I (Brian) grew up in church. I didn’t grow up in a Baptist church. In fact, with hindsight, I’m not sure I grew up in a true church at all, but I digress. The point is, I wasn’t a Baptist baby. For all my church-going, I wasn’t even a Christian until my senior year of high school. And even then, I wasn’t rooted in any particular local church until I was 24. Between then and my conversion, I more or less bounced around between churches of various types and persuasions.
So I wasn’t raised under what we’ll call ‘Baptistic’ ideals. That wasn’t my root system. I don’t believe what I now believe because I grew up with those beliefs. Again, I wasn’t a Christian until I was nearly 18, and I wasn’t identifiably ‘Baptistic’ until I was in my mid to late twenties. I’m only now 38. I begin this way to make two things clear:
We’re After the Most Biblical Convictions
One, I’ve come to believe what I believe, not so much by Baptistic enculturation as by Biblical enculturation. In what I pray is all humility and teachability (realizing that others have come to different convictions by the same route throughout church history), I want to say that I am where I am on sound doctrine because of where I’m convinced the Bible is on sound doctrine. Here’s the point: wherever we end up on any doctrine or issue in particular, my hope is that we’re there because we believe that’s what the Bible most clearly teaches.
I want us to believe and practice what is most faithful to the whole testimony of God’s Word, believing that will most profit us as God’s people. Our God has spoken. And He’s spoken what He’s spoken, in all of its Scriptural distillations, for the joy of our souls, the firmness of our faith, the conversion of the lost, and the unity most normatively and immediately realized in the context of local churches. With that in mind, our joyful task as a church is to do our best to determine, not just what is faithful enough, but what is most faithful to God’s mind on any matter. I believe in that ‘most,’ and I trust that you do also.
We’re After that ‘Most’ Concerning the Ordinances
Two, in every church I’ve ever attended, one way or another, they’ve practiced baptism and the Lord’s Supper (or communion). Have you noticed the same? That’s because these two things are ordinances that Jesus has given us to practice.
Every church, of whatever stripe, of which I’m aware, baptizes and participates in the Lord’s Supper. All realize it’s important! Indeed, it’s a means of grace like, say, fasting and praying and preaching and singing and so on. We must baptize. We must take the Lord’s Supper. More, we get to! What a joy to celebrate God’s grace!
Now here’s the thing: as God has spoken on these ordinances for the advantage of His people in the world, we’re to celebrate them as most clearly articulated in the Bible. And this is where differences arise. And I admit with Paul, we all see dimly (1 Cor 13:12). But dimly doesn’t mean we can’t see at all! Dimly doesn’t mean we throw up our hands under the words, ‘does it really matter?’ God believes it does! He’s spoken a great deal about it to be One Who, presumably, cares so little about it!
In the language of triage, are the ordinances Gospel-level importance (1 Cor 15:3-4)? No. But as means’ of grace ordained (and commanded!) by Jesus to signify the Gospel and it’s citizens, it’s not much below it. So, at any rate, ‘dimly’ doesn’t mean ‘blindly.’ Paul, who said we all see dimly, still wrote a lot about baptism and the Lord’s Supper for the church (Rom 6:1-4, 1 Cor 10:14-22, 11:17-34, etc.)! It just means that we’re to ever-hold our convictions by the corrective light of Scripture. But in the end, we’re to really, humbly believe certain things about baptism and the Lord’s Supper!
Our Path Forward
In the coming days, this post will be followed by others. The first set of posts will deal with the ordinance of baptism, what it is, what it isn’t, what it does do, what it doesn’t do, and some thoughts in terms of church practice. These will be followed by posts on the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, as throughout church history, these two ordinances have almost universally gone together. The outline for those posts will come before too long. In all of this, please feel free to interact with us on this forum or in person. It’s our joy to seek your uttermost joy in the truth as it is in Jesus.