church: With Implications for Baptizing Small Children, states that leaders of a church who examine baptismal candidates “need not make infallibility sure of the genuineness of this faith…Nor should examiners try to detect infallible traces of the work of the Holy Spirit at the moment of regeneration.”[14]  Poythress continues by saying,
When we look at children, we naturally hope that their intellectual apprehension of God’s truth will grow and their faith come to maturity…But if we equate intellectual maturity with the essence of faith, we change salvation from a free gift into the property of those with proper intellectual credentials.  And then we contradict the gospel…Many of us don’t believe [the children are Christians] because we demand adult or quasi-adult maturity first.[15]

This is seen in the New Testament also; baptism is not just for those with mature, tested faith but for those starting out on their walk with Christ.  You see this with the stories of Lydia and the Philippian jailer.  Lydia’s hearing of the message stirs her heart to have saving faith in the God she already worshipped and leads her to be baptized.  The jailer’s seeing of Paul’s integrity and faith acted out while in jail, makes him want to know about Paul’s God which then leads the jailer to be baptized.  Jesus does not limit Himself to teaching and calling adults.  He calls children as well, as seen in the New Testament.  In the synoptic gospels, there is a passage with the disciples arguing who would be the greatest disciple.  Jesus uses children to teach the disciples a lesson.  In Matthew 18:1-10, Jesus calls the child (padion), to come to Him.  Malone says, “Jesus’ call, proskalamenos (having called to Himself), is the same verb used in Acts 2:39 which has the condition of receiving God’s promise and believing and repenting.  This means the child was not an infant but was old enough to understand and be accountable for his or her actions.”[16]  We do not see a baptism occur after this passage but know from other New Testament passages that baptisms occurred soon after professions of faith. 
In all of Acts, Davis says, “baptism accompanies the belief of individuals as the primary expression of one’s commitment to Christ both to themselves and to the body of believers.”[17] Poythress expresses frustration with Baptists who do not baptize children immediately.  He states, “Why do you [Baptist] not baptize them?  The delay in baptism is hypocritical…Your words say it, but your actions deny it [their Christian-hood and being a member of the Family].  Withholding baptism says in action that they are not in the family of God.”[18]  Poythress continues by saying,
that baptism marks the inception of life with Christ and the joining of the church; that the credible profession of faith rather than the infallible evidence of regeneration is required; that credible profession must be appropriate to the age and gifts of the person; that faith consists primarily in trust in Christ rather than intellectual mastery, precise verbal articulation of the truth, or self-conscious, autonomous decision-making.[19] 

Additionally, the writer of Acts states that the gospel is for children, “For the promise is for you and your children and for all that are far away, even for as many as our God invites to come to Himself” (Acts 2:39, Amplified Bible).  Timothy George states,
Believer’s baptism must be practiced alongside a proper theology of children…children of believing parents do stand in a special providential relationship to the people and promises of God…who by prayers, instruction, [and] example will undoubtedly educate them in the true faith of Christ.”[20]  

George continues by saying “We should always be sensitive to the evidences of God’s grace in their tender years.”[21]  Other theological writers hold to the necessity to baptize children upon profession of faith as well.  Catherine Stonehouse and Scottie May state that Jesus does call children to Him.  There is no age limit; you do not have to be 20 when Jesus calls you to believe in Him, repent and be saved.[22]  Mark Dever comments that “the normal age of baptism should be when the credibility of one’s conversion becomes naturally seen and evident to the community of the faith.”[23]  He further states, “Scripture does not directly address the age at which believers should be baptized.  The command to baptize does not forbid the raising of questions about the appropriateness of a baptismal candidate’s maturity.  The credibility of a confession of faith must be weighed and often, if the child is too young, they do not really know what it all means.”[24]  We must keep in mind, though, that “rigorism” in determining if a person, child or adult, is a true Christian does not mean perfection, but a believable willingness to follow Christ on the road of progressive obedience and sanctification.[25]  If the leaders of the church want to wait until they know someone might not fall away, they are faced with a dilemma that even the apostles did not face.  Poythress suggests, “we treat them as Christians unless and until they prove themselves otherwise by apostasy.”[26]  Hammett believes “God can save a child whenever He chooses but baptism is a decision of the church in which it endorses the reality of the child’s decision.”[27] He says that children mature at different rates so each child must be considered individually, like adults.  He does recognize, though, that for Jews the age of accountability is 12, when a child assumes adult spiritual responsibilities.  Age 12 is also the time Jesus’ call was manifest and it is the time when confirmation occurs for those who were baptized as infants. 
Davis states, “The experience of baptism should be understood as an expression of saving faith and as evidence of commitment to follow a life surrendered to God.”[28] Readers of the Bible today, just as the believers of the early church, do not find that the baptizing of adults is delayed until his or her works or words confirm his or her regeneration.  The believers in Acts are baptized immediately.  This is so that the believer can make a visible presentation of his or her testimony, to follow the ordinance of Christ, and to become a member of a community of believers.  The other side of being baptized into a believing community of faith is that mature members nurture and educate new believers and hold them accountable for their actions, even more so children; nurturing children in all areas of life is what is inherent for adults to do. 
There is a segment of credobaptistic churches which believes that if the new believer is young, he or she should wait to be baptized until a later time; this includes many South Africa churches.   A person, usually a child, can wait months or years before being baptized after an initial profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  It is understood that this occurs so a church’s minister can see if the profession of faith is genuine or to see maturity.  It is also done so that children will not become mini-members of the church and have voting privileges before they are able to understand the situations which made the need for a vote.  Each of these reasons seem genuine; however, this is not found in the New Testament.  In the New Testament, the reader is shown a person hearing the Word, repenting of sins, professing of faith in Jesus and salvation being imparted.  After which, baptism occurs almost immediately.  Of the 40 surveys sent out to Christian minister in South Africa, only 6 are answered, yet they each have similar results.  The returned surveys come from Baptist, Congregational and non-denominational pastors in Cape Town and all state they believe children should be baptized when they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Asked if they belong to a church which has this policy, two reply that they do not.  It is seen then, through this small sample, that ministers in Cape Town do believe children should be baptized upon belief.   In practice, though, other things must occur first.  The minister and/or church might require a child to go through faith classes with a minister, wait until they are older, or wait until they can make a serious confession of faith via testimony before the church.  In Ephesians, Paul talks about growing up in the faith.  No one is mature in Christ when baptized but when put into the body of Christ, each grows into full maturity and is built up in the body with love.
Let our lives lovingly express truth.  Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, even Christ.  For because of Him the whole body, closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, grows to full maturity, building itself up in love (Ephesians 4:15-16, Amplified Bible).

Do leaders in churches really mean to be teaching young believers that obedience to Jesus is not mandatory as it appears when delaying baptism?  Do ministers want to say to these young, naïve, and impressionable children who have given their hearts to Jesus that they are not righteous enough?  Paul’s letter to Titus about works of righteousness for salvation states, “He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by the cleansing bath of the new birth and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, Amplified Bible).  Do ministers want to tell children that they have to do more than believe in Jesus and repent of his or her sins?  Surely, they do not want to imply that they must work to be good enough to be baptized.  Surely they do not want to imply that the giving of their hearts to Jesus Christ is not good enough.  Paul states in Romans that “we [Christians] are discharged from the Law…so now we serve not under obedience to the old code but under obedience to the promptings of the Spirit in newness of life” (Romans 7:6, 24-25, Amplified Bible).
            Malone, Davis, Poythress, Hammett, Dever and other theologians in this research agree on what the Bible says, any who repent and profess Jesus as Lord and Savior are saved.  They also agree that these believers should follow Jesus’ command to be baptized.  The surveyed ministers in South Africa agree with these writers, though may not follow it due to church policy.  Other baptistic ministers agree with the salvation formula; however, they put a hitch into the process of getting baptized, the hitch being a “maturity” clause.  Through all the New Testament passages noted above and others not mentioned, believers are baptized immediately upon their profession of faith.  Large multitudes do not stop this from occurring.  Acts 2 records 3000 people who believed and were baptized.  Water scarcity does not stop believers from becoming baptized.  Acts 8:26 and 38 shows a eunuch in a chariot going through the desert who believed, and when came to water, asked to be baptized by Philip.  Being non-Jews does not stop believers from being baptized.  Acts 16:16-39 tells of a Philippian jailer and his household being baptized.  Circumstances do not dictate salvation and baptism.  Age does not dictate salvation and baptism.
The research shows that anyone, regardless of age, who repents and believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior receives God’s gift of salvation and are to be baptized immediately.  The New Testament writers, inspired by God through the Holy Spirit, do not ever say or act out that children cannot be baptized upon belief; on the contrary, each speaks the gospel and does as Jesus commanded, baptizes believers.  The salvation formula found in the gospels is always followed; people repent of their sins and believe in Jesus as Savior for salvation and are, then, baptized as a testimony of their faith.  Since this is what was stated as being required and acted upon so to become the model in apostolic times, why should Christian churches deny baptism to children?  Are the leaders of our modern churches more profoundly inspired by God than the apostles to know that baptism should be withheld from children?  No, believer’s baptism, as established by Jesus and commissioned by Him for His disciples to act upon, is just that, baptizing all believers.  Jesus, in Scripture, does not say to baptize only adult believers.  “Baptism is the public display by which a believer demonstrates the new-found faith, confessing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ so as to commit themselves, in the presence of the community, to die to self and to live in Christ.”[29] As a church, baptism is not all about the one being baptized.  The church makes a statement when they recognize someone as a believer; they show they are willing to follow Christ as a part of the universal Body of Christ, the faith community.  Baptism is for believers of all ages.


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[1] Ronald E. Davis, “Why Baptize? The Function of Baptism in the New Testament,” The South African Baptist Journal of Theology, vol. 12, (2003).
[2] David Wright, ed., Baptism: Three Views (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2009).
[3] Ken Keithley, lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC, 2011).
[4]Scottie May, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse, and Linda Cannell, Children Matter: Celebrating Their Place in the Church, Family, and Community (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005) 57.
[5] Wright.
[6] Ibid.
[7]Gerhard Forde, “Something to Believe: A Theological Perspective on Infant Baptism,” Interpretation 47/3 (July 1993),
[8] Ibid.
[9] Davis, 89.
[10] Keathley, “Baptism”.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Martin B. Copenhaver, “What’s Confirmation For?” Christianity Today (June 2, 2009).
[13] May, Posterski, Stonehouse, and Cannell.
[14]Vern Sheridan Poythress, “Indifferentism and Rigorism in the Church: With Implications for Baptizing Small Children,” Westminster Theological Journal 59/1 (1997),
[16]Fred A. Malone, “A String of Pearls Unstrung: A Theological Journey into Believer’ Baptism,” Founders Press (1998), 
[17]Davis, p.94.
[20] Timothy George, "The Reformed Doctrine of Believer's Baptism," Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 47 (July 1,1993), 252.
[21]George, 252.
[22]Catherine Stonehouse and Scottie May, Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2010), 104.
[23]Mark Dever, “The Church,” A Theology for the Church (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 207), 789.
[24]Dever, 788.
[27]John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005), 17.
[28]Davis, 95.
[29]Davis, 97.