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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 (2019 DRAFT #8)

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. ¹

Meaning ²

Baptism is an act of obedience which testifies that God in Christ has 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. 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

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 of 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 

Practice

We practice baptism by immersion as a powerful testimony that a believer has been washed by the Spirit, has died with Christ to sin and been raised to newness of life.

Local churches baptize by immersion those God has redeemed, and joyfully welcome and disciple each of them into full participation as members of the congregation.  Local churches also joyfully welcome Christian disciples baptized elsewhere, regardless of mode, if they were baptized upon their own confession of faith.

The local congregation invites those who claim baptism prior to their own confession of faith to receive baptism as a testimony to their own faith and their desire to be incorporated into the local church family. ¹⁰

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: 294

Commentary

¹ Water baptism is God’s command for everyone who desires to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (See Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:18-
20) and is to be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Even Jesus himself at the beginning of his earthly ministry was baptized as a means of identification with us and as a fulfillment of all righteousness (Matthew
3:13-17). The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) highlights the importance of baptism by connecting it to the
command to “make disciples of all nations” and to the explanatory phrase “teaching them to obey everything I have
commanded you.” Baptism is connected to the central missionary assignment given by Jesus Christ to the church and is part
of teaching new disciples to obey Jesus.

² Baptism is about what has happened (faith, cleansing and freedom from sin and death, receiving of the Holy Spirit), is
happening (full participation and inclusion into Christ’s body and its mission), and will happen (bodily resurrection into the
fullness of new life). In the early church the first two (conversion and baptism) were essentially one event and occurred in
very close relation to each other. The meaning of baptism is interpreted in 11 primary texts in the New Testament (Rom.
6:3; 1 Cor. 6:11; 10:2; 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5; 5:26; Col. 2:12; Tit. 3:5; Heb. 10:22; 1 Pet. 3:21) that provide four key
themes: incorporation/inclusion, cleansing, unity/oneness in the church, and new life in Christ.

³ Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27, 1 Corinthians 10:2 and 12:13 define baptism as incorporation or inclusion. Romans 6:3 and
Galatians 3:27 describe baptism as “into Christ.” The phrase means incorporation into the community of which Jesus is the
head, not simply a mystical union with Christ, or an individual relationship with him. The meaning of incorporation in
Romans 6:3 is underlined by a parallel phrase in 1 Corinthians 10:2. There baptism is spoken of as “into Moses.” This does
not refer to baptism into an individual relationship with Moses, but into the people of whom he was the head or leader.

Baptism in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is “into one body,” into the church of which Christ is the head as represented in the
local group of believers. Baptism means to become part of the people of whom Christ is the head, the leader. Baptism as
incorporation means leaving one’s past and becoming one with the church of Jesus Christ. The Acts 2:47 reference to the
Lord adding “to their number daily those who were being saved” describes the incorporation of new people into the local
church.

While the New Testament is not absolutely clear, it seems that all baptisms were done to individuals after they had
repented and become disciples of Jesus. This rules out infant baptism, the baptism of young children, forced baptisms, and
baptisms on behalf of others. 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.

Some Christian traditions see baptism as a “sacrament” where God’s grace is specially transferred to the baptized
individual because of the event. Others see it as a mere “sign” or “symbol” of what happened earlier in a person’s life. It
might be best to simply acknowledge a middle ground. Baptism, while not a means of salvation, is a powerful action and
testimony that effects a new reality but is not salvific or sacramental.

First Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, and Hebrews 10:22 speak of baptism as cleansing. Christians have been
washed, presumably in baptism, and sanctified (1 Cor 6:11). Jesus loved the church so he cleansed her by the “washing with
water through the word” (Eph 5:26) again a likely reference to baptism. Both Titus 3:5 and Hebrews 10:22 pick up the
“washing” image that we assume is in reference to baptism. All of these are in continuity with the practice of baptism in
Judaism and that of John the Baptist’s “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

Colossians 2:12 associates baptism with moving from death (“buried with him in baptism”) to new life in Christ. Baptism
is associated here with new life, the life of the kingdom of God, and fullness of life in Christ.

First Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-28, and Ephesians 4:4-6 link baptism with unity or oneness in the church. Baptism in 1 Corinthians 12:13 incorporates people “into one body” which brings about sociological unity in the church. Jew and Greek, slave and free are united into one community or family, and one Spirit nurtures all. Baptism has the same consequence in Galatians 3:27-28. It erases the critical distinctions between people, Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female. Different people and social classes are united through baptism into Christ.

Baptism means oneness in Ephesians 4:4-6, as does one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one God. Baptism unites diverse people into one people. Baptism signifies unity in the church, creating one body out of very different people, even former enemies.

The local church welcomes disciples of Jesus who have been baptized as believers in the context of other denominational traditions to full participation in the church. Their mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, sprinkling) is of secondary importance to their personal confession of faith in Jesus as Lord and their commitment to Jesus’ mission and his body (the church).

¹⁰ This baptism may also acknowledge the hopes and intentions of those involved in their baptism as an infant.

1 comment

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.

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