Wait! Let’s Look at That Again: Baptism

I don’t understand. Don’t all Christians take baptism seriously? Why are you differentiating between the Adventist context and any other context? Do Adventists have some superior insight into the meaning of baptism?


Part of it is 19th Century New England, part of it is a desire to be like the rest of Christianity. How often do you hear so-called “conservatives” yearn for the “reverence” of the Catholic churches, grant titles and honours to professional clergy, preach discipline and obedience to ecclesiastical bodies, and wish to imbue our services with a solemn liturgy - none of which was part of the rebellious 100% lay Advent movement of the 19th century.


To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I’m not sure I want to join a club with standards so low that they would have me as a member.


Let me clarify! Some Christians bury the old life in the watery grave of baptism. Most do not. They spinkle infants or new communicant members, and thus they ignore the very symbolism of which baptism speaks so eloquently.

Further, many Christians who baptize, by which I mean full immersion in water, tend toward the idea that belief and discipleship is a puntilliar decision. Adventists believe that the Scripture invites believers to a life of living faith as disciples and fully devoted followers of our Lord.

In the South Pacific Division there is a new emphasis on discipleship making and transformational living. A new radical biblical worldview will be normed and formed within the minds and hearts of believers. This is a process that must begin before baptism and ever after.

In the early centuries of the Christian era theology was practical in nature, done for believers primarily, by shepherds of the flock. Its intent was to norm and form the worldview of Christians. Subsequent to those early centuries theology came to be understood as an ivory tower enterprise among scholars. But from the beginning it was not so.

Adventists in the nineteenth century recaptured in large measure this original meaning of theology as they adopted the cosmic conflict or warfare worldview as the orienting concern of such a practical theology…

Theology is to be a communal enterprise. Yes, thank God for those among us who have the spiritual gifts of wisdom and knowledge, our Bible scholars and theologians and our shepherds. They are well placed to lead our faith communion in this important process of norming and forming our new and radical Christian worldview.

Before a person is baptized three questions must be answered in the affirmative:

  1. Does this new believer know how to feed from the Scripture?
  2. Does the new believer know how to pray and storm the gates of heaven?
  3. Does he have a testimony of how the Lord found him and reclaimed him as his own, give him a new transformed life?

If these things are in place, believers will have a great beginning! People will not be buried alive, nor come forth from the watery grave as still born baby Christians.

“We only let people into the club after we’ve processed their application and they’ve passed muster with us.”

That’s why in my experience when I was an SDA church pastor after people were baptized I got the sense that they felt like they had arrived and done all the studying they needed to. They felt this way because it was almost like they had done the Bible studies and graduated, so no more need to study.


Aren’t these three things judgments of man meant to satisfy us, not God? Why must this occur before baptism? How would you know if these three things are satisfactory? Would you want to observe them studying, listen to them pray so you can make a judgment. Don’t you suppose the Holy Spirit can take people from the moment of belief in Jesus as their Savior and lead them into growth they need?

We seem insecure in baptizing people when we want them to meet some other criteria than the cry “Jesus is my Savior!” We seem to want to make judgments about their sincerity and depth of knowledge. Who are we to judge? How do we know the heart?


Baptism is a sign that I have commenced my journey with God. It may be a spontaneous decision driven by emotion or one that is arrived at after much contemplation. Regardless of how the decision is arrived at, it is the start of the journey.

The SDA Church sees baptism as an arrival, the end of the journey. All of the support structures of the church are to help you arrive at baptism. There are no support structures for post baptism experience because baptism is seen as arriving not beginning.


Thanks for your response Ed!

Surely believers and especially shepherds of the flock and all of those teaching new believers have a responsibility to ensure that they set new believers up for a flourishing Christian life. This calls for discernment which is vastly different from being ‘judgements of men’ as you describe. Afterall, the Spirit of God promises that many in the church will have the spiritual gift of discernment.

The alternative is to introduce people to new life in Christ and make no provision for their flourishing. This is an absurd proposal.

One’s prayer life is an outward manifestation of his faith in God. To teach a new believer how to pray is at one and the same time to teach them how to have faith in God. Again, it is absurd to do otherwise.

And if a new believer has no testimony as to how the Lord found him in his sin and transformed him, however timid such a testimony may be, it just may well be the case that the individual will be buried alive in the watery grave. Again, these things call for discernment.

In my ministry there has been no more satisfying experience that to sit at someone’s kitchen table and open the Scripture with them. It is such a joy to see the lights go on as they experience real answers to life’s existential questions such as “What is the origin of life,” “Why is humanity and my individual life in such a mess,” “How may I have the assurance that I am right with God,” “Can I trust the Scriptures as the trustworthy Word of God,” “How can I know God and Jesus as my Saviour,” “What will happen in the future to this planet” “How will God set this world right,” “Is there life after death.” etc

God’s plan is that His kingdom be extended one life at a time. This is exactly how Jesus inaugurated his kingdom through his ministry. And we are to continue his ministry of making humanity whole. In other words, God will use us to help lead people into the growth they need. This is His plan! He could have used angels but he gifted believers with this responsibility.

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I agree, Melissa. At one of the non-denomination churches I attended, a person could be baptized, but they were free to join any church they wished.

My goodness…to think that this still goes on!


From what I have seen there are Very Strict Pastors and Congregations here
in the U.S.
And there are Less Strict Pastors and Congregations here in the U.S. I know
of one at least on the Internet, probably others. These would probably also
be comfortable with men wearing t-shirts, shorts, no socks and sandals or
flip-flops. Women in sun dresses. Contrasted to those in the next pew with
Suit, long sleeve shirt, with tie. Shined shoes.


Yes, there are very rigid pastors and congregations. How can people still believe that jewelry is prohibited for Christians, even to the point of denying baptism (rhetorical question). I would imagine that these congregations are, or will be dying out.


Agreed. I’m not sure who is proposing that. I’m not. Making provision for spiritual flourishing can all be done just as well after baptism, after the person has made the basic Jesus decision. Somehow I doubt that we hold off baptism to make provision for flourishing. I believe it is so we can feel comfortable that they are serious. In other words, we must clear up our doubts and concerns. Delay is not for them; it is for us.


I see!

Baptism is a outward symbol of an inner act - to die to the old life, being purged from our sins through the blood of Christ, and rise again to new life in the resurrection power of Christ. This new life happens within the communion of saints. We are joined to the Head (Christ) as we also are united with His body, the church of God.

I would find it impossible to live this new life in Christ had I never learned the principles of his kingdom first.

This is very different from making ‘a basic Jesus decision’ (this may need greater definition).

I remember as a teenager singing about ‘Jesus and me in close relation.’ Even then I thought there was a little bit lacking in the songwriters theology.

Through baptism we become part of God’s covenant community. To think otherwise is to have imbibed in the cool-aid of our Western individualism…

In my ministry, I felt it my duty as a shepherd of God’s flock to hold off a person’s baptism to make provision for flourish. For me as I ministered to new believers my delay of their baptism was indeed for them.

Thank you for saying what I’ve been stewing about for years! Neither should it be required that an “ordained” person is the only one who is able to baptize.


You said: " It already felt like I wasn’t as saved as “they” were, nor were others." This is a human problem in any group–that somehow we don’t fit in. It says more about you (or me) than about the people. I wouldn’t put much validity in “feelings” as they are usually wrong. I doubt that anyone thought such a thing. Being a new member would be like starting a new job–you would need to learn more about it. Having said that, we are saved when we accept the Gospel–Jesus as our salvation. I go along with baptism as soon as possible based on that commitment and in-depth Bible studies later. Maybe there is a place for a later “joining.” I don’t know. But the drawn out baptism is not biblical. I understand the Catholic church requires a period of study of their beliefs before joining as an adult. Maybe someone on here knows for sure.

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Just wondering, were you were raised SDA?

Amen and Amen! Baptism should not require church membership; only a stated testimony of belief in Jesus and His Gospel of salvation.The early church was not an organization or institution–that came when the popes took over. The early church came together as family who learned and grew together.

Don’t make baptism into a work or sacrament necessary for salvation either as do some religions.


I can’t understand how “storming the gates of heaven” somehow qualifies a person to be a Christian!

I believe “the Holy Spirit itself taketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)

While we were YET sinners, Christ died for us. I believe that alone qualifies a “believer” for baptism.


Here in this part of my Adventist world, after an individual was baptized, an elder would come up and announce to the congregation that his name will now be entered in the church book and in that moment, his name is also written in the Book of Life because whatever is agreed by the church here on earth is also considered binding in heaven! Outrageous? It is the norm here.


Technically, When a person accepts and makes the decision to want to
accept God’s plan for their life and to learn to Imitate God [note LEARN.
which most of the time is a life-time event of “schooling”], that is when
one’s name is “listed in the Book of Life”.
Baptism is just an Outward Sign of the already decision.
NOTE: Imitating God is the Goal of Life.
NOT: “Bible Doctrines” and limiting one to just “28”.

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