Friday, September 18, 2015

Baptism and church membership

From an interview with Bobby Jamieson, author of Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership:
Church membership is a public affirmation of someone’s public profession of faith in Christ, and Jesus has appointed baptism as the means by which his followers publicly profess their faith in him. A church can’t affirm the profession of someone who hasn’t yet made that profession.

Baptism is how you publicly identify yourself with Jesus and with his people (Acts 2:38–41). It’s how you visibly signify that you are united to Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1–4). It’s how you are identified before the church and the world as one who belongs to the Triune God (Matt. 28:19).

Baptism is where faith goes public. It’s how you nail your colors to the mast as Jesus’s disciple. ....

If baptism is where faith goes public, then infant baptism simply is not baptism, and those who have been “baptized” as infants need to be baptized—for the first time—as believers. ....

...[B]aptism isn’t a sufficient criterion by which the church is to recognize Christians, but it is a necessary one. It’s not enough for someone to claim to be a Christian or for everyone in the church to think someone is a Christian; Jesus has bound the church’s judgment to baptism. ....

...[B]aptism actually gives shape and structure, form and order, to the local church. You can’t make “Christians” into “church” without baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism binds one to many and the Lord’s Supper makes many one. Baptism accomplishes something essential for the existence of the local church. ....

.... While I do think baptism is meant to draw the line of church membership, credobaptists and paedobaptists should partner together in all sorts of ways: friendship, mutual encouragement, prayer, evangelistic outreach, developing and promoting biblically faithful resources, and much more. ....

.... What modern, Western evangelicals tend to miss about membership is that it starts with, and is shaped by, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. ....[T]hose two ordinances exist precisely in order to join a believer to the church, and join the church together as one body. ....

...[I]f baptism is the front door of the church, then churches should, as a rule, only baptize people into church membership. There’s no “I’m with Jesus but not yet with the church” stage. If you go public as Jesus’s disciple, you join his public people. And if a church baptizes people into membership, they say from the beginning that the Christian life is lived in the local church. You explode the myth of the lone-ranger Christian. You help ensure that “body of Christ” and “family of God” aren’t dead metaphors but living truths that help define what it means to follow Jesus for everyone who comes to know him through your ministry. [more]