Most Christian Denominations are convinced that we (the “conservative” branches of the Restoration Movement—Church of Christ and First Christian Church) are all wet regarding our understanding of water baptism. Even some within these fellowships are beginning to have concerns.

An examination of the current teaching within the major Protestant Christian denominations reveals that we are clearly in the minority on this issue. Practically the entire evangelical world (especially within the United States) teaches that God bestows saving grace upon a human being the moment he or she believes and repents. This is their understanding of “Faith Only” (Sola Fide) as advocated by Martin Luther.

But, after reflection and deeper study of sacred Scripture, many are asking the question, “Can fifty million evangelicals really be wrong?” There is an increasingly large number of Christian preachers and teachers who respond, “Yes, they can.”

These are starting to believe and teach that water baptism is the point at which God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the believing, penitent sinner. According to this view, baptism is much more than “an outward sign of an inward grace.” It is, rather, the moment of salvation for the believing, repenting, obedient sinner. Salvation is still by grace through faith; however, baptism is the point at which the two come into saving contact.

Historically speaking this understanding of the role of water baptism in the process of conversion is NOT the minority position. Nor is it the new view. Check your church history. This view of baptism dates back to at least 325 AD and the Council at Nicea (“We acknowledge one baptism unto remission of sins” is how the Creed discusses it). More importantly, this view of baptism finds much support within the text of Scripture (see Romans 6, for example).

On the other hand, the modern evangelical interpretation of Christian baptism is, in the broader history of Christian teaching through the ages (i.e., roughly the first 1,500 years), the minority position. Furthermore, the modern evangelical understanding of baptism is the new view of Christian baptism.

Again, check your church history. The idea that baptism has nothing to do with human salvation is an idea that arose in the early 1500’s in the teaching of the Swiss reformer Huldreich Zwingli (Martin Luther would be outraged by the idea that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. In fact, baptism served as one of the key foundations for Luther’s theology).

No. The view that baptism and salvation are unrelated was introduced by Zwingli, developed further by John Calvin, and later embraced throughout most of the Protestant world.

But, again, many are asking the question, “Is this the biblical view of baptism?” If we are saved by faith alone before we are baptized then those of us who insist on Christian baptism are all wet. It serves no purpose.

On the other hand, if baptism is the point of salvation for a contrite, penitent, faith-filled human being, then that explains why Christian baptism has been the initiation rite into Christ and His Church since the inception of Christianity.

Advertisements