Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Baptism & Obedience

Excerpts of J. L. Reynolds book The Kingdom of Christ which has been reprinted in Mark Dever's outstanding book Polity: A Collection of Historic Baptist Documents.

Baptism is an Initiatory Act of Obedience

Baptism has been placed, by Christ, at the beginning of all the outward duties which he requires of his followers. It is, therefore, an initiatory service. But all agree that, as in the case of the Ethiopian Eunuch, baptism does not introduce to membership in a particular church; and it is clear that an individual must be a member of Christ’s spiritual body, before baptism, or any other duty, can be acceptably performed. "Without me ye can do nothing." [from Chapter III . The Church of Christ, emphasis mine]

Baptism is not, like the Lord’s supper, a social rite. It signifies the fellowship of the individual believer with Christ, not the fellowship of believers with one another. The obligation to be baptized is independent of the obligation to form social relations with other disciples, and is prior. Baptism, is, therefore, a qualification for admission into a Church of external organization; but it does not confer membership. [from Chapter III . The Church of Christ, emphasis mine]

Thus the Church Must Be Only Baptized Believers

The New Testament contains traces of only two Christian ordinances. These are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Of the two, the latter alone is strictly a Church ordinance. A Church is composed of baptized believers. Baptism is indispensable to their admission into it, but it does not make them Church members. [from Chapter XIV. Baptism, emphasis mine]

Thus Baptism is a Prerequisite for Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is a social ordinance, and is celebrated by a church in its distinctive character, as a body of baptized believers. Whatever, therefore, determines the conditions of membership, defines also the terms of communion. That baptism is prior to the supper, in the order of their observance, and, therefore, that only the baptized have a right to commune, is so unquestionably the teaching of the Word of God, and was so manifestly the practice of the primitive churches, that we are not surprised at the almost universal agreement of Christians on this point. The splendor of a great name may, for a time, give prominence to the opposite error, which inverts the order of the rites; and a spurious charity may plead for its adoption; but the subject is too plain to admit of much diversity of sentiment or practice. It has, indeed, scarcely ever been deemed worthy of a labored discussion. All the professed followers of the Redeemer, in all ages, with the exception of a very small minority, have concurred in the opinion that the Scriptures make Baptism an indispensable prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper. [1 Cor 12: 13; Eph 4: 5; 6: 18; Jno. 17: 20–26; Rom 16: 1, 2 ; 3 Jno. 8–10 ; Acts 15.] [from Chapter XV. The Lord’s Supper, emphasis mine]

[Baptist] hold that nothing but the immersion of a believer is baptism; but as they maintain, in common with other denominations, that baptism must precede communion, they cannot receive any one who has not been immersed. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the only question at issue between them, and the others, is as to what constitutes baptism... To receive unimmersed persons to their communion, would amount not only to a virtual renunciation of their own views of baptism, but an abandonment of the fundamental law of communion, in the churches of Christ in general. [Acts 11 : 22–27; 15 : 22–27; 18: 27; Eph 6 : 21; 1 Cor 16 : 15–18.] [from Chapter XV. The Lord’s Supper]

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