Our church is patterned after the New Testament in faith and practice. We stand in the scriptural and historical truth of our spiritual forefathers. We practice the ordinance of baptism after the New Testament pattern with respect to subjects—believers, and mode—immersion.
BAPTISM AN ORDINANCE—NOT A SACRAMENT
The term “ordinance” (from the Latin ordinare, to put in order) denotes something ordered, decreed, or commanded. In the “Great Commission,” the Lord declared, “…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:20). Every command of the Lord to His church is an “ordinance” in principle. The primary and central Gospel ordinance is preaching. Historically and theologically, Baptists have distinguished between the “ordinances” of baptism and the Lord’s Supper and the Romish or Protestant “sacraments,” i.e., those rites that are meant to be a means of grace in some mystical sense. Historically and theologically, therefore, the term “ordinance” distinguishes baptism and the Lord’s Supper as being only symbolic and representative in nature and considers them to be means of grace only insofar as they bring the mind and heart to fix themselves upon the spiritual reality thus symbolized. The term presupposes no mystical significance whatsoever.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BAPTISM
Baptism is not a “seal of the covenant” as circumcision was in the Old Testament (Gen. 17). Even the circumcision of Abraham was “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised” (Rom. 4:11), i.e., the faith of Abraham preceded his circumcision. Circumcision was a sign of the Old Covenant made with Israel with respect to the land of Canaan; baptism is a gospel ordinance peculiar to the New Testament church and economy. It is the symbolic picture or representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (See Rom. 6:1–6). When a person submits to scriptural baptism in obedience to the Lord and his Word, he identifies himself publicly in the symbolism of the gospel. Baptism is at once an act of obedience, identification and submission. It is an act of obedience to God and His Word (See Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:41). As such, it is “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Pet. 3:20–21). It is an act of identification in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3–5). As such, it focuses upon His saving work and efficacious blood and so is a symbolic cleansing from sin (See Acts 22:16). It is an act of submission to the “Name” of the Lord Jesus, i.e., a public acknowledgment of His Lordship over the life (Acts 2:38).
THE REASONING FOR INFANT SPRINKLING
The argument for infant sprinkling is taken from the traditional Reformed view of “covenant theology,”2 not from the Scriptures, which are not only silent on the subject, but clearly and unmistakably teach the baptism of believers only, and that by immersion.3 Infant sprinkling and believer’s baptism do not agree on any given point and cannot be parallel to any extent. It is not merely a question of the mode and subjects of “baptism,” it is also a question of purpose and significance that reaches to the very essence of salvation by grace alone. The “baptism” or “rhantism”(r`antizei^n, to sprinkle) of infants is a “sacrament” that to a given extent mysteriously confers or communicates grace. These “covenant children” are thus in some way “united to Christ,” have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life,4 and enter within the “pale” of the church. They are considered as presumptively regenerated until the contrary appears in their lives. Should they die in such a state, they are certain of heaven. What is this, but the shadow of Rome obscuring the light of the Truth from the traditional Protestant mentality? The clear and unmistakable teaching of the New Testament is the immersion of believers in the name of the Triune God. Neither subjects nor mode of baptism can be changed without altogether changing both its meaning and its significance.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND BAPTISM
What is the scriptural relationship and order that is to exist between faith and baptism? By the third century A.D., the teaching that baptism as a rite is efficacious for regeneration and the forgiveness of sins (i.e., baptismal regeneration) became largely accepted in the degenerate and apostate churches. Closely and logically following this came the practice of infant baptism. This radical departure from the New Testament was a graphic example of confusing the symbol with the reality of truth.
The New Testament uniformly teaches that faith is to precede baptism, that baptism is a conscious, voluntary act of obedience, identification and submission on the part of the believer. John the Baptist baptized only repentant adults (Matt, 3:1–12). The apostles baptized only those who evidenced a profession of faith according to the Commission of the Lord (Matt. 28:18–20; Acts 2:41–42).