Book Review: Believer’s Baptism

Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant of Christ, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright

I was looking forward to getting my hands on this book and reading it. Some of it I didn’t find too interesting, specifically sections of paedobaptism (infant baptism) – because the ineffectiveness of such a practice is already a forgone conclusion in my mind, I don’t need to hear more arguments that agree with mine. However, to have another’s perspective on the subject of baptism was spectacular. As I’m sure you know, baptism is a new area for me/us.

Some of it’s best points were the declaration that the Church/Body of Jesus Christ is not a mixed community of believers/unbelievers, repentant/unrepentant, transformed/untransformed. Those who have faith, and repent are subject to baptism.

That is, we know of no one who was claiming to be converted and yet who refused baptism. Therefore, the NT believer’s relation to the local church was as one who both called himself a Christian and who had been baptized. Refusing to be baptized would then call into question the claim to be living in obedience to Jesus Christ
pg. 341

They often use the term “a repentance-faith-baptism” as each element cannot be removed from any other. Therefore one who is not repentant, is not a candidate for baptism – and is not a member of the Church of Christ.

It also contains one of the best explanations of the ecclesiological affects of baptism I’ve seen yet:

Andrew Fuller wrote in 1802 that the proper practice of baptism promotes “piety in individuals, and purity in the church.” Baptism itself is a summary of our faith. Baptism is a confession of sin and a picture of repentance. Baptism is a profession of faith in Christ. It reminds us of Christ’s humiliation and death as he identified with sinners and of his resurrection from the dead. Baptism presents a preview of the bodily resurrection, and it portrays the radical nature of conversion. When rightly practiced, it distinguishes believers from unbelievers, the church from the world. It is, to cite Fuller again, “The boundary of visible Christianity.” Therefore, it should protect the church from nominalism. Baptizing only those who profess to be converted – and give evidence of it – is a foundational matter for a congregation that would be healthy, sound, and growing. The regenerate nature of each member of the church is protected and displayed by the practice of believer’s baptism. All these benefits of the right practice of baptism call out to Christians today to think carefully about how theology should be applied to practice at this point.

One other interesting suggestion I read was that the often referred to “formula” in Matt 28 is not a formula at all.

The passage (Mt 28.19) is intricately interwoven with the Gospel as a whole,… Some significance is often attributed to the genre of this section. Rather than dealing with this issue in terms of competing, mutually exclusive options, we may detect elements of enthronement, covenant renewal, and commissioning. In an echo of Dan 7.14, Jesus is portrayed as the exalted eschatelogical ruler of the world’s kingdoms (enthronement); by assuring the disciples of his continuing presence, Jesus reaffirms his covenant with them (covenant renewal); and, reminiscent of OT commissioning narratives, Jesus issues to his followers his final charge (commissioning). In the end, it is not any particular genre, or even a combination of these, that accurately describes Matthew’s final pericope. The evangelist rather brings his own Gospel to his own intended conclusion.

Thus, what Matthew intends is not a specific “formula” but rather bringing in the rest of his Gospel to a conclusion – that God, Jesus, and holy Spirit have worked, are working, and will work. They have worked in the story Matthew just recounted. They are working by ascending Christ to the right hand of the throne (Ps 110). And they will work as you are commissioned.

All in all a great read

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Thank You

    Reply

  2. […] but I wanted to bring up the one biggest things I learned, and it is about baptism. Previously, my best sources concluded that they were unsure if Jewish proselyte baptism existed prior to Christian baptism. […]

    Reply

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