The Living Stones elders constantly field questions about baptism. So here is a quick examination of each of the three main positions on baptism, the reasoning behind Living Stones' stance on the issue, and some answers to common inquiries.
1) Roman Catholic view:
Roman Catholics hold to what is called “sacramentalism,” which is the belief that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. In baptism, the water actually conveys grace (like a power cord), removes the stain of original sin, and causes regeneration regardless of faith.
Roman Catholics baptize all ages through any method, but sprinkling (a sign of cleansing) and pouring (an identification of Christ’s death being “poured out” for us, as well as the Holy Spirit being poured out for us) are preferred.
The Lutheran view is very similar to the Roman Catholic view, but Lutherans deny that baptism in and of itself saves or that everyone who is baptized is saved. Lutherans believe that faith is completely a gift from God, but the rite of baptism is a means through which he imparts faith in a person, even infants. Baptism is the visible gospel, and coupled with the word of God the water brings regeneration and faith.
2) Reformed (Presbyterian) view:
This position holds that water is a sign and seal of God’s promise that one is regenerated through faith. Baptism seals the person into the blessing of the covenant community (i.e. the church). Presbyterians hold to a system called “covenant theology,” which sees direct parallels between the Old Covenant (Old Testament) and New Covenant (New Testament). Just as circumcision was a sign and seal for God’s people (Israel) in the Old Covenant, so too is baptism the seal in the New. Therefore, the infants of church members are baptized so as to allow them to participate in the covenant blessings until the point that they come to faith. Immersion, sprinkling, and pouring are all legitimate methods.
The Episcopalian view is very similar to the Reformed view. Those who are baptized are to renounce Satan, repent of sin, and accept Jesus as Lord and savior. As a result they are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. Infants are baptized so that they can share citizenship in the Covenant, and redemption by God. The parents of the infant promise that the child will be brought up in the Church, will know Christ, and will be able to follow him.
3) Baptistic (Believers') view:
This view holds that water is a symbol of the new birth. The one being baptized is lowered into death (submerged in water) with Christ, and raised into new life. Because the regeneration of the heart follows the profession of faith, only believers are permitted to be baptized. Therefore, children must be able to demonstrate a genuine understanding of the faith before they are to be baptized.
The Baptistic (Believers') view is the one that Living Stones adheres to. Below is a brief explanation of why we believe this.
1) The book of Acts suggests that baptism was administered only to those who had professed belief in Christ (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 10:44-48).
2) NT teachings that the outward symbol of the beginning of the Christian life (baptism) is given to those who show evidence of an internal change (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12).
3) Paul, in the letter to Romans, consistently links salvation with faith, which comes from hearing the gospel, believing it, and professing faith (Rom. 10:5-17), and Romans 6:1-14 gives the clearest picture of baptism as the outward expression of this inward transformation. We are “buried with him by baptism” so that being raised we might “walk in newness of life” (6:4).
Is Baptism Necessary?
Although our viewpoint is that baptism is merely a symbol, it is still something that a Christian should do. Baptism is commanded by Jesus (Matt. 28:18) and even he was baptized. Baptism is a public proclamation of faith, and is therefore a powerful testimony that someone has been saved by Jesus Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Do the Living Stones Elders Determine if Someone is Truly Saved?
Holding to believers' baptism does not mean that we are the ultimate judge of true conversion - that, alone, is God. However, the church is called to make disciples of Jesus and this begins with a profession that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and a demonstration of the beginning of a changed life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pastorally, we are very cautious when it comes to who is baptized because we do not want anyone to think they are saved when they do not understand the gospel.
Should I get Re-Baptized?
We are cautious to re-baptize anyone who was previously baptized and wants to do it again because 1) the first one "didn’t stick," 2) they want to recommit their life to God, 3) they want to be baptized in our church. Baptism is a picture of the infancy of the Christian life, and there will understandably be subsequent periods of rebellion and stagnation, so it is not to be done again during periods of spiritual vitality.
However, we re-baptize those who were baptized as infants (or young children) and come to faith later in life because they were not at an age to make a genuine decision. While it is not necessary to be re-baptized, we encourage it because the baptism ceremony is a chance to declare publicly what God has done inwardly to the person.