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Letters to the Editor
Having read the latest Journal [Spring 1990] with great delight, I wanted to ask a question.
Should we baptize believers or disciples? Although we do not believe in Lordship/Discipleship Salvation, are we to practice Lordship/Discipleship Baptism? Is belief the only requirement for baptism, or is the desire, intent, and commitment to turn from one's sins also a requirement?
Chase City, VA
Let me state up front that GES has no official position on this question. I imagine members of GES are somewhat divided over the issue, although I imagine most would take the position that only faith in Christ is required--the position which I take as well.
In the Book of Acts people were routinely baptized immediately upon coming to faith in Christ. Luke does not entertain the question you ask; however, from Acts it appears that the sole condition of baptism is faith in Christ. For example, both the Samaritans of Acts 8 and Cornelius and his household of Acts 10 believe in Christ and are immediately baptized with no mention of any additional requirement.
On the other hand, Matt 28:19, in my estimation, indicates that baptism is the first step of discipleship. We make disciples by baptizing them and by teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded. Baptism precedes teaching people to observe all that Christ commanded.
Thus a person being baptized is deciding to start down the discipleship trail. By submitting to baptism a person suggests that he or she wants to learn and grow in Christ.
I think that we should exhort new converts to be baptized ASAP. While I don't think that we should put any added requirements on baptism, I do think that we should tell people that it is something the Lord wants them to do and that it is a first step in following Christ.
Baptism in the United States is not risky or traumatic for most people. However, in Israel and in the Arab world to submit to Christian baptism one risks being disinherited and disowned by his or her family. Thus while you as a pastor would not require anything other than faith in Christ, in some cases the person considering baptism may well need to count the cost. For some the price of baptism is steep indeed.
So, go ahead and baptize all who indicate faith alone in Christ alone and who are willing to follow the Lord in this way. Don't first inspect their fruit.
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