CR News

Faith and Baptism

We wish to say something here about the length of this series of articles on baptism.  There are two reasons for so many articles: (1) we wish to be as clear and careful as possible in what we say; and (2) we most earnestly desire unity on this issue with those who disagree, and therefore want our position to be clearly set out for their consideration.

In this article we wish to deal with the important Baptist argument that faith must necessarily precede baptism - often referred to as "believer's baptism."

The first thing that must be said here is that the Baptist position is an impossibility.  As we pointed out in the last article, they can, at best, only baptize those who make a profession of faith.  Because we cannot know the heart, there is no way of ensuring that all baptized persons are indeed believers.

The usual Baptist response is that they baptize far fewer unbelievers than do those who practice family baptism.  This, of course, is beyond proof, but the fact of the matter is that if a Baptist church baptizes even one hypocrite or unbeliever, they are no longer practicing "believer's baptism."

That, however, is not the main point.  The words of Jesus in Mark 16:16 also need to be explained, especially as they are the command and warrant for the NT church to be baptizing.  There are several things that need to be said about this passage.

First, the passage does not say (though every Baptist reads it that way), "He that believeth and then is baptised shall be saved."  It only says that both faith and baptism are necessary for salvation.

Second, just because faith and baptism are listed in that order does not mean that they must necessarily happen in that order.  II Peter 1:10 lists calling before election, but calling does not come before election, as every Calvinist knows.

The order in Mark 16:16 is simply the order of importance.  Faith is listed before baptism because it is far more important.  We see this in the last part of the verse where baptism is not even mentioned again, though faith is.

Indeed, if the order in Mark 16:16 is the temporal order, i.e., the order in which things must actually take place, then the order is faith, baptism, salvation: "He that believeth, and is baptised shall be saved!"  No Baptists, certainly not those who are Calvinists, want that order!

Not only that, but there are passages in the NT that suggest that at least in some cases faith did not precede baptism.  Acts 19:4 speaks of John's baptism and says that he told the people when he baptized them, "that they should believe on him who should come after him."  He did not baptize them because they had already believed on Christ!

With respect to such a verse, the Baptist has two options.  He can say that John's baptism was not true NT baptism, though over half of the references in the NT are to his baptism (and then no conclusions at all can be drawn from it for NT practice) or to admit that faith need not always precede baptism.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 8
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

Contact Details

  • Address
    13823 Clear Lake Rd.
  • City
    Medical Lake
  • State or Province
    WA
  • Zip Code
    99022
  • Country
    United States
  • Mobile
    360-527-6633

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