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Baptism and Church Membership

Posted by Matt Postiff February 5, 2018 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Church  Theology 

Today's question from a person in our church:

When a person claims to be a believer in Christ and yet refuses to be baptized, how can we as a body of believers take their faith seriously? I know that baptism in itself does not bring salvation, but the refusal to be baptized seems to promote one's own will and desire over that of our Lord.

I am sympathetic to your understanding that the church cannot take that person's profession of faith seriously. While we want to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who professes faith in Christ, we cannot give Christian recognition to such a person through membership, because they are being disobedient to the very first command that the Lord gives them after they are saved. That is why we don't admit such people to membership.

In our constitution, we specify the requirements of membership as follows: regeneration, baptism by immersion after profession of faith, conduct befitting of a Christian, and agreement with constitution and doctrine of the church.

Someone may object this way: "You cannot refuse church membership to one of God's children." I feel like responding this way: "If you can refuse the Lord's command to be baptized, we can refuse your application for membership!" The reality is that the Lord does authorize the church to put people out of membership through the process called church discipline. Since this is the case, we understand that the church must also be able to refuse to grant membership to those who would need to be immediately disciplined.

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