Wednesday, February 25

Baptism was given to all disciples of Jesus

Neil Cole wrote the following baptism article entitled The Weirdness of the Church Over Baptism for Raw Religion.

Christians who are not clergy are often times instructed by the church to disobey Jesus when they are not allowed to baptize their disciples. The practice of baptism is not something Christ gave to the “clergy,” church organization or institutions, but to all disciples. One of the sayings in our own church-planting movement is: “The Bible doesn’t command us to be baptized but to be baptizers” (Matt. 28:19–20).

There is absolutely no biblical support for the idea that only the clergy in the local church can baptize. Though our traditions and experience may reinforce such standards, the Bible does not. In fact, it is my opinion that the Bible is slanted in the other direction. Those who are seen to be the leaders in the New Testament are often not the ones who are doing the baptizing but instead their disciples are. It specifically states that during Jesus’ baptizing he wasn’t actually the one doing the baptizing but his disciples were. Paul states that he is glad he only baptized a few in Corinth.

It is amazing how much damage the simple idea of baptizing another has caused through church history. People have been killed, cults have been initiated, denominations started and split, heretics burned at the stake, and parachurch organizations have been formed—all because we view baptism in a strange, unbiblical fashion. If we would only read the Bible and take it for what it says literally, rather than defend our “sacred” traditions, the church would be healthier.

We have created spiritual boundaries to manage spiritual practices, but these boundaries are not in the Bible. When false boundaries begin to take on a biblical sense of authority, they are quite insidious. We accept them as truth and even rise to defend them as though they come from the Bible, when they do not. Unfortunately, we are often willing to submit to these false divisions more than to Scripture itself. This is how the subversive strategy of the Enemy causes much damage. Because we have allowed artificial boundaries to separate Christian groups weird things happen.

For instance, one motto for a parachurch ministry has been: “To fulfill the Great Commission in this generation.” This seems honorable, except that they have rules in place that prevent them from ever fulfilling the Great Commission in any place. Right in the middle of the Great Commission is the command to baptize disciples, which they strictly forbid in order to maintain their parachurch status since (in their view) only churches can baptize.

I want to raise awareness of the weird, almost schizophrenic policies we have made in the church. Whether it is separating a spiritual family into voting “members” and silent “nonmembers” or telling Christians to fulfill the Great Commission by disobeying it, false and artificial divisions have caused some strange practices to be established.

I found myself agreeing with what Neil says. What do you think about the above article?


John Marklew said...

Hi again Guy,

We experienced this very problem re "official" baptism only recently.

A young woman who my wife and I had introduced to Jesus and then personally baptised a couple of years ago was getting married. As she was marrying a Ugandan national the wedding was taking place in his home church but before they would even consider marriage they required an official "baptism certificate" from their particular denomination (which normally only does infant baptism themselves). Fortunately one of the people who was present at the baptism in England happened to be a local priest who felt able to sign a certificate as a "witness". It was irritating to have to go through this process although fortunate for the young lady in question that we were able to accommodate their requirements.

Personally I feel "tradition" is a serious problem in all sorts of areas especially where it relates to authority of the priesthood and dominion of a church. In the UK and I'm sure elsewhere, baptism (and the "eucharist") sadly is still seen by many as a sign of membership for their particular church denomination only to be officially administered by the ordained.



John Lunt said...

I don't understand how we can allow ridiculous situations like these to continue.

When we had the street church, I didn't baptize anyone, but the guys who had taken the guys under wing and discipled them personally baptized them.

Oh well.. my frustration with our institutions continues.

Dienekes said...

Wow, this subject tends to draw me up on my soapbox. For brevity's sake, let me just say that I agree with Neil Cole's scriptural interpretation of the authority to baptize. I can't see how we exhort people to fulfill the Great Commission while ignoring one-quarter of it.

Practically, I think many of our North American brothers and sisters would sense a stronger personal role in the Great Commission if they were doing the baptizing as well. Not saying this is right, but that's human nature; you take away one element of it, and people's minds tend to divest themselves of the rest as well.

I also lament that we fail to grasp what I think is the full meaning of baptism. My opinion is that it's more than a sideline ordinance to get people wet while invoking "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." It involves that, to be sure, but I believe that Jesus was really communicating that we should make disciples that openly and publicly identify themselves, their lives, with the Triune God of the universe. That involves the ceremony, but it's more than that. Just as in OT and NT times ceremonies meant something significant. When people used to make covenants by by cutting animals in half and walking between them, it meant something more than just ritual.
Similarly, when people were baptized, it was more than a ceremony.

So much for brevity. Just my two cents.

GuyMuse said...


I hear what you are saying. In many ways the IC is even stronger in 3rd world countries than in the States. I have personally sensed a gradual melting here in America of some of the rigidness of traditions and practices, but not so much where we live. All I know to say is "you gotta do what you gotta do." We do our best to respect/honor others traditions so as not to cause division within the Body. I think of these things along the same lines of Paul writing about not eating meat offered to idols. There was nothing wrong with the meat, but if it caused a brother to stumble, then don't eat it!


That has been my personal practice as well. To date, I have not baptized a single believer in Ecuador. I want to encourage the disciples to baptize those they are winning, and not step in as an "official representative of the church" to do any baptizing. That would definitely send a wrong signal to these new believers.


You share some good observations. I think your second paragraph hits the nail on the head as to why after 2000 years we still haven't even scratched the surface of fulfilling the Great Commission left to us by Christ. We aren't doing it His way; instead we are trying to improve on the model and instructions given, and it is not working nearly as effectively.

Strider said...

Three days late but you know how I feel already. I agree with Neil completely and have chosen not to be silent on this battle front. I have on numerous occasions pointed out that in too many instances so-called clergy have usurped the authority of Christ and stolen His Church. This usually gets lots of amens and thumbs ups by church members and a few narrowed eyes from the church leaders. But many are listening and I am hopeful that if we move forward prayerfully and respectfully we will see Jesus purify His bride in our lifetime and that is very exciting to me.

GuyMuse said...


Good to hear from you. Interesting what you say--fight on, brother! I continually enjoy reading your blog. Blessings!