Home Article 8

Article 8

by Colton Floris

Text Size

Christian Baptism (1999 wording)

Confession

We believe that when people receive God’s gift of salvation, they are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of having been cleansed from sin. It is a covenant with the church to walk in the way of Christ through the power of the Spirit.

Meaning

Baptism by water is a public sign that a person has repented of sins, received forgiveness of sins, died with Christ to sin, been raised to newness of life, and received the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of the believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ as expressed in the local church. Baptism is also a pledge to serve Christ according to the gifts given to each person.

Eligibility

Baptism is for those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and commit themselves to follow Christ in obedience as members of the local church. Baptism is for those who understand its meaning, are able to be accountable to Christ and the church, and voluntarily request it on the basis of their faith response to Jesus Christ.

Practice

We practice water baptism by immersion administered by the local church. Local congregations may receive into membership those who have been baptized by another mode on their confession of faith. Persons who claim baptism as infants and wish to become members of a Mennonite Brethren congregation are to receive baptism on their confession of faith.

Matthew 3:13-17; 28:18-20; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:2-6; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 2:12-13; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 4:4-6

Word Count: 241

Article 8: Christian Baptism [1]Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two ordinances practiced by all Mennonite Brethren … Continue reading  (2020 DRAFT #12)

God’s Invitation

We believe that when people respond in faith to God’s invitation to repentance, new life, and discipleship, God calls each of them to receive water baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.{[(|fnote_stt|)]} Water baptism is God’s command for everyone who desires to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:18-20). Disciples of Christ are to be baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). There is no hint in the New Testament that baptism is optional, an add-on, or an action limited to some special spiritual group. An unbaptized believer also never passes an age or a maturity level where baptism is no longer a relevant command for them. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you” is every bit as applicable today as at the first Pentecost (Acts 2:38).

{[(|fnote_end|)]} 

Meaning {[(|fnote_stt|)]} 

Baptism has a past, present, and future dimension. It is a person’s testimony about what has happened in their life past tense (faith; cleansing and freedom from sin and death; receiving of the Holy Spirit), a faith affirmation about what they believe will happen in their ultimate future (bodily resurrection into the fullness of God’s eternal Kingdom), and a commitment about how they want to live in the present (desire for spiritual growth; full participation and inclusion into Christ’s body and its mission). In the early church, conversion and baptism occurred in very close relation to each other so in the Bible they often appear as one event. However, they are two separate but closely related steps in the life of a Christian disciple (cf. Acts 8:12; 10:47-48). 

Mennonite Brethren understand baptism as an ordinance in the life of the local church which is why it is placed in the Confession of Faith after the Nature of the Church (Article 6) and the Mission of the Church (Article 7) rather than right after the article on Salvation (Article 5). Baptism is a church community ordinance not simply an individual or personal event. In the New Testament, believers never baptized themselves. The church or representatives of the church were given this responsibility, which means that the local church also testifies and makes commitments as it participates in the baptism event. 

The New Testament teachings on the meaning of baptism are clustered around four key themes. The person is cleansed or freed from sin (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrew 10:22; Romans 6:3-6).  The person has moved from death to new life in Christ (Colossians 2:12-13; Galatians 3:26-27). The person has taken a step of incorporation or inclusion into the church family (Acts 2:41; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 12:13) where they will join other baptized believers in the unity/oneness of this “body” (Galatians 3:27-28; Ephesians 4:4-6).

{[(|fnote_end|)]} 

Baptism is an act of obedience[2]   Baptism is an act of obedience for both the person being baptised (Acts 2:38) and the church … Continue reading  which testifies that God in Christ has forgiven and cleansed a person from sin, freed them from the power of sin and death, given them the Holy Spirit, and united them with the body of Christ.[3] In the baptism event, the believer testifies and affirms that by faith these powerful divine … Continue reading   Baptism by immersion is a powerful testimony[4]  Together with the Lord’s Supper, some Christian traditions see baptism as a “sacrament” … Continue reading  that a believer has been washed{[(|fnote_stt|)]} 

First Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, and Hebrews 10:22 speak of baptism as a cleansing or a freeing from sin. Christians have been washed  and sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11) through faith made visible in baptism. Christians have been freed from slavery to sin demonstrated in baptism (Romans 6:3-6). Jesus loved the church so he cleansed her by the “washing with water through the word” (Eph 5:26). Both Titus 3:5 and Hebrews 10:22 pick up the “washing” image. Baptism is about spiritual washing, cleansing, and freedom from sin. All of these are in continuity with the practice of baptism in Judaism (observant Jews would regularly enter a pool of water to be spiritually and ritually cleansed) and with John the Baptist’s “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). 

{[(|fnote_end|)]}  by the Spirit, has died with Christ to sin and has been raised to newness of life.[5]  Colossians 2:12-13 associates baptism with moving from death (“buried with him in baptism”) … Continue reading 

In baptism the believer publicly bears witness to their own commitment to follow Jesus as Lord, serving Jesus as a covenant member[6]  Baptism in the New Testament world had strong associations with incorporation or inclusion into … Continue reading  of the local congregation in God’s Kingdom mission. 

Baptism is the God-given means by which the local church family incorporates followers of Jesus. 

Who

Baptism is for all those who repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, have received the Holy Spirit, and pledge to live as disciples who obey Jesus in all of life.[7]   These qualifications for baptism echo a number of key biblical texts. In Acts 2:38 there is … Continue reading  Baptism is for those who understand its basic meaning, are able to be accountable to Christ and the church, and request it voluntarily.[8] A plain reading of the recorded New Testament baptisms implies that they took place after … Continue reading 

Practice

The local church baptizes believers by immersion and joyfully welcomes and disciples them into full participation as members of the congregation.[9]   First Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-28, and Ephesians 4:4-6 link baptism with unity or … Continue reading  The local church also joyfully welcomes Christian disciples baptized elsewhere, regardless of mode, if they were baptized upon their own confession of faith.{[(|fnote_stt|)]} 

The local church welcomes to full participation and service in the church baptized disciples of Jesus who have been baptized upon their own confession of faith in the context of other denominational traditions. The mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, sprinkling) is of secondary importance to what their baptism symbolized (i.e., their personal confession of faith in Jesus as Lord, their desire to grow in discipleship, and their desire to be part of Christ’s body).

{[(|fnote_end|)]} 

The local church invites those who claim baptism prior to their own confession of faith and who desire to be members of a Mennonite Brethren congregation to receive baptism as a testimony to their own faith.[10]  Although Mennonite Brethren consider the biblical support for the practice of baptizing infants … Continue reading 

Matthew 3:13-17; 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-42; 8:12; 10:47-48; Romans 6:2-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Colossians 2:12-13; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 4:4-6; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21. 

Word Count: 294

Article 8 Confession in Practice – Article Implementation Guidelines

The FAQs will:

  1. Provide pastoral guidance for implementation – replacing the current Pastoral Application Section – the FAQs below cover all the 1999 Pastoral Application issues and much more (those issues that came up from the gathered feedback).
  2. Provide very brief guidance on practice; offer a rationale for the Article text briefly and only if necessary and only if the commentary does not already give a rationale.

1.Why do we practice believer’s baptism?

Believers baptism is the practice of baptizing individuals old enough to believe in and obey Jesus. MBs understand that baptism is a powerful act that testifies to past repentance, conversion, and belief—as well as to a present and future commitment to discipleship and mission within Christ’s body. As a result, we believe that according to the biblical pattern (Mt 28:19-20; Acts 2:38-41), baptism is a voluntary action taken by an individual post-conversion.

Some Christian traditions practice the baptism of infants to believing parents (paedo-baptism) for various reasons: they may hold baptism to have saving power or, like Old Testament circumcision, they hold that baptism includes the infant in the church family. Many such traditions understand that for the event to have meaning, the child must later affirm (or own) this event done to them. Other traditions practice infant baptism with less formal meaning, akin to our practice of child dedication.

We do not believe that the New Testament texts used to support infant baptism (the “household” baptisms [e.g., Acts 11:13-14; 16:14, 31], the “sanctification” of children by believing parents [1 Cor 7:14], Jesus’s welcome of children to himself [Mk 10:14-16], or the continuity of the New Covenant with Old Testament Israel) provide adequate support for the practice of infant baptism today.

In addition, baptizing infants may lead to some adults later self-identifying as Christians without understanding that living as disciples of Jesus requires a personal surrender.

Therefore, it is our conviction that believer’s baptism is the faithful way to live out the New Testament teaching and is practiced as such within our family of churches.

2. Does baptism save?

Baptism with water is not salvific (in the sense of making a person a Christian), nor is it sacramental (in the sense of being an extraordinary means of grace) but we embrace it as a powerful action overflowing with rich meaning for both the baptized individual and the church community. The water does not itself cleanse, save, unify, or give new life, but it is a rich symbol representing what the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in the life of the believer.

Several New Testament texts convey the close connection between conversion and baptism (“Repent and be baptized, every one of you” [Acts 2:38]; “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” [Mk 16:16] etc.). Hence in the NT, baptism is part of the process of salvation. It is the external and public step of obedient faith commanded by the Lord as part of conversion. While baptism is not necessary for salvation, it crowns the process of inner faith by giving it a visible and public dimension. It is in this sense that we understand 1 Peter 3:21.

However, without the reality of repentance, conversion and belief, the otherwise powerful act of baptism is empty

 Article 8 describes baptism as an “act of obedience” and a “powerful testimony” to things that have happened in the past, are happening in the present, and by faith will be true in the future. The baptismal candidate and the local church testify that God has done a work of grace through faith in the candidate’s heart and that the candidate desires to grow as a disciple of Jesus as part of the local family of God. This makes baptism sacred, rich in significance, and covenantal.

3. When should baptism occur after a person’s conversion?

With the exception of very young children (see Q.4), there is no need for a long delay between conversion and baptism. All candidates should undergo basic preparation for baptism (see Q.5). While this may require more or less time depending on the person, the Scriptural pattern brings conversion and baptism quite closely together. 

In Scripture, baptism belongs at the beginning of the journey of Christian discipleship and serves as an entry point into covenant community for the believer. It is not a graduation ceremony that is reserved for the spiritually mature.

While not having a delay is the New Testament pattern, all unbaptized believers even those well along in their Christian journey should respond to God’s invitation and be baptized. It is never too late to be baptized. Paul in his letters (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27) assumes that every believer is baptized. F.F. Bruce’s often quoted statement says it well: “The idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in the New Testament” (Commentary on the Book of Acts, 77).

4. Do we advise a minimum age for baptism?

Since believer’s baptism is a joyful, public action that celebrates the new life in Christ, it is natural to desire to baptize new believers as soon as possible after the conversion experience. In the New Testament church, conversion and baptism are linked as two parts of the same experience.

Historically, as the church grew and children began to place their faith in Christ often at a very early age, keeping the conversion-baptism connection ceased to be a straight-forward matter.

In addition, since baptism is not only a look back to one’s salvation, but also a look forward to full participation in the local church as it models and lives out its radical Kingdom mission, this question becomes even more challenging. 

Article 8 states: “Baptism is for all those who repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, have received the Holy Spirit, and pledge to live as disciples who obey Jesus in all of life. Baptism is for those who understand its basic meaning, are able to be accountable to Christ and the church, and request it voluntarily.”

Therefore, baptismal candidates must be old enough to be able to understand that in baptism they testify to their own repentance, confession of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and their commitment to live as a disciple of Jesus as a covenant member of their local church family. In addition, they must be able to understand that they are testifying to God’s saving action in their life (forgiving and cleansing, freeing from the power of sin, and giving of the Holy Spirit), and that they are committing to participation in the body of Christ.

A temptation church leaders face is to acquiesce to pressure to baptize young children. Though their understanding of salvation may represent an authentic initial spiritual experience, it may not represent adequate understanding for baptism. Therefore, considerable sensitivity and discernment are needed both to avoid quenching the inner aspirations of the young believer, and to avoid trivializing the ordinance by baptizing children who do not have an adequate understanding of the act.

5. How much preparation for baptism is enough?

The New Testament accounts do not display long periods of preparation between conversion and baptism. Many of the first Christians were already familiar with the meaning of baptism rites and the arc of God’s story. However, the early church  soon developed a preparation process for candidates who were unfamiliar with the meaning of baptism.

It is significant that each candidate knows about the double focus of the baptism event (looking back at conversion and looking forward to discipleship and mission within the local church) and about the theological and ethical convictions held by the church they are joining. However, for most candidates this preparation should at the most be measured in months rather than years.

There is no need for a long delay between one’s conversion and baptism. It is important, however, that the baptismal candidate has a basic understanding of:

  1. salvation and baptism,
  2. the shared theological convictions of the church they are joining (according to the MB Confession of Faith), and
  3. discipleship as part of their life in the local church.

There will be times when it will be difficult to assess whether such basic understanding is in place due to a limitation on the part of the baptismal candidate. In such cases the leadership of the church community will baptize the believer based on their prayerful discernment and best judgment

The Canadian MB Conference offers a range of resources to prepare candidates for baptism.

6. How sanctified (or holy) does one need to be in order to be baptized?

Baptism is a testimony on the part of the candidate, the local church, and God (through the local church) that this person is a disciple of Jesus Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and committed to grow as a disciple in the context of the local church family.

The New Testament pattern is not sanctification and then, at some point, baptism. Rather it is a bowing down in surrender to Jesus as Lord, followed by baptism as a sign of one’s willingness to walk on this discipleship journey no matter where it leads.

Local church leadership is called to discern whether the candidate deeply desires to become sanctified through the power of Jesus and his Spirit, rather than assess whether a believer is holy enough to be baptized, or whether God has given adequate victory to the candidate over sin. The issue is the direction of the person’s life rather than their level of present perfection.

The posture of submission and surrender to Jesus, along with a willingness to be discipled and accountable to the local church, are the key prerequisites to baptism. The process of sanctification is a long journey for every believer and is best facilitated by an intentional discipleship process carried out in the context of the local church community.

This means that many of those baptized may exhibit sinful patterns and behaviours at, and after, their baptism. Since baptism is the powerful act of incorporation, the local church must take seriously its responsibility to teach these newly baptized “to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). This will involve modeling discipleship, loving exhortation, grace, and patient commitment, along with intentional discipleship paths for all in the covenant community.

7. When, in the baptism process, should we teach the MB Confession?

Neither the candidate nor the church family benefit when the candidate post-baptism expresses surprise to be obligated to shared theological and ethical convictions within their local covenant community.

The baptismal candidate’s early discipleship process should therefore include some understanding of the collectively held convictions of the family of churches they are joining through baptism. Minimally, the candidate should be provided with access to the Confession and ample opportunity to ask questions about the theological and ethical commitments contained within it.

Each local church is encouraged to find the best process to introduce baptismal candidates to the convictions contained in the MB Confession.

See question 5 for more on preparations for baptism

The Canadian MB Conference offers a range of resources to prepare candidates for baptism.

8. What if a person wants to be baptized but not become part of the local church?

We understand baptism and belonging to a covenant community as a one step process. While there might be a number of practical reasons for separation of the two, that is not the New Testament pattern, nor is it the Anabaptist practice.

The 3,000 newly baptized believers in Jerusalem were immediately “added to their number” (Acts 2:41,47). According to Acts 2:42-47, being part of their number involved all the kinds of activities we associate with membership in a church family (e.g., teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, prayer, mutual aid, worship, mission).

In baptism, God testifies (by means of the local church witness) that this candidate is a child of God and joins that child of God to the “body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:13) as reflected in the local family of God.

The only exception to this pattern might be Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8) who was on his journey home. Since we do not know more about the eunuch’s subsequent church journey, we do not base practices on being a member of a covenant community on this text. 

To become part of Jesus means being part of his body, the church (see commentary). Some may counter by substituting the universal church here rather than the local church, but it is only the local church that can welcome a new believer, commit to encourage, disciple and teach a new believer, and hold a new believer accountable.

For these reasons, we discourage practicing baptisms which do not lead to belonging to the local church. See question 9 for exceptions.

9. Are there times when the local church might baptize someone and not have them become part of this community?

Article 8 echoes the New Testament pattern of baptism as the key initiation rite into the local church (the Ethiopian’s baptism in Act 8 is a possible exception, not a normative example).

However, there may be worthy exceptions where the baptismal candidate is not denying this important connection but their circumstances may simply not allow them to be active members of their local congregation. Examples of this may include students who have participated in a local congregation while at school and may, prior to their return home, request baptism from this temporary congregation who has nurtured their faith. Others may be moving to a location without a local MB church and request baptism prior to their move.

Bearing in mind that baptism not only looks back to conversion but also looks forward to present and future participation and mission in the local church, the local church needs to carefully discern legitimate extraordinary circumstances at play with certain candidates. In such cases we encourage the church family to do everything they can to support that person from a distance until they are able to join and participate actively in a local congregation.

The key here is that separating baptism from full inclusion in the local community should be a rare exception that happens only by prayerful discernment on the part of leaders.

10. What does being a member of a local church mean?

Mennonite Brethren around the world understand the church to be a “covenant community” or “covenant family” characterized by belonging, mutual support, shared mission, and mutual accountability. Christian baptism is designed to make each believer part of such a community and thus discourage a solitary discipleship journey.

To be a member of the local covenant community is to share in the life and mission of the church, exercise one’s spiritual gifts for the betterment of all, and provide and welcome mutual support and accountability. The covenant members are also responsible to participate as they are able in the discernment and leadership of their local church, as well as in the larger MB church family at provincial and national levels.

The New Testament implies that every believer has the presence of the Holy Spirit which means that every believer may have special insight to help the local congregation discern God’s will. As a result, every baptized member in the church covenant community is invited to speak into the discernment processes of the local congregation. In cases where provincial laws limit voting on financial matters to a certain minimum age, best practice is still to invite all members, regardless of age, to speak into decisions even if some may not be able to participate in voting.

Covenant membership is about belonging, caring, and support, as well as about contributing and responsibility. It is unlikely that these can happen without local churches knowing which of their attendees have entered this type of relationship. As a result, local churches keep up-to-date records of those in the covenant community who have been baptized within the church and those who come from other believer-baptizing congregations and have joined by their confession of faith

The Canadian MB Conference bylaws and policies address regulation of church membership. CCMBC also offers resources for the structure and management of church governance, including the management of membership.

NFLT Resources:

The Meeting Place practice of covenant community: https://vimeo.com/366838053

11. What if a candidate desires a baptism location that excludes the local congregation?

A careful reading of the Article reveals the crucial role of the local church in each baptism. If baptism were only an individual’s personal celebration of faith and commitment to Christ, then a private baptism in a special location would be appropriate.

However, baptisms are central to the life and mission of the local church. They serve as an encouragement to the church family and celebrations of God’s work in the congregation’s disciple-making mission.

At baptism, the church is welcoming someone in. A baptism without the local church present is like a wedding without the parents and family present

We therefore practice baptism in the life of the local church community, in Sunday services or other formal gatherings of the local congregation, accompanied by the testimony of the baptismal candidates and the expression of shared commitments from both candidates and congregation.

In cases where individuals pursue baptism outside the local church gathering, the leadership of the local church must discern the best redemptive path forward. Welcoming the new member of the family after the fact with video evidence of the baptism, in-person testimony, and prayer of welcome into the church family is one example of one such redemptive path.

12. What elements should be present in a baptism service?

A baptism service offers an opportunity for much creativity. The following are important elements that ought to be present whenever possible:

  1. Context of corporate worship with teaching on baptism
  2. Testimony of the baptismal candidates’ journey to salvation
  3. Affirmations from a few witnesses from the local church family
  4. Formal affirmation of faith in Christ by the candidate in the form of Q&A, e.g. Do you believe that Jesus is your personal Lord and Saviour?/I do.
  5. Formal declaration on the part of the baptizer such as “Upon this confession of your faith, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
  6. Prayer for the baptized
  7. Formal acceptance of the baptized into the covenant community
  8. Mutual covenanting on the part of the baptized and the congregation to follow Jesus together
  9. Celebration. 

13. Are those baptized as infants required to be baptized upon their own confession of faith?

The MB church family teaches and practices only believers baptism, which we believe is the means by which believers are joined to the church family. [see Q-1] We believe this for two reasons. 

First, as our Confession states, we understand that the New Testament’s teaching and pattern of baptism convey a person’s own witness of their decision to respond to God in faith and their understanding of their commitment to live as Jesus’ disciple in all of life. 

Second, as the sixteenth century Anabaptists studied the Bible, they came to a firm conviction of practicing only believers’ baptism. This was in opposition to the merger of church and state (where infant baptism was equated with citizenship) and to a sacramental theology of baptism (which believed water baptism forgives a person of original sin). As heirs of this Anabaptist heritage, the global MB family continues in this practice because we believe it is faithful to the biblical witness.

While we affirm the significance of a voluntary response of faith prior to one’s baptism, we also recognize some Christian faith traditions understand that the biblical command to baptize also involves baptizing infants born to Christian parents in their congregations. We affirm the good intentions of parents who baptize their infants and recognize how this can be experienced as a meaningful event, particularly when these intentions are confirmed through the later faith response of the person baptized.

Nevertheless, for those who desire to be members of a Mennonite Brethren congregation, we invite them to receive baptism as a testimony to their own faith and as an act of discipleship. This public act also witnesses to their identification as a covenant member of the church – the local expression of Christ’s Body.

We recognize that some people will not see the need for believer’s baptism, whether because they value their infant baptism and subsequent confirmation, because they are concerned about offending their parents or their previous church community, and/or because they interpret the Scriptures differently. We ask our church leaders to walk sensitively with those who have concerns—continuing to study the Scriptures together and expressing love and acceptance—in hopes that they will one day welcome believers baptism as a meaningful step of discipleship

NFLT Resources:

Heather’s Believer’s Baptism Journey https://vimeo.com/showcase/6787510

Karen’s Believer’s Baptism Journey https://vimeo.com/396718599/e3add00c05

14. What if immersion water baptism is not an option?

While immersion baptism conveys rich symbolism of cleansing, deliverance, and depiction of movement from death to new life, there may be special situations where immersion is not a viable option.

Since we do not have clear biblical guidance for these special situations, The Didache, a very early Christian instruction manual for the church, can provide some wisdom for us: “Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living [running] water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.”

In those exceptional cases where immersion baptism is not possible, we encourage that the alternate mode of baptism be celebrated in the same way as immersion baptism (see question 13).

While exceptional cases should be rare and determined by local leaders in discerning conversation with the candidate, these baptisms should be seen as equal in value and significance.

15. What about spontaneous baptisms?

The New Testament points to baptisms that immediately follow conversion (e.g., Acts 8:36-39; 16:33). However, the text also encourages all to “count the cost” (Lk 14:25-34) before making the decision to become disciples of Jesus.

Spontaneous baptisms have some benefits (e.g., listening and responding immediately to the perceived leading of the Spirit and some drawbacks (e.g., failing to understand the commitment that comes with the decision).

FAQ 5 highlights the importance of preparation for baptism. In addition, it is important that the local congregation can testify on behalf of the individual as well so it can without reservation welcome them into the covenant community.

These concerns rule out most spontaneous baptisms.

In general, the less familiar a person is with Jesus and the church, the more pre-baptism preparation they need. If a local church wants to invite and practice spontaneous baptism, it needs to be confident that the person requesting baptism in the moment understands the rich meaning and mutual covenantal obligations to their congregation, and that the church is able to affirm that testimony without hesitation. If this is the case, the church certainly should celebrate this with joy.

See also question 12 – baptism locations which exclude the local congregation

16. Can Christians who have been baptized upon their confession of faith be baptized again?

Occasionally believers who were baptized upon their own confession of faith will later in their journey pursue rebaptism. They may wish to publicly convey their new and powerful recommitment to Jesus after a period of spiritual rebellion or apathy. They may wish to be baptized based on a free and adult decision as opposed to baptism due to family or church pressure. They may prefer immersion to the mode they experienced earlier. They may wish to be baptized in a more meaningful location (e.g., Jordan River) than they felt was the case in their baptism. 

We hold baptism to be a rich act of obedience to Christ Jesus, pointing to one’s salvation in the past and to the future life of following Jesus in the context of the local church community.  This act of obedience is not qualitatively impacted by how one feels about it at the time, where it happens, or who led it. Therefore repeating it will not make it more effective. 

We encourage church leaders to carefully discern when faced with requests for rebaptism. It may be that the individual was indeed not originally baptized as a believer, in which case the request ought to be honoured. It may also be an opportunity to recognize and affirm the spiritual renewal that may lie behind such requests in other, more appropriate ways.

Article 8 video resources

Membership and baptism – John Neufeld

Why connect baptism to belonging in a covenant community?

My baptism story – Heather Neufeld

Testimony of a confirmed believer baptized into an MB community

Believer's baptism – Karen West

Footnotes[+]

5 comments

Charlie Hunter November 13, 2019 - 3:49 pm

I appreciate the work that has gone into the 2019 draft of article 8. In general, I really like the 2019 draft.
This is to comment on the second half of the Meaning section. “In baptism the believer also publicly bears witness to their own commitment to follow Jesus as Lord, serving as a member of the local congregation in God’s Kingdom mission. Baptism is the God-given means by which the local church family incorporates followers of Jesus. ³”. I certainly defer to the many who have greater Biblical knowledge than I do. But I have been under the impression that baptism is into the body of Christ and that membership in a local church is demonstrated through joining Covenant Community or equivalent.
I am inclined to favour this sentence from the 1999 wording: Baptism is a sign of the believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ as expressed in the local church.
If the 2019 draft is to be used, I wonder about changing ‘the’ to ‘a’ in “serving as a member of the local congregation in God’s Kingdom mission.”
Also, my personal preference in the Practice section would be to forego the wording “washed by the Spirit, has died with Christ to sin” for the less churchy 1999 version.
Again, I am really grateful for all the attention being paid to updating this article of faith. I make these comments very humbly and with appreciation. Thank you.

Reply
Ingrid Reichard February 3, 2020 - 12:26 pm

Thank you for your comment Charlie.
General comment – the goal is have the Article phrasing reflect the wording of Scripture as much as possible, hopefully creating mental links to the passages that form our core convictions. Hence the scriptural language of “washed”, “died to sin” etc.
The NT church and early church pattern (as well as the Anabaptist pattern) is to see baptism as a a visible testimony of the believer’s incorporation into the family of Christ (which happened at salvation, some time prior to baptism) AND into the local expression of Christ’s body. Hence we belong in the universal church through the local church. With one possible exception (the Ethiopian Eunuch) baptism in the NT church incorporate believers into a local community of believers.
The word “sign” has been problematic due to its confusion with “symbol”. A sign is meant to point to something…the new language of testimony or witness has been chosen in hopes to more clearly convey this meaning.

Reply
Terry Veer January 13, 2020 - 11:06 am

Are we no longer linking membership to baptism?

Reply
Ingrid Reichard February 3, 2020 - 1:15 pm

Hi Terry,
We are looking at 2 meanings of belonging:
1) At baptism the person becomes a MEMBER of the covenant community (the local church), having had some teaching on the meaning of salvation, baptism and expectations of the family into which the believer is baptized and expectation of discipleship. There is an expectation of an expression of commitment on the part of the church to receive and disciple this believer and on the part of the believer to give himself/herself to this discipleship, to grow, to serve Jesus, to contribute to the work of his mission in this church.
This kind of organic way of belonging/membership is expected and stated in the 2020 version of Article 8 more clearly than before.
Pls also see Article 6 – Nature of the Church for a parallel statement of belief along these lines.
2) On the other hand we have to consider the Canadian laws which set guidelines and limitations in the area of legal members of societies/corporations. In addition the MB churches across Canada use various governance models. These laws and governance variations result in varying practices with respect to the decision-making process within each church. The article is not speaking to this kind of legal “membership”. The national Conference is working on preparing guidelines for churches in this respect by offering a range of options.

In short – each church is encouraged to receive newly baptized believers into their community in a very intentional way, in order to facilitate discipleship in the context of community.

Reply
Kevin Snyder January 17, 2020 - 12:10 am

I appreciate all the hard work that has gone into this. Foot note #4 says, “While the New Testament is not absolutely clear… the only New Testament evidence that might support the possibility of infant baptism involves five references to “household baptisms” (Acts 11:13-14; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16) and the analogy between Old Testament circumcision done to male infants born to Israelite parents and these household baptisms. These do not seem strong enough to support the practice of infant baptism by Christian parents.” I agree that this is ambiguous. I agree that this might not support the practice of infant baptism. But… might it allow for churches to receive Christian brothers and sisters into the local MB congregation that were infant baptized who have gone through a confirmation of faith and or catechism of some sort that validates the Christian faith tradition that they were born into but now find themselves among a local MB Church body.
Might this be a “Third Way”?
We would not practice infant baptism but might we be so creative as to recognize infant baptism that has been meaningful for some. As Anabaptists we don’t think that infant baptism means anything. But we have wonderful Jesus following people that display a lived theology that announces their baptism daily – that Jesus is Lord of their lives. Their process of baptism, although it was infant baptism, was very meaningful for them. I think more thought could be given to including those followers of Jesus that are in our midst that were infant baptized and later confirmed, into the formal local church body. The footnote already recognizes that the NT is not absolutely clear on the topic. Might we as Anabaptists come up with a third way practice of incorporating these fellow Jesus followers among us with out making them participate in a baptism that might not mean anything to them now? Something to ponder and maybe even practice.
Kevin Snyder
Lead Pastor
Coast Hills Community Church

Reply

Leave a Comment