Baptized Into the Body or Into the Church?

Posted on 12/21/2006

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There is no evidence that the command to Baptize was given just/or exclusively to a local church.  It certainly was given to the followers of Christ.  It was given to all those who were present at Christ’s ascension. All through my life, all being a Southern Baptist, I have been taught and have taught that followers of Christ must be “Great Commission Christians.”  We have always understood that the GC and ACTs 1.8 applied to all Christians.   Acts 1.8 is somewhat of a parallel passage to the GC.  We know from other passages that there were more then just the 11 present when Christ gave the command to “Go. ” It is an argument from silence to conclude that Baptism was given just to “the local church” as if it was given to an entity rather than the Body.   Certainly it is an ordinance of the Church or a church.  But ultimately it is the ordinance of Christ, as Baptists have a long history of understanding.

The term Church = Ekklesia, is literally the gathering of Christ’s people.  In the New Testament it is used for specific gatherings, i.e. the church in ______ .  Each gathering will have elders and deacons.  Each gathering will baptize converts, and break bread.  Each gathering encourages and disciplines one another.  Why?  Because these practices have been given to us by the command of Christ, the head of the Body of which all ekklesia’s belong.  In our day, we emphasize the nature of the Ekklesia to the exclusion of a proper understanding of the Body of Christ.  But Baptists at first had a different, I believe, more balanced understanding.   Look at one of the first Great Confessions of the movement we now call Baptist: 

1644 London Confession
Section XLI On Baptism.
The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this Ordinance (of baptism), the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching Disciple, it being no where tied to a particular Church, Officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the Commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered Disciples. (Isa. 8:16; Matt. 28:16-19; John 4:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Matt. 26:26)

1646 FIRST LONDON BAPTIST CONFESSION
The phrase, “church ordinance” is not used. Instead, it reads, “Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ.”

1742 PHILADELPHIA BAPTIST CONFESSION
The phrase “church ordinance” is not used. Instead, it reads, “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus.”

1858 ABSTRACT OF PRINCIPLES
The phrase “church ordinance” is not used. Instead, it reads, “Baptism is an ordinance of the Lord Jesus.”

1925 BFM and the New Hampshire Confession of Faith. 
The phrase “church ordinance” is not used. Instead, it says, “the ordinances of Christ.

Interestingly,  the entire understanding of “authorized chuches” and “authorized administrators” that so many like to talk about today, has not been built by Biblical texts, but only by inference, presuppositions, and supposed implications.  Certainly the ordinances are for the use of the ekklesia, and in the fellowship of the ekklesia, and under the guidance of an ekklesia, but not in a way that is exclusionary to the understanding of how any ekklesia fits into the greater Body of Christ.  In heaven there will be no ekklesia of Corinth, St. Louis, but only the Body and Bride of Christ. 

The use of Christ’s ordianances were given to bring a sense of unity and harmony and oneness to His Body.  The application of these ordinances today are sadly used to further sectarian divisions in the Body of our Lord.  As much as it is possible we should strive to avoid this! 

There are two great issues concerning the ordinances that we will not and should not compromise, but short of these, we do not have Biblical authority to remove the ordinances from the authority of Christ, as given to His Body,  and make them just the ordinances of a denomination or a local church. The two things that we must not compromise:

1. Believer’s Baptism.  Baptism is only for those who have already been converted and regenerated.  Baptism does not have regenerative power.  Baptism is an identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Biblical baptism was and still is the immersion of the individual under water. 

2. Regenerated Membership.  The Lord’s Supper is only for those who have been converted and regenerated.  

Now I would further add that the Lord’s Supper is for every person who is actually a member of the Body of Christ and not just members of a local ekklesia, See Here.

UNDER AUTHORITY NOT IN AUTHORITY

Baptism:  1 Corinthians 12.13  For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

There is a prevailing understanding in Baptist life that a person is Baptized by the Church and into the Church.  But the Bible teaches that we are baptized by the Spirit into the Body and then become part of the ekklesia/church.  We are certainly not intstructed in Scripture that Baptism is “under the authority” of anybody but Christ.  Christ affirmed that “all authority” has been given to Him, then he says “Go Baptize.”  To infer that the authority of Christ has been given to a church sounds stangely similiar to the papists.   This is exactly why the first Baptist did not recognize such thinking and would revolt against it, because they lived under the tryanny of an entity that thought they had received and possessed authority rather than BEING UNDER the AUTHORITY of Christ. 

Also we are never instructed that the person who baptizes has to be “authorized.”  Baptists certainly did not feel this way at the beginning of our existence (see the 1644 London Confession above).  Why? Because Baptists came out of the Separatist arm of the Reformation.  If they had felt this way from the beginning, they would have stayed in the Church of England.  But they understood the ordinances to belong to Christ and His Body and NOT under the authority or power of a formal entity, but under the authority of Christ  and handed down to His Body, His Ekklesia.  Baptists felt compelled to dissent, separate, baptize and break bread outside of the boundary of an authorized church and their authorized administrators. 

Of course when one is Baptized by the Spirit, they enter into the Body of Christ 1 Cor 12.13.  There is not a verse in the Bible that says they are baptized into the Church.  They become part of the Ekklesia, the gathering of Christ’s followers.  But they are baptized into the Body of Christ. 

When one is water baptized, they are identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6.4 ) and then they become a member of Christ’s Ekklesia.  Remember, they did not have all the options of which “church to join” like us.   Certainly they were seen as a “member” but they certainly did not share our paradigm.  Every person who became a Christian was automatically a part of the Ekklesia and expected to assemble together with all of Christ’s followers in a given city.  

TC

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Posted in: Ordinances