Thursday, February 25
Can any believer baptize?
One of the issues continuing to resurface again and again in our church planting is whether or not individual believers (disciples) can baptize those whom they have led to Christ. The vast majority of evangelicals in Ecuador hold to the notion that only recognized (ordained) pastors, and missionaries are authorized to perform baptisms.
Was this Jesus intent when he gave us the Great Commission?
Were his commands to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach intended for:
1) the gathered disciples and them alone,
2) the local church throughout the ages, or
3) all disciples of Christ down through the ages?
If your interpretation is #1, then sit back and relax, there is little for you to worry about. It's not your business what God chooses to do with the untold millions who are on their way to an eternity separated from Christ. As strange as it sounds, I have dialogued with many believers who don't like to admit it, but by their actions actually hold to this position. They feel their responsibility is only to those the Lord brings directly into their life. They have been pacified in their conscience that God only "calls" certain ones of us for this kind of work. They, of course, are not part of this select group.
If the second interpretation is where you find peace, then you believe that every believer is charged by Christ to:
b) make disciples,
d) teach these new believers.
What happened to "c"? Why is it skipped? Those holding to this position feel that baptism as an ordinance is reserved only for those proper administrators, someone who has been given a separate and special authority to baptize.
In other words, all of us can do three of the four commands of Christ. But only certain individuals can do all four. Was that Christ's intent when he charged his disciples with carrying out the Great Commission? Did He consider baptism something in a separate class to the other tasks of going, disicipling and teaching? Is it something so special that it can only be administered by a select group of authorized individuals? If so, who are those individuals? How do they get to be the lucky ones to get to obey ALL that Christ said?
My own understanding, and the way we teach, points me to the third option...
I feel the plain reading of the GC lends itself to just what it says: ALL followers of Christ who consider themselves to be His disciples. We are the ones charged with carrying out Jesus' commission.
We are all part of the Body of Christ. There are no individual followers of Christ who have "more authority" than others. Any differences amongst those making up the Body, are functional, not authoritative.
The Spirit has given gifts to each for the building up of the Body of Christ. To begin to elevate persons over others is to go down the road leading to the whole sacerdotal/priestly function like we find entrenched in the Roman Catholic Church. There a clear separation exists between the professional clergy (who have authority), and the laity (who do not.) Clergy are authorized to perform the ceremonies of the church; the laity are not. There we find classes of Christians, distinctions.
Imagine with me for a moment the following scenario...
What would happen if every Dick, Jane, Bill and Harry were to get it into their heads that, yes, THEY are responsible for the Great Commission? Not just a select chosen few, but ALL of us! Like Peter, James, and John, we too have been vested with authority by Jesus Christ himself (Matt.28:18). It is for us to fulfill--not in part--but ALL of the Great Commission! I dare say, we would be far closer to finishing the task than we are today.
What do you think?
P.S. I appear baptizing in the photo above modeling how it is done. The sister on the right is a new believer and is participating in her first baptism. It is kind of a "passing the baton" where we do the first baptism with them assisting. After this, they will perform any future baptisms.