Baptism and Church Membership: Sometimes Obedience Results in Painful Separations

Editors’ Note: How do baptism and church membership relate? What are the biblical bounds? Baptists debate, “Must one be baptized as a believer in order to join a local church?” Meanwhile, Presbyterians and other paedobaptists consider, “Should one who’d refuse to let his children be baptized be permitted to join?”

Our hope is that this three-day forum will, by God’s grace, drive us all to consider Scripture’s teaching anew and disagree charitably when necessary.


This question hurts. It’s personal. Let me briefly explain. A great family with a quiver full of kids began to visit our church—wonderful people with exemplary kids older than and near the ages of my own. Everyone, not least yours truly, was encouraged and eager to spend time with them. You can imagine how much we wanted to have them join our church, and, by God’s grace, they wanted to do so.

The only problem was that they were convinced Presbyterians. There was even a willingness to “go through the motions” of being baptized as a believer, but there was also a settled conviction against what our church’s statement of faith, the Abstract of Principles, says about baptism:

Baptism is an ordinance of the Lord Jesus, obligatory upon every believer, wherein he is immersed in water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as a sign of his fellowship with the death and resurrection of Christ, of remission of sins, and of giving himself up to God, to live and walk in newness of life. It is prerequisite to church fellowship, and to participation in the Lord’s Supper.

As a Baptist church, we believe that baptism is a matter of obedience. Jesus instructed his followers to baptize disciples (Matt 28:19), so we baptize those who have become disciples because we want to obey Jesus. We also believe that only believers are united to the body of Christ by faith (cf. Gal 3:26-28), so only believers should be welcomed as members into the visible expression of the body of Christ, the local church. If someone is not repenting of all known sin, trusting Christ for salvation, and submitting to all his commands and teaching, we don’t welcome him or her into church membership. Since we view baptism as a matter of obedience, we understand unbaptized people to be disobedient on this point.

Our Presbyterian friends believe they have been baptized, but here the definition of baptism comes into play. As our statement of faith indicates, we are convinced that baptism is the immersion of a believer in water.

Another pastoral anecdote: a few years back a couple that had been sprinkled in water as believers wanted to join the church I was then pastoring. Could they join, or did they need to be baptized? This question forced me to examine all the baptism language in the New Testament: baptize, baptist, baptism, you get the idea (see the resulting table on p. 441 of GGSTJ). The word means plunge or immerse. Every time it is used in the New Testament, it is either talking about an immersion in water or assuming that reality and using immersion as a metaphor. That couple was convinced and baptized—they saw that though they had been sprinkled in water as believers, they had not been baptized.

Baptists believe that those who have not been immersed in water as believers to symbolize their union with Christ by faith have not been baptized. Presbyterians and other paedobaptists think they have been baptized, even if they have not been immersed in water as believers.

John Bunyan agreed that baptism is the immersion of a believer in water but felt that he did not have the right to deny church membership to someone who gave evidence of regeneration and believed he had been baptized. William Kiffin’s response was that he did not have the right to disregard, and thereby overrule, a command of Jesus.

As baptists we’re not denying that paedobaptists have a right to their own perspective, we are simply maintaining the integrity of our own convictions. Our consciences will not permit us to welcome into membership and communion those who have not obeyed Jesus at the point of baptism.

This is the whole reason there are Baptist churches at all. This is why baptists don’t commune with Presbyterians, though it doesn’t close down the possibility of cooperation in gospel efforts that are wider than local church ministry (such as T4G and TGC). If this issue were not big enough to divide over, to deny membership over, then why did the baptists ever separate from the presbyterians?

They separated because the baptists became convinced that for the sake of their own consciences, they had to practice what they were convinced was required in order to obey Jesus. They had to obey Jesus and be baptized as believers, and they had to refuse communion to those they were convinced were unrepentant on the point of baptism. The unity of the church is so important, as John 17 teaches, that anyone who does not view the matter this way should seek to reunite the credobaptists and paedobaptists.

Unity has to be based on the truth of the Scriptures and a joint commitment to obey the Lord Christ. Baptists are those who unite together in the conviction that those who believe are united to Christ by faith, joined to his body by virtue of their belief in him. This spiritual union with Christ by faith is depicted in the immersion of the believer in water as a testimony that when Jesus was “baptized” on the cross (Mark 10:38-39), he was overwhelmed by the floodwaters of God’s wrath. We who are united to Christ by faith are united to him in his experience of the floodwaters of God’s wrath, which he took for us, in our place, and this is symbolized when we are buried with Christ in the baptismal waters then raised to walk in newness of life. For more on these issues, see these posts on the typological interpretation of baptism reflected in 1 Peter 3:20-21, on the way baptists are orthodox evangelicals in the reformed tradition who hold to baptist distinctives in a confessional context, and on wider issues having to do with continuity and discontinuity.

It was painful to part ways with that wonderful family who disagreed with us on baptism, and we miss them still. But our affection for them personally, our affinity with them theologically, and our emotional desire to welcome them into membership do not change the fact that Jesus gave instructions that we must obey. The separation from paedobaptists we love may be painful, but it is separation to obey Jesus. The surpassing greatness of knowing him is worth whatever it costs.

Recommended Resources: 

William Kiffin, A Sober Discourse of Right to Church Communion (1681) [PDF]

R. B. C. Howell, The Terms of Communion at the Lord’s Table (1846)

Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright, ed., Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (B&H, 2007)

Russell Moore, “Table Manners: On the Welcoming Catholicity of Closed Communion” (Touchstone Magazine, Sept/Oct 2011)

  • Derek

    I’m a convinced credobaptist, but I don’t think that all baptists would agree with all of the conclusions you’ve drawn here.

    For instance, when you say, “If someone is not repenting of all known sin, trusting Christ for salvation, and submitting to all his commands and teaching, we don’t welcome him or her into church membership. Since we view baptism as a matter of obedience, we understand unbaptized people to be disobedient on this point,’ I fear that I nor anyone else would pass to be admitted as a church member anywhere. I know, for certain, that I am not submitting to all of the Lord’s commands and teaching. I want to – but I do not know his teaching perfectly, nor do I desire to keep it perfectly, nor do I even desire to desire to keep it perfectly. But by his grace I do desire to obey him – a little. The practical question is a matter of degree of outward obedience not of perfection, and I don’t think you’ve made a case for why one’s view of baptism should be the degree by which obedience is measured.

    You also said that ‘baptism’ also must be immersion in water to be valid. Though I agree that biblically, yes, people were and should be immersed, I wonder if your church uses grape juice for the cup of our Lord. That is also the wrong mode. However, there are historically and personally complicating factors involved in making those sorts of decisions, and at times it might be more loving that, for the sake of unity, we use grape juice.

    I also question whether or not the mode of baptism should be a litmus test of being a member of a local church. The ordinances are important and are instituted for the glory of God, and indeed, are unique in the life of the church. But I fear when perfection in any area of life or doctrine is required to be a member.

    This statement also caused me some consternation: “As baptists we’re not denying that paedobaptists have a right to their own perspective, we are simply maintaining the integrity of our own convictions. Our consciences will not permit us to welcome into membership and communion those who have not obeyed Jesus at the point of baptism.”

    I consider myself a baptist. A confessional one. However, I don’t agree with that. Does that mean I’m wrong to consider myself a baptist?

    Thankful for your service to Christ’s Church,

    • Jim Hamilton


      Your first full paragraph indicates that you are repenting of all known sin. So you would qualify for membership.

      The communion cup is a false analogy, for with grape juice and wine we have the fruit of the vine. I don’t think we have to argue over how long it needs to ferment, what the alcohol content must be, etc. I’m convinced that as long as we’re dealing with the fruit of the vine we’re okay.

      We’re not calling for perfection, just a willingness to obey Jesus on the point of baptism. The ordinances are the second order issues that divide Anglicans from Lutherans from Methodists from Presbyterians from Baptists etc.

      I don’t understand your last question. Are you asking whether you have the right to hold your own perspective? Or are you saying that your conscience will permit you to welcome into membership paedobaptists? If the latter, as I say in the post, I think you should seek unity.



      • Gordon

        I’m sorry, but the analogy seems perfectly fair. You’ll not quibble over the length of time grape juice is fermented, but you will quipple over the volume of water used?

        That surely is a very odd standard on which to refuse fellowship and communion.

      • Rob

        You say to seek unity, and yet your version of unity seems to be “acquiesce to my exclusively credobaptist position”. I’m not saying we should not stand on our convictions; but certainly distinctions which are not at the core of the gospel, i.e. secondary as you said ought not to be so contentious. If anything I believe the paedobaptist perspective to be the broader one since Presbyterians admit adult baptism to new converts who were not infant-baptized; and we insist on public profession of personal faith upon reaching age of reason to recieve full communicant membership, as you do. If the New covenant sacraments are replacements of the old, i.e. the table replaces passover and its symbolism, then surely baptism replaces and more fully reveals the truth behind circumcision and its symbolism, which is clearly administered to the children of the cov’t community. I would not deny fellowship or communion to our baptist brothers. That is unity.

        • http://yahoo peter tefft

          I agree fully with you (Rob) and furthermore feel that the Baptist set themselves up as a the true church for believers and when they state that my infant baptism is not real, this presents a real problem for me regarding fellowship with Baptists. My daughters who were baptised as infants joined a local Baptist church and were told that there baptism was not real also. Despite this event as a true sacred event for my wife and I, I become somewhat disturbed with this unacceptable view on baptism. It certainly in no means develops christian unity as you say. Baptism is a command from God but people can be saved without being baptised yet the Baptist won’t allow membership in their churches to those who have not been baptised, thats a problem with their theology. I also believe that Baptist use this as a statistical reference to the number of members in the denomination. Don’t ask me to commune with Baptist when in fact they believe I am in error and not obeying our Lord Jesus, thats simply judgemental at its best.

      • Jugulum

        Dr Hamilton,

        > “We’re not calling for perfection, just a willingness to obey Jesus on the point of baptism.”

        I doubt you intend to imply that Presbyterians’ problem is an unwillingness to obey Jesus on baptism. Their problem, at minimum, is their misunderstanding of or mistaken conclusions about what Jesus commands about baptism.

        And with that distinction in mind, I think you haven’t adequately demonstrated your conclusion. So I’ll express some of my disagreement, and then also ask a question about how you apply these convictions on the ramifications of disagreement over baptism.

        I agree with you that “Unity has to be based on the truth of the Scriptures and a joint commitment to obey the Lord Christ.” Those categories are key to our theology of the local church. But equally important is the distinction between primary and secondary matters.

        This has been explored extensively in the area of doctrine. (Evangelical churches generally agree that unity has to be based on the truth of Scripture–but we prioritize one’s understanding of the Gospel’s core above one’s understanding of the details of covenant theology, or eschatology, or election. And your own church says nothing about millenialism or the rapture in its Abstract of Principles. We recognize that there are different ramifications to disagreement/error on different subjects, and we must apply discernment that makes careful distinctions.)

        But have we explored this adequately in the area of obedience? How should we apply the categories of “matters of primary & secondary importance” when disagreements lead to incompatible (or partially incompatible) understandings of what obedience looks like? How do you think we should apply those categories to this issue?

        Baptism is an essential, at least to the degree that the outright rejection of baptism should be grounds for discipline and eventual excommunication. (That is blatant disobedience to Christ.) But I cannot fathom that it would be appropriate to treat willful disobedience to Christ’s commands identically with how we treat disagreement/error about what Christ commanded. Mind you, it still matters that Presbyterians turn out not to have obeyed Christ’s command to be baptized (or from their perspective, it matters that Baptists don’t baptize our children). But the ramifications are different. And I know you agree, to some extent; you think that cooperation (like T4G and TGC) is still appropriate, and I doubt you would say the same about groups that advocated eliminating baptism (like Harold Camping does), or groups whose leaders were in active unrepentant sin. Yet for purposes of church membership, you still treat Presbyterians as being “unwilling” to obey, which is surely inaccurate. (And to be frank, it strikes me as an equivocation. It may have been a slip of the tongue, but it does seem to reflect the way you’re actually thinking & analyzing the situation.)

        My own initial conviction is that churches should have multiple “levels” of their statement of faith & practice, with different ramifications for disagreement. And there should be at least two: (1) A relatively simple statement of faith & practice which is required for membership, and which includes the essentials Christian faith & practice. (2) A more detailed statement of faith & practice which is required for being an elder, and which explains what the teaching & practice of the church will look like on matters that are more secondary. (Perhaps there could be additional gradations of requirement for Sunday School teachers, or deacons, etc., but that might be overkill. Though there’s something to the idea of requiring that teachers not contradict the more detailed statement of faith in their classes, though they could still serve as teachers in spite of their private disagreement.)

        I know I didn’t come up with this idea, and you’ve probably seen it before. What do you think of it?

        Lastly, my question about how you apply your convictions:

        If we set aside the issue of obedience that arises from one’s doctrine of baptism, would you still consider a right understanding of baptism to be important enough to warrant excommunicating someone?

        Perhaps a way to ask that would be, “If a baptized Baptist became persuaded to paedobaptism, would you necessarily excommunicate them from your church?”

        For that matter, I notice that your church’s Abstract of Principles includes discussion of election, regeneration, and perseverance of the saints. Do you consider agreement with those doctrines, precisely as stated, to be an absolute requirement for continued church membership? (I’m not so much asking if your church does treat that as a requirement. I’m asking whether you think that a local church necessarily ought to.)

        You dipped into this when you mentioned people who were willing to “go through the motions”, but I’m still not sure how you would answer these questions.

        • Derek

          Dr. Hamilton,

          Thanks for your reply! Demonstrates a great deal of humility on your part. Hopefully my response will as well.

          1) I do indicate that I am in the process of imperfect repentance for all known sins. The issue here is ‘known’ sins. A Presbyterian does not ‘know’ that he is ‘sinning’ by refusing professing baptism. I think this again brings up the matter of degree of sins. We are not warranted in excommunicating or refusing membership on the basis of any sin, as you’d agree. We need to have some biblical warrant for the sins we decide to excommunicate for, right?

          2) I don’t think the cup is a false analogy. Though I would ultimately argue that it’s a minor sin to use grape juice, I am not bringing this up to push that point, but rather, to demonstrate what I think is an inconsistency in your position.

          The ordinances consist of physical means. They are participated in by God’s people in particular ways: namely, immersion and imbibing. You would certainly take issue with someone’s practice of the supper if they splashed cabernet on their forehead.

          You’d probably also take issue with someone’s practice of baptism if they, for instance, used packing peanuts instead of water. Or – to be even closer to water – used ice cubs or steam. The substance ordained by the Lord has symbolic content, and I think, matters.

          Baptizo, you argue, always means ‘dip’ or ‘immerse.’ Even in saying that, I think you’d admit that it doesn’t always mean submerge. And a quick glance at lexical sources or a quick word search will tell you that the semantic range is broader than even dip or immerse.

          However, the exegesis, involving the history of the practice, the symbolism contained, the immediate contexts of the passages, etc – leads us to believe that ‘baptizo’ in the relevant NT passages is referring to immersion. We affirm, then, that immersion in water is what is meant and what we should practice. Based on what I think, is not completely explicit, but good and necessary consequence.

          That said, though ‘fruit of the vine’ can indeed mean grape juice (or grapes?), it is clear based on the context and any clear reading of the text that wine is what is meant. There is a clear distinction between wine and grape juice that is known. It’s not a matter of an 5% abv v. a 14% abv . Wine is wine and grape juice is grape juice.

          Thus we have a situation in which both the actual elements of the ordinances (water and wine) are significant, and the manner in which they are taken (immersion and drinking) are also significant. The mode of baptism is based on inference (a good one, I agree!). The contents of the cup are also based on inference (probably an easier one, actually). Isn’t it inconsistent for you to insist on the results of a good inference in one case regarding the elements and not in the other?

          3. I recognize that you’re not calling for perfection (though in your original article, it sort of sounds like it), but perfection on the issue of baptism. Do you think you’ve biblically substantiated a rationale for why baptism must be an issue of division? I don’t see it. Obviously, you’re in agreement with much of baptist history here; but, I don’t see a good biblical reason why this must be the case.

          4. Let me rephrase my original thought. It sounds like you are speaking to represent all who are ‘baptists.’ Is that your intent? Or are you saying that you are speaking for your own opinion which many other baptists share? If it’s the former, then people like me, who are credobaptists, but wouldn’t make baptism a test of membership at all, are not, by your definition, baptists. Then we’ve got Scott Clark telling us we’re not Reformed and you telling us we’re not Baptists. Great. :) Maybe we should start our own club…

          Thanks for your time!

          Much grace,

      • Kevin Seguin

        I wonder if your position would have changed at all had the family not simply expressed a desire to “go through the motions” but rather be in submission on this point of doctrine. Surley, both Pedo and Credo will fellowship together in the New Kingdom? Why not welcome them into frllowship if they are willing to be submissive even if they do not agree?

  • Murph

    I believe that Romans 14:1-8 answers this question. We should not split hairs but judge by their fruit whether or not they are Christian. If they are christian, then why should trivial denominational tradition cause separation in the body of Christ?

    • Jim Hamilton

      But Romans 14 speaks of matters of conscience, right? So if my conscience compels me to the position that baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, doesn’t Romans 14 indicate that I should “be convinced in my own mind” and do what my conscience requires?


      • Dale

        JMH, yes Romans 14 commands us to obey our conscience (vs 6). But Romans 14 also specifically says that we may NOT judge another as being a disobedient unbeliever (as you are doing) if they are living unto the Lord but differ with us on a conscience issue. Further it clearly says that we may NOT withdraw fellowship from believers over these disputable issues. Why do you disregard the clear teaching of Scripture on this?

        • Scott

          Dale, you’ve hit the nail on the head. As a credobaptist myself, this is the question that needs to be addressed by Jim and those who share in his particular line of thinking on this issue.

        • Vern Jensen

          Agreed. While I’m convinced that Presbyterians do believe incorrectly on the matter of baptism, their belief still stems out of a desire to honor God and scripture. To call them “unrepentant on the matter of baptism” is going too far. Unrepentance is a term that should only be reserved for someone who is in clear sin, not for those who are confused but are genuinely desiring and striving to obey God fully. To separate over this is unbiblical. Only on issues of getting the gospel wrong should we separate.

          • Dan Johnson

            Well said.

          • http://yahoo peter tefft

            And on the other hand we Presbyterians believe that you to are incorrect in your beliefs. There is no unity when Baptist insist that my baptism as a child is error and that I have not received bapism in the Lord. Judging another is also a fact of being in sin and as I see it, Baptist are judgemental when it comes to not allowing confessed believers join any Christian church. Unconfessed sin regarding membership means you have congregations of perfect Christians who obey all things. If a Baptist is found to have committed adultery, do you ban them from membership in your church? No you ask for them to repent and life goes on. So you say to non immersed christians who have not been immersed but have a genuine confession you ask them to repent if they want to and them allow membership. You Baptist are legalistic in them matter and I don’t believe you serve the Lord’s church by policies of segregation.

            • Bob Kundrat

              Wouldn’t repentance is this case involve being baptised again?

      • Mitchell Hammonds

        You are denying the authenticity of God’s work (Baptism) by not affirming one’s baptism provided it is in the name of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a prime example why I have left the Baptist tradition. It is a weak-minded philosophy based on man’s works to appease God. It has a weak doctrine in every facet of theology and therefore a weak view of soteriology.

  • Ken Stewart

    Sadly, this post gets off on the wrong foot in one respect. It misrepresents the paedobaptist position by stating that agreement with paedobaptism is a requirement for membership in churches practicing baptism this way. On what is this assertion based; an anecdote? The PCA requires this solidarity of office holders, but not members at large. The PCUSA, as a more doctrinally elastic body, allows congregations to encompass credobaptist families by offering infant dedication as well as infant baptism.
    This being said, on the single criterion of which baptismal system is able to best comprehend persons of age who make credibly profession of faith – and who nevertheless disagree about the criterion for baptism, it is not the system you write to commend. Of course, there are other questions to be asked and you will address them in due course.
    Yet, this is an ominous beginning. Surely, if the position for which you contend is the proper one, it will not be necessary to sustain it through the misrepresentation of the views of those you oppose.

    • Jim Hamilton


      I’m representing that baptist perspective, not the paedobaptist perspective.

      I do understand that Presbyterians will welcome Baptists into membership. It’s the baptist position that obedience to Jesus means immersion as a believer, and thus those who have not been baptized cannot join.

      So I’m talking about what Baptist churches do not Presbyterian ones.



      • Gordon

        So you’re saying that a credobaptist church would refuse fellowship and communion where a peadobaptist church would not…

        I think that’s the biggest problem for a credobaptist stance – you are more restrictive in your view of fellowship than the NT period would seem to indicate. In every other respect the New Covenant is more expansive, yet on this one issue credobaptists would shut out so many. That’s just wrong.

        • Mike

          I agree completely. For Baptists to argue subjects is one thing, though the implications of the Bible’s unity on the people of God and covenants and their respective signs is a more comprehensive hermeneutic; but to argue the amount of water is just plain silly. Some passages express one view, while others, such as pouring and sprinkling are representative of the prophetic texts of the Spirit’s coming and baptism, which water baptism is the sign and seal. I find it quite ironic how many baptists only seem to quote Edwards, Calvin, Whitfield, McCheyenne, Hodge, Warfield, Berkhof, Sproul,etc but wouldn’t let them commune or be members of their churches. How ironic indeed. They can be quoted in the pulpit or cherry pick their theology but refuse the right hand of fellowship and Table of the Lord. How tragic. It is down right sectarian and sinful.

          • Chris Poe


            Some of the men you named would have refused membership and the Lord’s Supper to antipaedobaptists. I suspect that’s the approach that will be taken in Part 2 of this series as well.

            • Mike

              Agreed. The irony is that all my time in baptist churches of which I used to be one, Dagg, Boyce, etc were never mentioned, just those Paedobaptists who audibly are lauded in the pulpit but refused fellowship. Occasionally will Spurgeon or Bunyan flow from a paedobaptist, but we mainly quote our heritage which we agree with. I guess if paedobaptism were so sinful and disobedient on such a patently clear truth, as baptists say, why do baptists, at least so called reformed baptists,quote paedobaptists 95 percent of the time to the 5% of their own forefathers of the faith? Seems very ironic. Since the issue you disagree with them on forbids them the table and to be members of your church why quote them more than your own. Id say the same thing to Presbyterians if all we did was say, Dagg this, Dagg that. It just doesn’t happen for a reason…Why were the redwoods of the faith mainly all paedobaptists? Because they didn’t know their bibles and were disobedient? If so, why quote them? Take pride in your heritage.

            • Gordon

              I think the historical refusal of fellowship to anabaptists probably owed more to a different set of issues. Saddly, and I’ll gladly conceed this as a failure of the European peadobaptist tradition, we didn’t always have a totally Reformed practise when it came to baptising infants, and too closely tied baptism with secular citizenship. That background frames the radical anabaptist disputes over here, and led to persecution of anti-peadobaptists be those who saw their resistance as opposing not just baptism, but the very basis of the state. Today, I don’t think a lot of peadobaptists would refuse fellowship (church membership) to credobaptists, because membership does not require the same confessional subscription as holding teaching office.

              That said, I think it’s a bit sad that the today, many of the credobaptists I know would request “dedication services” because they recognise the particularly blessed privileges of their kids, but don’t see that blessing as a grounds for baptism… when, basically, it boils down to the same thing. This just isn’t an issue that should divide fellow as much as it does.

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  • mel

    So if a person comes to faith while in the hospital with disabilities that keep them from being “immersed” in water what do you do then? Does God make an exception for them or is this written in stone?

    • Jim Hamilton

      Jesus told the thief on the cross he would be with him in paradise. Obviously there are exceptions.

  • Bill Emberley

    How do you interact with the position taken by some (JI Packer?) that entrance into membership at the local church level should only be as wide as entrance into salvation? I think that is how it is generally presented.

    • Jim Hamilton

      I agree. Faith alone saves. Obedience is evidence of faith. Baptism is a matter of obedience.

      • Tom Mirabella

        One of us is misunderstanding Bill’s question. Isn’t he asking about membership being granted based upon being a believer, and not based upon submitting to a mode of baptism? Clearly you don’t agree with Packer on this since you would deny membership to paedo-baptists. You go so far as to say you would deny communion to someone who has been baptized in a different mode. In essence you would excommunicate someone for not agreeing on this point of theology.

        As a Presbyterian (PCA) minister I would joyfully share communion with a brother or sister in Christ who disagrees with me on Baptism (though I consider their position to be one of “disobedience”) and I count it a blessing to have members of my church who hold the credo-baptist position.

        • John Carpenter

          Hi Tom, then if you’re committed to the unity of the true Body, then why don’t you drop a practice (infant baptism) that (1) you can’t prove by scripture and (2) is divisive?

          • Tom Mirabella

            1. I believe I can prove it by scripture
            2. It is only divisive if we make it so

            • John Carpenter

              You can’t prove infant baptism by scripture and the continued assertion that you can in light of that fact is divisive.

        • Mike

          Thank you for reflecting agape in defending household/paedo baptism and not the discordant “attitude” some of these other brothers have in defending credo baptism, which we also hold.

        • J.R.

          Tom, excellent response! I too am a member in a PCA church. We have never denied communion nor membership to a credobaptist, even though the historic doctrines of the church and our elders teach otherwise. We gladly share the table with our brothers and sisters in Christ rejoicing with them in a fellowship that one day will be greatly expanded and elevated in the New Heaven and New Earth, because we are true believers.

          This post seemed odd to me, because I have never been refused communion at a Baptist church, even though others were fully aware that I’m a PCAer. I think this may be a micro-slice of the credobaptist view and not representative of the whole.

      • Bill Emberley

        Thanks Jim. I see your point. It is interesting that Presbyterians & Baptists agree on the essential nature of “baptism”. The difference is what constitutes valid baptism. One cannot claim to be baptised if the Biblical mode is not followed. We do not have the right to redefine the NT’s testimony. This is visceral discussion for me.

  • Ryan J. Ross

    Pastor/Dr. Hamilton,

    As a convinced Presbyterian, I cannot aggree that each time some form of the word “baptize” is used, it refers to immersion, but I do believe that your commitment to maintain biblical fidelity and theological integrity in the face of compromise will result in the sanctification of Kenwood’s members. I appreciate that you treated this important issue with pastoral care.

    I hope, as I am sure you do, this post will result in more elders/pastors (allow me this one for the sake of brevity) considering the issue of Baptism and how they might be obedient to our Risen King, especially when it deals with people’s souls and their care.

  • Mitchell Hammonds

    I doubt in the middle east immersion was always a possibility… go figure. As a former Southern Baptist I find much in their belief system to hint more of the Pietist’s language than actual Scriptural language.
    Furthermore, Christ instituted “Bread and Wine” not “Bread and Grape Juice” so I have a problem with the idea that Baptist tradition actually holds to Scriptural teaching… except when it suits their personal taboos. Baptist theology can be described accurately as “weak-minded works oriented salvation” and “pietistic” at best.

    • Jeff Frazier

      This is the second time you have chimed in on this thread to trash Baptist theology. I don’t know you, but your posts read like you have some axe to grind or some spiritual wounds you perceive to be at the hands of Baptists. If my read on this is accurate, then let me say, as a Baptist pastor, that I am very sorry about that and I will pray for you.

    • John Botkin

      I’m assuming then, you use only wines from the middle east region and the unleavened bread made from wheat there, as well? If not, then maybe you’re making ado about nothing?

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  • John

    What is the Biblical rationale for withholding communion from paedobaptists?

    What sort of sin are they living in, and how does this square with 1 John 3:9?

    I don’t like it when Baptists end up arguing that Presbyterians are living in a state of sin because of their views on baptism. If they were truly living in sin, why doesn’t it “close down the possibility of cooperation in gospel efforts that are wider than local church ministry (such as T4G and TGC).”

    Seems inconsistent to me.


    • Garrett

      Good question, and one I would like to hear a response to as well.

    • Dale

      GREAT question. Response??

    • John Carpenter

      I would imagine that “sin” would be their refusal to be baptized. Baptism is, first, for the believer. The church is called to baptize “disciples” (Mt. 28:18f). Not babies who may not be disciples. Therefore, someone who has not chosen to be baptized, has not chosen to obey the command to be baptized. Someone else cannot chose for us to obey other commands of the Lord. Why do we think they can do that for baptism? Further, the author emphasizes the literal meaning of the word baptize: to immerse. Hence, the command is to be “immersed in the name . . . ” If you haven’t been immersed, you haven’t obeyed the command.

      • Jim Hamilton

        Right. And as stated in the post, we baptists understand that paedobaptists think they’ve obeyed. We disagree, so for our conscience, we separate into churches that baptize as we understand is required.

        • John

          If they are “living in sin”, don’t do any ministry with them, if they aren’t “living in sin”, give them communion.

          • Chris Poe

            The Westminster Confession of Faith states that neglect or condemnation of baptism (including infant baptism) is sin. It cuts both ways.

            • J.R.

              No it doesn’t. the majority of reformed denominatins practice open communion.

      • Bill

        Many that have studied the Greek of that text believe that it does not say “baptize diciples”, but rather baptism is a process of making diciples. Not my personal opinion, but one that many scholars hold. Does that give explicit permission of infants? Perhaps not. But it does not say, “Baptize only diciples”

        • Mike

          The body of Christ was the same in essence in the Old and New Testament. The signs of the Old and New Testaments both signified the cross of Christ and regeneration. THe children of believers have always been included in the covenants. Unless God kicked them out at Pentecost the burden is on the Baptist. Dispensationalism is the root of it no matter how much baptists claim to hold to covenant theology.

          • Bill

            Agreed. It is scriptural that the spiritural definition of baptism is the same as the spiritural definition of circumcision. Many texts mentioned children and generations as part of covenants, both OT and NT. Its is very difficult to prove children are not in the NT with statements like, “promise is for you and your children”

            • John Carpenter

              HI Bill, please list one NT scripture that speaks of “covenant children.”

            • Bill

              Sorry, but I have more than one.
              Acts 2:39
              For the promise is for you and for your children
              Romans 9:8
              This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
              Acts 11:14
              he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.
              Acts 16:31
              And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
              Now if you want to argue that “promise for children” regarding salvation means something other than “covenant children”, or that a promise for a household means “no children” (even though that is not implied) then I would ask that you also provide one verse that says either “God is in the trinity” or “Jesus is part of the trinity”, or the “HS is part of the trinity”. You can choose either NT or OT on this one. Or, regarding comunion, what about women? The verses that describe how a man is to prepare, use the word man that also exists in the descritions of a man wedding a women. Do you see the error in this method of study? How do we determine pornography is wrong when there is no mention of it? We say that its lust.

            • Jugulum


              First, on Acts 2:39, I have a couple requests: Please don’t cut the verse off where you did, and please don’t cite Acts 2:39 without defining (contextually) what “the promise” is, and please don’t leave off “all who are are off” from the recipients of “the promise”–and for all three groups, please don’t leave off the qualifier, “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself”. (In other words, always quote the whole thing, and say what “the promise” is, and explain how the last half of the verse fits together with the part you want to quote. You will have much more chance of persuading knowledgeable credobaptists if you do.)

              The promise which Peter said is for “you” (and “your children” and “all who are far off”) seems to be what Peter had just said: “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (2:38) (If you think the promise is something else, why?)

              And isn’t that precisely what non-paedobaptists say about “our children” and “all who are far off”, “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself”? That those who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?

            • Bill

              I can put the whole verse down, and even state the qualifier applies to all three groups, but that does not change the answer to John’s question: All three groups (our children included) are part of the promise, correct?

            • Jugulum

              No–at least this verse doesn’t say so, because the qualifier restricts it. It’s as many as the Lord calls to himself, not the entirety of the three groups. Those who have faith, whom God has called to himself, are children of the promise. That’s what Acts 2:39 says, and it’s what Roman 9:8 (which you cited to John) says. Being a child according to the flesh is not enough.

              However, even if I agreed with you that the answer is “yes”, Peter still has not said that there is any promise for children of believers which does not apply equally to children of non-believing parents. That’s why I requested that you address what “the promise” is.

              It is true of every person in the world that “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”, isn’t it?

              If that is the promise, it is for every human being, and the promised blessings are actually received by all who repent & believe, whom God calls to himself.

            • Bill

              Jugulum, I will grant that this verse perhaps does not quite explain the concept of promise I was going for.
              However, pedobaptist ( I got to say I don’t care for that term, but whatever) know and believe that not all will be regenerate, even some of our kids. However, Abraham was commanded to apply the sign to his children regardless. And we know not all that partook of the sign were saved. The covenant does not garuantee salvation.

            • Jugulum


              > “I will grant that this verse perhaps does not quite explain the concept of promise I was going for.”

              So what concept of promise did Peter use at that time?

              I understand him to be saying the following to the people who were witnessing the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost: Listen, men of Israel. The following is true about you, and your children, and all who are far off: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and your sins will be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who you have seen manifested here.

              I hope you’ll answer this specific question: Do you think my rephrasing is valid? Did I miss anything that Peter intended to communicate with his words?

              > “However, pedobaptist ( I got to say I don’t care for that term, but whatever) know and believe that not all will be regenerate, even some of our kids.”

              I recognize that that’s what paedobaptists believe, and I hope never to misrepresent you. Yet I can’t see how you can consistently believe that, when you want to interpret “you and your household” the way you do in places like Acts 11:14 and 16:31.

              What the angel and Paul said was, “a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household,” and “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Surely you agree that each person in those households would only be saved if they themselves would believe.

              To the best of my ability to read those passages with an open, humble mind, I have to come away saying, “The angel and Paul were saying exactly the same thing about every member of the house that they were saying about the head of the house: Believe, and you will be saved. If you believe this message, you will be saved, and if your household believes this message, they will be saved.”

              I can’t find any exegetical foundation for finding any other meaning in their words.

              Now here’s the thing. That doesn’t imply that you’re wrong in your conclusions. It only implies that your references in Acts don’t really lend support to your conclusions. (Particularly because they talk about baptizing whole households, not just young children!)

              You drew a parallel to Abraham:
              >”However, Abraham was commanded to apply the sign to his children regardless.”

              First, note that slaves were also circumcised. (I hope you’re consistent in extending that part of the pattern forward, too.)

              Second, that is the question: Were we commanded to baptize our children? Or, are we warranting in extending the circumcision pattern to baptism? (You’re right: There is biblical precedent for giving a sign to those who have not expressed belief.) What is specifically taught about baptism & conversion? What parallels are drawn, and what is the context & exegetically-warranted application of those parallels?

              I agree, that’s where the discussion should go next, for someone wanting to seriously study what the Word teaches about baptism.

              My point here is only that the Acts references on households really don’t help you. (And Romans 9:8 all the less!)

            • Bill

              Jugulum – Good comments and questions.
              The promise is repent (and/or have faith) and you will be saved.

              Regarding the use of households, I do agree that confusion is added to the discussion when pedobaptist say the whole household was saved based on one person. I believe they do that as a logical counter to a credo position more than using it as as Biblical backing. However, in at least two of the examples, it does read that way (all were baptized, but faith is only given to the head) and you have to admit the angel and Peter did present it in such a way.
              What I take from the household examples is that EVERYONE in the household/family is part of the promise and EVERYONE was baptized. Even though we cannot assume babies did or did not exist and we know from and we also cannot prove that every member of the house was a confessing believer. It just can’t be done from those examples. Both sides take inferences. But what we can be sure of, is the promise was given to the WHOLE house, and the WHOLE house was baptized. That is what I can prove from the examples in Acts.

              Abraham – Yes, I realize slaves were circumcised. And its also possible that non-genetic members of households in the NT were also baptized. The value I take from that is circumcision is not just an ethnic thing, but God working with households.

            • John Carpenter

              I knew about the commands to households. But there is no mention of “covenant children.” You assume (1) that when speaking to a group he includes every individual member of it; we have evidence in other contexts that Biblical authors didn’t think this way; (2) that there were infants in the households. These are two presumptuous leaps that make these scriptures irrelevant and only show that the people tend to get converted in families. Further, we now know from the Didache that the early church was not baptizing babies.

    • Chris Poe

      The response is that all of Christendom, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant and historic Baptist (as represented by the article here) all agree that baptism is prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper. Hence, the unbaptized are not permitted to the Table. The rub comes in with the Baptist insistence on immersion.

  • Ken

    “By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

    This is why we cannot reach the lost. They see christians as being those who disagree with each other and fight about issues and do not see love. Will ther be both Baptist and Presbyterian at the Lords supper in heaven?

    • John Carpenter

      Hi Ken, that is so but please understand that it is not Baptists who hold to the controversial practice. Everyone, from Anglicans, to Methodists, to Presbyterians, etc., recognizes the legitimacy of believer’s baptism by immersion. So, practicing that is not being divisive. What is divisive is the practice of infant baptism (and that by sprinkling.) If you want unity, then it is the responsibility of the ones holding to the controversial practice, that they cannot establish in scripture, to sacrifice it.

      • Alan

        Hey, John. I’m confused by your bold declaration that paedobaptism is the controversial practice, when clearly that has never been the case historically. In fact, the credobaptist view, which forces one to reject infant baptism (and consequently those who were baptized as infants, unless they agree to be rebaptized) is historically the controversial practice.

        To rephrase that, when looking at the witness of Church history, it is actually controversial to deny membership in the Church to one who was baptized as an infant, or to require that he/she be rebaptized. To my conviction, THAT is the divisive action, because it is essentially treating those believers as unbelievers who are not fit for membership in and fellowship among the body of Christ.

        I’ve recently gone from holding the credobaptist view to the paedobaptist, all for a number of reasons that I obviously can’t go into here. But rest assured, what has convinced me is the testimony of Scripture, which TO ME has become clear on the matter, to the point of conviction that it is right to baptize infants.

        Of course I won’t elaborate here, but please understand and respect the fact that many who hold to a paedobaptist view DO see it established in Scripture.

        So to say that “they cannot establish [it] in scripture” is uncharitable. (And believe me, that statement is EXACTLY what I used to believe, and I would have even said it myself about a year ago.)

        My concern is that your expression is divisive, because it lacks any acknowledgement and understanding of the fact that thousands of Christians arrive at “that” view based on their faithful reading of the Bible, not simply because they choose to. You sound as if you believe that paedobaptists blatantly go off to do whatever we’d like to, as if we disregard the Bible’s authority and twist it to meet our own desires. Please trust me when I tell you that this is not the case.

        At the very least, when approaching this issue we must see and treat one another as brothers in Christ, honoring the fact that we all arrive at our conviction THROUGH the reading and studying of God’s Word.

        Now certainly, if someone holds either one of these views (or any view, for that matter) MERELY BECAUSE they were “brought up in it” or told to believe it, and don’t understand the Bible’s teaching concerning it, THAT is a different matter (and problem!) entirely, and one I certainly won’t go into here.

        I pray that my words or tone have not been too harsh here. I don’t wish to attack you, or ANYONE for that matter, especially credobaptists. I’m simply concerned that there is a lack of charity in what you’ve said, and I wish that you would acknowledge the fact that many who hold to paedobaptism do so, NOT to be divisive and NOT just because they want to, but because they see it as God’s teaching in His Word.

        Please don’t hesitate to correct me where I may have misunderstood you, have spoken harshly, or am simply incorrect.

        I praise God for your love for Him, your faithfulness and passion in the ministry of the Gospel, and your zealous desire that all would be faithful to His Word as both authoritative and sufficient.

        • John Carpenter

          Hi, I don’t acknowledge that anyone seriously interpreting scripture comes away believing it teaches infant baptism — except perhaps under the pressure of losing his pension if he changes his mind, or the bait and switch of interchanging baptism and circumcision. First, we now know from the Didache that the early church was not baptizing infants in the early second century. Second, there is frankly no teaching or precedent in the Bible for infant baptism. For something as important as baptism, we’re not asked to infer who may have been there in the families that were baptized in Acts and make a tenuous connection between baptism and circumcision based on one verse in Colossians. I understand that some may innocently accept the interpretations handed to them by their teachers, who may likewise be repeating what they were told in good faith. For more, I would recommend material from Mark Dever, such as:

          • Mike

            Any argument you make against infant baptism is an argument against paedo circumcision. Circumcision according to Rom 4:11 is a sign of faith that was given to children. To say giving a sign of faith, baptism, is contrary to its meaning must also be an argument against circumcision. Since God gave that command in Gen 17 to give the sign to the children of Abraham and it has not been revoked or reversed, but even reiterated at Pentecost when Peter echoed the Abrahamic covenant in Acts 2., and Paul in Col 2 linked the two sacraments as pointing to the same regeneration by faith, we paedobaptists are on solid biblical ground. That God would then utilize the same term household which He used in the old is a cruel trick if household covenantalism was revoked at Pentecost. You however are kicking out of the visible body of Christ the children when God did not. You strive to prove your point by defending credo baptism which is pointless against our view as we also embrace credo baptism. I heard the lecture. And all it does is present a convincing case of credo, to which we say amen.

            • John Carpenter

              Hi Mike, No, that’s incorrect and it shows a lack of understanding sola scriptura. The OT makes a repeated and overt command to circumcise infants. There is no such command to baptize babies. In fact, the command from the Lord Jesus is to baptize “disciples” (Mt 28:18f). To go beyond that command, you’d need another command or else you are violating sola scriptura and the regulative principle. Further, in the new covenant, the “Israel of God” is not a status inheritable by ancestry (Romans 2, 9, Gal. 5). It is a matter of the heart, demonstrated by faith. There are no such things as “covenant children” in the New Testament. Finally, we now know from the Didache that the early church was not baptizing infants.

  • Jim Elliff

    Jim, I so happy you have posted this important article. Presbyterians require baptism prior to membership, as Baptists do. For Baptists, this shared belief that a church is a body of baptized believers, and the conviction that water baptism is immersion following conversion, requires us to maintain a consistent position. No one should doubt that this view is the only right position for Baptists to maintain. None of us like the strain differing views on baptism cause in some relationships, but our conscience binds us. It may seem loving to others for a church to relax its views and be inconsistent in its practice on baptism, but it is not loving to Christ, whose command we’re compelled by God to obey. Nor is it actually loving toward the believer to give approval for what we know is a misunderstanding on this important, first order, command.

    • Denny Burk


    • Jim Hamilton

      Amen indeed. Thank you, brother,


    • Bill

      ” It may seem loving to others for a church to relax its views and be inconsistent in its practice on baptism, but it is not loving to Christ, whose command we’re compelled by God to obey.”

      Pedobaptist believe its God’s command to baptize their infants. If I tell this and say you are being disobedient, do you just lie down and submit, or do you dig into scripture and defend?

      When I was a Baptist, I agreed with this statement not just with Baptism, but any view that my church thought was not scriptural. It was always about having our convictions and not giving in. Then through studying scriptures I realized that I and many others were wrong about some of these convictions.

      This is not about giving into love just to reach out and be inclusive.

  • Rick Owen

    From “The Hermeneutics of Baptism” – – another Baptist perspective on the mode of baptism. It includes “pouring”:

    In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist stated to the Pharisees, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” In Acts 1:5, Jesus said, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days [Pentecost] you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

    Interpreting what occurred on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said, “. . . .exalted to God*s right hand, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33)

    When Cornelius* household was given the gift of the Spirit, the Jewish believers with Peter were astounded that “the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:45). Immediately after the Spirit was poured out, Peter reasoned “can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:47)

    In recounting this incident, Peter again connects Acts 1:5 (and Matthew 3:11) with the pouring out of the Spirit: “. . . .then I remembered what the Lord had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 11:16)

    We have here clear evidence that the “pouring out” of the Spirit was a “baptism.” The baptism of the Spirit was a “pouring out,” not an immersion. Baptism with water is connected in Acts 10:47-48 with the “gift of the Spirit.” Since the spiritual baptism was a pouring out, does this in any way inform the mode of water baptism?

    Also see “No Infant Baptism in the New Covenant” –

    • John Carpenter

      This is poor proof-texting. First, you take passages that aren’t about baptism but about a metaphorical use of the word baptism. This is improper. If you want to know what the NT mode of baptism is, go to the passages that speak about baptism. You’ll find Jesus taking the disciples to a place at the Jordan where there is enough water; that the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip went “into” the water. Then you should, as does the author of the article, deal with the literal meaning of the Greek word. But even the metaphorical use of the word, for “baptism” in the Spirit, you fail to show that “baptism” and “pouring” are used inter-changeably. Most, if not all, of your scriptures from Acts are irrelevant to this discussion while the relevant passages on baptism you’ve ignored.

      • Robert Wille

        It seems to me that Rick has cited verses that are right on point. They most certainly are about baptism. They are records of actual incidents of water baptism. They help us understand what water baptism symbolizes. It symbolizes the receipt of the Holy Spirit, the One who accomplishes the great change within us.

        • John Carpenter

          The scriptures have to do with the reception of the Spirit, not with the mode of baptism. Please read the scriptures again and look up the actual incidents of water baptism in Acts. Rick ignores the texts that have to do with the mode of baptism in favor those that he can use to reach the conclusion he wants: that pouring was the mode they used. Pouring may indeed be a good metaphor for the giving of the Holy Spirit but that’s not relevant to whether it is a valid mode for Baptism.

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  • Ben

    I really dislike this about Baptist’s. At least you can be a member in a Presbyterian church if you were baptized as a believer by immersion. I understand the argument and conviction but it’s taking it too far to separate from other like minded believers in our membership – it’s actually ridiculous. I don’t care why it was done in the past or how the writer here thinks it is necessary in maintaining consistency with history. So what if the walls of separation would come down on this? Wouldn’t that be a really good thing? (Answer: not for the hard headed and proud Baptist wanting to defend past actions and maintain history).

    • John Carpenter

      Hi Ben, It seems misplaced, to me, to blame the Baptists. You’re right that Presbyterians recognize the legitimacy of believer’s baptism by immersion. So, are not being divisive by doing so. What is divisive is the practice of infant baptism (and that by sprinkling.) It is those who practice what many others find to be an unBiblical practice who are building the walls of separation. The solution to the problem is simple: stop baptizing babies!

      • Tom Mirabella

        John, I do not believe that immersion is the right mode of baptism. Yet I believe its validity is tied to God’s faithfulness, despite the error. This is why I am willing to respect others who have different convictions than me. You are the one who is being divisive. I wonder if you even understand the paedo-baptist position?

        • John Carpenter

          I’ve never heard of anyone who rejects immersion as a valid mode of baptism (that is, immersion as a valid mode of immersion). Besides the literal meaning of the word “baptize” (which is actually a transliterated Greek word rather than a translated one that means “immerse”) then there is the precedents in Acts of going down into the water. As someone with a Ph.D. in church history, focusing on the Puritans, I’ve read first-hand defenses of infant-baptism and so am aware that it is really baseless. Further, we know from the Didache that the early church was not practicing infant baptism up to the early second century. Therefore, it is infant baptism that is the innovation and that is the divisive practice.

        • Jugulum

          Tom M,

          Did you mean that immersion isn’t the only right mode of baptism, or did you mean that it’s the wrong mode of baptism?

          • Tom Mirabella

            The Westminster Confession says (28:3) “Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.”

            I am not arguing that immersion is not “valid” baptism – I recognize it as valid if baptism is done with water in the name of the Trinity (as opposed to, say, a Mormon baptism). But I do not think it is “right” in that I believe sprinkling and pouring are the Biblically intended modes. I don’t agree with the argument that immersion means baptism and baptism means immersion. I don’t think the Ethiopian Eunuch went underwater, anymore than I think that Phillip went underwater, though the text says (Acts 8:38) “they both went down into the water” and (Acts 8:39) “they came up out of the water” (3rd person plural both times). I also don’t think that the Philippian jailer took Paul out of the prison and went down to the river in the middle of the night to be baptized or that they would have had enough water in the jail with which to immerse. I have great respect for many people who completely disagree with me on this, but as I have studied the texts I simply do not see any place where immersion is explicitly stated or that this is so overwhelmingly obvious as many credo-baptists seem to think it is.

            • John Carpenter

              You quoted the text that shows immersion: “into” in Acts 8:38. I don’t understand what is hard to understand about that.

            • Tom Mirabella

              So you think that Phillip went underwater? Is that the practice in your church, for the minister to go underwater with the person being baptized?

            • Jugulum

              John Carpenter,

              What point do you think Tom was attempting to make when he observed that it was 3rd person plural both times in Acts 8:38-39? In his mind, what argument was he making?

            • Jugulum


              Never mind, Tom already restated his argument.

              I’m credobaptist, but I think he’s at least right that “went down into the water” doesn’t mean submersion. At least by English usage, it doesn’t mean that. (If I waded in a river, then I went down “into” the river. If I only went to the water’s edge, then I went down “to” the river.)

              His argument that “baptizo” means something other than “to immerse” is another matter. In fact, I’ll reply to that.


              I can find no good reason for you to doubt that Paul immersed the jailer–you’re not just making unwarranted assumptions about the sequence of events, you’re making assumptions that the text explicitly contradicts.

              Acts 16:30 says they weren’t in the jail anymore. By 16:32, they had met up with the jailer’s household, and Paul & Silas were preaching to them. (At the jailer’s house is the most natural assumption. Unless the jailer sent for his household to meet him somewhere.) In 16:33, the jailer “took them” and washed their wounds. (In English, that sounds like he took them somewhere else to wash them, though I suppose it could just be a meaningless Greek turn of phrase). At once he and his household were baptized. Then in 16:34, the jailer “brought them up into his house and set food before them.”

              So they started out in the jail, then they met up with the jailer’s household, then the jailer “took them” and washed their wounds and was baptized, and afterward “brought them up” into his house.

              The jailer was seemingly baptized in the same place where Paul & Silas’s wounds were washed. That almost certainly wasn’t in the jail (since they’d met up with the jailer’s h household). It wasn’t in the jailer’s house (since they went to the house afterward). And I don’t know why he would have been washing them somewhere other than his house, unless he wanted more water than they’d have on hand at his house. The river? A well? A pool?

              So the locations are (1) jail, (2) somewhere they met with his household (probably at his house), (3) somewhere else to wash them (the river or a well or a pool), and lastly (4) the jailer’s house.

              So I can see no good reason to doubt that they were at the river or a pool when they were baptized.

              At this point, I can’t tell why you think that “baptizo” means something other than “immerse”.

            • Tom Mirabella


              It is simply a practical argument about the availability of water in Biblical times without getting into a grammatical study of Baptizo, which generally ends up being a circular argument.

              As for the situation with Paul, it is my understanding that the jailer lived in or above the prison (in my experience, this is a fairly common interpretation). In verse 30 it says they came “out,” I understand that as out of the cell, yet still in the prison. Notice it says he preached to the household before it says that he cleaned their wounds and brought them “up” into his house.

              Remember also at the end of this episode the magistrates order for Paul and Silas to be released. From where? The jailer’s house? No, from the prison (Acts 16:40 “So they went out of the prison” though I concede it is possible they could have returned later). But is it really likely that the jailer removed prisoners from the jail he was entrusted to keep them in? I don’t think so.

              If you think that the jailer was wandering all around Phillipi at 2 in the morning with his prisoners, then they certainly would have had access to water for immersion. But if they stayed within the house/jail, it seems to me much less likely that they had a suitable baptistry.

              It is not a conclusive argument. But I think my Baptist brethren too often see things as they expect to see them, such as with Phillip and the eunuch. I have heard a preacher claim that verse provides proof that the eunuch was immersed because it says “into the water” which, as you acknowledged, simply isn’t true.

            • John Carpenter

              As for Acts 8, “they” went “into” the water because Philip was baptizing (meaning “immersing”) the Ethiopian eunuch. The baptizer has to be with the baptizee. If Philip could just pour water onto the Ethiopian’s head, there would have been no need to go into the water; they could have simply stood at the shore. They had to go “into” the water because they had to get to a depth sufficient to immerse the Ethiopian. That would also be the case with John who was “in the Jordan”, Jesus who went “out of the Jordan” (Mt. 3), and where Jesus took the disciples to a place of the Jordan where there was “much water” (John 3:23). None of that would be necessary if they were pouring or sprinkling. Then, of course, is the reported meaning of the word “baptize.”

            • Tom Mirabella

              See, this is exactly what I mean. They went into the water, therefore he was immersed. How do you know that they didn’t stand in the water and then pour or sprinkle?? Because baptism means immersion. How do you know that? Because baptism refers to immersion every time it is used in the New Testament, such as in Acts 16 when the eunuch was clearly immersed. etc.

              All of your conclusions are simply not justified by your arguments. Going into the water is not the same as going under the water and your proof otherwise is purely circumstantial. It always comes back to, “Well, baptism means immersion and anyone who disagrees is stupid and sinful.”

      • Ben

        John, I thought a Baptist wrote the above article being discussed. My blame was misplaced if not (of course the converse is actually true). Your reply is childish at best. A better way to see it would be for Baptist to get over it and stop sending away families who have a differing understanding of baptism than yours!

        • John Carpenter

          The issue is who is being divisive: (1) credo-baptists or (2) paedo-baptist or (3) both. It would be (3) both if the issue were not one of obedience to the Lord and both sides divided. While both sides do divide (the PCA requires members to subscribe to paedo-baptism), it is an issue of obedience to the Lord where the Lord Jesus commands us baptize “disciples”. The credo-baptist position is Biblical; indeed, no one rejects believer’s baptism. Since infant baptism cannot be established by scripture, those who hold to the authority of scripture are under no obligation to accept it. Therefore, it is paedo-baptism that is both (1) unbiblical and (2) divisive. All that needs to be done to stop paedo-baptism from dividing the church is to stop the unBiblical practice.

          • Tom Mirabella

            The PCA does not require members to subscribe to paedo-baptism, only ordained leaders. You are simply wrong on this count.
            Honestly, I don’t even think there is any point in debating you on this issue. Good people disagree on what the scriptures teach about baptism. In my opinion, your posts reek of arrogance and pride. You have no apparent respect for those who believe differently than you, and your only solution is, “everyone should just agree with me and do it my way.”
            Brother, you are the one who is being divisive.

            • Ben

              Tom M, I couldn’t agree more! I find that when people default to the “authority of scripture” even though both parties hold to and make their argument from scripture it’s because there is little left to say in genuine rebuttal. I recommend Erickson’s Christian Theology for an outline of the covenantal view of baptism for those who are unfamiliar with it to appreciate it a little better. He’s a Baptist but, as someone with an education, appreciates it enough to offer a fair and respectful assessment. I’m an SBC pastor as well but unlike many, I hate small mindedness like this unnecessarily leading to further division in the bible believing body of Christ. There are way bigger fish to fry out there. Sending away like minded fellow believers because of this is just plain stupid.

            • John Carpenter

              I attended a PCA church for a year. I note your baseless insults.

            • J.R.

              Amen, Tom.

          • Bill

            ” Since infant baptism cannot be established by scripture”

            Is scripture infallible? I think we all believe it is. But obviously well studied scholars with hearts seeking God have different views on this.

            My five year old says he loves Jesus and understands what faith is. However, many Baptist pastors would not baptize him simply because he is not of the age of reason.
            Can you tell me without a doubt that “age of reason” is scriptural? It is not mentioned explicitly in scripture and its not even implied.
            Rather Jesus on two different occasions says the faith of a child is good enough. I understand that in one of those occasions Jesus was addressing adults, but in order for one to say, “you need to have faith like a child” to be true, the faith of a child must first be accepted as is – being good enough. Then Jesus goes on to warn us about causing a child to stumble. I would not want to be the one to tell my five year old that his faith is not good enough (causing a stumble) based on those explicit commands and examples from Jesus.

  • Dan Johnson

    I take issue with your claim that convinced paedobaptists who deny the necessity of immersion for genuine baptism, and who themselves have only been sprinkled, are thereby disobeying a command of Jesus Christ. And I grant for the sake of argument that baptism is indeed intended to be the immersion of professing believers in water.

    Consider the following example. I am a child, and my mother tells me to clean my room. She doesn’t really tell me when to clean my room. I am a conscientious son, and I really try to figure out when she would want me to clean my room — I figure she’d be ok if I waited a couple of days. Now, as a matter of fact, in the context her command does communicate that I should clean my room today — and I therefore am not fulfilling her command. However, I’ve made a totally innocent mistake. I misunderstood her command, because it wasn’t perfectly clear, simply because I didn’t catch the context properly. Am I “disobeying” her command? Clearly not. Even though, if I had been smarter or more careful, I would have figured it out, the fact that I missed it is no reflection on my moral character. I am an obedient son.

    The same goes for paedobaptism and sprinkling. If you think that refusing to be immersed is “disobedient,” you can’t just think that Christ has actually commanded us to immerse professing believers. You also have to think that Christ’s command on this matter is sufficiently clear that anyone who misunderstands must be guilty of some sin thereby. But that is simply a mistake. Even if the historic Baptist position is the correct one, many of those who have held the historic Presbyterian position have come to that position innocently and carefully, in a spirit of submission to the Lord’s teaching in Scripture. It is therefore arrogant to consider them “disobedient” — and objectionably schismatic to refuse them membership in your churches on the ground that they have not repented from all sin.

    • John Carpenter

      Hi Dan,

      The command to be baptized is given to “disciples” (Mt. 28:18f). There is no precedent of baptizing anyone else other than a believer in the NT. While we can understand that some believers are poorly taught but, as in the article, when they do receive accurate instruction and then still refuse to accept it, then that’s the problem. The schism is caused first by those practicing something that is not found in scripture and then refusing to accept correction.

      • Dan Johnson

        You are still assuming that the Bible’s teaching on this matter is sufficiently clear that ANY disagreement with “accurate instruction” constitutes disobedience (is morally wrong). But surely at least some of those who hold the paedobaptist position do so innocently, as the result of deep and thoughtful reading of Scripture and a spirit of obedience to Scripture.

        Do you really think Calvin was morally blameworthy for his belief in paedobaptism? Perhaps you think that he just needed to be exposed to some “accurate teaching.” I think that is just arrogant. His argument for paedobaptism is deep and Scriptural, and what holes there are in it are not obvious at all.

        I’m a credobaptist myself, but I am really uncomfortable with the fact that I disagree with somebody with as deep a knowledge of Scripture as John Calvin (and all the other great paedobaptist theologians). I would never dream of excluding them from membership in my church, and I would leave any church that would exclude Calvin from membership. (I’d be following him around, actually.)

        • John Carpenter

          HI Dan,

          Since there is absolutely no teaching or precedent in the Bible for infant baptism, then, NO, no one comes to that conviction as a “result of deep and thoughtful reading of Scripture and a spirit of obedience to Scripture.” They may innocently accept the interpretations handed to them by their teachers, who may likewise be repeating what they were told in good faith. But at some point they should search the scriptures themselves and especially when they come into a church where they are taught more accurately, they should at least be willing to forsake the divisive practice of infant baptism.

          • Dan Johnson

            Oh, come on, John. “NO, no one comes to that conviction as a result of deep and thoughtful reading of Scripture.”

            You sound to me like a man who simply hasn’t bothered to read the paedobaptists’ arguments for their view — in particular, you obviously haven’t read (or didn’t pay attention when you were reading) Calvin’s chapter on paedobaptism in the Institutes. I defy you to read that chapter carefully and then claim that Calvin didn’t come to his view on the basis of a careful and thorough reading of Scripture.

            And this is coming from somebody (me) who isn’t convinced by Calvin’s argument. Though I don’t find it convincing, it is clearly a deeply Scriptural argument.

            Calvin was obviously not simply “repeating the interpretations handed to him by his teachers” — he definitely “searched the Scriptures for himself” and did so with wisdom perhaps unmatched by any other single Christian theologian in the history of the church. Is this really what you think about all paedobaptists? They just aren’t bothering to read the Scriptures for themselves? This is the arrogance that I was talking about, and frankly it repels me.

            • John Carpenter

              I have a Ph.D. in church history with a focus on the Puritans. I’ve read the statements for infant baptism from original sources and have been struck by how baseless they are. I realize some are impressed with the smoke-and-mirrors argument from circumcision, etc. But there is no Biblical basis for it. Further, we know from the Didache that the early church was not baptizing infants as late as the early 2nd century.

            • Dan Johnson


              The “argument from circumcision” — Calvin’s argument — is not “smoke and mirrors.” It is a powerful and straightforward argument by analogy, and it is deeply Scriptural. (Again, this is coming from one who is unconvinced by the argument.) Calvin’s use of Romans 4 in his argument is particularly interesting. From your posts in response to me and to others on this blog, I am not impressed with your ability to sympathetically understand positions to which you are opposed (a mark of intellectual humility), and this just confirms it.

              I have a Ph.D too, and know how little a Ph.D really means, especially when we are talking about intellectual virtues like intellectual humility. Intellectual arrogance is widespread in academic culture. Your rather arrogant, sweeping dismissal of all paedobaptists in the history of the world is, frankly, astonishing. John Calvin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, John Knox, Luther, J.I. Packer, J. Gresham Machen, B.B. Warfield — all these learned, wise, and holy men and countless more are, according to you, simply failing to search the Scriptures for themselves. What arrogant silliness. Repent of your arrogance!

              Again, remember that this is coming from someone who holds a credobaptist view of baptism. I’m troubled by your arrogant dismissal of a position I don’t even hold. That should give you pause.

            • John Carpenter

              Sadly, I think the way you morally accuse someone who points out the plain fact that the NT nowhere argues for infant baptism, etc., as “arrogant”, means that you are so desperate to preserve the pseudo-scholastic convictionlessness culture, that you’ll attack someone in that way. Therefore, please don’t respond to me again until you’re willing to apologize and change. The truth is that NT doesn’t exists to create a rarefied academic environment but to give directions for discipleship. And it does NOT teach infant baptism.

            • Jason

              Mr Carpenter, Is it not also a plain fact that the NT nowhere specifically prohibits infant baptism?

              It’s somewhat ironic that you are quick to scold and ask for an apology from someone who is only doing the exact same thing you are, only arguing for the opposite position.

              Others have pointed out your attitude also, but you seem very quick to blow them off… seemingly because they disagree with what your point is, so they’re obviously wrong about that also. Lets just hope Mr Johnson doesn’t do the same thing it seems you’re doing, because then he wouldn’t have to listen to a word you’ve said.

              Perhaps if you want people to listen to you, you should listen to other people too?

      • Jason Van Bemmel

        “Disciples” cannot be the antecedent in view in Matt. 28:19, because it is not present as a noun in the Greek. The verb is “make discuiples” or, more literally, “disciple the nations.” Thus, the two following participles “abptizing” and “teaching” should be seen as means for fulfilling the command to disciple. In other words, Jesus is not giving an explicit command to only baptize disciples. He is saying that baptizing and teaching are the two main means of making disciples. At what age do we start teaching our children? Do we wait until after they make a mature, public profession of faith?

    • Angela

      Thank you for this comment. I believe that if we believe people on both sides of this argument are faithful and sincerely seeking to live out their interpretation of Scripture, we would be much more careful in the divisive language that we find in a lot of discussions about this issue.

      • Dan Johnson

        You are welcome, Angela.

        I actually think that the problems in this area, the lack of humility, can sometimes stem from a misuse of the Reformed doctrine of the clarity (perspicuity) of Scripture. Some think the doctrine means that everything in Scripture is perfectly clear. If that is so, then anytime there is any disagreement, at least one party is resisting the clear teaching of Scripture. So this view of the clarity of Scripture leads people to regard all the people who disagree with them about anything in Scripture as unrepentant sinners.

        This, of course, is not the traditional Reformed doctrine of the clarity of Scripture at all. The doctrine of perspicuity is the claim that what we must know to be saved is clear in Scripture — not that everything that Scripture teaches is clear. The Reformers all acknowledged that lots of stuff in Scripture is unclear. Acknowledging that allows us to respect our differences on some of these matters, without demonizing our opponents by regarding them as unrepentant sinners because of their disagreements with us.

  • Dan Johnson

    I take issue with one other element in your essay. You said that the Presbyterian family was willing to be immersed — but you found that objectionable because they would merely be “going through the motions.” In other words, not only must people actually be immersed as believers, they must believe as you do that this is the requirement of Christ. There is no room for disagreement on this issue in your church.

    I found this rather unbelievable. Suppose I am a paedobaptist — my best, most careful reading of Scripture leads me to agree with that view (and I am in excellent company in doing so). I begin attending a Baptist church, and I want to become a member and submit to the teaching of the church. I don’t agree on Baptism, but I will not be disruptive. Moreover, I am willing to submit to the church’s requirement that I be immersed (though I had been sprinkled as an infant, and I continue to regard that as a genuine baptism). The reason that I am willing to submit is that I am humble — I realize that I could be wrong, and because I respect the church’s view on the matter, I am willing to submit to them with respect to my practice. (I may even have the “weaker brother” principle in mind, and so view my submission on this point as itself a command from God.) However, I cannot submit to them with respect to my beliefs on the matter, because my conscience is subject to God’s Word, and in my best estimate God’s Word teaches the historic Presbyterian position.

    You won’t let me become a member on the basis that I have unrepentant sin? It seems to me that my hypothetical attitude, as I have described it, is a paradigm of humble submission combined with absolute submission only to God’s Word. I am not merely “going through the motions” — my willingness to be immersed is the result of careful thought on the gospel principles of submission. And, again, your attitude is simply arrogant (“how could anybody reasonably disagree with us on this point?”) and objectionably schismatic.

    • Sarah Hubbell

      This is what I most take issue with as well. I am in this exact situation right now. I’m a convinced Presbyterian but found a wonderful church home when we moved three years ago at a church that is essentially baptist. They require that my husband and I be immersed as adults to become members, but do not restrict non-members from the Lord’s Supper. We have attended the baptism class and told them we intend to be immersed but it hasn’t been our top priority and their schedule hasn’t lined up well with ours to make it happen. They have graciously place much more emphasis on baptism as a celebration of faith with us rather than on an act of obedience. They won’t deny me membership because I still happen to believe my first baptism and full public confession in another church was enough.

      • Dan Johnson


        My wife and I are in a similar situation. I’ve been immersed, but my wife has not (and I am a believer’s baptist, though unconvinced that immersion is necessary, whereas my wife leans toward the paedobaptist view). We are just starting the membership process right now. It will be interesting to see whether our church takes the schismatic line advocated by the author of this blog post and excludes us from membership in their church (which would do both us and them significant harm), or whether they take the view that I think they should take and respects our willingness to submit to their teaching without forcing my wife to agree with their views on baptism.

      • Chris Poe


        While I can appreciate the predicament, I find this troubling on a number of levels.

        1. If you are a convinced Presbyterian, then why repudiate your baptism? Convinced Presbyterians (confessional ones at least) affirm the Regulative Principle of Worship, where only that which is clearly seen in Scripture (or by good and necessary inference) is allowed in worship. Also, the WCF teaches that baptism is to only be performed once. I doubt you’ll find a conscientious evangelical Reformed Presbyterian pastor who would endorse a “convinced Presbyterian” submitting to immersion in this case.

        2. If this church doesn’t really see your impending immersion as baptism, then they are engaging in will worship and not worship regulated by Scripture. Is it possible that what the leadership is doing is saving face in front of the congregation by going through with this ceremony?

        • Dan Johnson

          Why does allowing yourself to be rebaptized have to be a “repudiation” of your baptism? What if your attitude is this: you think that infant baptism is right and appropriate. However, in your town the most faithful preaching and most faithful Christian living is carried out in a Baptist church, which would require you to submit to another baptism to join. You allow yourself to be rebaptized out of a spirit of submission to other believers, out of a respect for that church, and out of a desire for unity with them.

          It seems clear that you are not “repudiating” your earlier baptism. You are just navigating the fact that there are others who are wise and who you respect who disagree with you as to the exact interpretation of the baptism command. Your willingness to undergo baptism as they require shows that respect. Is this not a God-honoring attitude, one which shows humility (“I could be wrong in this debate, a debate which sees wise and faithful Christians on both sides”) and a great desire to reflect and live out the unity of the body of Christ?

          “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph. 5:21

  • Lance

    “This question hurts” because the baptist tradition of insisting that paedobaptists are unrepentant sinners and refusing to include them as members of the body of Christ is a tremendously hurtful and wrong position. It’s as simple as that. I’m ‘baptist’ (mostly) by interpretation of scripture but cannot reconcile exclusion of brothers over differing interpretations.

    The church’s division on this issue over centuries makes division easier to stomach. It would quickly move from ‘hurtful’ to unconscionable if a Baptist church knew these ‘sinning’ brothers and sisters had no other body with which to worship. As it stands, they can just go find some other disobedient people down the street.

    And that is the point of Romans 14 right? Band together based on conscience and smile politely if you ever see those other people. Oh, wait…

    • John Carpenter

      Hi Lance, the split is caused by the unBiblical practice (infant baptism) not by the sound teaching.

      • Ian

        John, you must be a Baptist! What you fail to realise is that Presbyterians regard the way Baptists deny baptism to the children of believers as being unbiblical. There are two sides to the coin.

        • John Carpenter

          Hi Ian, but what you fail to realize is that there is a vast Biblical difference between the two claims. There is no argument that believer’s baptism is not Biblical. But there is not one scripture to support, either by command or precedent, the baptism of children. Hence, infant-baptizers have no basis to charge anyone who rejects their practice for being unBiblical.

      • Jon

        John, do you believe that if you say that paedobaptists have caused the split enough times it will make it true? The historic position of the church has been paedobaptistic, and it was the credobaptists that split over the issue. Now, I’m not saying that the historic position wins the day, there is also exegetical warrant for both positions in Scripture. So, as a paedobaptist while I fully believe that my position is clearly taught in Scripture, I may be wrong. But, as a credobaptist while you believe your position is clearly taught in Scripture, you must leave the possibility open that you are sinning against God and your children by not baptizing them. You see, there must be charity on both sides, because our theology is done by redeemed sinners.

        • John Carpenter

          Hi Jon, the “historic position” of the church prior to 1517 was that remission of sins was obtained by doing penance and that doctrine was determined by the pope and counsels. Was it Luther and the Protestants who split the church or the false doctrine? I (and Luther) would say that it was the unreformed church that refused to reform that split the church. Thus so, paedobaptists who cling to a false practice (incidentally rooted originally in the same basic theology of salvation behind Catholicism) who are the ones who are being divisive. Even if they will not admit that their practice is rooted in a wrong idea of salvation, they ought to at least be able to admit what is plain: that it is without Biblical imperative or precedent. And, that being so, they then have the burden to compromise even if it remains their preference. If they don’t, they are guilty of elevating a mere preference to become a divisive issue. Since no one can claim that believer’s baptism isn’t Biblical, this charge cannot be made against Baptists.

      • Ben

        John, do you honestly believe this? You keep saying it over and over. The family practicing infant baptism in the original post was not causing the division. They were fully willing and wanting to join, not divide. Those denying them inclusion were.

        • Chris Poe

          Actually, although I don’t know them of course, I think it’s fair to say that the action of the family wanting to join was somewhat divisive depending on how one explains the term. Whether knowingly or not, they were asking the church to repudiate its stated beliefs, right down to the point of what it means to be a church. Wanting to join a basically orthodox church is commendable, but what is described in this post is the height of “Me and My Bible” and is indicative of an unhealthy individualism, IMO, especially when there are plenty of other churches that would happily admit them to membership.

          Why would someone want to join a church that teaches contrary to his settled convictions? If this church is in the Louisville area, I think there are several Presbyterian churches there. It’s not as if the church that Dr. Hamilton pastors is the only evangelical congregation in the area.

          Sectarianism certainly exists. But so does doctrinal indifference. How does one who is willing to merely go through the motions and thereby repudiate what he believes to be his baptism escape the latter charge?

          • Ben

            Chris, agreed – you don’t know them. After that, your assuming way too much for me accept about the that situation.

          • John Carpenter

            good point you’ve made. I think you got to the spiritual point. When my wife and I attended a PCA church plant for a year, we knew we couldn’t join because we believed differently than they on this point; when we heard infant baptism discussed, we held our peace; we helped set up chairs, brought visitors, gave our offerings, mowed the pastor’s grass when he was away on vacation, etc. But we knew we couldn’t join because we did not agree with the WCF on this point.

        • John Carpenter

          It was their refusal to accept the teaching of scripture that kept them from joining. Thus they caused the division.

          • Ben

            John, you make it sound like you spent that entire year fasting, praying and humbly and prophetically pleading with that PCA church to turn from their idolatry and accept the truth! Your repetitive reply here makes my point: a lot of Baptists are close minded knuckleheads when it comes to baptism. I hope you will wake up and see that your attitude really misses the point in what Christ wants to do among his people.

            • John Carpenter

              Your response is merely insulting and not fit for this forum. Please change.

    • Dan Johnson

      Well put, Lance.

  • Shayne McAllister

    My credobaptist church requires believers baptism, but allows for other modes to have been used in that process. We will only baptize via immersion ourselves. This allows us to accept Presbyterians as members as long as they were baptized as believers.

    • Dale

      Shayne, If JMH is going to be consistent, he will also have to dis-fellowship you since by allowing unrepentant sinners to join your church you are an accomplice in your sin. Sorry. :)

      • Shayne McAllister

        I’m not asking to be part of his church.

  • Robert Wille

    Perhaps I’ve missed it, but has anyone addressed the actual incidents of water baptism in Scripture, and what they’re meant to symbolize? In two cases, it appears to me that water baptism is tied to the reception of the Holy Spirit, who is said to be poured out on God’s people (Acts 2:17). These two instances are Matthew 3:11,12 and Acts 10:44-48. How should I understand these verses in light of this discussion?

  • Ryan J. Ross

    I have noticed that in many Presbyterian churches (e.g., EPC, PCA, PCUS(A), etc.) we (Presbyterians) are willing to allow members of varying theological beliefs to join our churches. It may be that the elders are so convinced that we should minimize our differences and “seek unity” in the name of Jesus. Or, it may be because we are so desperate to grow our churches, that we compromise our theological distinctives.

    I suspect Hamilton upheld the importance of baptism by immersion because of his conviction that this is a significant doctrine. Hence, he is Baptist.

    If Presbyterian ministers were honest, in my opinion, they would admit that they have made many concessions, for all sorts of reasons, in allowing people to join our churches while disagreeing with our theological distinctives.

    Do we allow those to become members in the PCA who do not follow the Sabbath as the Lord’s Day, do not believe in Presbyterian church government, do not adhere to (most of) the Reformed doctrines of Calvinism, believe in credobaptism, and are dispensationalists, and have no interest in our confessional identity? You bet we do. If someone wishes to disagree with any of those points, I would be happy to supply you with PCA churches that would take no issue with accepting into membership someone who held to all of those views listed above.

    So, isn’t Hamilton saying, basically, that he holds to the Baptistic-theological beliefs as being those which are most consistent with Christ’s teaching? If someone wishes to debate the merit of those beliefs, by all means, do so. But here, I think, he is saying, in the end, he is a Baptist, his church is Baptist, and that matters when one is seeking communion at Kenwood.

    Presbyterians may have no problem with receiving a credo-baptist into membership. But let’s point out the obvious: we do not hold that baptism upon profession is wrong. So why would we deny membership to one that holds this position. It would be better, for the sake of analogy, to find a distinctly Presbyterian doctrine, and determine whether or not one should be excluded into membership for it. Whatever conclusions one comes to on that question, while important, still would go beyond the point of this post: Hamilton’s church must hold firm to the Word. Though there is pressure to compromise important biblical doctrines, to do so would result in being disobedient to Christ. And above all, he and his church will not be disobedient and relax Christ’s commandment, even when they are saddened by the effects of such decisions.

    • Shawn G

      Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are Sacraments and not ordinances.

      Should Baptists be accepted into Presbyterian congregations if they do not believe this?

      • Ryan J. Ross

        Shawn, let me begin by saying that I am not a Presbyterian minister. I am no elder. Personally, I believe this is a question for a Session to determine. But I will attempt to answer it as a member of a Presbyterian church in good standing.

        Presbyterians (and Baptists) have historically “fenced the table.” In my opinion, this means more then telling children who have not professed saving knowledge of Christ’s redemptive work to refrain; it includes explaining exactly how we understand this sacrament. That is, that there are real benefits contained and administered in them. The believer is strengthened and sealed; it is not merely memorial. Real benefits are conferred.

        If this is taught before its administration and, in some way, at its administration, then the Baptist who was present would have to decide if the sacraments are being described as something inconsistent with the Bible. It might be wise, for his conscience sake, not to participate, unless he had no issue with this.

        However, it remains the responsibility of those who minister this sacrament to make some effort to ensure that it is received in a worthy manner. Obviously, elders are not omniscient, but I would hope some effort was made to give a Baptist the ability to judge if he can take the Lord’s Supper with Presbyterian brothers. To date, I am aware of no instance in my church whereby a Baptist could not receive the Lord’s Supper because of our differences in understanding this sacrament.

      • John Carpenter

        By any definition baptism and the Lord’s Supper are “ordinances” since they are things that have been “ordered” by Christ. They could be ordinances but not sacraments. Or they may also be referred to as “sacraments”. But they can’t be sacraments without being ordinances.

  • Tom Thiessen

    Living in a fallen world with complicated and messy situations requires us to use wisdom in complex situations. Some things that are obviously not the ideal (admitting unbaptized members) should be permitted due to our collective hardness of heart. This is not an example of overturning Christ’s commands, it is an example of living charitably and valuing and expressing the real union we have with real brothers in the world we actually live in. I am a pastor of a baptist church and we maintain our baptistic distinctivness without this kind of rigid separation from brothers who disagree. Our statement of faith outlines our baptistic beliefs. Our practice is a baptistic one of baptizing only believers. Yet we make room in our membership and at Christ’s table for genuine brothers and sisters who have a different understanding on baptism. Their disagreement on the issue of baptism is not a case of high-handed rebellion, it is at worst unintentional sin. It is not evidence of rank unbelief which would warrant your practice of excommunicating them up front. That seems to me to be a very uncharitable reading of the situation. Be a baptist, be strong in your convictions and practice, but make allowances because of our collective hardness of heart.

  • KennyKirk

    Forbidding them to do something that has no Biblical warrant in the first place, because they disagreed with your position on Baptism seems like self inflicted suffering, among other things, rather than piety. Your view of membership is over-exalted. In a very real sense, you, by denying them entrance into your local assembly, and refusing to commune with them, are saying that they are not believers, and are not welcome among you, sounds very Pharisaical, and like something the scripture deals with often.

    I wonder if your view of the “Lord’s Supper” is as strict and literal, or do you reduce it to a very small cup of grape juice, and a very small wafer. You do realize it was a full meal they were partaking in each time, do you not, and that it was wine they were drinking, and there was enough on hand that some were getting drunk, and now you disobey God by changing the elements into something altogether different, how dare you, you should step down from your position and leave your church, until you repent from such nonsense, as hurtful as it maybe, just leave you unrepentant man. Sounds overly harsh does it not?

    Praise God He Saved this family from this sort of bondage.

    BTW My Presbyterian Brothers, I am Baptist, and respect your position on Baptizing those that you are disciplining in your home.

  • dr. james willingham

    I agree with Dr. Hamilton re: believer’s immersion and the Baptist practice. If the evidence was not overwhelming, we might well allow for such differences.

  • Ian

    My own church, evangelical and Bible-believing, will welcome into membership any Christian who has been baptised (as an infant or adult, by sprinkling or immersion). We baptise both infants and adults and also hold baby dedications for those parents who prefer it. And if you were sprinkled as baby but want to be dunked as a believer, we offer the renewal of baptismal vows by immersion!

    We accept that there is a difference of opinion on this subject amongst Christians, and are able to accommodate all views according to people’s convictions. And it works!

    To me, as an educated layman, this is a much better approach than letting debates over theology and Biblical interpretation divide Christians one from another.

  • Chris Blackstone

    What’s problematic to me is a practice of church leadership allowing people to be members who don’t fully enough ascribe to ALL the practices of the church such that they would be ineligible for leadership in the church. For example, if a Baptist church allows a paedobaptist to become a member knowing the disagreement on the issue of baptism, that new member is disqualified from any leadership position due to his/her disagreement on a clear, settled issue in that church. I mean, what kind of Baptist church would have a pastor who’s not a Baptist?

    • Ryan J. Ross

      I agree.

    • Tom Thiessen

      So, you can’t imagine bringing someone into membership whom you wouldn’t bring into leadership?

    • Ian

      Chris, the problem with that approach is that it requires church members to become theological clones if they want to be anything other than pew-fodder. And a study of church history, even one that just looks at protestants, reveals that there has never been complete doctrinal agreement amongst Christians.

      • Tom Mirabella

        I can’t imagine being in a church where every member was required to agree to every jot and tittle of our doctrine. Even as a minister (PCA), I am able to take exceptions on issues that “do not strike at the vitals of the system of religion.”

        • Ryan J. Ross

          Tom, I am very sorry to hear that you could not imagine having members who agree with everything you affirm.

          I hope that changes in time.

          • Tom Mirabella

            That is not what I said.

            Do you really not understand the distinction, or were you just trying to score points with your snide comment?

            • Ryan J. Ross

              I am certainly not trying to score any points. I am not “playing” against anyone. It more likely I misunderstood what you were saying. I thought you were saying that you couldn’t imagine being at a church where others should be required to believe what you believe.

              To that, I was saying that I find it disappointing that you would not wish others to hold your beliefs. Scruples are not made because one simply does not like a point, but usually because one is biblically convinced of the untenability of such a position. Even on those scrupled points, I would hope you think, then, that others would be best served by believing similarly.

              I wonder to which “jots” and “tittles” you are referring. Is there a particular doctrine that you would like members to disavow? Maybe that would help me understand your point.

            • Tom Brainerd


              Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

              I think that perhaps a good analogy would be a baptist church where not only must you have participated in believer’s baptism’ to commune, but have been baptized in that church. Effectively, what he is creating in his construct is a church where there was no such thing as ‘adiaphora.’

              At that point in time, you have breached Paul’s admonition to “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Philippians 2:3)

              Christ’s blessings on you.

            • Tom Mirabella

              Well, my words were, “where EVERY MEMBER was required to agree”. My point was not that I don’t want people to agree with my theological convictions (which would be absurd and is what you implied by your post), but that I can’t imagine being in a church with such rigid membership requirements that go beyond what we expect even of our ministers.

              I took an exception from the Westminster Confession on the Sabbath when I was ordained. Yet I would not exclude from membership someone who did not agree with my exception. Furthermore, I am happy to have brothers and sisters in my church who are credo-baptists. That doesn’t mean that I cease to teach from the denomination’s paedo-baptist perspective, in fact, my hope is that they will come to agree with it. Regardless, I welcome their presence in the church and I am grateful for the opportunity I have to minister to them.

              I wonder, Ryan, would you also place the same requirements of doctrinal conformity on non-communing members (because I am worried my four year old doesn’t properly understand the doctrine of the incarnation)? Or would you only require children to sign onto the confession when they come to the table? They are members, too.

            • Ryan J. Ross

              There are two Toms here, so I hope I do not confuse the two.

              Tom B., I simply did not understand your last paragraph. May I ask you to reword it and post it to me again. I would like to understand exactly what you are saying.

              Tom M., I think the analogy you provided does not work because in the PCA no member must hold to our Standards. Rather, elders and deacons need to subscribe to our Standards. The PCA is surprisingly “liberal” in what members should believe before joining.

              As for the comment about your young child, I am unsure what you mean. I do not believe young children, who cannot examine themselves, should participate in the Lord’s Supper. Maybe we disagree on this point. What is required of ministers is different than that of members. You, of course, know that.

              The point is that if one doesn’t adhere to Presbyterian doctrine, why become a member of a Presbyterian church? Hamilton is not being rigid. Baptism has historically been considered to be a very important doctrine. So when he safeguards the doctrine before his church, we denounce him as rigid? Would you prefer he says that he wishes he could be at a church where you don’t have to believe all of their important doctrines? I would rather have a minister who upholds their biblical convictions as they have been denominationally understood, and maintains that members who wish to join such a church within a certain denomination should hold such views, especially those as important as Baptism is to Baptists.

              People sought membership at church wherein they could not in good conscience subscribe to her articles of faith. And you call Hamilton rigid. How about “holding fast to the trustworthy word as taught”? I am disappointed in every Presbyterian on this site that tries to paint Hamilton as doing anything but maintaining and preserving Baptistic theological standards at the church that he pastors, with others elders of the same church who also affirm his position. (Here I have in view Denny Burk’s post.)

              If we presbyterians are looking for ecumenicalism, or churches that have such theological diversity as to ensure nearly no unity of mind exists on the Scriptures amongst our members on matters relating to anything but penal substitutionary atonement, we’ll sooner find it before Kenwood Baptist Church.

            • Tom Brainerd


              Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

              The paragraph was:

              At that point in time, you have breached Paul’s admonition to “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Philippians 2:3)

              There are beliefs that are core (or at least should be). A pretty good statement of those things would be in, say, the Apostles Or Nicene Creed. Things like the Creatorhood of God, the deity of Christ, Atonement…things like that. There are other things that follow from those. I’m going to use a ludicrous example to avoid getting into an argument that doesn’t belong here.

              Let’s assume that the ruling body of a church comes to a conviction that to be a Christian you have to have ‘big fat whitewall tires’ on your car. So every Sunday folks drive by and see that every car parked out in front has big fat whitewall tires on it. Of course, there are fewer cars than there used to be.

              Those folks driving by might look and say “There’s the Big Fat Whitewall Tire Church.” And they might also say, or at least, hopefully, think “They’ve lost sight of the Gospel.”

              It’s a ludicrous example, but there are things embedded in “a church where every member was required to agree to every jot and tittle of our doctrine.” Calvin is right. We are all ‘idol factories,’ and our tendency is to create ‘conceits,’ which are nothing more than idols. That is why the church reformed must always be the church reforming.

              I am not saying that paedo/credo is a conceit. But there are a lot of other issues that we tend to elevate to the level of ‘doctrine’ when they belong at the level of wisdom-informed adiaphora.

              I hope this is helpful.

              Christ’s blessings on you.

            • Tom Mirabella

              You agreed with a post that says “What’s problematic to me is a practice of church leadership allowing people TO BE MEMBERS who don’t fully enough ascribe to ALL the practices of the church such that they would be ineligible for leadership in the church”

              My point was that non-communing “members” of the church (that is baptized children who have not yet been examined for communion) would seem to be excluded by this, as would children who are old enough to examine themselves and be granted access to the table, but who still do not have the theological acumen to affirm all the nuances of church doctrine.

              Clearly we are not understanding each other. You said my analogy doesn’t work because the PCA doesn’t require members to “hold to our Standards.” That is exactly the practice that I am defending. You seem to disagree with it and I am trying to show you how completely impractical your stance is using the examples of “members” who are children.

              Where we really disagree is on your accusation of the PCA being “liberal” in allowing people to join who disagree on these issues. Our membership has the same requirements that the church universal does – faith in Christ alone. That doesn’t mean that we are ecumenical or that we have “such theological diversity as to ensure nearly no unity of mind exists on the Scriptures.” I believe you are elevating a secondary matter like mode of baptism (in other posts you included Sabbath observance and church polity) way too high.

    • Chris Poe

      It should also be kept in mind that Baptist churches (big “B” here, not indep. Bible churches), even those that are elder led, are congregationally governed. They are not ruled by the elders as in Presbyterian churches or in (usually dispensational) independent Bible churches. Hence the importance of this topic.

      The Baptist definition of a church is a body of baptized believers. Allowing someone into membership who is not baptized (immersed), and especially one who is baptized prior to a profession of faith (as with infant baptism) subverts the entire Baptist understanding of the local church.

  • Matt Gladd


    Thank you for your post. It has stirred up discussion in true blog post fashion. I consider myself to be a Reformed Baptist, and was just talking to a friend over coffee last night who is PCA about how similar my own views are to Presbyterian theology with the exception of baptism. Covenant theology is a beautiful thing, however, it seems that there are some parts of it such as baptism that are made to fit into the theological framework of covenant theology out of a desire to have a theological system that works to one’s liking rather than taking the Bible for what it says (i.e. 1 Peter). At the same time, I see a great deal of continuity between Baptists and Presbyterians on many issues. I was born into the Catholic tradition, joined the Protestant tradition (Presbyterian) when I was young, and eventually joined the Baptist tradition and have been a part of a Baptist tradition ever since. Baptists typically practice child dedications which is typically a charge given to parents and the church family to bring the children up in the historic Christian faith. Roman Catholics practice paedobaptism which requires parents and god-parents/Christian witnesses who will help oversee that the children are brought up in the historic Christian faith. Protestant churches that practice paedobaptism seem to baptize, but their baptisms resemble more child dedications than the theology and meaning behind believer’s baptism. The point is that baptism which is really a charge to parents to bring the children up in the faith and/or child dedications seem to be universal. Those traditions that do not honor credobaptism typically have some form of catechetical practice through which one enters more fully into the church and the faith, these typically require mandatory education on the basics of the Christian faith, theology, and church practice.

    Now, though I believe credobaptism to be the biblically supported stance toward baptism in the church along with child dedications, most of my friends are Presbyterian (PCA/EPC/OPC), and I greatly appreciate their tradition and the covenant theology which characterizes the Reformed faith which has greatly blessed me. However, I do not believe that conscience is an adequate authority for permitting people to become a part of a local church. If we are the gatekeepers to the church, than I could see that to be the case perhaps. However, if you are Catholic you believe that Peter is the gatekeeper to the church thus Apostolic Succession. If you are Protestant, than you believe that the faith Peter displayed in Jesus Christ is the foundation for and entrance into the Christian faith. If we are going to be good Protestants, should we not trust in Scripture by faith? Should we not submit ourselves to the microscope of God’s Word while allowing our own individual convictions to be secondary to the testimony of God and His grace as revealed in His Word? Scripture does not exist in a vacuum though, this is true. There has to be a tradition or an individual/s for it to come through. If it’s completely tradition than you have the Catholic and Orthodox churches. If it’s Scripture + Tradition, than you have many Protestant traditions minus those who were a part of the Radical Reformation. If it’s Scripture alone, truly, which brings Scriptures under the subjective realm of one’s own conscience and interpretation, than you have Baptists. But wait, that’s not right, Baptists do lean on tradition to an extent, right?

    This is true. Baptists lean on a modern interpretation of understanding church authority and nearly modern views of the sacraments. However, do Baptists have unity with those who are not Baptists? Do Baptists have no identity with the Christian tradition ranging from 33AD to 1517 or the 1700s? If Baptists do identify with the church global, the church universal, than should it not then take into account the tradition of the Christian church for the whole of the past 2000 years? If this were so, than there would not be as much leaning on one’s conscience and there would be more dependence upon on Scripture and the tradition of Christianity. Most churches even Protestant find unity within the early councils of Christianity, but even at that time infant baptism was practiced. I’m not saying we should just accept everything because it is early, but I think there could be more sensitivity to the fact that the Baptist view (which I agree with) is an exceedingly modern practice in Christian history with the exception being 1 Peter. I think we are splitting hairs when it comes to this issue. If a church chooses not to permit membership without credobaptism, that is one thing and it is really up to the elders and their discernment through prayerful Scripture grounded, Spirit-led consideration. However, participation in Communion is a different matter.

    The Roman Catholic church does not permit one to partake of Communion if one hasn’t confessed one’s sins, but also if one hasn’t been confirmed within their tradition. If Baptists are disallowing faithful, God-fearing, Gospel-centered Presbyterians from dining at the table of Christ our Lord, are they not becoming more Catholic and less Baptist in their convictions, in their consciences? Is it a holding to a conviction out of a love for God and others, or is it a type of legalism which disallows other Christians from dining at the table of Christ? Baptists would either have to admit that they do not believe any are true believers and a part of the Christian faith who do not hold to their beliefs, or they would need to admit that though a priority might rest on credobaptism, paedobaptism also has a sound argument in it’s favor and the majority of professed believer’s in Jesus Christ today and for the past 2000 years have practiced it, thus, perhaps it too is a valid means of grace.

    Along with the Augsburg Confession, I do not blame Baptists for holding to this conviction as a Christian community is the community of saints where the Gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered (in addition to transforming lives, communities, and culture). I have been a part of several traditions in my lifetime, but by far have been a Baptist the longest and even attended a Baptist university, however, even though I grew up in the church with Christian parents, it wasn’t until after my first college that I came to the realization that I had no knowledge of grace and that I was living in guilt and shame because I didn’t have a true knowledge of the Gospel, but had a knowledge of works and a checklist of things to do to try to be right with God. I had already been both baptized as an infant and baptized as a believer, but I feel that I was pressured into being baptized as a believer and didn’t have a real grasp of the Gospel at the time. Perhaps it wasn’t a conversion after my first college, but merely Gospel Wakefulness as Jared Wilson wrote about in his book.

    However, I think we can get in the habit of leaning on our own works or making church a an edifice of works for God as opposed to trusting and relying on God’s finished work in Jesus Christ. I believe this could be one of those instances. I am not trying to come after you, Jim, or Baptists with this comment, but am just saying that if we are relying on our conscience and our feelings concerning this matter, than we are dead. We are fully sinful, and as the Puritans aptly noted, even our prayers and desires for repentance are often stained with sin, but we have to lean on and trust in God’s grace. The Christian faith no doubt has an individual element in personal salvation and a community is comprised of individuals, but I do not believe the Bible supports individualism and as such do not believe that our individual consciences are sufficient. Rather, we should trust in God’s grace, and seek first to love one another while acknowledging our own depravity, and lean all the more on our faith as testified not from ourselves, but revealed through God’s Word and communicated through a Gospel-believing Christian church. If we cannot show love for one another as the Christian community, how then can we show love for those who are not a part of the faith?

    • Tom Brainerd


      Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

      Good post. Can I hazard a couple of minor comments?

      You say “Covenant theology is a beautiful thing, however, it seems that there are some parts of it such as baptism that are made to fit into the theological framework of covenant theology out of a desire to have a theological system that works to one’s liking rather than taking the Bible for what it says (i.e. 1 Peter).”

      Might it instead be a look back at covenant practices throughout the broad scope of the Scriptures? If that boy was not circumcised on the 8th day, he was out of the covenant. Were there exceptions? Yes. In fact a massive one, for there were apparently no circumcisions in Egypt, and all were circumcised at once, apparently from the infant to the hoary head. (Hmmm…what might that speak for ‘believer’s baptism?’)

      We are blithe to toss around the Aaronic blessing, totally jerked out of context. If you start at Num. 6:22 and go to end of chapter, you find that Aaron and his sons were to “…put [Yahweh’s] name on the children of Israel, and [He would] bless them.” Where were the infants? Daycare or Children’s Church? No they were in the arms of their parents, getting Yahweh’s name on them for blessing, just like everyone else.

      For many of us, paedobaptism is faithfulness to the unity of the Scriptures and the continuity of the covenant in the “remnant of Israel” that is Christ’s church.

      You said: “If Baptists are disallowing faithful, God-fearing, Gospel-centered Presbyterians from dining at the table of Christ our Lord, are they not becoming more Catholic and less Baptist in their convictions, in their consciences?”

      Yup. Our church is Paedobaptist. But we are constitutionally set up in a manner that will not serve to exclude those who do not share that view. Our denomination requires a church to be confessional, but includes London Baptist and Savoy as acceptable confessions.

      When I join with my TGC brethren quarterly, and when I see them on Friday, I will look at them and think how glad I am to be among my brothers, with whom I hold so much in common. I have made a conscious decision that the things that separate us (baptismal practices are a big part of that) are overwhelmed by the things that bind us together in Christ.

      Hope this is helpful, and not merely a holding-forth.

      Christ’s blessings on you.

      • Matt Gladd


        Thanks for your gracious reply. I am well aware of the covenant theological framework in the Old Testament and how circumcision was used. After all, I am a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. However, I am not convinced that that carries over to those who are not ethnically Jewish in the New Testament. The view of circumcision, at least for Gentiles, is strikingly different in the New Testament than it is in the Old. I am more convinced that faith in Jesus Christ is the sign and seal of being a New Covenant member in the New Testament, and that baptism serves as the external sign of the internal work of the Holy Spirit in bringing a sinner into reconciliation with the people God has chosen. Waters consistently symbolize judgement and wrath in the Bible. Therefore, along with Peter, I believe baptism is a sign of the believer coming out of God’s judgement and wrath from the waters and entering into new life as a new creation in Jesus Christ, who clothes us with His own righteousness. Now, there are places in the world where water is hard to come by and there might be little supply or perhaps being immersed in water somewhere could kill the person because of the extreme cold temperature of the water. In such cases, sprinkling would make sense, especially in a desert climate where water is hard to come by. I think Baptists should be more consistent in their theology; if baptism is a sign, than it should be the symbolism which matters and not the quantity of water used, perhaps. Again, just thinking of those in Subsaharan Africa where the Gospel is supposedly exploding (in a good way). Nevertheless, I believe faith is the badge/mark of the New Covenant and baptism upon professing faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel is entrance into the New Covenant community, the church.

        Thanks again brother for your comment. Though, I disagree with the purpose of baptism, or we disagree, I have no doubt or question that we are brothers in Christ united by the common bond of Christian faith which I believe is the foundation of the church.

        For the Glory of God,


        • Bill

          Yes water is often seen as wrath in the Bible, but remember that families went through the wrath together, not just believing adults or parents. Noah was told to take his family on the ark, not just those whom God (or man) judged regenerate.

          Families crossed the Red Sea, not just adults that had faith in what was going on. In Acts, Gentile baptisms were household baptisms. The book of Romans (and other epistles) mention circumcision as a sign of faith, not just ethnic.

          As long as pedobaptist believe this is about a covenant sign and credo believe its about an outward expression of faith, this discussion will never be resolved. I think we all know this. We are trying to have a debate while sitting in two different rooms. If you baptism is an expression of professed faith then yes, of course circumcision makes no sense.

          But we believe there is a promise (words of Peter). And we believe that God has signs for his promises (Tree, rainbow, circumcision, water, baptism, etc.) God first promised this to us, then we need to respond.

          • Matt Gladd


            I think you made a good point that there is evidence of baptism in the New Testament for families and for believers.

            I just checked through the New Testament passages which speak on baptism and all of them have to do with something that is done upon professing belief in Jesus Christ. In Acts 16, where it does mention families and prior where it mentions households, it doesn’t mention one person believing and then their household was baptized. It mentions all the family believing and then being baptized, or all the household believing and being baptized.

            The apostle Paul and Peter are in unison on baptism being something which is meant to accompany a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the Gospel. Romans and 1 Peter are perhaps some of the most clear and frequently quoted texts on the subject.

            Nowhere is baptism equated with circumcision in the New Testament. In Romans 4-6, Paul does speak on the issue of circumcision within a certain context and problem he addresses to the church in Rome, but his point is that circumcision was something done after the initial faith which preceded it, in obedience. His point is that it was faith that saved him and faith that existed even before circumcision, not his own efforts. Grace is communicated primarily, in Rom. 4-6, by faith in God and trust exercised in His promises.

            I don’t think credobaptists dispute that families and households were circumcised, even bondservants and foreigners. I don’t think credobaptists dispute that children crossed the Red Sea either, but I do believe all credobaptists struggle to find a correlation between circumcision in the Old Testament and baptism that is not connected to professing faith in Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

            Most Baptists try to emphasize that baptism is something that is done for the one who has professed faith in Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and then enters into the New Covenant community through baptism. However, many Baptists are inconsistent and do not emphasize the importance of baptism which can cause the sacrament to be a loosely connected option within some churches. This is, as Michael Horton has already stated in his counter-article, ‘a tragedy.’

            You also made a good point in that this issue will not be resolved where people stand already. I like the analogy of the hallway and rooms. Some Christians stay in their rooms on some issues and try to speak to those in other rooms or in the hallway, when progress can only be made in reconciling the two differing views by both sides entering into the hallway, in loving fellowship, as opposed to shouting across rooms at one another. I think a professor of mine said something like that in the past, and I know many have said it before.

            This issue will not be solved in a blog post, that is for sure.

            I do pray that Christians will start identifying with one another through a mutual acceptance of the Gospel and may other issues not lose their importance, but I hope we can learn to lovingly disagree while still accepting one another who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as brothers and sisters in Christ.

            grace and peace,


            • Bill

              Regarding one person believing resulting in all being baptized, I am not conviced of that everytime, but I am also not ready to make the leap that all five households mentioned contained members past the age of reason that all believed. With pedobaptist, we can say there might have been babies in those households and be right. With a credo baptist, they simply have to be right by saying there where no babies in those houses for their case to work, and we can’t see that from scripture. Lydia’s house – she believed, here house was baptized. That is what scripture explicitly states. The jailers house – if you use the ESV version which many state is the closest translation to greek, it states only that he believed. If you want to say that all believed and all were baptized, you need to infer or assume in these cases.
              Col 2:9-15 – Curious, you don’t believe that this text equates the spiritual circumcision with the spiritual effect of baptism?

            • Jugulum

              When I go up to my friend with my wife and children and say, “We all enjoyed watching your play last night,” I don’t need to explicitly except my infant son.

              Are you familiar with the argument that comes up in Calvinist/Arminian discussions, concerning “all means all”? How Calvinists point out that in Matthew 3:5-6, it probably doesn’t mean that every individual in Jerusalem & Judea & the Jordan region went out to Jesus and was baptized?

              Even if the Acts passages said, “And his whole household believed and was baptized”, it wouldn’t mean that there were no infants (or that the infants miraculously believed). That’s the way people naturally speak. When I say, “We all enjoyed watching your play last night,” I don’t need to explicitly except my infant son.

              (P.S. I’m not actually married.)

            • Bill

              So, Jugulum.
              Is it also true to say that apostles excluded infants by default because that’s the way people naturally speak? When they outlined a plan for “how you and your household may be saved” the default on that should be “except your infant son”? If you want to go with natural expectations, remember that Jews by nature included infant sons in the covenant sign of baptism, and that prosylite converts to Jewish faith baptized the whole family, infants included. So what exactly is the natural expectation here?

            • Jugulum

              Did you mean to say “circumcision” instead of “baptism” in the “If you want to go with natural expectations”?

              As for your questions: Absolutely, it is natural to read “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” as “Those of you who believe will be saved”.

              In general, I’m saying that the “natural expectation” depends on (1) what is specifically said, and (2) the background context. And from what I can see in what you’ve written, I can tell that you’re making valid observations about Jews’ background context, but you also seem to be glossing over the specifics of what’s said. (I thought that was true when you references Acts 2:39, and Romans 9:8, and now Acts 16.) If the apostles’ message linked salvation with belief–and separated salvation & covenant blessings from mere physical descent, as Paul did in Romans 9-11–then I would absolutely say that the natural way that their audience would understand Acts 11:14 and 16:31 would be, “Those of who you believe.”

              I wonder–do you think that Paul meant, “If you, the head of your household, will believe, then your whole household will consequently be saved”? The jailer’s children? Of whatever ages they were, above or below the age of accountability? His household slaves? His wife? They could all be baptized and presumed saved based on the jailer’s profession of faith?

              If not that, what do you mean when you rely on passages like Acts 11:14 and 16:31?

            • Matt Gladd


              Thanks for your comments, this has been a good discussion.

              I typically use the Greek text and the ESV, so I am quite familiar with the ESV translation of Acts 16. 16:31-32, with the Philippian jailer, is not explicit that his household did not believe. The Greek, pisteuoson, is a singular aorist imperative, but although it is singular it could be referring in context to individuals believing in the message of Jesus Christ, especially considering the fact that the Gospel was preached to the jailer and his household prior to their being baptized.

              The previous part in Acts 16 about Lydia doesn’t mention that her household believed, that is true. However, it also doesn’t say that her household did not believe. In light of the passage concerning the jailer and his household shortly following and other texts in the New Testament, I am inclined to infer that it is referring to the household believing likewise along with Lydia and being baptized. The text doesn’t dwell on much at all, especially for Luke. His point is to show the progress and rapid expansion of the church.

              That said, Acts 16 reads like parts of Mark where Mark typically uses “and immediately” until getting to Passion Week. Luke moves swiftly in his text from city to house to city showing the spread of the Gospel in the known world (Mediterranean). It does explicitly state as you say, but at the same time it doesn’t explicitly say what all happened in the passage but jumps from action to action. Also, it important to remember that Luke is writing this likely after the fact, so he is looking back writing about what had already taken place. Therefore, as a historian, he could be making a note that her household was baptized as well while assuming a profession in the faith that Lydia, the jailer, and so many others had given prior to baptism within the same book was understood. So, I am inclined to understand that and infer that Lydia’s household did believe and was baptized, as you are inclined to infer that infants were baptized and a part of the households that they are referring to.

              As for Colossians 2:9-15, once again, like I said before, I believe this text along with others is referring to faith being the New Covenant badge/sign/mark. Faith being the circumcision of the heart in this passage, as with others, and in fulfillment of the prophets in which God replaces hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, by His Spirit. Then, baptism, still being entrance into the New Covenant community to accompany profession of Jesus Christ closely being the external sign and identification of dying and being raised with Christ.

              At this point, this has been a good discussion, but I have a sermon to prepare, a Bible study to prepare, a worship service to prepare, and a pastor’s seminar to get ready for. Thanks for your input. It’s always good to hear different perspectives while still being within the mutual realm of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

              grace and peace,


            • Bill

              So what I mentioned before to another poster, both sides make inferences about the households. I do discuss them, but don’t really count then towards once side or the other strongly since both sides make their own inferences. That point is a wash, basically.
              Where I would like more explaination is in the area of application.
              The Baptist (for good reason) wants to hold to the line of explicit example on when to baptize someone (faith first)based of examples in Acts, but how exactly do you put it into practice and also follow explicit reference?
              Example – How do you determine age of reason in regards to determining WHEN to baptize the child of a believer? Some churches flat out state the age of 12, but there is nothing in scripture that even hints the concept of age of reson. Jesus states the faith of a child is good enough, so how does a pastor determine that my five year old confession is not good enough? This happens and I can in no way, find explicit example in scripture or even inference to support age of reason Biblically. Jesus made it clear that the faith of a child is good enough but time after time, baptist preachers/ministers are making their own determination contrary. I understand that Baptists want to follow exaclty how the see New Testiment examples, but putting it into practice for children of believers requires practice outside of explicit, or infered, examples.
              For as long as I can remember, I have loved Jesus. At what age would I be baptized as a believer?

            • Matt Gladd


              I haven’t heard very much of this ‘age of reason’ business unless we are referring to The Enlightenment, lol. No, but seriously, I’ve been a part of the SBC, BGC, and a conservative branch of the ABC (with SBC being the longest including having attended a Baptist college). I’ve even attended an African American Baptist church for one summer when I was doing inter-city ministry to urban youth, and wanted to go to church where I was doing ministry. I’ve attended Baptist churches in multiple states in different regions of the country, midwest, south central, and northeast. I’ve only heard about ‘age of reason’ as a concept from a couple Baptists in my lifetime and have been Baptist for quite a while.

              Professing faith in Jesus Christ, and being able to articulate what that means as well as what the Gospel is while affirming it is what is key, I think. If someone is young or old, I don’t think it makes much difference as long as there is evidence of genuine reception of the Gospel, and an honest profession of faith publicly within a Gospel-believing church. (I only add Gospel-believing because I am in an area where the UCC, UU, New Age Pagan/pluralism, and Atheism are very prominent and some might say they are Christian while not believing in Jesus, really)

              My view, given just above, is what I’ve heard in every Baptist church I’ve been a part.

              I will admit that though I myself was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church, then later baptized as a child in the Baptist tradition, even with being a regular Sunday school attender and regular Christian summer camp subscriber, it wasn’t until the Spring semester of my sophomore year in college that God blessed me with the realization of His grace and my need to not simply do lip-service, but to surrender my life to Him.

              I had been holding onto my works as if I could give them to God and He would accept me as opposed to receiving God’s grace and trusting in His finished work.

              The point I’m making, I guess, is that I was pressured to be baptized when I was younger and didn’t fully understand the Gospel, in fact, not even slightly. However, God knows our hearts and knows if a confession, desire for repentance, and profession of faith are indeed genuine. I am thankful and praise God that He opened my hardened heart and revealed Himself to me, and drew me into His grace in which I stand.

              grace and peace,


            • Tom Mirabella

              Matt – I wonder if based on your testimony those in this discussion advocating that true baptism can only come after salvation would require you to be baptized a third time in order to join/take communion?

            • Bill

              Thank you for your thoughtful and gracious responses to my questions and for your questions as well. May God bless you in your ministry.

    • Harold

      Matt, I am exceedingly glad for your comment!

      • Matt Gladd

        Thank you for your kind comment. By the way, was that a pun? ;)

  • Rick Owen

    Many years ago I was in an Evangelical Free Church which had 4 elders: 2 credobaptists and 2 paedobaptists (adult doctoral students, from Coral Ridge PCA, who were there temporarily). They respected each other’s differences and allowed the leaders and other people to practice their convictions. This seemed to edify the church and demonstrate unity in essentials.

    A few years later, this E-Free church joined with an OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church), where the 2 credobaptist elders were recognized as elders and teachers in the church and continued to edify the church. Score one again for the home team.

    While churches have divided (and even spilt blood) over differing views of baptism, understanding that “now we know in part” (1 Cor. 13:9) and are one body in Christ should lead us to love and accept ALL of Christ’s brethren (John 13:34; Rom. 15:7; Eph. 4:2; 1 Pet. 5:5).

    • Chris Poe


      I am a former member of the OPC. Did these two baptistic elders maintain their baptistic convictions once the church became OPC? If so the church as well as the Presbytery erred greatly as officers are to subscribe to the Westminster Standards. While some exceptions are allowed, I doubt even the relatively looser PCA would allow antipaedobaptist elders.

  • dr. james willingham

    Most churches I have been a member of in the past 40 years or so have been open communion churches, that is, they admit any to communion who are satisfied with their profession, etc. However, the best case biblically can made for a closed communion, one that is open only to the members of the local church who are under its discipline. A member of some other church, even one of like faith and fellowship is not under the discipline of that local church. I have often wondered about this. As to believers immersion issue, I did six years of research covering 2000 years of church history, covering such groups as the Montanists, Novatianists, Donatists, Paulicians, Arnoldists, Petrobrussians, Waldensians, Lollards, Celtics, Taborites, etc….Generally, believers immersion seems to be found in all ages, wherever one has free access and the interest in scripture with the necessary commitment do do what it commands. In fact, infant baptism/immersion is wanting in the first two centuries. The fact that the Greek Orthodos practice immersion should be evidence enough for the mode. If any one should know the meaning of the term in the Greek, it is them. Most all leaders generally concede the matter. Believer’s immersion is another matter, but the Bible clearly presents only believer’s immersion. One must read infant baptism into the text in order to get it. While I follow an open communion practice, I admit that closed seems more biblical, but it is closed only to anyone not a member of that local church as the nonmember is not under its discipline. Closed membership tends to preserve a local congregation to its founding principles and beliefs.

  • IPL

    Thank you for your article, Dr. Hamilton. Well articulated, in my view.

    A few of my thoughts in reponse to some of the comments here:
    * Regenerate church membership and congregational church government, both Baptist distinctives (and I believe biblical ones), demand the requirement of believers’ baptism for membership. Barring the creation of a second-tier membership, because of the extent of influence and control granted to the body in the Baptist model, any concession on what is viewed to be an important issue, such as the nature of an explicit command of Christ, endangers the very doctrine in question. In this case, the end result is a watering down of the doctrine of Baptism.

    *Baptists really do believe that our PB brothers are being disobedient. We must have a category for this, as I don’t believe that excluding one from fellowhip in this regard means that we declare them to be unbelievers. A helpful analogy used by Mark Dever: Consistent PB’s would not allow into their membership an evangelical quaker who believes that baptism was only for the Apostolic period and is no longer necessary. We all make doctrinal exclusions, it’s simply an unfortunate practical necessity. Baptists simply get more grief about it.

    • Jon

      IPL, as a paedobaptist pastor, I don’t have a problem with credobaptists limiting church membership to those who have been baptized as believers (even with making immersion the only mode, though I do think that goes too far). What I see as a problem is withholding the Lord’s Supper from believers because they have not been “properly” baptized. I don’t see Scriptural warrant for that.

      • IPL

        Jon – These are such difficult questions when you get into the details. Yes, I agree that the mode is significantly less crucial than whether or not one is a believer. I also agree that matters get a bit stickier when it comes to the Supper. In some ways I see a true closed communion position to be the most consistent, although I have some problems there as well. Our church leaves the matter open by requiring that one be a “baptized believer in good standing in your local church.” This gets to the practical heart of the practice which is continual gospel-accountability one to another of a covenanted body of believers. And at the same time, the matter is left to conscience for the visiting PB who sincerely believes that he has been baptized. The issue of church membership, which is a more definable and visible part of body life than who is and is not taking the Supper each week (not meaning to speak here of members who abstain due to unrepentant sin), I believe, is at least of more practical importance.

      • Ted Bigelow

        Hi Jon,

        Mat. 28:19 – baptizing comes before “keeping all I commanded you”- this requires personal not proxy faith.

        Acts 2:41-42 – only those who responded with personal faith in the gospel by being baptized received communion – no others.

        Hope that helps.

        • Jon Price

          Ted, I see what you are trying to say, but I think you’re missing the point I was making. Yes, baptism is a requirement of receiving communion, but what you’re implying is that the fact that someone was baptized by immersion as a believer is more important than the fruit of the gospel in their life. The end point of your argument is that someone can be living in unrepentant sin, but because they were baptized “properly” they can take communion, but someone who was baptized “improperly” but living a life with gospel fruit shouldn’t be allowed to receive communion. I just don’t see that in Scripture. Paul certainly believed that Baptism is clearly a prerequisite for receiving communion, but when he gives instructions on partaking of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, he assumes that everyone is baptized (notice no mention of baptism, or mode or age), but he instructs them on the importance of living in the gospel, displaying the fruit of the gospel as what makes one worthy to receive communion.

          All I was trying to say above is that I can fully support the belief in membership requirements for only those who have been baptized by immersion as believers. But, I don’t see scriptural warrant for withholding the Lord’s Supper from someone who is a baptized believer (just by another mode or age) and showing gospel fruit.

          • Ted Bigelow

            Hi Jon, you and I agree. Mode less improtant than the baptism act stemming from a profession of saving faith.

  • Richard Miles

    I am of Baptist persuasion, believing in Baptism by immersion of believers. However, I will not accept that my brothers and sisters who are Paedobaptists are being disobedient. If they rejected baptism in any shape or form, THAT would be disobedient! I am sorry to read some of the comments of fellow Baptists here. There seems to be very little love for those who disagree. If they are accused of disobedience, that is an accusation that they are sinning wilfully. Would you really go up to your godly brothers and sisters and say “you are sinning!”?

    By all means make membership in a Baptist Church for those baptised by immersion. But please show a little humility: “We believe in this church that Baptism is for believers by immersion, but we recognise that there are godly brothers and sisters who have studied the Scripture and come to a different conclusion.” And yes, to some people above they HAVE studied the Scriptures, they are not Paedobaptists by default! Let’s welcome them to our churches including The Lord’s Table, that has nothing to do with modes of Baptism. It seems to me there is more grace from the Paedobaptists here. The lack of it from the Baptists saddens me.

    • Ian

      Well said, Richard. If only there was more like you.

      Unfortunately, people rarely have the grace to accept that their convictions are but one view amongst many. Theological arrogance is the phrase I use.

  • Matt Smethurst

    Hey all,

    Just a heads up that there are two forthcoming installments in this series. Tomorrow, Lord willing, Reformed minister Michael Horton will tackle, “Should one who’d refuse to let his children be baptized be permitted to join a (paedobaptist) church?” On Wednesday, baptist David Mathis will offer an alternative perspective to the question posed in this post.

    Grace and peace,

  • Wayne Roberts

    Dr. Hamilton welcome to some of the misery Daryl Hart goes through on his blog everytime he mentions this subject (from the OPC perspective). The comments tend to boil down to “how dare you tell me I can’t become a member”.

    • Ryan J. Ross

      Good point.

    • J.R.

      While that may be true of his blog, Daryl Hart is not a representative voice of the OPC.
      In fact, here is the official view of the OPC from their website:

      “”And in 1872 the Assembly asserted ‘that the admission of persons to sealing ordinances is confided by the Form of Government really and exclusively to the church Session.'” On page 140 of the same volume Hodge says: “Parents declining to present their children for baptism are not to be refused on account of scruples concerning infant baptism, yet in every such case the Session must judge of the expediency of admitting them.”

      On behalf of the committee
      Respectfully submitted,
      John Murray

  • TT

    Question: When does a believer take part in the body and blood of Christ? Before or after they are baptized?

  • Tyler


    The one problem which I have with this view (and I am a Baptist) is that it excludes the handicapped from baptism. My younger brother is severely physically handicapped and cannot be baptized by immersion because of his disability. I have come to know quite a few other handicapped people who believe wholeheartedly in Jesus and would very much like to be baptized but cannot because of their disability. Though I have no clear Scriptural reference to appeal to, I believe that refusing baptism to certain individuals because of their handicap is not a Christian practice. I do not see much of a difference between slightly altering this sacrament when we have already altered the Lord’s Supper from being an actual meal (and relegating it to once a quarter). Furthermore, I do believe that the apostolic church was not remiss in their practice of baptism by pouring (as seen in the Didache). Unfortunately, we Baptists tend to believe that there was a great void in time between 100 A.D. and 1517, and therefore we ignore the historic practices of the Church.

    • Mitchell Hammonds

      Well said my friend. As a former Southern Baptist I can attest to the fact Baptist hold to Scripture when it suits their doctrinal position. Your comment on how the Baptist have altered the elements of the Supper (without a burp in their conscience)is spot on. The Gospel began in the middle east for crying out loud and I’m sure there were believers who had access to little water. American christianity… an absolute theological mess with the Baptists leading the way!

  • Jugulum

    > “If someone is not repenting of all known sin, trusting Christ for salvation, and submitting to all his commands and teaching, we don’t welcome him or her into church membership. Since we view baptism as a matter of obedience, we understand unbaptized people to be disobedient on this point.”

    I would submit that in this case, paedobaptists’ failure to be baptized is not a “known sin”; it’s a sin they’re unaware of. To the best of their knowledge, they have been baptized.

    It’s as though one the disciples in John 12 grabbed a goat instead a donkey, because they mistakenly thought that the word “donkey” refers to any four-footed hoofed animal. They haven’t yet obeyed, but they attempted to, and only failed to because of a misunderstanding arising from bad information.

    Unless you intend to accuse them of being culpably, willfully ignorant on the matter, then it’s inaccurate to say that they’re not repenting of all known sin.

    • Ian

      Jugulum, you again write from a Baptist perspective. But Presbyterians also believe the Bible and they understand it differently. In their view Baptists are sinning by not baptising the children of believers.

      But is it appropriate to use words like “sin” when talking about a matter of Biblical interpretation over which evangelical Christians disagree? How would you like it if Tim Keller called you a sinner for not baptising your children?

      Incidentally, Martin Luther (historical example) and John Stott (contemporary example) would be regarded as “sinners” and refused membership in Jim’s church. Something’s very wrong there…

    • Jugulum

      Hi Ian,

      > “Jugulum, you again write from a Baptist perspective.”

      Yes, I was–I am Baptist (or close to it). And in my comment, I was taking it for granted that credobaptism is true–mainly because I was talking to Jim Hamilton, not to a paedobaptist. (If I’d been talking to a paedobaptist, I’d have included more things like, “If I’m right, then ____, and if you’re right, then _____.”) But actually, if you look up above at my earlier (longer) comment to him, you’ll see that I actually did include that, like you did: I said, “(or from their perspective, it matters that Baptists don’t baptize our children).”

      > “But is it appropriate to use words like “sin” when talking about a matter of Biblical interpretation over which evangelical Christians disagree? How would you like it if Tim Keller called you a sinner for not baptising your children?”

      I wouldn’t mind it at all! I would mind if he said that I was deliberately disobeying, but I wouldn’t mind it at all if he said that I’m unintentionally sinning by not baptizing my children.

      You may be right that “sin” isn’t the best word to use, when we’re talking about people who are attempting to obey to the best of their knowledge & ability. But honestly, I pick my battles. I don’t want to quibble over whether we can use the word “sin”–not as long as we’re making the point that the failure to obey is unintentional.

  • Donegal Misfortune

    Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
    And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.
    (Acts 18:24-19:1-7 ESV)

    This section has flummoxed me concerning baptism. One of the claims that we are to be immersed is because Jesus was immersed by John and we are to follow His example. Apollos and possibly several others, however, received the baptism of John and had to be baptized again. If it was Jesus’ example then why did those who did exactly what Jesus did have to redo it? Does this mean that everyone baptized by John had to be rebaptized?

    All I know is this and trust in it: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
    (1 Peter 3:21-22 ESV)

  • Bill

    I have been studying this topic for about a year now and I will tell you this: Those of the reformed pedobaptist position do very well in backing their position Biblically. Further more, the strongest positions I have read come from former Baptists who were strongly opposed to it at first and now accept the pedobaptist position after reading scripture. Not just solo scriptura, but toto scriptura (total scripture).

    Please do not assume that the infant baptism position is one out of ignorance or invention.

    Not only do I have a problem with the claim that pedobaptist are living in sin, but the Baptist statement of, “You have now heard the ‘truth’ from us so you are now obligated to change.” Yes, I believe that the scriptures do hold certain universal truths, but man (not scripture) is flawed.

    • Chris Poe


      Do you likewise have a problem with the claim (as in the WCF) that Baptists are in sin because of their refusal to baptize infants?

      With regard to your reference to invention, in this case either Baptists are paedobaptists are guilty of invention. (Invention WRT the origin of the teaching.) Obviously paedobaptism and credobaptism cannot both be taught in Scripture.

      Here’s a question for Presbyterians: Can you show me anywhere in church history where a non-regenerative infant baptism was taught prior to Zwingli?

      • Bill

        Yes, to your first question.
        Your last question is a good one. To clarify those reading this, the question is not about the existance of infant baptism before Zwingli, but the concept of non-regenerative baptism (otherwise known as covenant infant baptism) being taught or discussed before Zwingli.
        I would like to hear other authorities on this topic, but truth be told we are not certain that infant baptism always was considered regenerative in the early years but it changed over time. Was it at the time of the reformation when Zwingli? Yes, and it was also used for other political purposes such as state membership.

        Remember, Luther, Calvin (teacher of covenant baptism), and Zwingli were out to reform and protest MANY of the current church practices including baptism.

        One of the best sources to read on the covenant baptism position is from Calvin himself. The issues he discusses are pretty much the same modern issues we still debate. None of this is new stuff.

  • Ben

    The original post story here was sad. So are the many replies I saw of people in similar situations. Saying to a brother or sister in Christ “sorry, buy you can’t be a part of our church because you hold to covenantal baptism” is the most divisive and ignorant thing a Christian leader can do.

    Although I see validity in both views my wife and I dedicated our babies rather than celebrate the beauty of covenantal baptism precisely because bible believers are knuckleheads when it comes to this. We don’t want our children to have to deal with one more ridiculous issue as they seek membership wherever God would lead them in life.

    It’s retarded, but if you find yourself in that situation, my advice is to submit to the small mindedness of God’s people and let them dunk you. That way you can stop being excluded from membership in a majority of evangelical churches in the future.

    • Bill

      Ben, I agree. My family was in this situation but we refused so we moved on. Its not just Baptist churches by name, but many non-denominational churches that claim to despise tradition and legalism (irony).
      The other problem with this issue is I know of many who went ahead and got baptized again just to be a part of the church even though in their hearts they did not agree with the idea. It was even suggested to me by a pastor to just do it out of humility. Hardly scriptural, but its common.

      • Ben

        Yea Bill, common and sad. Then there’s the “you have to be baptized in OUR church” crowd. Yes, these theologically back wooded, no electricity, cousin marrying folks still exist. Anyone running across those and I say leave immediately since they obviously don’t have the priorities of God in mind at all!

    • Chris Poe


      I assume you will take the same approach with tomorrow’s post. I state that with the assumption that Dr. Horton will argue that only those who are willing to have their children baptized should be allowed to join the church. (I’m assuming here that he will basically agree with what his colleague Dr. R. Scott Clark has posted in the past, which is the historic Dutch and Continental Reformed practice. I was also told by an OPC pastor once that those who after much patient teaching continue to refuse to present their children for baptism will be excluded from communion. So, for consistency’s sake will it be “submit to the small mindedness of God’s people and let them baptize your children?”

      Lutherans practice closed communion too, with many of them talking about it a lot more than most Baptists like Dr. Hamilton! Among conservative evangelicals, it’s basically modern Presbyterians and broad church evangelicals (many of whom, including many Baptists, have been strongly influenced by dispensationalism’s lack of regard for the local church as an institution) that practice open communion. The various Wesleyan/Arminian denominations practice open communion as well.

      • Ben

        Chris, no I won’t be taking that stance tomorrow but probably the one just above (at least something closer to it) that I apply to the “you have to be baptized in OUR church” crowd. Funny, but I wouldn’t typically think of the OPC bunch as being that theologically “back- wooded” lol.

        Also, the PCA practices open communion AND allows full membership to those holding and practicing the baptistic view of baptism. They just can’t serve as deacons or elders.

      • Ben

        P.S. My view of the local church and her importance as an institution was majorly upgraded by the PCA – which practices open communion ;)

      • J.R.

        ” I was also told by an OPC pastor once “…. one ought not to believe hearsay. That is not the denomination’s official stance.

        • J.R.

          This is:
          “”And in 1872 the Assembly asserted ‘that the admission of persons to sealing ordinances is confided by the Form of Government really and exclusively to the church Session.'” On page 140 of the same volume Hodge says: “Parents declining to present their children for baptism are not to be refused on account of scruples concerning infant baptism, yet in every such case the Session must judge of the expediency of admitting them.”

          On behalf of the committee
          Respectfully submitted,
          John Murray

  • Pingback: Thoughts on the Diversity of Baptism « Daniel Griswold Thought This()

  • Josh

    Ok so I read about half the comments and browsed through the last half. I grew up Southern Baptist and went to a Southern Baptist church until 1 year ago. Now I go to a Methodist church (you wouldn’t know it was Methodist unless you asked), and walk daily with many Presbyterians that are unbelievable people. I am also on staff with Young Life so I deal with a wide range of denominations. My dad is still a deacon in his Baptist church and was part of the state convention (or whatever you would call it).

    I left the Baptist denomination not because I was angry with them, but because it has some real problems. I haven’t seen another Southern Baptist church in the areas I’ve been in that don’t have those foundational problems either (I won’t get into that. This isn’t bash baptist time).

    I don’t consider myself Baptist, Methodist or anything else for that matter. I only consider myself a follower of Christ. I only want to know God and share his unbelievable grace with others.

    Here is some scripture for thought. I’m not talking about the baptism part either. I’m talking about the part where he is calling them out on saying they follow this person and that person. Although you can think about verse 17 some if you would like.

    I’m not saying don’t get baptized. I think if a person is truly saved, they will probably want to, however it is done.

    I just know that Christ is unifying and this argument is far from unifying.

    1 Corinthians 1:10-17

    10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters,t by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters.
    12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,t” or “I follow only Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,15 for now no one can say they were baptized in my name.16 (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.)17 For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.

  • Tom Brainerd

    Man…glad I did’t send the comments to my phone. ;)

  • paul Cummings

    I agree that Baptists have the right to have their view as is stated above as long as those who differ aren’t seen as “unrepentant” on baptism itself…

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    I’m sorry if this was answered already, but if someone got baptized as a baby or a young child in a Lutheran church, Anglican/Episcopalian church, Presbyterian church, Roman Catholic church, or Eastern Orthodox church, and they wanted to get baptized by full immersion to join another church and become members of that local body of believers, then why not?!

    There must be plenty of folks who’ve gotten baptized more than once.

  • Martha

    I would like to know your position on washing feet.

    • Jim Hamilton

      I think the two ordinances–things that Jesus gave to his disciples and that they passed on to the churches–are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. So I agree with Carson’s comments in his John commentary.


  • dr. james willingham

    Folks who think baptism includes pouring and sprinkling ought to be aware of the fact that the Greek has terms for such actions, and no one seems to consider the fact that the Greek Orthodox who ought to know the mode use immersion. The problem with admitting any one not a member of the local church is that that individual is not under the discipline of the church. O yes, and I should add there is evidence of all of the Reformers pretty well admitting that immersion was the original meaning of baptizo. Baptists have a long history on the issue, and they were the first to put religious liberty into law and practice (Rhode Island).

    • Mitchell Hammonds

      So ultimately it isn’t faith it is baptism by immersion… the poor thief on the cross. Christ lied to him.

    • Robert Wille

      If the correct meaning of baptizo is to “plunge or immerse”, why do Bible translators continue to transliterate it as “baptize”?

      • Mitchell Hammonds

        The middle east Robert. Think about it… one of the most arid regions in all the world. This whole debate is insane. It is the very thing that drove me out of the Baptist denomination.

        • Robert Wille

          Thanks, Mitchell. I’m not sure I would describe the debate as “insane”. It’s just that other scholars, like Jay Adams and James Montgomery Boice, have stated that the word “baptizo” and its related words, are used in Greek with too much latitude to permit the assertion that they can only mean “plunge or immerse”

          • John Carpenter

            Neither Adams nor Boice are Greek lexiconographers. Neither am I. I would like to see what the Greek scholars say; if there is an exception of using “baptize” in a way that does not mean “immerse”, I’d like to see it.

  • Gavin

    Hi Jim,

    I’m curious, would you require a convert from credobaptism to paedobaptism within a Baptist church to be excommunicated? It seems to me that consistency would require that a doctrine which is sufficient to bar someone from the front door should also be sufficient to escort them to the back door.


    • Jim Hamilton

      That’s an interesting question, Gavin, I haven’t faced that issue in a church I’ve pastored.

      If it did arise, the person certainly could not continue as a member of a baptist church. I would seek counsel on the issue from other pastors and theologians, and I’m guessing that at the very least the person would not be leaving as a member in good standing. Our reasons for saying that, however, would probably not concern whatever church the person went to, since it would obviously need to be a church that accepted paedo-baptism.


      • J.R.

        “If it did arise, the person certainly could not continue as a member of a baptist church” — You mean YOUR baptist church.
        That does not hold true universally.
        I think the editors of TGC blog are going to have a rough time and a long slog mopping up after this mess.

        • Collin Hansen

          Cleaning up what mess? Who’s going to rough us up?

      • Edward Leone


        Would you disfellowship someone who declines to attend your evening services?

  • John Carpenter

    I wonder if infant-baptists understand how the discovery of the Didache in the 19th century changed the debate. Prior to it, it was possible to say that the “family baptisms” in Acts including infants; that is, that infant baptism was the practice of the apostolic church. But after the Didache, with a rather extended discussion of baptism, dealing with all kinds of contingencies, stating a preference for immersion in cool, running water, but allowing for exceptions and how to prepare candidates. However, there is no baptism of children. The Didache has proven that the early church was NOT baptizing babies or small children by the early second century.

    • Robert Wille

      When you say that “there is no baptism of children”, are you saying that the Didache explicitly forbids baptism of children, or that it isn’t mentioned?

      • John Carpenter

        Hi Robert, I’ll copy the entire entry, chapter 7, of The Didache below. Note that it mentions various preferences regarding baptism, but never the contingency of baptizing infants or small children. It’s instruction to the baptismal candidate is that he/she fast, without any mention on what to do if he/she is a baby. When we were translating this in a Greek class, I asked my Presbyterian Greek professor if this meant they were only practicing believer’s baptism, he said “yes.”

        “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.”

        • John Carpenter

          The conclusion is that baptizing infants was simply not being practiced at all. If it had been, even by a minority, it would almost certainly have been mentioned in the Didache. But that there is no mention of it whatsoever gives evidence that it was an unknown practice in the early 2nd century.

          • Robert Wille

            Thanks for reproducing this. On another point, I find it interesting that pouring seems to be represented as an acceptable “last resort” practice.

  • Mitchell Hammonds

    You actually believe it matters whether one dunks or pours. I’ll bet one goes to hell for taking real wine in the Lord’s Supper…huh?

    Enter Martin Luther: “Your words are so foolishly and ignorantly composed that I cannot believe you understand them.”

  • Jared

    I understand and agree with immersion baptism. (I am a member of a Baptist church.) But I wonder why we are so literal and staunch about a first century practice stemming from the ANE purification ritual instead of looking at the ‘spiritual’ meaning like some do for the application of Old Testament laws (e.g. tithing, leaving the corners of our fields for the poor, wearing tassels on the corners of our garments, etc.)?

  • Josh

    This is sad…

    • Robert Wille


    • Jared

      What is sad and why? =)

      • Josh

        I wasn’t talking about your comment. I was talking about all the discussion above. I agree with your statement.

        John Carpenter,
        Remember Jesus spoke harshly to the educated pharisees. I personally don’t care if someone has a phd. I have a college education and I know what it is worth. I have the Holy Spirit.

        • Jared

          I see. Thanks for clarifying. I was a bit surprised at how divisive this issue is…almost like our salvation depends on getting it ‘right.’ I wish more people were this emotionally invested in helping the poor and lost.

  • dr. james willingham

    We see every now an then on television pictures of the purification pools near the temple and at various locales throughout the land. Some programs even present us with the spectacle of individuals re-enacting the immersing of themselves in those pools for the purpose of purification for participation in Jewish ceremonies. I remember reading once where one scholar provide proof positive regard that a particular word could not possilbe mean dipping, only to read in old Baptist scholar in the 19th century the proof to the contrary. Calvin, Wesley, and others, generally concede that immersion is the primary meaning of batizo, and the NT presents us with examples of believers being baptized but no examples of infants being baptized. And as is well known there are no examples of infant baptism until well into the late second century. And let us not forget that the Episcopalians (Church of England) were still arresting and, in some instances, beating Baptist ministers in Va. for preaching the Gospel. A friend of mine was a direct descendant of one of those ministers, and his family name was a part of my family’s history. Religious liberty came with the Baptists. Persecution came with the state churches.

    • Bill

      “. And as is well known there are no examples of infant baptism until well into the late second century.”
      That isn’t quite true.
      Yes, there isn’t much written about it until that time, but what is written by Origen and company is that it existed as a norm, even some claim since the time of the Apostles.
      I can understand the idea that we should not look at history and only scripture, but if we do look at history, let’s be complete.

  • Pingback: Membership Requires Affirmation of Infant Baptism: A Paedobaptist Response – The Gospel Coalition Blog()

  • Looie

    Thank you for this article, I have been thinking a lot about this subject in recent times. I am a youth worker in a local Baptist church and therefore hold a baptist view. However I am not convinced that I should turn away someone from membership who disagrees with my views on Baptism. While I understand the importance and privilege of Baptism I think it has become far too divisive and ultimately in some cases, prevented unity and working together for the kingdom.
    The main reason I am not convinced by blocking paedo-baptists (You guys really need a new name!) from membership is that Baptism is not a primary issue. I would not refuse someone from membership on the basis of other secondary issues so why on this subject?

    • Ben

      Amen Looie! Why is it that Baptist’s, who view baptism with the least spiritual significance (symbolism only), are the most unbending on this issue?

      P.S. Be careful of saying that baptism is a secondary issue around baptists – even though they seem to stress more than anyone how you don’t need it to be saved! ;)

  • David

    Alas, Jesus welcomes all sincere believers – Baptists and Paedobaptist – into glory. But we exclude each other from our earthly fellowship? Both have been baptized anyway (1 Corinthians 12:13)! It’s more about the Spirit than the water! Neither are being willfully disobedient.

  • Niles

    Where’s RC Sproul when ya need ‘em?

  • Jim

    And this is exactly why my family does not go to church. No grace extended on either side from Baptist or Presbyterian. The truth of the matter is that none of the pastors give a damn. Feel free to email me if you would like to explain why it is better to be absolutely 100% “right” on this subject than for my family to be out of church.

    • Niles

      If you trust on Christ, friend, you are part of the Church. The question is do you see community with other Christians in the Scriptures? I think that would be an easy case to make. So, using another’s sin (SOME churches excluding true brothers) in order to justifiy your own (breaking community) may not be helpful to you or the Church. Just a quick thought and encouragement.

    • Jugulum

      Jim, I can’t really tell who you’re talking to. Or rather, I can’t tell why you’re painting with a broad brush–I can see people in this thread that your comment does apply to, and I can see others who it doesn’t apply to.

      Really: Why do you think it’s OK to insult absolutely every participant or pastor? To dismiss? To judge everyone?

      If you decide not to pursue Christian community, that’s sad, both for you and for your family–you will be depriving yourself of part of the ministry of the Spirit, through your fellow believers! I pray that any who have wronged you will come to understand how they failed, and I pray that you will come to understand any ways that you have failed others. Whatever bad experiences you’ve had are also sad, and I pray that God will help you toward the forgiveness and reconciliation that is His heart for us all. And I pray that you will no longer condemn everyone who serves their Christian community by teaching and shepherding as Christ called people to do in His Body–that you will not prejudge people by their title, based on your own personal bad experiences. (I assure you, I myself have been loved and served by “pastors”. Your own experience is not the same as other people’s experience.)

      And if you are in Christian community which you simply don’t call “church”, I pray two things: (1) That your community would be characterized by everything that God intends to occur in Christian community (for our good and for His glory), including fellowship, spiritual gifts, communion, and teaching & leadership that raises up the whole body to serve and minister to each other and to the world. That you would see and appreciate every way that your fellow disciples are already serving & loving one another, and that you would know the joy of serving them well yourself, and that you would all grow in it together. (2) That you would not judge other people whose Christian community meets somewhere other than a house–perhaps in a building that they own (or not)–and meets on Sunday morning, and has a time with singing and prayer and announcements and someone teaching from the front of the room, and calls their group a “church” (using the New Testament word). That you will not needlessly divide yourself from people who use the phrasing, “I go to church” or “I’m in a church” or “I pastor a church”.

      Grace and peace to you, brother, in Christ.

    • Paul Cummings

      Jim I tend to agree with you. While I am a pastor… I really don’t see the upside of these discussions. No side acquiesses to the other and the centuries long chasms are still firmly entrenched. So at the end of the day…what is the point? I feel like while TGC is a “diversion” to debate and discuss for some for “sport” almost…it is a little like sparring with a partner and then getting a shot that was a little too below the belt and then all of a sudden…it’s not sparring but brother on brother brawling….which does nothing to build the Kingdom.

      • Collin Hansen

        If you want to become a member of any church, or if you’re the pastor of any church, then baptism and membership is a relevant issue. Not sure why you accuse fellow Christians of grievous sin in the form of intent to divide for mere sport by discussing an issue that comes straight from Jesus’ teaching and relates to very basic functions of every church.

        • J.R.

          because of 1 Cor 12:13?
          “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

          It’s not that we shouldn’t discuss the issue, but we must respect each other on secondary issues. Your organization is propping up a very divisive view here that should not be encouraged or propogated.

          Look, some of us are fortunate enough to have a dozen baptist churches and a half dozen or so presbyterian churches within driving distance that we can choose to attend. So, yes, find a church where you are in conformity on these types of doctrines. But the reality for a lot of folks is that they’re very blessed to find a single, strong, Bible-believing and preaching church in their area.

          Take A29. Suppose one of those reformed baptist planters goes somewhere and plants the only good, solid church in their town. Now, you’re going to tell him he should deny membership to someone who is a paedo-baptist instead of the credo-baptist.

          Why TGC would advocate such a divisive position is beyond explanation.

          • Collin Hansen

            Why would you say TGC is advocating this position? Or would you say that TGC is simultaneously advocating Hamilton, Horton, and Piper’s contradictory positions? If not, are you saying Hamilton’s view alone doesn’t deserve public consideration due to its alleged divisiveness?

            • J.R.

              By publishing their views, you are in a sense advocating them.

              I haven’t seen Piper’s article yet, but read Horton’s and feel equally dismayed at the diviseness there. It is one thing to put forth one’s own position on a matter as Horton and Hamilton have done here; however, it seems that the more important issue concerning communion and membership is what does the particular denomination state?? Because at the end of the day, that is what pastors, elders and deacons ought to practice in obedience to their own church government.

              Thus far, the denominations that I have researched do state that membership and communion may be permitted to those holding differing views on this one issue. To theologians, polemicists and others, this may seem like a compromise; however, to elected officers in most denominations, it is wisdom.

            • Collin Hansen

              So you’re saying that we’re advocating three mutually contradictory views. That’s a strange way to read what has been billed from the very beginning as a moderated discussion over an important issue that every church leader and member must decide based on his or her interpretation of biblical teaching and the witness of their historical fellowship. Yes, church leaders must be accountable to their own church government; Horton and Hamilton make their case on that basis. I’m not sure why them stating the long-standing views of their respective fellowships makes them divisive. I suspect you’ll find much sympathy with David Mathis tomorrow articulating the view advocated by John Piper. But then, do you think TGC is advocating that view over-against Hamilton and Horton? How can we advocate Hamilton’s view when Horton’s directly contradicts it or when Piper criticizes both?

            • Douglas Perry

              I don’t think JR is saying that you are simultaneously advocating three different views. It seems that his point is that you are advocating controversial and divisive views by publishing them.

              I tend to agree. Why use such extreme position examples? Especially in the case of paedobapism, which by and large accepts credo-baptists into membership and communion. By highlighting the most extreme views, you are advocating controversy.

              Also, I notice that you have chosen to ignore some of JR’s other points that should be answered at some point: Ie, One Spirit, One Baptism (1 cor. 12) and the issue of A29 baptist church planters?

              IMO, This issue is a rich, white, comfy, happy American church problem.

            • Collin Hansen

              Extreme? That’s your subjective judgment. Hamilton advocates a rather common position within the largest denomination in the United States. The same would be true of many other large Baptist fellowships I could name. And I would hardly identify Horton as an extremist. Plus, what’s the point in publishing anything from a pastor or theologian who regards the mode of baptism as entirely incidental? That hardly seems responsible for a minister of the gospel commissioned by Jesus to teach everything he commanded. The same could be said of eschatology, another issue up for debate among Bible-believing Christians. How do you judge what is extreme and divisive? Does your subjective determination also necessitate that we cease thousands of years of Christians inquiry into the end times?

              Do you know as a fact that no Baptist churches around the world would hold to Hamilton’s position? That seems odd, since the Southern Baptist Convention has planted thousands of non-white, non-rich, non-comfy, still-happy churches through the International Mission Board.

              I’ve been a member in churches that require baptism by immersion, churches that don’t require agreement on baptism, and churches that baptize both infants and believers. Clearly I don’t see this as a first-order issue for the church. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “extreme” and therefore best ignored. We should not reason backward from our subjective feelings and experience, along with selective scenarios, and impose them on the Bible’s witness.

            • Jugulum


              > “I don’t think JR is saying that you are simultaneously advocating three different views. It seems that his point is that you are advocating controversial and divisive views by publishing them.”

              It looks like you’re making the distinction between (1) advocating a view, and (2) presenting it as a respectable view that’s worthy of a hearing.

              In that light: Agreed. TGC is obviously “advocating” in the second sense (though “advocating” probably isn’t the right word to use).

              > “I tend to agree. Why use such extreme position examples? Especially in the case of paedobapism, which by and large accepts credo-baptists into membership and communion.”

              Even though I agree with Piper & Mathis’s position–that this shouldn’t be a barrier to church membership–I disagree with you about excluding the voices of Hamilton and Horton from consideration.

              This series is intended to help the broader Body of Christ work through this issue. And I’ve been glad for the opportunity to see Hamilton and Horton explain why they’ve come to the conclusion that these differences in the practice of baptism are a barrier to membership. Tomorrow, David Mathis will be presenting the position that you and I both seem to hold.

              And, I think, the strength of our position will be better seen when put next to Hamilton and Horton’s. This is part of iron sharpening iron. I think they’re mistaken, but it strikes me as (ironically) unnecessarily dismissive and divisive to cast their viewpoint as being so extreme and beyond the pale that they shouldn’t be considered.

              (Note: If Hamilton and Horton’s posts were the only ones being presented, then I’d agree that picking them was a mistake.)

            • J.R.

              Jugulum, I thank you for your engagement with Douglas. It was helpful to me.

              Collin, on the other hand, your comments and rhetoric are less than commendable.

              #1 – You pose a red herring by asking “Plus, what’s the point in publishing anything from a pastor or theologian who regards the mode of baptism as entirely incidental?”
              Neither I nor Douglas mentioned ANYTHING about this issue being “entirely incidental”. You imposed that language and interpretation. I haven’t read anything in these comments that would deny that this is an important issue. And as you can also read in the comments, most consider the issue not worth dividing over or putting someone out of fellowship. Totally, completely different characterization of the issues! Let’s be quick to apply discernment, shall we?

              #2- Then, you compare barring a believer from membership and communion based on their baptism view with differing views on “eschatology, another issue up for debate among Bible-believing Christians.”
              Wow! talk about an analogical fail! Hope you’re not planning to take the LSAT or GRE anytime soon.

              #3- “How do you judge what is extreme and divisive?”
              Simple. Turning secondary issues into a bar to membership and fellowship as a universal rule of ecclesiology is divisive and extreme. Straight forward, most would say.

              #4- “Does your subjective determination also necessitate that we cease thousands of years of Christians inquiry into the end times?”
              If you use the rules of logic and apply them to #1, #2, and #3 above, you will easily have your answer – Of Course NOT!

              Grace to you all,

            • Collin Hansen

              I’m sorry, J. R., for not falling short in my response. I’ll try to pose my questions for you to answer more clearly:

              (1) Why do you say it’s “beyond explanation” for TGC to publish Hamilton and Horton’s arguments alongside the views of Mathis?

              (2) How do you determine what is beyond the pale of divisiveness? In other words, how do you categorize the full counsel of God along the lines of what you’ve suggested? What doctrines must be defended at all cost, and what doctrines can we study but not debate due to their divisiveness?

            • Jugulum

              It think it would be helpful for us to distinguish between two kinds of “divisiveness”.

              (1) Divisive style of argument, where relationships are damaged and we are unable to disagree respectfully and lovingly.

              (2) Positions that advocate limiting any aspect of our fellowship in any way.

              Hamilton and Horton’s arguments are obviously “divisive” in the second sense. (So is the practice of church discipline.) Collin is saying (and I agree) that they’re not “divisive” in the first sense.

              J.R., I disagree that Hamilton and Horton are being particularly “extreme”. I think they’re mistaken with unfortunate consequences for local church membership, but their positions aren’t fundamentally irrational or without precedent in Christian doctrine & practice.

              Much of their argument hinges on seeing this in terms of holding church members to standards of obedience to Christ–and it’s well-established that an on-going, unrepentant disobedience is grounds for removing someone from membership, without implying that they’re unsaved. It’s a discipline thing, which we’re called to practice both by Jesus directly and in 1 Corinthians.

              Again, I think they’re mistaken, because they should distinguish between (1) someone who decides not to obey a command of Christ and (2) someone who has sincerely attempted to obey, yet (we conclude) has failed to do so through misunderstanding of Scripture. In other words, distinguish between someone who teaches & practices that baptism is not necessary, versus someone who teaches and practices something that turns out not to actually be baptism.

              But I can’t get on board with your perception that Hamilton and Horton are being “divisive” in a sense that should exclude their position from consideration. If I did that, and I entered a discussion on church discipline, the people who advocate “never disfellowship anyone” could exclude me from the discussion on exactly the same grounds. They could call me “divisive”.

              We should avoid arguments that are “divisive” in the first sense, but we shouldn’t exclude our brothers from the discussion simply because their position is “divisive” in the second.

            • J.R.

              I agree with most of what you say above, except your limitation on the two types of divisiveness that you put forth. And this excerpt:
              “If I did that, and I entered a discussion on church discipline, the people who advocate ‘never disfellowship anyone’ could exclude me from the discussion on exactly the same grounds. They could call me ‘divisive’.”

              Remember, I said that we should not deny fellowship to another believer based on differences over secondary issues. It doesn’t mean that we can’t debate a secondary issue, but we shouldn’t unnecessarily divide strictly based on disagreement over such matters.

              When we divide or hold positions that result in dividing believers over interpretations of secondary import, that is what I mean by being divisive in this context. Not, as you defined it “positions that advocate limiting any aspect of our fellowship in any way”.

              Clearly someone would be naive and dangerous to think that we ought to never limit our fellowship for any reason.

              The question is what reason is sufficient?
              Since baptism is a secondary issue, I do not think it would please our Lord Jesus Christ to allow such a ground for division and separation.

              Thanks! Grace and peace to you all,

            • Collin Hansen

              Another clarifying question, J. R.: Would you regard women’s ordination as a secondary issue?

            • J.R.

              Collin, of course not.
              However, we also do not bar a woman from membership just because she cannot be ordained.
              Not sure I see where you’re going with that one.

            • Collin Hansen

              Just trying to figure out how you decide what is a primary issue worth dividing over, what is a secondary issue worth dividing over, and what is a secondary issue not worth dividing over. Thanks for responding.

            • J.R.

              I think this question about women’s ordination may actually prove the case even more readily regarding differing positions and church membership. It would seem that there are more important core doctrine issues than mode and time of baptism which are permissable for individuals to hold, yet still be accepted into member of a particular church.

              I also think, as I had stated previously, that wisdom and discernment play a huge part. For the individual: Don’t join a church you disagree with if your motive is to try to change that church to your position (that type of person ought to be brought under discipline) — and don’t join a church you disagree with if there are better choices available. For particular churches, if you are unique in your town or region in terms of holding out the preaching of the Gospel and holding fast to the inerrancy of scripture, don’t bar people from joining because they are not 100% in agreement with all of the theological points of the church. Yes, there should be a threshold of concurrance, but to set a universal bar to membership based on a secondary issue seems unwise and unscriptural.
              Does that make sense?

    • Ben

      Jim, man I understand where your coming from. I’m a pastor and can say not all churches are like what you mention – ours and others that I’ve been too. The PCA in particular has Presbyterian churches that will accept you lovingly and graciously into membership if you’re Baptistic. I don’t belong to that group but admire their stance. I pastor a baptist church that doesn’t try to re-baptize everyone because they weren’t baptized exactly the way our view prescribes. I’ll pray for you and your family today. I hope you will end up back in a local community of the larger church. God bless and you help you and yours.

  • Paul Cummings

    Have you actually read the responses my brother? I have a basic aversion to the “online forum” nature of the whole deal…where you can lob grenades from behind a computer screen. It isnt an irrelevant issue…just not something that we in our self centered ness are going to solve in an online forum.

    • Mike

      Hey Paul, are you the associate at Corinth Reformed UCC in Hickory?

  • Mike

    If so keep up the good work being faithful to scripture in the UCC. not many in there care about doctrine unless it’s reinterpreting Paul to push the LGBT agenda.

  • paul Cummings

    :-) thanks Mike, yessir…we are for sure the black sheep here, and have taken UCC off of our sign…we don’t have many friends in the UCC of course, but we are pleading like Jeremiah with them to turn, repent and reclaim the truth of the Word. Bless you my bro!

    • Mike

      I sent you an email. Blessings bro

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    For those who claim that they see Baptists as being disdainful and/or dismissive of their paedo-baptist brethren, it goes in both directions.

    There are paedo-baptists who are disdainful and/or dismissive of their credo-baptist brethren as well.

    • Jason Van Bemmel

      No, it’s not true. It is most common for Baptists to excloude people from membership and communion who disagree with their position on baptism. Most Presbyterian churches do not make such a condemning exclusion.

      • Truth Unites… and Divides

        “We believe that it is very possible, even requisite, to formulate an exegetically based Covenant Theology that upholds the centrality and continuity of God’s plan of redemption through the ages without falling into the deduction that infant baptism must attend that doctrine. Sadly, there have been few works available that have wrestled with these issues at a profound exegetical and theological level. The books written from a paedobaptist perspective are often dismissive of the credobaptist (i.e. believer’s baptism) point of view, and those defending believer’s baptism have often failed to give sufficient effort to presenting a full-blown covenantal system.”

        From: Here.

  • Tim Wilcoxson

    I wonder if this discussion is capturing how heart-breaking this issue really is. This is basically excommunication over a very important, yet non-essential issue (note the debate is not over whether baptism is commanded).

    Just because an issue is very important, does not mean it is of the same standing as the deity of Christ. The baptist position stated here would mean we should deal with a paedobaptist the same way we would an arian heretic in excommunicating them.

    This whole thing makes me a bit queasy. One must wonder if the sin of excommunicating a beloved brother or sister in Christ is worst then tolerating a mistaken view of baptism.

  • Jason Van Bemmel

    If I may interject something as a former Southern Baptist who is now a PCA pastor: James Hamilton makes a point I have often heard from Baptists, which I used to believe myself: Jesus commanded His followers to baptize disciples (Matt. 28:19) and thus baptism of disciples is obedience to Christ. We must obey Jesus. Here’s the problem: Jesus makes no such command. Jesus commanded His followers to “disciple” or to “make disciples.” That’s the only command. He then gives two means for making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them. In other words, you identify them as belonging to Christ and you bring them into the visible church (baptizing) and then you teach them. This verse contains no command to baptize disciples and to say that it does violates the grammar of the command. When Baptists then add to this the false idea that baptism requires immersion because “baptizo” means “immerse,” Baptist theology then labels all pedobaptists as disobedient and all paedobaptisms as invalid. This is a serious charge to bring against your brothers in the Lord and should not be brought without solid and heavy evidence. The bad interpretation of the grammar in Matt. 28:19 undermines the “Jesus commanded it” argument and a study of the use of baptizo, baptismos and baptisma in the Greek OT (the Bible the early church used) shows the “baptizo = immerse” argument to be false, too.

    Thus, with poor grammar and incorrect vocabulary do baptists condemn their brethren as disobedient disciples who fail to baptize. And yes, this is a heart-breaking issue for Presbyterians because we are banned from membership and from the Lord’s Table at Baptist churches. The reverse is not true: Presbyterians welcome those who disagree with us on this issue to share in the Lord’s Table and to be members of our churches.

    • paul Cummings

      @Jason, as an ordained SBC pastor who is now in a Reformed church, I totally agree with you.
      @Tim…Amen my brother, Baptism is commanded but a “non-essential”… this debate does nothing to show anything but that we can’t have unity in our disagreement like we should be able to… It shows how judgmental and petty the gulf has been and still is between Credo and paedo and how arrogant to think that we will solve this centuries old issue on a TGC forum.

      • Bill

        ” and how arrogant to think that we will solve this centuries old issue on a TGC forum.”
        Yes, brother, count me as part of that conviction.

    • Ben

      Thanks Jason. I’m sure the simplistic Baptist saying about the word always meaning immersion is too simplistic but would love to see the thinkers in the body of Christ (the Presbyterians) clarify that more for us. God bless you and thanks for the open table you offer us even though many of us are knuckleheads in return ;)

    • Ted Bigelow

      Hi Jason,

      Based on Mat. 28:19 an un-baptized person cannot be a disciple. As well, an un-baptized person who is not being instructed in the ways of obedience can not be a disciple.

      The infant baptist position allows these two to be unthethered by baptizing apart from person obedience to what Jesus commands.

      Hope that helps.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Here’s a post about a book by Professor W. Gary Crampton titled: from Paedobaptism to Credobaptism, A critique of the Westminster Standards on the Subjects of Baptism.


    “I just read through W. Gary Campton’s new book “From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism.” It is not the end-all-be-all of books on the subject (it is not intended to be – he provides extensive footnotes to dig deeper), but it is a very lucid walk through the subject focusing specifically on the WCF from a well qualified former paedobaptist who has published many books, such as What Calvin Says, Sola Scriptura, and Meet Jonathan Edwards. At the very least no one can object that he just doesn’t understand covenantal, reformed theology and needs to take a Covenant 101 class.

    I’ll be posting several interesting points that I came across in the book, but wanted to start with the basic thrust of the book: The Westminster Confession of Faith is contradictory in what it teaches about baptism.

  • AD

    I was just wondering, when you searched the new testament and the various forms of baptism, did you run across the accounts of being baptized in the Holy Spirit?

    This question forced me to examine all the baptism language in the New Testament: baptize, baptist, baptism, you get the idea (see the resulting table on p. 441 of GGSTJ). The word means plunge or immerse. Every time it is used in the New Testament, it is either talking about an immersion in water or assuming that reality and using immersion as a metaphor.

  • In Disbelief

    Can I ask who are the communion police? Do they slap your hand if they don’t think you should have it? Or make you leave the premises?

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      “Can I ask who are the communion police? Do they slap your hand if they don’t think you should have it? Or make you leave the premises?”

      Well, a Catholic priest recently denied a lesbian from receiving communion at her mother’s funeral. If I recall correctly, he covered up the chalice with his hands when she came forward.

      Also, he spoke with her prior to Communion and asked her not to come forward when he learned that she was an active and open lesbian.

      Would that happen in a Protestant church? It might. Would someone call the Protestant pastor the derogatory term “Communion Police” if he denied Communion to someone? Sure.

      • In Disbelief

        Ok now you know that we are discussing Baptists and not Catholics.

        In the over 200 comments here I have seen reference to denying people communion. Now in every church I have been in they pass the little gold container holding the multiple plastic cups with juice and people help themselves and pass it on. This is done at multiple pews at the same time. So you would need multiple people keeping track – hence the term Communion Police. So how does someone get denied communion?

        Now if someone could answer my question that has actually seen it denied in a protestant church, I would appreciate it.

        That priest had every right to do that and the fact that the church didn’t back him up is ridiculous.

        • Collin Hansen

          Many churches offer the bread and wine from the front where it’s administered by pastors and other church leaders to Christians who approach them. In such cases the church leader could decline to give someone the elements.

          • In Disbelief

            So it would only be in small churches where the pastor could be sure that he knew everyone?

            • Tom Mirabella

              We are a small church, so I generally know the people taking communion (thought there are often visitors). But the only restriction on communion comes when I fence the table and I ask unbelievers and the unrepentant not to take. The only thing holding them back is their conscience. The plates are passed to them, if they listen to the warning I have given against falsely taking part in the Lord’s Supper, then they don’t take it, if they do, then they are eating and drinking judgment on themselves (1 Corinthians 11:29).

            • Collin Hansen

              Yes, that is one reason why churches remain small in principle if they put this priority on church discipline.

  • Ben Mordecai

    Considering that Baptism from the 300’s to the 1500’s was pretty unilaterally paedobaptist, I find it a bit odd that 1200 years of church members would have been automatically excluded from fellowship over a secondary issue.

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  • Todd Capen

    Baptists just say the sign to include children in the covenant community should no longer be given to them until they profess faith. It is so because they say so. In the Old Covenant not giving the sign of circumcision to male children would lead to being excluded from the life of Israel. One wonders who is most serious about obeying our God in this whole debate? What Scripture points to God abrogating this command to give the sign of the covenant to children? At this point Baptists really don’t say anything. What is Peter doing mentioning children in his Acts 2 sermon? Why are they relevant? The continuity connects to Genesis 17. His sermon is deeply rooted in the Abrahamic covenant as it relates to families and the nations. Yes, the sign of the covenant can be given to those who ultimately prove to not be faithful. Yes, this happens. This happens in Baptist churches and Presbyterian churches. The whole idea that we can somehow have knowledge of a regenerate membership (elder interviews) is really out there. That the ‘mode’ functions as a basis of fellowship boggles my mind. In the end the amount of water and its depth determines whether a person can have access to the Lord’s Supper and be in communion with a church. I can’t believe I wrote that previous sentence. I wonder why Baptists want to “fellowship” at conferences etc. with Presbyterians – why would they do when they know they can’t really fellowship with us around the Lord’s Table, that we are not really brothers at all?

  • Matt

    Is it really a conviction if the family was willing to concede and be immersed? I can’t see how you have any biblical foundation to deny them acceptance to the table considering they conformed to your rules. If they conveyed to you there were remaining “convictions” after the fact, why does it matter? You’ve done all you can to make sure they’re complying with the rules. You’ve stood for your convictions and they conceded theirs. You won! Congratulations! Welcome and embrace these repentant people with open arms!!

    Only trouble is you went a step too far. I can’t see biblically how you can deny someone acceptance to the table if they repent/recant–which they are doing if in fact they agreed to your terms. In the end you’ve basically given them the rules which they then played by and then you came back and said, “ooops sorry… not good enough. You don’t really *mean* it”. What if someone just hadn’t made up their mind. Let’s say a new believer. They just weren’t sure about it. They said, “I’ll be immersed just so I can become a member”. You would also need to deny them membership if you’re consistent. How is that wise let alone biblical? And even if you could put together some case indicating it is biblical, how is that worse than denying people who love Jesus to worship as members of your church.

    Honestly, the whole idea is appalling and even if you have good solid baptism theology, your conclusion is utter rubbish.

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  • Mike

    If the oikos paradigm prevalent from the foundation has been abrogated by God at Pentecost, as our dear baptist brothers would have us believe, it is rather perplexing the oikos formula remains in over half of the New Testament baptismal pericopes. Are we to believe the Divine Author continued His choice of particular words and yet denuded them of their meaning? It would seem a cruel trick for the Lord to use household and yet have us believe it is done away with? It matters not how many in it believed, it is the pregnant meaning the history of the people of God associate with that word. Are we to believe the great covenantal pronouncement throughout redemptive history, to you and your children in Acts 2, is somehow done away with even though the Holy Spirit sovereignly chose to reiterate the phrase at the commencement of The New Covenant as a giant inclusio of His plan of redemption? The final clause, as many as the Lord shall call takes nothing from it but is itself the same electing grace that was in operation throughout all the administrations of the covenant Are we to believe the Inspired Apostles reiterated covenantal language from The Torah and Prophets in every NT epistle and yet removed the children?Are we to believe being in the same olive tree and grafted into the covenants and promises of the commonwealth of Israel, and referred to as a Holy Nation and Priesthood that the children from infancy are now thrust out? Pauls pronouncements of election in Gal 3 and Rom 11 existed always are not some new thing Are we to believe, in light of Eph 5-6 and Matt 6 our commands to teach our children from infancy echoing Deut, and yet our children’s place in the covenant is not echoed? How preposterous. Such a radical break of Gods dealings with believers children without a word or command to stop or reverse course is alarmingly silent. To merely point to the fact that adults were converted and baptized as believers does nothing to contradict or disprove Gods continued dealings with household and children of believers receiving the sign. God gave the signs to believers in the old too just as in the new. So too with our children. God commanded in the old to give the sign to believers children. Even though the sign changed in the new col 2. Both signs point to regeneration.His command still remains though the sign changes.

    • Ted Bigelow

      Hi Mike,

      A lot of theology and practice can be justified with paradigms and words.

      What we baptistic believers look for in matters of faith and practice, however, are two things: explicit commands, and explicit examples. Nothing implicit for such weighty things.

      This why reformed and baptistic beleivers read Scripture with two different lenses. Infant baptists refuse to submit to the “explicit commands/examples paradigm; baptistic beleivers refuse to submit to the implicit paradigm.

      Hope this helps.

      • Jason

        Is that why some Baptists practice baby dedication, because of the explicit command to do so? Or how about using grape juice as the proper mode for the Lord’s Supper? Is that explicitly commanded as well?

        There are plenty of things that Baptists (as well as every other denomination) do that are not explicitly commanded in scripture… To not acknowledge this is just plain refusal of the truth.

        We all read the Bible through different lenses, everyone does. Thank goodness the Bible is true, but not neccessarily our understanding of it! May God be true and every man a liar!

      • Jason Van Bemmel


        I’m sorry, but as a former Baptist who is not Presbyterian, you have erected a straw man. I do not refuse to submit to any explicit command or explicit paradigm in Scripture. To say that I do is insulting. If I were sharing the Gospel with a non-Christian, someone who has never been baptized and who is not a member of any church, I would require repentance and faith before I would baptize them. Without repentance and faith, such a person has no claim to church membership or to any place within the covenant community of God’s people. However, covenant childre – the children of believers – are holy from birth (1 Cor. 7:14, “they are holy”), are members of Christ’s church (addressed as such in Eph. 6:1-2 and welcomed as such by Jesus) and belong to the household of faith. They are not outsiders to the kingdom. They are not aliens and strangers to the covenant promises or the covenant people.

        I could just as strongly argue that Baptists, by refusing the administer the covenant sign of baptim to the infant children of believers, are refusing to submit to the explicit paradigm of the church and the explicit teachings of Scripture regarding the children of believers. But I would refrain from such strong language out of respect for the convictions of my brothers, who I believe to be in error but not “refusing to submit.” This is simply not a matter of willful rebellion, which is the only reason to bar a professing Christian from the Lord’s Table. This is a matter of sincere obedience to Scripture, as we understand its commands regarding our children.

        • Ted Bigelow

          Hi Jason,

          From where i sit you confim my point about explicit/implicit, brother:

          “covenant childre – the children of believers – are holy from birth (1 Cor. 7:14, “they are holy”), are members of Christ’s church (addressed as such in Eph. 6:1-2 and welcomed as such by Jesus) and belong to the household of faith.”

          I would simply say this: from my persepctive your arguments and use of Scripture are implicit arguments and overwhelmend by that which is explicit in Scripture. So many children you believe are holy (as in connection to the New Covenant) and members of the church are in fact “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) in accord with God’s eternal decree.

          In fact, all those in the New Covenant are saved: “for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11). Covenant children who are and always shall be unsaved argues against that which is explicit. In my opinion, it does them harm to be told they are in the covenant by their baptism.

          Hope this helps.

          • Jason Van Bemmel


            There is no explicit command in the Bible to baptize only believers. There is no explicit command in the Bible to only baptize by immersion. Baptists pretend that the Bible speaks more plainly on this issue than it does. Both sides must rely on inference.

            The Bible calls the children of believers holy and addresses them as members of the church. Jesus said of the smallest children (infants) that “the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as these.” The Bible explicitly and repeatedly includes them. Baptists exclude them. Again, if I wanted to be hostile and insulting, I could say that the Baptists are refusing to submit to the explicit teaching of Scripture. But I will not go so far as to say that. I will simply extend some latitude and say that we disagree. As such, I would not bar a Baptist from membership in our PCA church or from the Lord’s Table.

            • Ted Bigelow

              Jason: – you wrote

              “There is no explicit command in the Bible to baptize only believers”

              Yes there is!

              Mat. 28:19 – Baptizing is not optional to make a disciple, and it is coordinate with “teaching them to observe” all Jesus commanded. IOW, you can’t have one without the other. A disciple is not someone who has been baptized but is not being taught obedience to all Jesus commanded (like infants).

              Acts 2:38 “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Baptize is an imperative and is coordinate to” repent.” Got any repenting infants in your church (where the repentance is defined by the NT)? Didn’t think so. None in mine either.

              Acts 8:36-37 “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” I’m aware of the textual issues here; it is still quite searching and is quite ancient.

              Did the Lord or apostles say we couldn’t baptize dogs and cats? Yet we don’t see that omission as permission. It’s just bad theology to look for exceptions and end up basing your practice on silence.

              Now let’s list verses for explicit examples of baptism of people who professed faith prior to baptism: Acts 2, 8, 10, 16, 18, 19, 22. Explicit examples of infants being baptized: zero.

              “The Bible calls the children of believers holy and addresses them as members of the church”

              No. The 1 Cor. 7:14 calls the children of a believer and a non-believer holy. They are not addressed as members of the church there or anywhere unless you want to go with an implicit argument derived from Eph. 6:1ff and Col. 3. But that’s my point about your theology and why you have different conclusions than those who look to explicit statements for faith and practice.

              “Jesus said of the smallest children (infants) that “the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as these.” ”

              this too is an implicit argument since Jesus says nothing about baptism here. So, are all unbaptized infants who die in infancy going to heaven? I do believe that, but it is hardly the position of most theologians in the infant-baptist traditions.

      • Jugulum

        I’m reposting this because the first time I posted, it seems to have been filtered–perhaps because I had my website in my user info.

        Jason 1,

        > “Is that why some Baptists practice baby dedication, because of the explicit command to do so? Or how about using grape juice as the proper mode for the Lord’s Supper? Is that explicitly commanded as well?”

        Contextually, I think it’s fairly clear that Ted was saying “If it’s not explicit, then it’s not required”, not “If it’s not explicit, then it’s not allowed”.

        Jason 2,

        > “I do not refuse to submit to any explicit command or explicit paradigm in Scripture. To say that I do is insulting.”

        You misread him. He didn’t say that you refuse to submit to an explicit command in Scripture. He said that paedobaptists should stick to, “If it’s not explicit, then it’s not required.”

        He said that paedobaptists use an “implicit” paradigm of interpreting Scripture–that in their argumentation, they try to establish a normative standard for weighty matters like baptism on the basis of something other than “explicit command / explicit examples”. In other words, paedobaptists use inference & extension from OT patterns which (in Ted’s judgment, and mine) isn’t warranted by what the Bible actually says about baptism.

        On “refusing to submit”:
        He said that credobaptists use a “it needs to be explicit” standard, and refuse to submit to a “these implicit inferences are enough” standard. On the flipside, paedobaptists use a “it’s implicit” standard, and refuse to submit to a “it needs to be explicit” standard.

        • Jared

          While I profess credobaptism, baptism comes from a much older ANE practice of ritual purity. Baptism wasn’t something new. It always reflected a change in status of something, be it ritual impurity to ritual purity (for the Temple), conversion from paganism to a sect of Judaism (rabbinic tradition), or non-Christian to Christian. Ritual purity is the oldest of these three and included everyone (children as well) when entering the Temple to worship.

          The hermeneutical approach that assumes everything is explicit usually ignores the broader context of Scripture. The Bible doesn’t always give us every nuance of a teaching or practice because the authors in many cases assume their original audience knew enough of the history and context. (Sadly we are often far removed in both time and culture from the original audience.) And, if there was a dispute of practice (and there were enough regarding baptism in the 1st century as well), the ‘judge’ or persons in the seat of authority for any particular Jewish sect were the final arbiters.

          As I said, I hold to credobaptism, but would not state that interpreting the Bible in a paedobaptist way on this matter is bold-faced rebellion against God.

  • Tom Mirabella


    If a command is implicit, does it cease to be a command? There is something really simplistic about your statement, “What we baptistic believers look for in matters of faith and practice, however, are two things: explicit commands, and explicit examples.”

    For instance, the sixth commandment explicitly forbids murder, but it also implicitly commands preserving life. What takes more faith, devotion, delving into scriptures and maturity: Following only what the Bible explicitly commands, or following those, plus the implicit commandments as well?

    The Covenantal believer argues that the explicit commands of scripture do not preclude the implicit ones. So, when the Bible says to baptize disciples, that doesn’t forbid baptizing covenant children. Every Presbyterian pastor baptizes adults who come to faith for the first time, we follow this explicit instruction. But we also follow what we believe to be God’s command to place the covenant sign on our children. True, it is never presented explicitly (the command to circumcise is), but we see it clearly in the scriptures nonetheless.

    • Ted Bigelow


      “What takes more faith, devotion, delving into scriptures and maturity: Following only what the Bible explicitly commands, or following those, plus the implicit commandments as well?”

      It takes more faith to require your implicit theology to submit to what is explicitely commanded rather than making what you deem implicit overrule what the explicit requires.

      “So, when the Bible says to baptize disciples, that doesn’t forbid baptizing covenant children.”

      Yes it does. Many “covenant children” suffer eternal misery this very day precisely because they never were children of the covenant, and yet they never asked for baptism.

    • Tom Mirabella

      Ted, I am not even sure you understand what the word implicit means. Look, if you want to argue that there is no implicit command, then fine, I respect those who disagree with me on this issue, but to say that we should only follow implicit commandments that are explicitly commanded is simply foolish.

      As I said above, I disagree that an explicit command to baptize people who come to faith EXPLICITLY FORBIDS baptizing children who are born in the faith community (in fact, I thing you are making an argument that it is IMPLICITLY forbidden, which is kind of funny). If the Bible ever said (explicitly), “Baptism should only be performed on those of a sufficient age to understand and believe”, or “in the past you circumcised children as a sign of the covenant, but now you are to apply baptism only to those who have believed” well fine, you would have your explicit command and no one would disagree on this issue, but the history of the church shows that good people, intelligent people, faithful people do not agree this.

      • Ted Bigelow


        You wrote,

        “but to say that we should only follow implicit commandments that are explicitly commanded is simply foolish.”

        Yesterday you wrote, “If a command is implicit, does it cease to be a command?” Thus far you’ve been the only one speaking of this thing called an implicit command/commandment.

        “I disagree that an explicit command to baptize people who come to faith EXPLICITLY FORBIDS baptizing children who are born in the faith community”

        Nor does it specifically forbid us from baptizing unrepentant murderers, perverts, dogs, cats, and mosquitos. Anything, including Catholocism, can be justified with an implicit approach to faith and practice. You need to get more “regulative” here.

    • Tom Mirabella

      Look at Romans 4:9-11 “Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.”

      Why did Abraham receive the sign of circumcision? As a seal of the righteousness that he had BY FAITH while he was still uncircumcised.

      Therefore should children be circumcised?

  • Wayne

    While I believe the baptism by immersion best fits the biblical example, the mode is not as important as the timing. Has the person been baptized since they have put their faith and trust in Christ? If not, then they need to be baptized as a believer. It is a believer’s baptism, an outward symbol of what has happened internally when they themselves put their faith in Christ.

    • John W

      Wayne, while I appreciate your attempt at a simple answer, in reality, as all of the above discussion shows, you’ve made a ton of assumptions behind that simple answer that is completely challenged by those of us who hold paedo-baptist convictions.

      For all those who assume that baptism is an “outward symbol of what has happened internally when they themselves put their faith in Christ,” you must understand that this is absolutely nowhere explicitly stated in the Bible and is the result of deductions from observations about the practice of baptism in the book of Acts, not from explicit statements in the Bible. Paedo-baptists are absolutely convinced that far more scriptural theology is necessary to make statements about the meaning of baptism and we believe that the Bible teaches that baptism is about what God does and what God promises primarily and not primarily an outward symbol of what has “happened internally.” We believe that this is an erroneous understanding of what the Bible teaches about baptism. We are truly seeking to be faithful to Scripture.

      • Tom

        I appreciate the point there, John.
        The Bible nowhere even calls baptism a sign, as far as I can see.
        However, the idea of Baptism as an outward sign of an inward reality goes at least as far back as Augustine.

        I appreciate the TGC statement of faith that includes both the objective and subjective aspects of baptism (sign of God’s promise to us, and of his work in us.) I think it is dangerous to exclude either aspect of the sign.

        Finally, as an interesting note on the subject, I was encouraged to be a Creedobaptist by the Reformers.

        -“Let the word be added to the element and it will become a sacrament. For whence comes this great power of water that in touching the body it should cleanse the heart, unless the word makes it? Not because it is said, but because it is believed. In the word itself the fleeting sound is one thing; the power remaining, another.” Augustine (Quoted in Calvin’s Institutes, section on the sacraments).

        -“Therefore let it be regarded as a settled principle that the sacraments have the same office as the Word of God: to offer and set forth Christ to us, and in him the treasures of heavenly grace. But they avail and profit nothing unless received in faith.” John Calvin (Institutes, 1292)

        -“’He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;’ that is, faith alone makes one worthy profitably to receive this saving, divine water…it can be received only on condition that we heartily believe it.” Luther (Catechism, 163)

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  • Samuel C

    In my church we practice baptism by sprinkling. There are many instances that baptism by full immersion can’t take place due to disability, age, injury etc. Therefore we practice sprinkling.

    I wonder if baptists make accommodations for such things?

    Sam C

  • dr. james willingham

    The practice is no exceptions. Novatian, a deacon in Rome, if memory serves correctly, was the first clinical practice of baptism, besides the recommendation in the didache. Now we have churches sprinkling and/or pouring and resistance to the dipping which baptizo originally taught. The Greek had terms for sprinkling and pouring, but the NT never uses them for baptism or dipping or immersing. Those who practice other forms and call them baptism are the same who would insist on certain restrictions regarding the communion or discipline or doctrine that they hold dear. We can have fellowship up to a point, but we must also seek to be faithful to the Scripture as our conscience understands it.

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  • don renollet

    Interesting article. Interesting that the author defends a debatable practice (church membership) with a debatable practic:.(church membership as it is often though of here in the west), with (baptism by immersion only is necessary in order to fellowhship with other believers) who have wholeheartedly committed themselves to follow Jesus Christ, and accepted his gospel.

  • dr. james willingham

    I must admit that the close communion position is the most consistent with scripture, but that it would mean that only members of the local church can take part in the communion service, that is, members who are subject to the discipline of that local church. Members of other congregations could not participate thought of like faith and order due to the fact that they are under the discipline of their church homes. However, as to practice, I do have to admit, due to a reaction to Landmarkism, that I have been of the open communion persuasion though not of the open membership. Also I would prefer the use of the wine to grape juice though I am a member of a church where they use the former element. Wine is the only one that meets the demands of the text. I have been a member of churches where they use to have a member whose duty it was to secure wine for use in the communion service. Some of the older members could even remember the name of the members from those days who had the responsibility. In fact, grape juice did not come into vogue until after the temperance movement became the abstinence movement. Prior to that period all of the Baptist churches that I know of in the history of America used wine in their communion service. Interestingly enough, when they used wine, the churches had discipline. Now that they use grape juice, few have discipline other than removal from the rolls for non- attendance… Could the failure to obey the Lord on this issue be the result of corrupt elements, grape juice is a leavened produce. Wine is the result of the fermentation process which ends the leaven as a substance in the juice.

  • Sacha Cobin

    I have a question, my husband & I have been attending the local baptist church in our hometown, upon the preacher stopping by one night to visit he brought up the subject of church membership. Both of us had been praying about if this is where the Lord was leading us, but upon this talk the preacher informed us that my husband would have to be re baptized to become a member. ( he had given his life to the Lord about 2 years ago & was baptized in a christian church) My question is why would he have to be rebatized, I feel as though when he was talking to us about it that he was dismissing the very fact that my husband is a God fearing believer who has already been baptized!

    • Kevin Seguin

      Hi Sacha

      I’m a pastor of a small Baptist church. Perhaps I can answer your question. I’d need you to clarify something for me though. When your husband was baptized, was it by immersion? This can be a sticking point for many Baptist churches (Goes with the name I suppose). If he was baptized by immersion, is there any way to get a record of that from your old church? That would likely satisfy most Baptists.

      Please let me know if I can help in any way.

  • Bernard

    This article states, “The word means plunge or immerse. Every time it is used in the New Testament, it is either talking about an immersion in water or assuming that reality and using immersion as a metaphor.”

    1 Cor 10:1-2 says, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”

    The Israelites weren’t plunged or immersed in the sea. They walked through on dry land. At most, they may have been sprinkled a little. Pharaoh and his army on the other hand were thoroughly plunged and immersed.

  • Andrew from Winnipeg

    Hi Dr. Hamilton,

    I am also not sure about your comments that “The word means plunge or immerse. Every time it is used in the New Testament, it is either talking about an immersion in water or assuming that reality and using immersion as a metaphor.” In his sermon on baptism, Andy Stanley points out the example of Mark 7 (the only time, as far as I know, that the word baptism is used in Greek but translated in English):

    “When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.” (v. 4, ESV)

    Here the word translated “wash” is the word for baptism, however it seems that in this context it is not intended to mean “plunge or immerse” but is correctly translated “wash” – I don’t think you would suggest that the Pharisees immersed/plunged their dining couches… (sorry, I haven’t read your book, maybe you deal with this example).

    I would suggest, therefore, that sprinkling as a believer in the example you provided would be legitimate baptism – as you pointed out, “baptism is a matter of obedience” and in this instance, they have been obedient – even if the mode is perhaps a poorer picture of death, burial and resurrection.

    Thank you,


  • justin bachman

    Baptist are not and did not come out of another religion. Jesus started His church and it has always been here on this earth since then. The name has been changed by man thru 2000 years but the church has been here. Baptist are local churches that teach and preach Gods Word just like the very first church did we didn’t come from another religion.