Thursday, February 3, 2022

Believer’s Baptism: A Short Explanation

If someone were to ask me why our church practices believer’s baptism instead of infant baptism, this is a short explanation I would give them.

1. There is no clear example in the Bible of anyone being baptized as an infant. The consistent pattern seen in the New Testament is the baptism of believers.

2. Beyond that, there are multiple statements in the New Testament which strongly imply that baptism should only be undergone by a believer in Christ. I’ll just talk about one of them here.

“Baptism . . . now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21).

This is an intriguing verse in some ways, but one simple conclusion we can draw from it is that baptism pertains to salvation. Peter actually says “baptism saves you.” That’s obviously a pretty strong statement, and if we’re honest it probably makes a lot of us uncomfortable. As evangelical Christians, we’re far more likely to emphasize that baptism doesn’t save you, and yet here’s Peter apparently telling us that it does.

But I’m convinced Peter’s not against us here, and we’re not against him. He does say “baptism saves you,” but the way he follows up that statement is very important: “not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.” So he immediately clarifies that he’s not speaking in reference to the watery baptismal act itself. That is not what saves you. Instead, he’s speaking in reference to the appeal that is made in baptism, which is an appeal for a “good conscience.”

I believe this is basically another way of expressing the act of calling on the name of the Lord: “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). A person’s conscience is burdened by the weight of sin, and thus they recognize their need for a Savior and ask God for forgiveness based on the work of Christ. That is the “appeal” for a good conscience that Peter speaks of, and it’s essential to what baptism is all about. Peter can say “baptism saves you” because he’s speaking of baptism as a representation of this appeal that someone is making to God.

So in summary, baptism closely pertains to salvation and also represents our appeal to God for a good conscience. I don’t believe anyone can reasonably expect an infant to experience a burdened conscience due to sin, much less to then make an appeal to God for forgiveness based on the work of Christ. And for those reasons, infant baptism would seem to be out of place.

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