A gracEmail subscriber asks, “How can you teach baptism by immersion for believers, yet enjoy Christian fellowship with those who were baptized as infants or by sprinkling or pouring?”
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I always instruct new believers to express their repentance and faith by being baptized, in obedience to Jesus Christ himself (Matt. 28:18-20). And, based on my personal study of the Greek language, of early Christian history, and of New Testament teaching concerning baptism’s meaning and significance, I always baptize by immersion. That said, I must also respect the individual conscience of others who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and who follow him, even though they reach conclusions about these matters that are different from mine.
Infant baptism is clearly documented as early as the second century after Christ, and the greater part of the historic Christian Church has practiced it ever since. The same may be said for baptizing by pouring water over the head. Of course, neither antiquity nor popularity establishes the propriety of infant baptism or of baptizing by pouring or sprinkling. Such historical perspective does suggest that, even if my views are correct, I am not qualified to declare non-Christian most of the people who have trusted and followed Jesus Christ for the past 1,900 years.
We are saved by God’s unmerited kindness, not by always being correct. My obedience, at its best, will always be shaped by my understanding of God’s will. Do I understand perfectly? I do not. Do I obey perfectly? I do not. Can I still trust God, for Jesus Christ’s sake, to show me kindness that I do not deserve? I had certainly better hope so, for that is my only hope. And I must allow for others what I allow for myself. If I err in this matter — as some are certain that I do — I shall prefer to have erred on the side of grace when I answer to God whose generosity has always scandalized those in the business of excluding.