Credo V. Certo Baptism: How Delaying Baptism May Change Its Meaning From Profession Of Faith To Evidence Of Sanctification -- By: Rustin Umstattd

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 15:1 (Spring 2018)
Article: Credo V. Certo Baptism: How Delaying Baptism May Change Its Meaning From Profession Of Faith To Evidence Of Sanctification
Author: Rustin Umstattd


Credo V. Certo Baptism: How Delaying Baptism May Change Its Meaning From Profession Of Faith To Evidence Of Sanctification

Rustin Umstattd

Rustin Umstattd is assistant professor of theology and director of the DEdMin program at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. [email protected]

There is a debate brewing within credo-baptist churches over the timing of baptism, and while this debate often revolves around whether or not to baptize children, this article will address the issue of delayed baptism for adults, and the impact a delay can potentially have regarding how baptism is understood. There are many voices who advocate delaying baptism so that the church can ascertain if the person is making a “valid” or “credible” profession of faith.1 This became the practice of the church in the second and third century as the catechumenate, a period of instruction prior to baptism, reached three years.2 The impetus behind this action is to reduce the number of “false baptisms” that are administered. Additionally, as baptism is often the final step a person takes before becoming a member of a church, the practice of seeking to ascertain if a person has made a “credible profession of faith” is done for the sake of safeguarding regenerate church membership.

In contrast, this article will argue that baptism is itself among the most critical items of evidence needed to ascertain if a person is making a credible profession of faith. Thus, using other criteria to determine if a person has made a credible profession of faith, and setting that investigation prior to baptism itself, risks changing baptism from a symbol of initial union with and confession of faith in Christ to a symbol of progressive sanctification. While this is not the intended consequence of a delay in baptism, it may well be the real-world impact that results from such a delay.

The article will lay out its argument by first showing that baptism is the biblically mandated means of professing one’s faith to the community. While it is understood that a person must show a willingness to profess his faith and that this willingness could itself be construed as a profession, the New Testament emphasizes that it is in the waters of baptism that a person makes his appeal to God for a clear conscience (1 Peter 3:21).3 Additionally, it will be shown that baptism is the initial evidence one should give of repenting from the sin of unbelief (Joh...

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