Exegesis of Christian baptism

The only solution to the many controversies in the Christian church is the proper exegesis and application of Scripture.

Readers may have noticed in my previous blogpost on discipleship baptism that I used this approach to address the subject of Christian baptism.

Instead of the standard arguments that each group uses, I used biblical exegesis – interpreting the relevant biblical passages. There are a multitudes of methods used by those explaining and defending their view on Christian baptism, almost wearisome to follow. This does not imply that they are wrong but that they are sufficiently convoluted that many Christians do not study them and they simply follow the practice of those around them.

Baptists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics have their own explanations about baptism, but these don’t stand up to biblical exegesis. Presbyterians are closer to the truth, but they tend to use arguments based upon biblical covenants to demonstrate that covenant children have the privileges of the biblical covenants.

Whereas these latter arguments are biblical, yet they are convoluted and have proven to be too complicated for the average Baptist to follow, who prefers to rely upon some misunderstood passages of Scripture.

Let me illustrate. In Volume 6 of his collected Works, John Flavel (1628-1691) interacts with an antipaedobaptist to demonstrate infant baptism from Scripture.  I do not draw attention to this as the best example of this debate, but because the opening pages of this long treatise illustrate two points that I make here.  

1. Flavel begins with a heartfelt appeal to 1Cor 1:10 for all Christians to “speak the same thing”. We can surely agree with this. After almost 2000 years of Christian history and debate, we might expect the Church to have clarified this by now, especially as Christians will indeed see “eye to eye” in the biblical Millennium Isa 52:8.  

2. Each side in Flavel’s debate belaboured the covenants, discussing the Covenant of Works with Adam, the covenant of circumcision with Abraham and the covenant at Mount Sinai.  Erudite as these discussions may be, they are so convoluted and complicated that the modern generation of Baptists ignore them.  We need something simpler.

Rather, by exegesis of the relevant scriptures, we are more likely “to commend ourselves to every man’s conscience” 2Cor 4:2. This is what Baptists try to do. They refer to biblical texts and draw their conclusions from them. The problem is that they overlook the relevant texts as shown in my previous blogpost and exegete their biblical texts wrongly. The Christian Church has done so throughout its history and it is time for proper Bible exegesis.

The problem

The biblical exegesis of the subjects of baptism and of the mode of baptism have been woefully absent from the debate.

My previous blogpost shows that the subjects of Christian baptism are disciples, who learn from Christ, and being baptized they were called Christians. There is no biblical evidence that only those were baptized who had the personal assurance of their own salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, what Baptists wrongly call believer’s baptism. The apostle Peter wrote to baptized Christians to make their calling and election sure 2Pe 1:10.

Exegetical skill finds the relevant texts of Scripture that clarifies any particular issue. This is similar to that well-known principle of biblical exegesis that ‘clearer passages of Scripture interpret more difficult ones’.

The relevant texts to demonstrate the subjects of Christian baptism are Mat 28:19-20 and Jn 4:1-2. The latter text is almost totally overlooked in any discussion of the subject. It is not uncommon for apologists to ignore texts that contradict their opinon – I have discussed another example here.

Similarly we need to identity the relevant texts for the mode of Christian baptism. I will identify another overlooked text in a subsequent blogpost because this post is a preliminary note about applying biblical exegesis to the relevant passages of Scripture on any given topic.

I have spoken and written much about exegesis in the past, and after I produce a blogpost giving the biblical exegesis of the mode of Christian baptism, I plan to address and explain the role, centrality and usefulness of biblical exegesis and zugology for resolving the various issues of the day in order to recover Christian unity upon the Truth of Scripture properly understood.

Links:

30 Oct 2014: Are you open to biblical correction?

7 Dec 2022: Christian discipleship baptism: those who have a right to Christian baptism; its subjects.

14 Dec 2022: the exegesis of Christian baptism: the necessity of biblical exegesis to resolve differences between Christians.

31 Dec 2022: Adequate modes of Christian baptism: one of the issues of the day for divided biblical Christians.

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