Posted by: Marty | March 28, 2012

A Defense of Rebaptism

This is my personal testimony as to the biblical reasons why, after having been saved, immersed by a Baptist church, called to preach and having served as pastor of a Baptist church for several years I was recently “re-baptized.” This issue has been upon my mind for a couple of years now, and on March 18th, 2012 I was able to resolve the matter and stand with a clear conscience as to what the scriptures teach on the subject of church authority in baptism. The audio of the message that was preached at Emmanuel Baptist Church on Sunday March 25th, 2012 is available here.

Marty Tate

 

 

A Defense of Re-Baptism

 

“Let it be remembered that Baptists in all ages have rebaptized, not because Catholics did not immerse, or because those who came from the Catholics were baptized in their infancy, but because they regarded all ordinances administered in a corrupt or anti-scriptural organization to be null and void.” (Orchard’s Baptist History, p. 235, quoted in “Compendium of Baptist History” by J.A. Shackleford, p. 137)

I am, by definition, an Anabaptist. I have been “re-baptized” not once, but twice. At the risk of seeming foolish to some (1 Corinthians 4:10) and offensive to others (James 3:2) I would like to lay out the reasons for this, biblically.

Baptists have been castigated and persecuted for centuries as “Anabaptists” or “re-baptizers.” Bible-believing Baptists of all ages since the time of Christ and the apostles have recognized four criteria for scriptural baptism. If any one of those criteria were defective or lacking then the baptism was considered to be unscriptural and of no validity. These ancient Baptists insisted that they did not “re-baptize” since there had been no scriptural baptism to begin with. They simply administered scriptural baptism and refused to recognize as valid unscriptural baptism. For this they were anathematized as heretics and schismatics and were martyred by the millions during the Dark Ages.

The four biblical requirements for scriptural baptism are:

1)      The person being baptized must have been born again prior to being baptized. (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:41, 8:35-38)

2)      Baptism is performed by immersion in water. (Matthew 3:6, 16, Mark 1:5 & 9-10, John 3:23, Acts 8:38-39, Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12) The Greek word baptizo means to immerse, to dip or to submerge.

3)      Baptism is symbolic of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Sprinkling or pouring destroys this symbolism. Baptism is not a sacrament and in no way affects salvation. (Romans 6:3-5, 1 Corinthians 1:17, 1 Peter 3:21)

4)      Baptism is a church ordinance and is only to be administered by scriptural church authority. (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:41-42, 47) The commission was given to the disciples, not as a “Christian” ordinance, but as a church ordinance.

The Lord Jesus Christ had said to these disciples “I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” He had formed them into the first church and as such He had taught them to baptize, He had taught them about church discipline, He had instituted the Lord’s Supper in their presence, He breathed on them after the resurrection and bestowed the Holy Spirit upon them. These disciples constituted the first church in every way and in every sense before Pentecost.

It was the assembly that Christ commissioned and it was the assembly that Christ promised to be with until the end of the world, that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

On the day of Pentecost we find the church, 120 saints assembled together in an upper room and later that day 3000 souls are saved, baptized and added to the church.

I want you to understand this point: baptism and the Lord’s Supper are church ordinances. They are not “Christian” ordinances. Christ authorized His ecclesia, His church, His assembly to administer the ordinances.

That was one of the chief contentions of the Anabaptists throughout the dark ages: they contended that unscriptural “churches” were not churches at all and as such they had no authority to baptize.

It all comes down to this: authority. When the time came for Christ to begin His earthly ministry, He walked 60 miles in order to be baptized by the only man on the face of the earth with the authority of heaven to perform the act.

My first “baptism” came as a 9 year old boy after making a very shallow profession of faith. My family belonged to the Congregational Methodist Church. The pastor asked which method of baptism I preferred: sprinkling or immersion. My response was that since Jesus was immersed, then I would be too. Not bad for a kid, huh? Here is the problem: I was not saved at that time. The first requirement for scriptural baptism is a saved person. Since I was not born again, that baptism is not valid.

Here is the next problem: Is the Congregational Methodist Church a scriptural administrator of baptism? The answer is, no. The Congregational Methodist denomination doesn’t meet the historical test for being the church that Jesus built, nor does it meet the scriptural test for being the church that Jesus built.

Jesus Christ built His church during His earthly ministry and that church has the promise of Christ that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) Any church that comes into existence after Christ built His church is not a true church of Jesus Christ, no matter how sincere its members may be. There are surely many sincere Christian people in the Congregational Methodist Church. A person who is saved by grace through faith in Christ is saved regardless of their church affiliation. However, in order to be true to the bible, we must do things the bible way.

The Congregational Methodist denomination came into existence in 1852 from the Methodist Episcopal denomination, which came into existence from the Methodist societies of the Church of England led by the Wesley brothers, and the Church of England came into existence from Roman Catholicism when King Henry VIII wanted to trade in his wife for a new one! The Church of England has never been a true New Testament church one day of its entire existence! Just by pure logic, how can a church that has its origins in such an unscriptural organization suddenly, by the sincerity of its members, become a true New Testament Church?

What about the doctrine of the Congregational Methodist churches? They are rooted in Wesleyan/Arminian doctrine by their own testimony. Specifically, Methodists believe and preach that a person who has been born again may fall from grace and be lost. Methodists still hold, to a degree the Roman Catholic doctrine of the ordinances being sacraments. Methodists still retain a form of denominational hierarchy. The bible teaches no such doctrine. Salvation is by grace, through faith without any addition of works or good deeds on our part, whether before or after salvation. Of course, a born again person will exhibit good works as the fruit of salvation, but this is a very different thing than trying to be good enough to keeps one’s salvation.

The bible gives two church ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These ordinances are memorial and symbolic. They confer no grace to those who participate. We also find absolutely no hint of a denominational structure or hierarchy in the New Testament. In order for a church to be a doctrinally sound New Testament church it must preach the gospel, keep the ordinances, and practice church polity as delivered to them by the New Testament.

As such I cannot accept my Methodist immersion as a young boy as valid.

As young adults, my wife and I were born again, and joined a church (Victory Baptist, now defunct) that was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. We had been saved at this point and were beginning to learn about the practice of believer’s baptism. I realized that since my boyhood profession was false, then my Methodist immersion was no good either, and that I needed to be scripturally baptized as a believer. Up to this point, the pastor of the church had been very willing to accept my profession of faith and my Methodist “baptism.” In fact, as long as a person had been immersed as a believer, no judgment was made as to what church or denomination had done the immersing.

I was content with this baptism until a few years ago, when I really began to study what the Bible says about church doctrine and church ordinances. I began to preach the historic Baptist doctrine of baptism and became increasingly unsettled with my own baptism.

Specifically, my concern was with the fact that the church must be a biblical church to possess any biblical authority to baptize anyone. Victory Baptist church began when a group of people left Way of the Cross Baptist church over the issue of tongues. The group that left and formed Victory were seeking and practicing charismatic “sign gifts.” This was still the case a couple of years later when my wife and I joined that church, and by that time it had also become affiliated with the SBC.

Victory Baptist church was born out of an unscriptural church split, continued to hold the false doctrine of the charismatic movement, and accepted members with unscriptural baptisms. Victory Baptist was also part of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC hails itself as the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. They are correct. The SBC and its churches have, over time been “protestantized” much like the ancient Waldenses who eventually assimilated into the Protestant movement. I know personally of SBC churches that have accepted Roman Catholics as members along with their Roman Catholic sacramental baptism. I believe that the norm among SBC churches is to make no judgment as to whether the baptism of those they receive as members is scriptural. At any rate, it was the case with Victory Baptist church and as such I do not believe that Victory Baptist ever possessed any New Testament church authority to baptize anyone.

“Churches,” denominations, and independent non-denominational “ministries” litter the landscape. Notice them as you drive around: “So-and-So Ministries, Pastor Simon the Sorcerer.” They have neither “part nor lot” in the matter, but they’ve decided to do it their own way! They are nothing more than a group of people who got together and decided that they didn’t like their choices as far as churches in the area, so they “started” their own.

I’d be willing to say that two-thirds of the “Baptist” churches that you see were started basically the same way, with the exception that many of them started out of church splits.

They didn’t like something the preacher said or did, or there was a fight over some trivial thing and they left and started their own “church.” Are there scriptural reasons for a church split? Sure there are, when there are doctrinal reasons. When a church has become committed to some false doctrine or damnable heresy, then it is time for God’s flock to leave and continue a New Testament witness elsewhere. But the unfortunate truth is that the biggest majority of church splits now days are over personalities and preferences and hurt feelings and wounded pride! They have no more New Testament authority to baptize than the Roman Catholic “church!” In fact they have no New Testament authority to exist as a church!

If you will study Acts chapters 13 through 15 you will see the New Testament pattern for evangelism. The pattern is: God calls evangelists out of churches and sends them out to preach the gospel, baptize converts and gather those baptized converts into churches, and the process is repeated. You will never find an instance in the New Testament of some people just getting together and deciding to start a “church.”

Then look at the denominational scene: every single denomination except for the Baptists came out of Rome either directly or indirectly and every single denomination that came out of Rome still retains some degree of Rome’s doctrines. The Lutherans began in 1521, the Presbyterians in 1532, the Episcopalians in 1538, the Methodists in 1730 and every other “church” and “ism” either came from one of these daughters of Rome or sprang up around some false prophet. They have no biblical right to refer to themselves as churches and they have no biblical authority to administer the ordinances.

Sounds pretty narrow, doesn’t it? That’s the same charge that was leveled against the Anabaptists. The reason it seems so narrow is that it un-churches every other group.

Is not the gospel narrow? Is not Jesus narrow when He claims to be the only way to the Father? Is not unity the siren song of the ecumenical, end-times false religion?

I can’t answer every question or objection, but every man and woman that is saved must look to their own situation before the Lord and see whether or not it lines up with scripture and then we are bound to act accordingly, for we must all appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ to give account to our Lord or our service and obedience to Him.

Search the scriptures to see whether these things are so. Maranatha!

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Responses

  1. Good post. Thank you for your stand.

    • Thank you Bro. Noyes. I appreciate your encouragement!

  2. Thank you for your testimony!


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