GraceLife Church of Pineville

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Baptism Reservations, Part 2: Personal Objections

Table of Contents


This is the final sermon on the topic of baptisms and the 52nd sermon in our larger “Oracles of God” series (in which baptisms is the third of six subseries).1This series is titled after a phrase in Hebrews 5:12 (“the elementary principles of the oracles of God”); the subseries include (1) repentance from dead works, (2) faith toward God, (3) baptisms, (4) laying on of hands, (5) the resurrection of the dead, and (6) eternal judgment.

We close the series with some remaining reservations people have about baptisms. In my last sermon, I discussed theological objections to baptism. In this sermon, we will go over several personal objections.

To clarify, all the theological objections are also personal. We categorize them as theological because they are doctrinal issues. Such objections include arguments like:

  • “You don’t have to be baptized to be saved.”
  • “Baptism shouldn’t be required for being a church member.”

Technically, those objections were soteriological (a fancy word that means related to the doctrine of salvation) and ecclesiological (relating to the doctrine of the church).

In this sermon, we turn to personal objections—that is, areas of personal theological conviction that we give room for, especially if that pursuit is honest and diligent. We have mercy on those who are simply thinking through baptism still and for those who may come to different conclusions.

My goal in this series has been the eager reception and regular engagement of the Word. Followers of Christ should be like the Bereans in Acts, who, upon hearing a message, took to the Scriptures to see whether what they heard was true.

Personal objections aren’t necessarily doctrinal objections, but we judge them according to doctrinal positions.

Personal objections aren’t necessarily doctrinal objections, but we judge them according to doctrinal positions.

These reservations may come in the form of statements like

  • I don’t like such and such …
  • I don’t think such and such …

You are free to hold to such and such, but the doctrines to which the church holds cannot be subject to the preferences of the individual.

Let’s look at four personal objections now to close our baptism series. (These aren’t the only four personal reservations, but they’re the ones I hear the most often.)

Personal Objection #1: My Faith Is a Private Matter

This objection is not false, but it is only a half-truth.

It is with the heart a person believes. No one else can believe for you. And no one can see your belief or your thoughts. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now. I can’t see your heart. Although others can’t see your heart, God can, and He knows each of our thoughts, too. 

In terms of the private or personal nature of faith, to borrow from our past subseries on “Faith Toward God,” each person is the snake-bitten individual, destined for death. Each of us has to decide whether we will look upon the tree of life and live.

There are places in Scripture where we are told that a certain measure of privacy is warranted: in our practices of prayer, fasting, and giving, for example.2Jesus talked about doing each of these things “in secret,” where the Father would see but we would not be tempted to do them for the approval and praise of man. See Matthew 6:4, 6, 18. But there are elements of worship and discipleship that are certainly public, such as church attendance, singing, and communion.

I can’t dogmatically tell you that a private baptism is illegitimate. That goes too far (though, in a sense, it can never be private, because you can’t baptize yourself).

However, given that we believe that baptism is a testimony of one’s faith, is the first step in one’s discipleship, and is a means by which God inaugurated the church, private baptism goes against all of those things.

The objection regarding privacy is mostly a fear or anxiety of being in front of others or being the focus of attention. At least we don’t practice baptism the way some in the early church did—baptizing in the nude!

The point is this: Your life in the church cannot be lived in isolation. We are connected as one body. And it is in the body and with the body and for the body that we declare allegiance to Christ.

Your life in the church cannot be lived in isolation. We are connected as one body. 

Personal Objection #2: Baptism Will Dishonor My Family’s Tradition

Most often, this second personal objection comes from those who grew up in a faith that practiced infant “baptism.” And I recognize why that might offend. I also recognize that the decision to be baptized is difficult to wrestle with, to think through, in this scenario. You may feel the tension of wanting to honor your parents.

But how about this for tension? Luke 14:25–27 says:

Now large crowds were going along with Him [Jesus]; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

How’s that for a church growth plan? Such words wouldn’t exactly grow an audience. And so it’s easy to see why many didn’t follow Jesus.

A question this passage raises is, How did we go from “honor your parents” (one of the Ten Commandments) to “hate your parents”?

The answer is that Jesus is using figurative language. Children reading or watching this sermon: Don’t go home and say, “I hate you, Mom and Dad, for the Bible tells me so.” The point of Jesus’s teaching is this: The disciple follows one teacher. This teacher is so unique that love for Him by comparison looks like hate because it requires forsaking everything else if the choice is Him.

The disciple follows one teacher. This teacher is so unique that love for Him by comparison looks like hate.

Devotion to Christ demands denial of all others: denial of parents, spouse, children, siblings, and self. But the grace of God has revealed to us that devotion to the Lord—obeying the Greatest Commandment to love God with everything you have (all your heart, soul, mind, and strength)—results in loving everyone else (the Second Greatest Commandment). What a wonderful paradox: to love God with all that you have is both to love and to hate all others. That only works if you choose Him first.

Your decision to be baptized might offend your family. You are in good company. Jesus offended His own family. There was a time when His brothers did not believe in Him.

Disciples choose what is right, not what is easy. Obedience to Christ often means offense to others.

Obedience to Christ often means offense to others.

Choose obedience. Hate everything else.

Some advice if you’re in this situation: talk to other believers who have done this before; find out how they dealt with the offense they caused to their family. Some may have parents who simply disagreed with their decision; others may have had a relationship break as a result. We have a Scriptural promise that the Lord sees the situation and He honors our decision to obey and honor Him first above anyone else.

You can explain your decision to your parents in simple terms, such as these: “Mom, Dad: Please don’t be upset over my decision to publicly declare my allegiance to Jesus. This isn’t a testimony about me thinking you were wrong. This is a testimony about me being right with God.”

Personal Objection #3: I’ve Got Issues with the Timing

Reservations about baptism related to issues of timing come in one of two forms:

  • There is a view that baptism is a thing done for and by children.
  • There is a gap between one’s belief and one’s baptism.

“Baptism Is for Children”

As for baptism being a thing done by children, my response is, “Yes, baptism is a thing done by children—children of God, of all ages.”

Yes, baptism is a thing done by children—children of God, of all ages.

There’s a great blessing in being baptized as an adult. You have the opportunity to enter the waters with even greater understanding.

When I baptize young people, I talk with them about how they will remember this moment of being baptized, but they will also learn more in the future about what this decision means. That’s the mark of the disciple—growing in understanding of our faith. Just because you may understand more later doesn’t mean you have to be rebaptized.

Just because you may understand more later doesn’t mean you have to be rebaptized.

As an adult being baptized, you have the blessing of understanding a little bit more from the outset. And you have the opportunity to encourage other adults. Like attracts like.

Usually, an adult who expresses a desire to be baptized has seen another adult be baptized and realized, “You know what, it’s time for me to be baptized as well.” The same occurs with children—they usually have seen another child be baptized, and they want to know more about it. This is how baptism becomes evangelism. Thank God for baptisms at all ages!

“I Wasn’t Baptized Right After Coming to Faith”

The second timing issue relates to the time gap between coming to faith and being baptized.

For those of us who believe we’re eternally saved and secured, there’s always some gap in time between the moment that we first place our trust in Christ and the moment of our baptism. That gap may be months or years or even decades. I encourage you to be baptized shortly thereafter, but for varying reasons, some people aren’t. I waited about three years between my initial belief and my baptism. I look fondly on both experiences.

When there exists a long gap between baptism and belief, people normally object to baptism at that point for one of two reasons:

  1. They’re embarrassed by the amount of time they waited; or
  2. They have settled into a pragmatic view—”Well, I’ve waited this long, and I’ve been just fine.”

If you’re embarrassed by having waited so long, don’t wait even longer! That data isn’t something we should emphasize in the church. We shouldn’t be thinking, “Ol’ Sally finally came around; I wonder what took her so long?” We celebrate all baptisms, no matter how long you’ve waited!

If you’re embarrassed by having waited so long, don’t wait even longer! … We celebrate all baptisms, no matter how long you’ve waited!

If you think, “I’ve been just fine, it’s not that big of a deal,” you rob yourself of the fullness of Christian salvation, the joy of Christian obedience, and the belonging of Christian community.

Personal Objection #4: An Aversion to All Forms of Ritual

Usually, this final personal objection comes from someone who has grown up in the Catholic Church.

If you are averse to baptism because you are averse to ritual, I assume you take issue with what you perceive to be an overly human and unnecessary intrusion into matters of faith.

Please recognize that baptism and the Lord’s Supper (also called Communion) are both gifts from God to be used in the church. What you perceive to be abuses or misappropriations of these practices should not rob you of what you know to be proper modes of worship.

Don’t let poor examples of proper actions ruin your experience. If you adopt that principle, you won’t be able to do anything! There’s no area of church life where you won’t, at some point, witness a poor example. There are poor examples of preaching, teaching, singing, and many other activities in church. All of these things can be done with wrong motives and in wrong ways; are you going to abandon every one of them? 

You are right to be averse to empty ritual. But baptism, done properly, isn’t an empty ritual. It is an edifying act of worship.  

Baptism, done properly, isn’t an empty ritual. It is an edifying act of worship.   

Conclusion: Be Baptized

The application to this sermon is simple and identical to the last sermon’s application: be baptized.

In addition, pray for those whom you witness being baptized—that they may live as faithful disciples.

If we’ve been baptized in Christ, we have been clothed in Christ; we’ve put off the old and put on the new. Each of us is called to that daily decision to put on the armor of God. Why? Because we are at war—spiritual war—and we have an enemy. One of the weapons of warfare is prayer. We are to pray for one another.

I’ll close with the words of the apostle Paul; this passage is a fitting summary of everything we’ve learned so far in our “Oracles of God” series, as it mentions all of the first three “elementary principles” (repentance from dead works, faith toward God, and baptisms):

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 5:20–6:4)