Repent and Be Baptized

The Theology and Practice of Baptism

March 28, 2015Filed under Theology#m. div.#papers#sebtsMarkdown source

The following was written in partial fulfillment of the requirements of Dr. Nathan Finn's Baptist History and Identity class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Baptismal Theology and Practice

There are only two practices embraced universally throughout the Christian church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Even with these, serious differences remain, reflecting deeper distinctions in the theology and practice of the church. In the case of baptism, the questions of its meaning and mode tend to reflect the believer’s views on the nature of God’s saving work, the covenant community, and the church. Who should be baptized, and how, where, and under what circumstances are difficult, important questions. Believers must consider them carefully and hold their conclusions humbly.

Baptismal Theology

Baptism should be applied to believers, and is best carried out by immersion. However, while Baptist churches have often tended toward a dogmatic position on these, leading to a frequent practice of rebaptism, more caution is necessary—especially on the second point.

Meaning

Baptism is the covenant sign of one’s entrance into the Christian faith, and also a means of grace in the life of the Christian—not saving grace, but real grace nonetheless, in the same way that fellowship with the saints, the preaching of the word, and the Lord’s supper are.1 God works grace in the life of believers in their obedience to his commands, of which baptism is among the clearest in the New Testament (Matt. 28:18–20, Acts 2:38). Moreover, it is the symbol and in some mysterious way also a means of the believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–4, Col. 2:8–14), an element of his union with Christ’s church (Eph. 4:4–6), and his appeal to God for a pure conscience (1 Pet. 3:21–22).

Baptism is not merely a symbolic ordinance2 but, as these passages make clear, a place in which God works uniquely in the life of the believer. Neither is paptism a work necessary for salvation, as is clear from the salvation of the thief on the cross (Luke 23:42–43, as well as from many other places that teach that faith alone is necessary for salvation). Nor is there warrant in Scripture for the idea that baptism is a means of regeneration or cleansing from original sin. Nonetheless, paptism is ordinarily a part of God’s saving work in his people’s lives. The reality that some are saved who are never baptized does not mean it plays no part in the believer’s life, but rather that its part is in sanctification rather than in justification.

Mode

Nearly all Baptists historically have argued on the basis of the New Testament language that baptism must be by immersion. The word βαπτίζω, usually transliterated to English as “baptize” rather than translated, is a secondary verb derived from the root βάπτω, broadly meaning simply “to dip or immerse.” While a full exegetical treatment is beyond the scope of this essay, two points must be remembered in any discussion of baptism. First, the normal meaning of both these words is dipping or immersion, and there are a number of examples which strongly suggest going down into and coming up out of standing water (Matt. 3:6–17, Mark 1:4–11, John 3:22, Acts 8:36–39). Second, however, the lexical domain of these verbs and of the various words derived from them within the New Testament alone is broader than dipping or immersion, and certainly includes the notion of washing.3

Moreover, its figurative uses throughout the New Testament range far more broadly than “immersion” alone: it includes partaking of trials (Mark 10:38, Luke 12:50); the transfoming work of the Spirit (Matt. 3:11, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16), and even the Israelites’ passing through water without getting wet (1 Cor. 10:2). The most significant of these metaphorical texts is Paul’s argument that in baptism believers have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–4, Col. 2:8–14). The parallel imagery between the two is clear and potent: baptism visualizes death and resurrection. However, Paul’s parallel uses of the word “baptism” and “baptize” (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:13, Gal. 3:27) with “in Christ” demonstrate that the point of these passages is union with Christ—not mode of baptism. Immersion illustrates this reality most effectively, but immersion is not commanded.

It should be granted, then, that the primary meaning of the word group is of dipping or immersion, but that it also includes a broader sense of washing or transformation. Likewise, given what documents there are from the first and second century, it seems safe to say that baptism was normally by immersion in the early church. However, it is too much to say that immersion is demanded by the language used or by the examples in the New Testament. Rather, it should be preferred as the best way of expressing visually the death, burial and resurrection of the believer with Christ as well as the cleansing and transformative elements of the practice. At the same time, those who practice baptism by immersion should not reject baptisms by sprinkling or pouring as false or unbiblical baptisms.4

Subject

The debate over the subject of baptism is similarly heated. There are essentially two positions on who should be baptized (with some variations in each position): that only new believers should be baptized, or that new believers and the children of believers should be baptized. While there are some important differences regarding the meaning of the baptism of believers, it is the universal practice of all Christian churches. The baptism of infants or as-yet-unbelieving children of newly converted parents, however, has been attributed a wide number of meanings, ranging from cleansing from original sin and the beginning of the individual’s own work of salvation (the Catholic view) to entrance into the covenant community conditioned on personal faith (the Presbyterian view).5

On the one hand, the vast majority of Christians throughout all history prior to the 20th century baptized infants. On the other hand, the believer is responsible finally to submit to the Bible, tradition notwithstanding; if the Scriptures teaches credobaptism, even the weight of so much tradition must be set aside. Nonetheless, church history is often illuminating for difficult interpretive issues.

The earliest unambiguous mention of infant baptism is Tertullian’s condemnation of the practice in 198 A.D. Less than two decades later, though, Hippolytus advocated the baptism of children incapable of answering for themselves less than two decades later (parents or other relatives were to speak on behalf of their children).6 Some argue that the commands for those baptized in earlier documents such as the Didache7 precludes children’s having been baptized, but this is an argument from silence—and these same kinds of commands appear in the “Apostolic Tradition” following the instruction regarding children. In any case, practice in the church was mixed by the end of the second century at the latest.

The evidence from New Testament practice is also ambiguous.8 It is true that in the cases where the recipients of baptism are clearly delineated, they are believers. However, any argument regarding the household baptisms is necessarily an argument from silence. There is no grounds in the text for asserting that none of the households that received baptism included infants or small children incapable of professing faith.9 To say otherwise is to read one’s theological presuppositions into the text. By the same token, however, paedobaptists have no more warrant than do credobaptists for claiming these passages as clear evidence for their view. Believers may of course argue that these passages should be interpreted in light of their understanding of the rest of the New Testament—but without the dogmatism too often present on both sides. The passages simply do not say; indeed, no passage in the New Testament even speaks clearly about believing children.10

Thus, the subject of baptism can be determined only through the passages that teach about its meaning and function in the life of the believer. Covenantal paedobaptists11 argue that, in continuity with the pattern of the Abrahamic Covenant, children of believers—that is, children of those who are themselves members of the covenant community of faith—should be baptized. They note, rightly, that the major points of discontinuity marked off by the New Covenant are with the Mosaic covenant rather than the Abrahamic Covenant. As such, they suggest that just as the (male) children of members of the Abrahamic covenant were circumcised to symbolize their entrance into the covenant community, so likewise (all) children of members of the New Covenant should be baptized. The covenant view rightly distinguishes between the role of the symbol and the necessary faith of the believer. It also rightly identifies the church with Abraham’s offspring (cf. Luke 3:7–9) and takes seriously the teaching in both Testaments that Abraham and his offspring were saved by faith, not merely by being members of the people of Israel (see esp. Gal. 3:1–6).12

However, while the Abrahamic covenant led directly to the New Covenant, it nonetheless had an ethnic or national bent to it that the New Covenant does not. The Abrahamic covenant was with Abraham and his offspring in a specific nation, though for the good of all nations (Gen. 12:1–7, 15:1–21, 17:1–14). Circumcision was established for Abraham and his descendants as their act of covenant (Gen 17:9–14). Yet the New Testament unambiguously does away with circumcision as the mark of participation in God’s community (cf. Acts 10:1–48, 16:3, 1 Cor. 7:18, Gal. 2:3, 5:2). The New Covenant circumcision is one “made without hands” (Col. 2:11; cf. Deut. 30:6, Rom. 2:29) and is tied directly to baptism—“the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11b–12).

The covenant paedobaptist is right that baptism is to the church what circumcision was to the Jews, but wrong about how entrance into the covenant community now comes about.13 Again: salvation was always by faith, but the people of God are no longer constituted ethnically or nationally, but by faith alone. To become one of God’s people in the Abrahamic covenant was to join the nation of Israel; even when, as in Ruth’s case, that commitment was one of faith it was also national and ethnic. It is no longer. Those who are to be baptized are those who have become disciples (Matt. 28:18–20), repented (Acts 2:38–39), been united with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3, Col 2:12), put on Christ (Gal. 3:27), asked God for cleansing from sin (Acts 22:17) and for a clear conscience (1 Pet. 3:21). In the New Covenant, only those who profess faith are marked as belonging to the people of God.14

In line with the practice described in the New Testament, then, only believers should be baptized today: those who have made a clear and credible profession of faith. However, those who affirm believer’s baptism should be careful not to overstate their case. While the New Testament does incline this way, there is no slam-dunk case, and no therefore warrant for sneering at those who disagree. Moreover, other convictions held in light of one’s position on baptism must be held moderately, in light of the provisional character of the doctrine.

Excursus: Rebaptism

Rebaptism is a serious matter. It argues that the first baptism a person underwent was not in fact a Christian baptism at all, for one should not otherwise be rebaptized. There is only one instance of rebaptism recorded in the New Testament: that of the believers in Ephesus (Acts 19), who had not been baptized in the name of Jesus at all. If the meaning, mode, and subject of baptism as outlined above are correct, then it is appropriate to rebaptize those who have been baptized as unbelievers (including as children) or by those who are not orthodox Christians (e.g. Mormons). However, it is inappropriate to rebaptize those who were baptized by a mode other than immersion,15 for the mode of baptism is neither a primary issue nor a point asserted dogmatically anywhere in Scripture. Moreover, it is also inappropriate to rebaptize those who were baptized as believers, but by churches holding differing views on the meaning of baptism but which are nonetheless true Christian churches. Any baptism applied to a believer on a valid profession of faith by a true church ought to be respected by other Christian churches.16

Baptismal Practice

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Many Baptists have argued that the Lord’s Supper should be reserved for those who have been baptized as believers, by immersion—a position that dates from the origin of Baptist life (in the writings of William Kiffen) to the present day (see the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 for just one example). A minority of Baptists throughout the history of the movement (famously including John Bunyan) have argued to the contrary: that the table ought to be open to any who have given a valid profession of faith, or are members in good standing of other Christian churches. Finally, a yet-smaller group has practiced local-church-only communion, in which only the members of a given congregation may partake of communion there. The first position, though most common, is perhaps least sustainable in the author’s view. The fully open and local-church-only views are more self-consistent in their interpretation of the relevant passages on the Lord’s Supper.

All those answering this question are attempting to deal rightly with the reality that coming to the Table is a serious matter. The New Testament teaches that Christians are not to partake of the meal with those who are in unrepentant sin (1 Cor. 5) and warns that judgment will come on those who themselves partake of the meal while unrepentant (1 Cor. 11:20–30). Moreover, unrepentant sin is the only boundary set around the table in the New Testament. But arguing that being mistaken about even a practice so central as baptism constitutes unrepentant sin is problematic. There are other doctrines of denomination-forming importance, and which believers regard as sin issues; if this logic were to be applied consistently, Christians could never share the Table with anyone who did not share their every denominational distinctive.

As Mike Bergman comments, the Lord’s Table is for disciples—for all those who will be eating the supper together when the Lord returns.17 The “closed” communion position wrongly restricts the practice on the basis of a doctrinal distinctive—one having little to do with the meaning of the Table itself. Baptism is important, but to be incorrect on a secondary (albeit important) issue is not remotely as unrepentant sin.

Advocates of closed communion sometimes argue for a modified version of this position. Instead, they argue that participation in the Lord’s Supper requires that one already have been baptized, and that since paedobaptism or baptism by a mode other than immersion are by (their) definition not baptisms at all, such believers should not be admitted to the table.18 However, this is also problematic. First of all, it assumes facts not in evidence. The New Testament makes no comment on the issue whatsoever, presumably because it was not an issue (regardless of the question of credo- or paedobaptism), leaving one with no direct exegetical warrant for drawing the line here. Moreover, the result is to exclude from the table other believers whose faith in Christ one fully acknowledges and who one is confident will share in the feast at the end of ages—on the basis of a debated interpretive issue, where the New Testament draws no such line. Again, this reduces in no uncertain terms to the idea that doctrinal differences are sufficient for excluding people from the Table, and sets one rapidly on the path to sectarianism.

Finally, advocates of the local-church-only position rightly note that the local church, and especially her shepherds, have a responsibility for the souls of those who partake of the Table. Again, the New Testament is clear that partaking of the talbe in known, unrepentant sin is a cause for judgment; it is likewise clear that churches are as part of the practice of church discipline remove unrepentant members from the table. Since the local church cannot ordinarily know the spiritual condition of a visitor, it is safer to restrict communion only to those about whom the congregation does have knowledge: members. However, this position is similarly hard to sustain from the New Testament. While churches are to remove from membership and access to the table those who are in unrepentant sin, there is no indication of restricting the Table only to those in the local congregation. Moreover, the text most often cited as evidence for this position (1 Cor. 11:28) actually speaks to individuals holding themselves accountable, rather than to churches holding their members accountable.

Given that the New Testament pattern is indeed of baptism, the question once again is whether the issue of baptism is so certain as to warrant this kind of restriction. If, as argued above, there are grounds for holding a credobaptist position only with considerable humility, Christians must likewise take care not to draw too thick a line around other elements of the church’s practice on the basis of baptismal doctrine.

Baptism and the Local Church

Many of the same arguments applied to the Lord’s Supper have been applied to the issue of church membership, and many of the same concerns are in play. However, many Baptist churches today practice open communion but closed membership, and a number of high-profile Baptist leaders throughout history have advocated for open membership as well as open communion.19 Baptists have universally argued for a regenerate church membership, and believer’s baptism by immersion has usually been understood to be a prerequisite for membership, since other forms of baptism have been deemed invalid.20 Moreover, since a local church is not merely a group of believers who happen to come together, but a group united around common affirmations about the nature of the Christian life and the truths Scripture teaches, local churches rightly have a higher bar for membership than merely that a person appears truly to be saved.21

Churches should certainly not admit to membership those who affirm their stance on baptism yet continue to refuse it. In cases where the person affirms paedobaptism, though, membership may not be wholly out of bounds—for the same reason that the Lord’s supper is not: the unity of the body of Christ matters enormously. It will usually be best in such circumstances to direct the individual to another evangelical church in the area that practices paedobaptism.22 This best reflects the importance and seriousness of baptism. However, there may be times when the best option is to admit such an individual to membership—e.g., in cases where the baptistic church is the evangelical congregation in the area. Baptism is important, but not so important as to leave a regenerate individual or family without fellowship. Until Christ returns and finally sets all doctrines aright, people should gather with those with whom they share core doctrinal affiliations where possible—and be welcomed as brothers and sisters in Christ where it is not possible. Such a practice may, by the grace of God, be used a little to knit together again the fractured body of the church catholic.

Is baptism a church ordinance?

Some believers argue that baptism is specifically a church ordinance, and as such that it should never (or only in very rare circumstances) be carried out outside the church. Since baptism is the believer’s initiation into the church, it is the right only of the church to carry it out.23 However, in nearly every case in the New Testament, the newly baptized believers constituted the first members of the church, and baptism is rarely mentioned outside of “church planting” narratives. In the few cases where baptisms in the local church are discussed (1 Cor. 15:29), the content is simply not relevant. Indeed, Jesus himself presided over (but did not participate in) a great many baptisms prior to the formation of the local church, and evidently to a different end than “Christian baptism”—certainly the symbolism of death, burial, and resurrection with Christ remained hidden from those recipients of baptism. As with John’s baptism, this seems to have been a baptism “for repentance from sins” (Mark 1:4). Given the relative silence of Scripture on the subject, it again seems best not to stake out too strong a position on who may and may not baptize.

Certainly the normal circumstance will be baptism in the context of a local church, because the local church is the home of Christian ministry. However, this is not a normative practice; should a person come to faith in the context of a parachurch ministry, there is no basis for arguing that it is categorically wrong for the parachurch ministry to perform the convert’s baptism. To be sure, a parachurch ministry that consistently baptizes new converts may run the risk of usurping the church’s role—but in this case, the baptismal practice is a reflection of the problem, not itself the problem.

The Age for Baptism

Given the credo-baptist position that only those who have made a credible profession of faith should be baptized, the question arises: how old must someone be to offer a profession that the church deems credible and therefore administers baptism? Put negatively, is there an age below which such a baptism would be more akin to paedo- than to credobaptism? Or should any profession of faith be accepted, regardless of the child’s age? There are a number of good arguments in favor of baptizing even very young children after a clear profession of faith.24 First, there is no evidence in Scripture for delaying baptism after clear professions of faith: baptism normally followed a profession of faith immediately.25 Second, delaying baptism as a sort of “litmus test” for baptism implies that something besides repentance and faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. Third, it is not giving false assurance to affirm even a child’s trust in Christ through the gospel—perhaps even to the contrary (Mark 10:13–16). Moreover, the New Testament pattern for confirmation of salvation is always a matter of encouraging those who have made a profession to hold fast to it (cf. Heb. 2, 4, 6, 10), rather than discouraging people from profession or baptism.

However, there are also a number of reasons to consider delaying baptism for children.26 One caution against baptizing young adults who have made a profession is the historic practice of baptistic churches, and that of many baptistic churches outside the United States, where baptism has been and remains a matter for adulthood. Another is the reality that young children, being easily swayed by their parents or peers, might be inclined to make false professions of faith—even apparently sincere ones. Of course, any profession of faith may be made for the wrong reasons.27 It is not the church’s job to prevent false profession from being made, but to respond appropriately when a false profession has been made (Matt. 18, 1 Cor. 5). Moreover, as noted above, Scripture is simply silent on the age of non-adults baptized, so making a hard and fast rule is unwarranted. It may nonetheless be wise to baptize only individuals who are judged capable of making their own professions of faith—perhaps those in their early pre-teen years and onward, as judged together by parents and church leaders in each case.28

Summary

Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant, and should be applied to the members of that covenant: believers. The preferred mode is immersion, but other modes may be allowed if circumstances demand. Similarly, the church is the ordinary context and her members the normal adminstrators of baptism, but it matters most that a person be baptized by an orthodox Christian in the Trinitarian formula. Those who have been baptized as believers ought not be rebaptized, regardless of mode. Those who have not been baptized as believers may partake of the Lord’s table, but should not ordinarly become members of a Baptist church. In all these things, the people of God ought to rejoice in their participation in the death and resurrection of Christ.


Bibliography

  • Bergman, Mike. “Why We Practice ‘Open’ Communion.” SBC Voices. Posted September 9, 2011. http://sbcvoices.com/why-we-practice-open-communion/ (accessed March 24, 2015).

  • Dever, Mark E. “Baptism in the Context of the Local Church.” In Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ. Edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007. 329–352.

  • Finn, Nathan. “Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper: A White Paper from the Center for Theological Research.” Fort Worth: The Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006.

  • ——, “A Baptist perspective on -re-baptism-”. BRNow.org. Posted February 25, 2013. http://www.brnow.org/Opinions/Guest-Columns/February-2013/A-Baptist-perspective-on-re-baptism (accessed March 28, 2015).

  • Freeman, Curtis W. “Analysis: Should Baptist churches adopt open membership? Yes.” The Baptist Standard. Posted on April 21, 2010. https://www.baptiststandard.com/news/faith-culture/11047-analysis-should-baptist-churches-adopt-open-membership-yes (accessed March 28, 2015).

  • Garrett, James Leo. “Analysis: Should Baptist churches adopt open membership? No.” The Baptist Standard. Posted on April 21, 2010. https://www.baptiststandard.com/news/faith-culture/11048-analysis-should-baptist-churches-adopt-open-membership-no (accessed March 28, 2015).

  • Moore, Russell D. “Table Manners.” Touchstone, Sept/Oct 2011. http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=24-05-016-v (accessed March 28, 2015).

  • Norman, R. Stanton. The Baptist Way: Distinctives of a Baptist Church. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.

  • Piper, John. “How Important is Church Membership” (sermon, Bethlehem Baptist Church, July 13, 2008).

  • ——. “Teaching and Admonishing One Another in All Wisdom” (sermon, Bethlehem Baptist Church, July 27, 2008).

  • ——. “What Is Baptism, and How Important Is It?” (sermon, Bethlehem Baptist Church, July 20, 2008).

  • Starke, John. “Should We Baptize Small Children? Yes.” The Gospel Coalition. Posted February 23, 2011. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/should-we-baptize-small-children-yes (accessed March 28, 2015).

  • Wax, Trevin. “Should We Baptize Small Children? No.” The Gospel Coalition. Posted February 21, 2001. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2011/02/21/should-we-baptize-small-children/ (accessed March 28, 2015).

  • White, Thomas. “What Makes Baptism Valid?” In Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, edited by Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing, and Malcolm B. Yarnell, III. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008. 107–118.


  1. The Lord’s Supper belongs in a distinct category, insofar as it is a means of special grace in the Christian life, but it fits in this list as well.

  2. Contra Thomas White, “What Makes Baptism Valid?” in Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, eds. Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing, and Malcolm B. Yarnell, III (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008), 110–111.

  3. See e.g. Luke 11:38, where it is clear the Pharisees were not surprised that Jesus failed to take a whole-body bath; or Mark 7:4, where the same word is used of washing after returning from the market; or Hebrews 6:2, 9:10, where it refers to ritual purification

  4. This was the pattern of the early church, as evidenced by the very early “Didache”, which argued for baptism by immersion if possible and by pouring if necessary (Didache 7).

  5. This may be taken as a secondary argument against paedobaptism—a point made to the author and others by Nathan Finn in a number of personal conversations and in several class lectures, 2013–2015.

  6. The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome 21.4.

  7. Didache 7.

  8. Contra many Baptists, e.g. R. Stanton Norman, The Baptist Way: Distinctives of a Baptist Church (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 110–112; White, 109–110.

  9. Contra e.g. Norman, 110–111.

  10. The nearest the New Testament comes to it are: Jesus’ welcome of little children (Mark 10:13–16), Paul’s admonitions to those married to unbelievers for the sake of their spouse and children (1 Cor. 7:12–16), and Paul’s instructions to presumably believing children and their parents (Eph. 6:1–4, Col. 3:20–21) .

  11. For constraints of time and space, the author has left aside other views, many of which are both historically and practically significant and deserves serious interaction, but which have in the author’s view less Scriptural warrant (to varying degrees) than the covenant position.

  12. It is also perhaps surprising that in all the controversy stirred up by the Judaizers in the early church, there is no mention of hostility over children being excluded from the New Covenant—a fairly striking change between the two. This is especially so given that the distinction between Old and New Covenants did not preclude the Judaizers from arguing for many other points of even stronger continuity between Mosaic practice and that of the church—still less Abrahamic practice and that of the church. However, this is another argument from silence and so cannot be taken as strong evidence one way or the other. (Personal conversation with Doug Serven, August 5, 2010.)

  13. John Piper, “What Is Baptism, and How Important Is It?” (sermon, Bethlehem Baptist Church, July 20, 2008).

  14. The contested passages in Acts are left aside because, as has been noted, they do not prove what either side claims they do. Lydia believed, and her household was baptized—does this mean her household had no infants in it and everyone in it converted with her? It is impossible to say.

  15. Contra e.g. Nathan Finn, “A Baptist perspective on -re-baptism-”, BRNow.org, posted February 25, 2013, http://www.brnow.org/Opinions/Guest-Columns/February-2013/A-Baptist-perspective-on-re-baptism (accessed March 28, 2015).

  16. This, of course, partly begs the question, for it leaves aside the matter of what constitutes a “true Christian church”—certainly a contested issue, and one beyond the scope of this paper. At a minimum, no group which rejects orthodox Trinitarianism and Christology may be included. At most, some major denominations may be excluded. The author is inclined to treat believers’ baptisms even by groups with serious doctrinal problems such as Roman Catholics as valid, however, so long as the specific congregation by which the believer was baptized rightly proclaimed a gospel of repentance from sins and salvation through the finished work of Christ alone.

  17. Mike Bergman, “Why We Practice”Open" Communion," SBC Voices, posted September 9, 2011, http://sbcvoices.com/why-we-practice-open-communion/ (accessed March 24, 2015).

  18. See e.g. Nathan Finn, “Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper: A White Paper from the Center for Theological Research,” (Fort Worth: The Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006); and Russell D. Moore, “Table Manners,” Touchstone, Sept/Oct 2011, http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=24-05-016-v (accessed March 28, 2015).

  19. Curtis W. Freeman, “Analysis: Should Baptist churches adopt open membership? Yes,” The Baptist Standard, posted April 21, 2010, https://www.bapti ststandard.com/news/faith-culture/11047-analysis-should-baptist-churches-adopt-o pen-membership-yes (accessed March 28, 2015).

  20. James Leo Garrett, “Analysis: Should Baptist churches adopt open membership? No,” The Baptist Standard, posted April 21, 2010, https://www.baptiststandard.com/news/faith-culture/11048-analysis-should-baptist-churches-adopt-op en-membership-no (accessed March 28, 2015).

  21. So rightly, Moore in his discussion of the Lord’s Table in “Table Matters.”

  22. Close friendships between evangelical churches and their leaders would be a boon in this sort of work—as well as in kingdom ministry in general.

  23. See e.g. Mark E. Dever, “Baptism in the Context of the Local Church,” in Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, eds. Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 329–331; White, 112–114. Both merely assert this point; neither demonstrates it. Dever rightly grants that there is no biblical instruction about who should baptize (331) while failing to note that there is similarly no express statement that it is a church ordinance.

  24. The following was adapted from John Starke, “Should We Baptize Small Children? Yes,” The Gospel Coalition, posted February 23, 2011, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/should-we-baptize-small-children-yes (accessed March 28, 2015).

  25. So likewise Dever, 345.

  26. The following was adapted from Trevin Wax, “Should We Baptize Small Children? No,” The Gospel Coalition, posted February 21, 2001, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2011/02/21/should-we-baptize-small-children/ (accessed March 28, 2015).

  27. “Baptism: Theology and Practice: A Statement by the Elders”, First Baptist Church of Durham, 2014, 11.

  28. First Baptist Church of Durham, 11–12.