Baptist Distinctives Part 4 “Two Ordinances: Baptism/Lord’s Supper”

The Baptist Faith & Message is a good summary of the beliefs of the 46,000 churches which make up the Southern Baptist Convention Great Commission Baptists, but there are 7 “distinctives” that have historically set us apart from other denominations and churches:

Biblical authority, Autonomy of the local church, Priesthood of all believers, Two ordinances (believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper), Individual soul liberty, Separation of Church and State, and Two offices of the church (pastor and deacon)

#4 Two Ordinances: Baptism/Lord’s Supper

#4 (only) Two Ordinances (not sacraments): (believer’s) Baptism (in the biblical since, namely, post-salvation immersion)/Lord’s Supper (as a non-efficacious symbolic remembrance)

The first Christians lived at an exciting time! the book of Acts paints a picture of a growing and thriving body of Believers. Baptists have always believed, in fact in many ways this is THE distinctive for Baptists, that entrance into the community of a local church is through baptism (by immersion, which is redundant, baptism means “immersion”) following, and as a proclamation of, salvation. In the NT, people receive the word of Salvation, then they are baptized, then they participate in church life.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

-Acts 2:41-47

Jesus commanded the church to perform baptism (Matt 28:18) but he also commands the church to partake of the Lord’s Supper:

…Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes…

-1Cor 11:23-32

About John Harris

I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

This entry was posted in Biblical Studies, Church. Bookmark the permalink.
  • I think you need to be a bit more specific in your language. Almost all (non-Lutheran) protestant denominations officially only have two ordinances (or sacraments), the distinctive is the manner in which they occur. They are called ordinances, first, not sacraments. Baptism is for believers only (and that really is *the* distinctive). And the Lord’s Supper (not Eucharist) is taken together, not one at a time. We need to be careful because other churches *do* hold to just two such practices of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism (Anglicans (globally, less so in US), Presbyterians, Methodists all officially only recognize these two), but it’s the particular way that they are practiced that makes them Baptist.

  • I think you need to be a bit more specific in your language. Almost all (non-Lutheran) protestant denominations officially only have two ordinances (or sacraments), the distinctive is the manner in which they occur. They are called ordinances, first, not sacraments. Baptism is for believers only (and that really is *the* distinctive). And the Lord’s Supper (not Eucharist) is taken together, not one at a time. We need to be careful because other churches *do* hold to just two such practices of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism (Anglicans (globally, less so in US), Presbyterians, Methodists all officially only recognize these two), but it’s the particular way that they are practiced that makes them Baptist.

  • As you say *THE* distinctive is believer’s baptism.

    But, that’s exactly what I said?????

    “baptism… following, and as a proclamation of, salvation.”

    Other traditions sprinkle or pour, but we practice βάπτισμα.

    Thanks for stopping by

  • As you say *THE* distinctive is believer’s baptism.

    But, that’s exactly what I said?????

    “baptism… following, and as a proclamation of, salvation.”

    Other traditions sprinkle or pour, but we practice βάπτισμα.

    Thanks for stopping by

  • Yes, but the implication you had at the beginning was that the distinctive mark is that these are the only two. Further, I know from personal experience that other denominations practice believers baptism by immersion. In particular, evangelical Anglican churches in Britain have seen a huge increase in the number of committed families who “withhold” baptism of their children until they are older and make their own profession of faith (often much older than is the case in most Baptist churches). Not only that, but in Baptist (both SBC (soon to be GCB) and WBA) discussions with Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church leaders they have agreed that “Baptists got it right.” Although these two rarely practice it, they admit that baptism by immersion is by far preferable and likely the New Testament method (the RCC liturgy has since been amended to reflect this). The actual distinctive mark is the exclusivity of the practice, not the practice itself. And we should really be careful of claiming that the other traditions that pour or sprinkle are not practicing baptism (especially if they make the clear indication that it is not effective until salvation that might be observable by a public and personal profession of faith, such as in PCA and more evangelical Anglican groups). I just think it behooves us to be careful in this type of language. Yes I believe Baptists are correct in their current practices involving baptism, but we should be careful how this affects our relation to other denominations.

  • Yes, but the implication you had at the beginning was that the distinctive mark is that these are the only two. Further, I know from personal experience that other denominations practice believers baptism by immersion. In particular, evangelical Anglican churches in Britain have seen a huge increase in the number of committed families who “withhold” baptism of their children until they are older and make their own profession of faith (often much older than is the case in most Baptist churches). Not only that, but in Baptist (both SBC (soon to be GCB) and WBA) discussions with Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church leaders they have agreed that “Baptists got it right.” Although these two rarely practice it, they admit that baptism by immersion is by far preferable and likely the New Testament method (the RCC liturgy has since been amended to reflect this). The actual distinctive mark is the exclusivity of the practice, not the practice itself. And we should really be careful of claiming that the other traditions that pour or sprinkle are not practicing baptism (especially if they make the clear indication that it is not effective until salvation that might be observable by a public and personal profession of faith, such as in PCA and more evangelical Anglican groups). I just think it behooves us to be careful in this type of language. Yes I believe Baptists are correct in their current practices involving baptism, but we should be careful how this affects our relation to other denominations.

  • okay @Trey, I updated the point #4 to be more specific for you. though my original statement still stands. All your examples are churches who accept entrance into their church by means other than baptism (that is, βάπτισμα in the biblical since), even if individuals decide to follow another way. GCB is distinctive in that we, as a denomination, offer no alternative for pado-baptism. Baptism is the (only) means of entrance into a church community.

  • okay @Trey, I updated the point #4 to be more specific for you. though my original statement still stands. All your examples are churches who accept entrance into their church by means other than baptism (that is, βάπτισμα in the biblical since), even if individuals decide to follow another way. GCB is distinctive in that we, as a denomination, offer no alternative for pado-baptism. Baptism is the (only) means of entrance into a church community.

  • Gary

    The “how” of salvation is, and always has been, the power of the Word of God/God’s declaration of righteousness, received through faith.

    That is how people were saved in the Old Covenant and now in the New. No one has ever been saved by HIS own efforts. Circumcision saved no one. Good works have saved no one. The ACT of Baptism has saved no one. And YOUR “decision” did not save YOU. Actions/works of man do not save. God does all the saving, and he does so through the power of his Word: “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”.

    When does the Bible say that God saves? In numerous passages in the NT we see one “when” of salvation: Men and women hear the Good News of the Gospel, believe, repent and are saved! God did 100% of the saving! There is no where in Scripture that states that sinners have the capability to make a “decision” for God, to make a “decision” to believe. The second chapters of both Ephesians and Colossians and the third chapter of Romans all state that sinners are spiritually dead. Dead men do not make decisions!

    You are saved by the power of God’s Word which “quickens” your spiritually dead soul, makes you alive, gives you faith, and you believe. Sinners do not “decide” to be saved. God decides to save THEM!

    And there are multiple passages of Scripture that state that another possible “when” of salvation and the forgiveness of sins is at the time of Baptism. It isn’t the act of Baptism or the decision to be baptized that saves. It is the power of God’s Words spoken at Baptism which miraculously and supernaturally “quickens” dead souls, gives them faith, and they believe.

    Salvation is not dependent on you at all. You bring NOTHING to the “table”. God does it all. He doesn’t even allow you to bring your mature intelligence and decision-making capabilities to your salvation. God decides to save YOU. He decides to save you for reasons we do not know. But he saved you irrespective of merit on your part. Making the right “decision”, “accepting Christ”, makes you better than the person who doesn’t make the right decision.

    If God saves you based on YOUR “good” decision, that is merit, which is a good deed, which is a work, which is unacceptable to God. YOU did not decide to be saved! God decided to save YOU!

    For more information on the TRUE plan of salvation, go to the official website of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, an orthodox Christian Church that follows the doctrines and practices of the Early Christian Church. http://www.lcms.org

  • Gary

    How can Baptists and Lutherans read the same Bible and come away with vastly different interpretations? How can a Lutheran read in the Gospel of Mark: “He that believes and is baptized will be saved”, believing that Christ is saying that Baptism is involved in salvation, and the Baptist reads the same verse and believes that
    the simple rendering of the passage cannot be believed?

    Is one side just being obstinate? Is one side just refusing to accept the obvious?

    Or is the great chasm between these two denominations in interpreting Scripture due to two very different world views: The Lutheran world view based on Genesis chapters 1 and 2; the Baptist worldview based on the philosophy of Plato?

    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/10/is-plato-to-blame-for-baptist.html

  • Sadly, you begin with your position, and then find one verse you think supports it, and you ignore the rest of the Bible.

    I believe one who “believes and is baptized” will be saved (Mark 16:16). You, however, believe one can be baptized regardless of belief and be saved. Not what the text actually says.

    Obviously I believe if someone believes and is baptized they will be saved, but belief is the necessity for salvation, not baptism.

    I believe the paralytic was forgiven for his sins (in Mark 2:5), he was not baptized.

    When asked the exact question we are attempting to answer “what MUST I do to inherit eternal life” Jesus did not mention baptism. Do you believe he forgot? Do you believe Jesus was incorrect?

    “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

    I believe Paul was correct “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) No caveat, no additions, nothing else needed, belief.

    I believe the thief of the cross was saved. (Luke 23:43)

    I believe the Bible “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9)

    Baptism clearly and obviously accompanies salvation in the Bible, it is not essential for it. That is my view, which makes all these verses (including Mark 16:16) true.

    The operative action for salvation is belief, not baptism. Have you not made it to Paul? Have you not make it to the second half of Mark 16:16 “whoever does not believe will be condemned”?

    Sadly, you are not reading the Bible well. You seek to change Mark 16:16 to fit your view and you say that Jesus should have said “whoever is not baptized will be condemned.” No, that is not what Jesus said.

    I don’t expect you to change your mind based on this 100% sound reading of the text, because you obviously believe what you believe irrespective of what the Bible actually says. And that’s sad.

    But there you have it. My view does not contradict any of the verses mentioned here, where as your view accords only with the first half of Mark 16:16. May I suggest you take Mark 16:16 incorrectly, because the whole Bible is one book with one message.

  • Gary

    This is the plain, simple interpretation of all of Mark 16:16:
    1. If you believe and are baptized you will be saved.
    2. If you do not believe you will be damned

    Therefore, believing and being baptized saves. Not believing damns.
    It is not the lack of baptism that damns, it is the lack of faith. Baptism is NOT mandatory for salvation, but Baptism is part of GOD’S act of salvation.

    Now please give me your interpretation of that passage.

  • Gary

    Ask a Lutheran what Acts 16:30 means:

    If you believe on the name of Jesus you WILL be saved. Nothing else required! No need for good works, no need for saying a special prayer, and no need for baptism.

    Baptism is NOT mandatory for salvation in the Lutheran interpretation of Scripture. We believe the plain, simple interpretation of the entire Bible unless it is VERY clear that the writer is speaking figuratively.

    Why do Baptists need to often twist themselves into pretzels to explain away the simple, plain interpretation of so many passages of the Bible that discuss Baptism?

  • I don’t think it would be helpful for me to re-repeat my position.

    Thank you for agreeing with me that baptism is not necessary for salvation.

    It is not a means of salvation, as Paul clearly states, it is by Grace through Faith alone that one is saved (Eph 2)

    Salvation is an expression of faith, thus it is by definition an act of the believer.

    May I just point out, by way of “big picture thinking” no one denomination has a corner on the market of truth.

    How many non-denominational churches, churches who were formed independently who hold the Bible to be their ultimate authority, hold a view like yours?

    What I mean to say is, your tradition is effecting your interpretation, as, I am sure, is mine.

    However, people don’t independently come to your set of traditions. Conversely, there is nothing in 90% of non-denominational Christian Churches that would preclude them from being Southern Baptist (like me).

    So, I will simply suggest (not for you, because you are obviously dogmatic in your pre-existing belief, but for others reading on), if no one except the people in your (or similar) traditions agree with you, then perhaps your beliefs come from your tradition and not from the Bible itself.

    How one comes to a belief is not an adequate test of whether or not it is true, but if no one comes to that belief another way, that is at least a “red flag.”

    There’s not a single explicit example of infant baptism in the NT. Early church writer Erasmus admits that infant baptism was a development in his commentary on Romans “Paul does not seem to treat about infants – It was not yet the custom for infants to be baptized.”

    So, you can deny the history, you can claim exclusive ability to interpret the Bible wisely, and you can insert your unique belief into the text, but I don’t think that’s wise to do.

  • Gary

    Your comments, my Christian brother, reflect American “ethnocentricity”. That the world revolves around the United States, and that Christianity revolves around American Christians.

    The overwhelming majority of Christians in the world believe the 2,000 year old, apostolic, catholic (universal) belief that God saves sinners and forgives sins in Baptism. On a world scale, evangelical theology and its adherents are just a drop in the bucket.

    I always come back to these two questions that Baptists/evangelicals need to seriously consider, and to date, have never given me a good answer. If pushed into a corner on these two issues, Baptists seem to always resort to unfounded “Catholic” conspiracy theories to avoid these uncomfortable “holes” in their theology.

    1. Why is it that Baptists must do so much work to manipulate God’s Words to re-interpret the plain, simple meaning of most passages of Scripture that discuss Baptism?

    2. Why is there ZERO evidence that any Christian living in the first eight or so centuries of Christianity believed that the purpose of Baptism is ONLY as an act of OUR obedience./OUR profession of faith?

  • Gary

    Salvation is actually much more simple than most Evangelicals believe it is.

    The Lutheran Doctrines of Justification and Baptism are either very simple or very complicated depending upon your world view.

    Most Christian evangelicals, and all other world religions, come from the viewpoint that: “I must do SOMETHING for God to love me and want to save me! I can’t believe that God would just give me his love, his grace, his mercy, his peace, his forgiveness AND eternal life…based on absolutely nothing that I do. Can it really be true that God gives me all that, in addition to the fact that he gave his only Son to die for me…not based on any good quality, trait, or deed that I can provide to earn his good favor, and not even based on me making a decision that I want his gift??

    That is INCOMPREHENSIBLE, illogical, unreasonable, and makes no sense!

    But that is what the Bible says that God does: He gives us the free gift of salvation based on his love for us …alone. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

    So if you are able to remove YOU from the act of salvation, here is how the Bible says that GOD does it:

    Salvation occurs by only one means: the power of God’s declaration of righteousness/the power of his Word.

    In the New Testament, God says that he uses his Word to save and forgive sins in two situations: when the Word is preached, and when the Word is spoken with the application of water in Baptism.

    It’s that simple.

    Who do Lutherans baptize? Answer: We baptize anyone who comes to us, or is brought to us, seeking God’s free gift of salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Do you have to be baptized to be saved? No. But why would you refuse this beautiful act of God? Why would you refuse God’s gift of the forgiveness of your sins? Do you really have true faith?

    As Christ says in Mark 16:16, it is not the lack of baptism that damns, it is the lack of belief/the lack of true faith that damns.

  • Gary

    “Early church writer Erasmus admits that infant baptism was a development in his commentary on Romans ‘Paul does not seem to treat about infants – It was not yet the custom for infants to be baptized.’ ”

    Erasmus was born in 1466 AD. I doubt even most Baptist theologians would consider him an “Early Church” writer.

    Now here is a comment from a true Early Church writer:

    Writing in the second century A.D. the church father Irenaeus said of Holy Baptism: “As dry flour cannot be united into a lump of dough, or a loaf, but needs moisture; so we who are many cannot be made one in Christ Jesus without the water which comes from heaven … For our bodies have received the unity which brings us to immortality, by means of the washing; our souls receive it by means of the Spirit” (Adversus Haereses, 4.26.2).