Saturday, January 26, 2013

Baptism and the Romans 14 Rule.

     Baptism is a command, to that all parties agree. Jesus in the great commission commands this act to be practiced until He returns. However, the method of it falls under a secondary practice by definition. The Christian faith does not stand nor fall on the method of one’s baptism. It stands or falls on the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of Scripture, and the doctrine of salvation. Therefore, though baptism is a command, regarding it’s method it is a secondary practice. Therefore we apply this Romans 14 rule to it.

The rule is this: when a believer in this assembly[The Well] is governed by their faith and conscience over matters of secondary practice, we will not despise them nor pass judgment on them. We get this rule directly from Romans 14, so lets read a few verses.
“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables [v.1-2]....One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God[v.5-6]....So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”[v.12] 
Now granted at this point Paul is only speaking about food and the observance of days. However those are just examples that Paul is using to make his point. The practice of eating food and observing days, like the method of baptism are secondary practices.  Paul continues...

“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding[v.13-19].... But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."[v.23]
Historically there has been three positions that have governed the local church in the area of baptism.
 1) The Baptist position.  This position allows only converts, that is professing believers or disciples to be baptized. Matt 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” 
2) The Presbyterian position which in addition to conversion baptisms, encourages believing parents to baptize their children. They see inclusion of children in the new covenant on the basis of the perpetual promise made to Abraham in Genesis 17. Abraham was commanded to circumcise all the males in his household, including the infants and aliens as a perpetual covenant. Abraham and his seed were to keep the covenant by receiving the sign of the covenant, namely circumcision. Now the N.T. tells us that all who are of faith are blessed and are called Abraham’s descendants. [Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:9]. Therefore they argue that “the infant seed of believing Gentiles, even in the Old Testament, were partakers of the promises made to Abraham and so were in covenant with God; “therefore they are in it still, unless God hath repealed. it.””  (Joel Beeke, Mark Jones A Puritan Theology: Doctrine For Life. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012, pg. 728)  So their view is that since infants of believing parents are included in the covenant they are to receive the sign of the covenant.  In the New Covenant, this sign is baptism.  As evidence, it is often pointed out that in a couple places in the book of Acts(Acts 16:15; 33-34), and in 1 Cor. 1:16 whole households were baptized, therefore inferring that children were being baptized as well. 

Now certainly God is not confused as to what He had in mind.  He knows exactly what He intended, and both sides of this debate swear that their position is God's position.  Granted.  Yet in His providence, He has neither prohibited infant baptism, nor commanded it explicitly. In addition He has not explicitly commanded conversion only baptisms. Yet, He has commanded all to repent, believe the gospel and be baptized. So the 3rd position which is ours is the so-called  3)"Romans 14 position" This position allows for both positions to be practiced in one body.  This is not because we are relativists, nor because we simply want to take a third "less offensive" position.  All Christians everywhere ought to rigorously apply their mind to Scripture and good teaching and then practice in full faith and according to their conscience what they think the Scripture is teaching. We will not despise nor pass judgment on these believers. We have in mind that baptism is a sign that points to Christ. It is not intended to point to us. It is a means of grace so that we could see a picture of the gospel in it. We are not willing to divide over a sign. We will divide over the substance, i.e. the gospel, but not over the sign of it. That is our position. This is the Romans 14 rule. Sincere believers can have different views on the method of baptism. All parties however are bound by faith and conscience.  This binding of faith and conscience should be allowed to be the rule over secondary practices just as Paul commanded.  It is not safe nor right to advise them to violate their conscience, and it is a reproach to the gospel to make a sign of the gospel more important than the gospel itself and ask them to leave the church. We allow both forms to be expressed at the Well so long as the recipients of this sign are not doing it superstitiously, or treating it as efficacious for salvation or meritorious for earning God’s favor. We try to discern where people are at on this through an interview process.

We did not come to this position merely out of reaction, or a desire to be different from other churches. Major Christian leaders such as Mark Dever(a Baptist) and Ligon Duncan(a Presbyterian), men that we really like, started conference 6 years ago called Together For The Gospel. They practice this rule in a conference setting. We believe that this can be done in the same church under the same roof. 
We know have not come to this position in order to appease all parties nor because we are motivated to not offend at all costs. We know the gospel is offensive enough. We hold this position because we think it is a loving practice to those who hold differing views, and since it promotes love and maturity amongst our members, therefore it is most God-glorifying position in our view.


  1. Dear Baptist/evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ,

    I ask you to consider these points:

    1. When God said that he would preserve his Word, what did he mean? Did he mean that he would preserve the original papyrus and parchment upon which his Word was written? If so, then his Word has disappeared as none of the original manuscripts remain.

    Did he mean that he would preserve his word in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek only? He would not preserve his Word when it was translated into all the other languages of the world?

    Or did God mean that he would preserve his Word…the message/the words…the Gospel: the free gift of salvation, and the true doctrines of the Christian Faith? Would God allow his Word/his message to mankind to be so polluted by translation errors that no translation, into any other language from the three original languages, continues to convey his true words?

    2. There is NO translation of the Bible, from the original ancient languages, into ANY language, ANYWHERE on earth, that translates the Bible as the Baptists/evangelicals believe it should be translated.

    No Bible translation on earth translates Acts 2:38 as, “Repent and believe in Jesus Christ every one of you and you will receive the Holy Ghost. Then be baptized as a public profession of your faith.”

    Why would God allow EVERY English translation of the Bible throughout history to be mistranslated or use such confusing language as to suggest that God forgives sins in Baptism? And not only all English translations, ALL translations of the Bible have retained these “mistranslations or confusing wording”.

    Do you honestly believe that God would allow his Word to be so polluted with translation errors that EVERY Bible in the world, if read in its simple, plain interpretation, would tell the people of the world that God forgives sins in water baptism??

    3. Why is there not one single piece of evidence from the early Christians that indicates that ANYONE in the 800-1,000 years after Christ believed that: Water baptism is ONLY a public profession of faith/act of obedience; sins are NOT forgiven in water baptism? Yes, you will find statements by these early Christians that salvation is by faith, but do Baptists and evangelicals really understand how a sinner obtains saving faith? THAT IS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION, MY FRIENDS! Does the sinner produce faith by his own free will or does God provide faith and belief as a gift, and if God does provide faith and belief as a free gift, with no strings attached, WHEN exactly does God give it?

    4. Is it possible that: Baptist-like believers, at some point near or after 1,000 AD, were reading the Bible and came across verses that read “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” and “Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved” and established their doctrine of Salvation/Justification first, based on these and similar verses alone, and then, looked at the issue of water baptism, and since the idea that God forgives sins in water baptism didn’t seem to fit with the verses just mentioned, these early Baptists re-interpreted these verses to fit with their already established doctrine, instead of believing the “baptism verses” literally?

    Is it possible that BOTH groups of verses are literally correct?? If we believe God’s Word literally, he says that he saves/forgives sins when sinners believe/call AND when they are baptized? Why not believe that God can give the free gift of salvation in both situations: when a sinner hears the Gospel and believes and when a sinner is baptized?

    Should we re-interpret God’s plain, simple words just because they don’t seem to make sense to us?

    God bless you and keep you!

  2. Can you really trust your English Bible to be God’s true Word?

    Have you ever had an evangelical or Reformed Christian say this to you:

    “THAT passage of the Bible, in the original Greek, does NOT mean what the simple, plain reading of the passage seems to say in English.”

    It happens to me all the time in my conversations with Baptists, evangelicals, and fundamentalists on my blog. They state: “Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins” was mistranslated. “This is my body…this is my blood” is a metaphorical expression, “Baptism does now save us” is figurative speech for what happens to us spiritually when we ask Christ into our hearts.

    What they are basically saying is that unless you speak ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek…you can’t read and really understand the Bible without the help of an educated Churchman!

    This morning I came across an excellent article on this subject, written by Jordan Cooper, a Lutheran pastor. I am going to give the link to his article below. I have copied a couple of his statements here:

    “So here is a question that we all need to ask ourselves when doing this (refusing to accept the simple, plain, English translation of a passage of Scripture): If a verse seems to disprove your theological beliefs, and you translate it in some way that doesn’t fit with any of the dozens of major English translations of the Bible, and that unique translation just happens to fit your own theological biases, could it be that it is in fact you who are in the wrong? Could you be reading your own preconceived theological convictions back into the text?”

    ” I know it can be frustrating when you are constantly told that Scripture can’t be understood unless you learn (an ancient) language or read ancient documents that you don’t have either the time or the energy to study. Honestly, if you have a few good English translations at your side, and you take the time to compare them to one another, you have all the tools you need to understand the meaning of the Bible.

    Link to Pastor Cooper’s original article: