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Baptism Q&A

1. Why not just baptize in the name of Jesus Christ like in the Bible instead of in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, if they’re all the same?
In the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) Jesus commands his followers to baptize and he tells them to baptize “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” In Acts when it mentions new believers being baptized “in the name of Jesus” it is not referring to a formula but to authority. This baptism is taking place under the authority of Jesus.
It’s important to note that each member of the Trinity is not the same. If they were the same, God would not exist in three persons. God is one but he is also three distinct persons in the Trinity. Each person of the Trinity has unique characteristics, responsibilities, etc.

2. Can anyone baptize a person?
The Bible never commands that the one who baptizes hold a certain office (i.e. Pastor, Deacon, etc.). As scripture doesn’t provide specific direction regarding who can baptize, and as 1 Corinthians 1 teaches that every believer is a “saint” and as 1 Peter 2:5 teaches that every believer is a “priest”, we believe that any believer who is a member in good standing, and who is operating under the authority of the leadership of the local church, is a legitimate candidate to perform a baptism.

3. Do you have to be a church member to be baptized here?
No, you don’t have to be a member of Fairview to be baptized here. However, baptism is a requirement to be a member of Fairview Church. As we taught on Sunday, we believe baptism is done to not only identify your faith in Christ, but is also done to affirm your desire to come under the authority of a local church, therefore every person that we baptize is in that act joining Fairview. So, you do not have to be a member to be baptized, but if you are baptized at Fairview, it will be part of the process of joining the church.

4. So you were baptized 20 some years ago and remained a conscious backslider for some time before coming back to Christ. Should you be re-baptized?
This is a complicated issue with no easy answer since every case is different. Perhaps a couple of points will help clarify things. First, no one should ever be “re-baptized.” Baptism is only done one time after true conversion by immersion. Now, if the baptism didn’t follow genuine conversion (genuine repentance and faith) then it wasn’t a genuine baptism. You just got wet. If the baptism was not done by immersion, then it also wasn’t genuine, biblical baptism. So, “re-baptism”, in that sense, is never necessary. Genuine baptism, however, may be necessary.

You need to honestly examine yourself to see if 20 years ago you genuinely believed the gospel. If you did, how could you continue in “conscious” backsliding for 2 decades? While we believe it is possible to backslide – even for a long portion of time – one must wrestle with whether or not they truly believed at that earlier point. If you didn’t truly believe then and have believed the gospel since, then you need to be genuinely baptized for the first time. 
Finally, if you examine yourself (in conversation with brothers and sisters in Christ) and determine that you did genuinely believe and undergo a real baptism, then you don’t need to be baptized again. You need to confess and repent from your time of backsliding, if you have not already done so.

5. Could you explain 1 Peter 3:20-21 (I think)? I believe it is discussing spiritual baptism.
I believe 1 Peter 3 is addressing water baptism (as well as spiritual because not much distinction is made in the New Testament between the two). Water was one of the main means God used to judge sin in the Old Testament (i.e the flood, the Egyptian Army at the Red Sea, Jonah, etc.). God would use water to judge human sin, but also he would save his people through the judgment (i.e. Noah’s family was brought safely through the flood, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, Jonah was eventually spit up on dry ground, etc.). Jesus speaks of his cross as a baptism in Mark 10. He underwent God’s wrath against human sin, but was brought safely through the judgment 3 days later in resurrection. Baptism pictures this reality that God saves his people safely through the judgment. Your baptism pictures the flood story and the cross and resurrection all over again.

Now, Peter makes the point clear – just like Paul – that the immersion in water itself isn’t what saves you. He says “not the removal of filth of the flesh.” He makes clear that it’s not the water itself that does it – you’re just getting wet. What does? It’s the gospel, the pledge of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus. Being joined to Christ by faith is what saves and baptism pictures this reality. 

6. I was baptized nearly a couple of years after my conversion, in front of very few fellow believers while serving on the foreign mission field. These were not folks from my home church, nor have I remained in touch with any of them since leaving the mission field. Does my baptism qualify me for membership at Fairview?
This is an excellent question. In order to understand baptism, we would probably need to ask a few questions. First, why did you wait for a time after your conversion to be baptized? Second, when you were baptized on the mission field, were you attempting to honor Christ, and obey his word, by being biblically baptized? Finally, although this baptism was not in the presence of your home church, was it in the presence of other believers who formed your community on the mission field?

Baptism on the mission field can reflect a challenging situation. In this case, it is often true that there is no local church, as we generally know it, to be under the authority of. However, if your baptism was performed in a biblical manner, and was done in community with the other believers located where you were, there is a good chance this baptism would be recognized by Fairview.

7. Where in the Bible does it tell us to have the local church present? Does an elder have to be the one doing  the baptism?
First, no an elder doesn’t have to be the one doing the baptism (see #2 above). Second, there’s no proof text that says “thou shalt have the local church present.” But, outside of the example of the Ethiopian Eunuch (see question #11 below), there are no examples of private baptisms. There are several reasons why we believe the biblical teaching is that the local church be gathered. While this is implication, we believe we are on firm footing. First, since baptism is a public profession of faith where a believer is marked out publicly as a believer, there has to be people present. This is the public initiation ceremony where a believer identifies with Christ and the Church (Rom 6; 1 Cor 12), so the church needs to be present to perform the initiation. Second, Acts mentions that those who are baptized are “added” to the number of the church, so it shows that baptism is done in connection with the local church. Third, 1 Corinthians 12 says that you are baptized into Christ’s body (the way Paul refers to the church). If you are going to identify with Christ’s body, then it must be with a local manifestation that is visible not the universal invisible church. Fourth, Christ gave authority to baptize to his church (Matt 28) and the keys of the kingdom to the church (Matt 16 & 18) to make decisions on earth with Christ’s authority. We are given responsibility for church discipline and speaking with Christ’s authority as to who is in and out of the kingdom. We do that through baptism, so it must be connected to local church. The Gospels teach that the authority of Christ is rooted in his church not just floating individual believers. The idea in the NT is that delegates of the church are the ones doing the baptizing.

8. What if you realize that you weren’t truly saved when you had gotten baptized in the past but now have confidence in your salvation, should you be baptized again?
As we said in the answer to question #4, it would appear that you have never been genuinely baptized. In this case, you should be genuinely baptized for the first time.

9. I was saved and baptized “under pressure” as a young child. I don’t even remember saying the prayer but this is just what I was told. My true conversion happened in college but I didn’t get baptized after. What is your opinion in a situation like this?
As we mentioned in question #4 and #8, your initial experience was not actually baptism. As it did not happen in response to your conversion, it was merely a time when you go wet. At this point, you have not been baptized in response to your faith, and you should get baptized for the first time.

10. I was one of those who was baptized at a young age but within a couple of years strayed from the faith. I remained wayward for many years before actually experiencing the gospel’s transforming power. I chose not to be baptized then, hanging my hat on that childhood baptism experience. Should I be baptized, or will the childhood baptism suffice?
Our response to you would be similar to those questions posed in #4, #8 and #9. If you did genuinely believe as a child, then you wouldn’t need to be baptized. However, if you didn’t truly believe, then you should be baptized. See question #4 for a more detailed response.

11. The Ethiopian baptized by Phillip did not seem to be in the presence of the church. It was just Phillip and the Ethiopian, Acts 8:38 “…and they both went down to the water…” What are your thoughts on a baptism in a situation such as this?
There are a number of interesting realities at play here. First, Phillip baptized the Ethiopian eunech as a representative of a local church, the Jerusalem church. We believe that their local church should always send those on the mission field, and they operate under the authority of the local church, particularly when there isno local church present on their mission field.

Secondly, when there is no local church, it may be impossible to be baptized in relationship to a local church. In this case, the missionary (Phillip) baptizes the Ethiopian and sends him to his home, and the typical response would be to share the gospel, see others believe, and form a local church. In an American context this should almost never be necessary, but on the mission field, this can regularly be experienced. 

12.If you were baptized in a different belief such as your sins are washed away with water at a “certain age” as you spoke about, do you need to be baptized again because you understand your sins now and know the water didn’t take them away?
Yes, you would need to be baptized, but it’s not re-baptism. The initial experience would not be understood as baptism, as scripture defines it.

13. Are our neighbors in the Church of Christ movement, many of whom hold that baptism does indeed save you, teaching heresy? If so, how do we counter this, seeing how widespread this view is here locally?
This is a challenging question. Instead of focusing specifically on the Church of Christ, we would point you to a biblical definition of the gospel and a biblical definition of baptism. The gospel is received when we trust in Christ – in other words, faith is our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Baptism, then, is a covenant sign of this newfound citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Those who would teach that baptism saves you have distorted both salvation (the gospel) and baptism. In doing so, we believe that belief is heretical.

Allow us to be clear. This does not mean that we believe all those who are involved in churches/denominations who embrace this teaching are heretics, but we do view the official teaching as heretical. There are certainly a number of examples in the Church of Christ, and other denominations like it, of those who would not embrace this teaching, and who hold to an orthodox view of the gospel and even baptism. 
Finally, as to how we would “counter” this, we would encourage you to teach the gospel. It would not honor Christ for us to get into fights over this. The simple response, when the situation arises for us to share the gospel, is to lovingly, and graciously, share the gospel as scripture teaches it, and to clearly communicate that faith alone saves. Those who would teach that baptism saves usually do so based on a faulty understanding of passages like Acts 2:38. We would believe that passages such as Ephesians 2:8-9 (For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.) remind us that salvation is not dependent on any work, whether that work be baptism, good works, or anything else. Each of those are necessarily related to salvation, as the bible is clear that they all necessarily follow salvation, but they are not necessary for the salvation experience itself to occur.