Recently, Baptist21 hosted a panel discussion on current topics facing the church at the 9Marks Conference at SEBTS. The panelists included: Danny Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, Tony Merida, and David Platt. The panelists discussed topics ranging from politics to baptism to church membership and more.
This clip considers the question – Is Church Membership Biblical/Necessary?
Because much of the evangelical talk about baptism in recent years has downplayed the importance of it in regard to church membership, I was glad to see serious discussion about this subject the last few days at the Gospel Coalition site. While the piece by Mathis on “open membership” falls in line with much of the discussion that does not see baptism as central to membership (we hope to write a response to this piece as well), the pieces by Horton (paedobaptism) and Hamilton (believer’s baptism) argue that it is central to local church membership.
I really enjoyed Michael Horton’s entry on paedobaptism and church membership. I appreciated the winsomeness and honesty of his disagreement, and I especially enjoyed the strong language he used. He used words like “sin” to describe believers who do not admit their children to infant baptism.
Baptism is a serious issue, so serious language is appropriate. Our Baptist forefathers recognized this. That’s why they used words like “evil” to describe paedobaptism, and that’s why some of them were willing to drown for believer’s baptism by immersion.
Much could be said in response to the paedobaptist position, but I want to focus briefly on a glaring oversight in the paedobaptist position as it pertains to church membership, and that is the new birth.
I actually agree that baptism is a sign of the covenant that parallels circumcision under the old covenant, but how is one born into the new covenant community? It’s not through generation; it’s through regeneration (Ezek. 36; Jer. 31; cf. John 3). One is born into the covenant community when they receive the Spirit, a new heart, and the law written on the heart.
This is why Baptists have historically made such a big deal about believer’s baptism in terms of church membership. We believe in regenerate church membership. The membership of the church should be made up only of those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Granted, there will be false professions, and we will make errors, so there are provisions like church membership to help us strive for integrity in our membership.
The sign of the covenant should be administered not to those who have been born, but rather to those who have been born again.
I am thankful for the series and think you should check out the posts. Serious language is in order, as well as charitable disagreement.
Baptist21 is excited to announce that we will once again host a panel at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention to be held in Phoenix, AZ.
Topic: A discussion on issues in the SBC, particularly “Mission”
When: During the Tuesday Lunch break of the SBC (June 14th)
There are still many details to be determined, such as: location, cost, etc… stay tuned for more information in the days ahead
Part 2 of Saved From… To… For…
This post is by no means comprehensive. However, over the past couple of years, God has deepened my love for the Gospel through him teaching me on the points above. It is my prayer that through a better understanding of biblical salvation, perhaps we can minimize statistics such as “twice baptized.” I also pray that a better understanding will drive a never-ending gratitude for the Gospel and fuel a quicker obedience to the commands of Christ. Finally, I pray that God would be glorified in our words and deeds as we live lives worthy of the Gospel and go to all the peoples of the earth and herald the good news about Jesus. May we never neglect so great a salvation.
Guest Blog by Josh Reed –Josh is a follower of Christ, husband, father of 4, an intern at North Wake Church (A church planting church, check out their plants in Tampa and Washington D.C.), and a student at SEBTS pursuing MDIV in Christian Ministry. Josh is considering doing church planting either nationally or internationally.
Saved From, To, For…
I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist church. I walked the aisle at the age of 8, prayed a prayer asking Jesus into my heart, took baptism shortly after and lived like hell for 16 years. Even though I do not see that as the time I was born again, even from an early age, I knew I did not want to go to hell (at least cognitively, but there was a lingering Jer. 17:9 problem in my heart). At the age of 24, newly married, it was time my wife and I “got back in church.” (Still not quite sure what that means, but we had embraced the lingo and the action. Proved to be a good decision!) We began attending a large church and a young married Sunday School class. The pastor and teacher clearly explained the Scriptures regarding the person and work of Christ and man’s need for salvation. After 9-10 months of sitting under deep conviction, I repented of my sin and trusted Christ to save me from the wrath of God due me because of my sin. I was baptized and became a member of the local church. At that moment, that was about all I knew regarding salvation.
Over the next year, my wife and I grew closer to the people in our Sunday School class. Our teacher met up with me somewhat regularly and began to challenge me regarding sin and holiness, being a faithful husband, and most importantly, spending time with Jesus. Then the Lord saw fit to bring a man into our Sunday School class to co-teach it. This brother and his family had served in a South Asian country and was working for a missions agency focused on church-planting all over the world. He began to disciple me. I count this as one God’s greatest acts of kindness to me. Even though I could not articulate it at that time, I was experiencing “body life.” I had been saved to the people of God.
But one thing this brother emphasized (and still does!) is that Christ did not save us to sit. People need to hear the Gospel and see how it changes those who trust Christ. We read through the book of Romans verse by verse for a year and half with another brother. During this time Christ began to use this brother to encourage me to see my office as a mission field. We went to India twice together, which ironically, is where I began to learn how to share the Gospel. Upon returning from India, the Spirit of God began to move me to share and serve the people in my office. The people at the restaurant. My friends I grew up with. Through all of these experiences (and many more) Jesus was teaching me that when he saved me, he saved me for the mission of God.
Over the course of the last couple of years, through God’s amazing grace via 1) reading and rereading the biblical narrative 2) going ‘behind the scenes’ of a church in a pastoral internship and seeing the intentions and theology that drives its methodology, while seeking to make disciples in the community/world 3) multiple conversations with multiple brothers within the community of faith 4) proclaiming the Gospel to unbelievers and 5) reflecting on my story, God has been revealing a portrait of salvation that is much more robust than an ‘event-based’ understanding of salvation. Many of us have come to articulate this as the “From-To-For.” Perhaps biblical salvation can be better understood and lived out if we think in a comprehensive,God-centered way: We are saved by Christ from the wrath of God, to the people of God, for the mission of God.
In the final part, Josh will explore more in-depth this idea of being saved from the Wrath of God, to the People of God, for the Mission of God…
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