The dominant doctrinal position on baptism in the Evangelical Church is credobaptism, the baptism of professing believers. Regardless of the method of administration (though immersion is favored), the credobaptist position is rooted in the repeated NT references of baptism linked to repentance and faith. Theological exposition of these passages undergirds the doctrinal position that only those capable of repenting and voicing an expression of faith may therefore be baptized.
The doctrine finds it root in the Great Commission of Christ, specifically Matthew 28:19:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Two facets of baptismal doctrine emerge from this core statement, the ordination of the practice and the sequence of events implicit within. Christ commands that all of His disciples be baptized following the course of the their discipleship. In other words, only believers able to express their confession are to be baptized.
Repentance and faith are linked in every instance of Baptism in the New Testament. In the earliest reference to John’s baptism (Mk 1:4), forgiveness of sins moves from a sacrificial system to one of personal faith. In Acts, the baptismal records are consistent in commanding repentance prior to baptism (cf: 2:38, 41). True repentance is impossible without a concomitant belief in the source of forgiveness, and baptism meaningless without a turning from sin. This dynamic is noted in Acts 8:12; “but when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized,”.
The silence of the New Testament regarding the baptism of infants or non-believers is presented as evidence against those positions. Advocates of infant baptism point to the recordings of household baptisms ( cf: Acts 16:31-34 ) as supporting evidence that all were included in the rite. Those who hold to the believer’s baptism position make two arguments against this evidence. First, it is inexplicit with regard to who is being baptized. The argument from silence (i.e. it doesn’t say that children weren’t baptized in these incidents) is unconvincing, especially in the development of Christian doctrine.
The credobaptist presents a string of evidences from the New Testament that they propose explicitly supports the doctrine. The argument against other baptismal positions ( infant, sacramentalist ) by the credobaptist includes the suggested dangers of these beliefs. Bruce Ware asks “How many sons and daughters of Presbyterians ( even more of Lutherans, and more yet of Roman Catholics) are raised convinced that they are “Christians”—that is, truly saved people, in right relationship with God—precisely because they look back to their baptism as infants to instruct their consciences and grant them confidence in their salvation?”
Grace and peace to you.
image Michael Sarver