Biblical Grounds for awaiting fruits of Regeneration?

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by Sonoftheday, Aug 21, 2009.

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  1. Sonoftheday

    Sonoftheday Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am curious as to the biblical grounds for awaiting fruits of regeneration in our children before baptizing them. My children are not yet to the age where this is a primary concern for me, however, I was recently listening to a sermon and he made the point that if his son came to him professing faith he would say basically wait and we will watch for signs of regeneration. I have heard this many times and I find it at odds with our understanding of who is baptized. We make quite the fuss that baptism is given to professing believers (whether regenerate or not) in the book of Acts, it is evident from these passages that no fruits of regeneration are seen but the professors are swiftly baptized.

    Why do we (or many of us) maintain that only those making a credible profession of faith are given Baptism, but then show inconsistency when we baptize children of believers?

    If being baptized is an act of obedience are we impeding our children's swift obedience of this command?

    EDIT: I removed the name of the man who's sermon I was listening to because; 1.) While this is what I understood him to say it may not have been what intended to teach. The man who I was listening to is graciously gifted by God to preach and I do not wish to missrepresent him. and 2.) What he teaches is not the point of my post, but rather this teaching which I have heard several times in baptist circles.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2009
  2. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    This is an excellent question, and you phrased it in a way I had not thought of it before.

    I have always found the need for a "credible profession of faith" to be odd. Who decides, and on what basis? The search for positive fruit opens up the door to quite a few dangers that Baptists have fallen prey to over the years...including legalism.

    Yet, when you ask many baptists what a credible profession of faith is, you often get an answer that is quite different - that is, they mean the absence of disqualifying marks. This is much more defensible, in my view.

    Instead of a "credible" profession, where the burden of proof is on the convert to prove himself 'worthy' by his works, the burden of proof ought to be on the elders and the church to show he is unregenerate and his confession is false. This means that without continual, gross, unrepentant, lifestyle sin after profession, we must administer the sacrament and welcome him as a brother.

    And this is right and proper - just how we would treat any other current member of the church who professes Christ. The question, in some sense, for me is: "If he joined the church as he is right now, would you be forced to immediately begin excommunication proceedings?" If not, then he ought to be welcomed and given the sacrament.

    Now, with children, this concept might fix some of the inconsistency you assert. Instead of waiting for a 6, 8, 10 or 15 year old child to show sufficient fruit according to some arbitrary, man-made basis.....we would baptize them immediately upon their clear profession of the Biblical gospel.

    But that is the sticky part with regard to children. In my humble opinion, the limiting factor is the child's ability to explain, even quite simply, all of the fundamental truths of the saving gospel - who God is, what sin is, why Christ died and rose, and the need for repentance and faith.

    If they can show clear mental understanding and assent to these things, and are not in gross, continual and serious rebellion against their parents, baptism should be administered. They may be in the faith, and they may not. That is not ours to decide. All professions are to be believed, whether from adults or children, unless you have very, very good evidence to the contrary. To do otherwise brings in principles of terrible consequence.

    The opposite end just begs the question to be asked: did Christ or the Apostles wait a few days or weeks or months for baptism after a man professed repentance/faith to see if he was doing enough good works?

    For these reasons, although it doesn't flow off the tongue as well, I prefer to say that we need a non-discreditable profession of faith, rather than a credible one.
     
  3. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    I agree this is what "credible" ought to mean, but unfortunately reality has not always matched that in my experience. That word, in the mouth of someone already bent on legalism, can make a huge transformation. I just wanted to make clear that I don't technically have a problem with the language itself, but rather I just prefer the more awkward "non-discreditable" as it takes out some of that ambiguity.

    I have never really discussed this much, and I was hoping I was not out in left field on it. And when I saw you replied so quickly I thought, "Welp, guess I was wrong..." :lol:
     
  4. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    What is required is an actual profession, not fruit of:

    1. Repentance towards God (This requires knowledge of the sin and the law)
    2. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (This requires knowledge of righteousness and the gospel)
    3. Obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord (This requires a thankful heart)

    Works are not required for baptism but knowledge of and faith in the basics is. "I believe in Jesus" is not yet an 'actual profession of repentance or obedience'.

    I am not sure where the word 'credible' comes from...
     
  5. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    That's what I am saying. The confessional requirement for baptism goes beyond, "I believe" but not so far as "Show me your works."

    I guess I should have been clearer. I agree with you. I was just bringing in the confession and asking where the word 'credible' entered in.
     
  6. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    That is why the confession requires an 'actual' confession. The confession is required to be 'genuine'. An 'actual' confession is not someone confessing on your behalf, nor is it simply answering 'yes' to a series of questions. In other words,, an actual confession is not simply 'repeat after me.'

    But the word 'credible' implies that it must be 'believable' and thats where it gets difficult to measure. Once you say the confession must be 'credible', it seems to me you must start looking for fruit. Sorry if I am straining gnats.
     
  7. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Ken,

    I don't view a credible profession as going beyond being reasonable. Believable? Sure, but only in that the profession doesn't seem out in left field somewhere. If the person tells you, "I've placed my faith in Jesus. I'm going to add him to my belief in Buddha and Muhammad" then we have a problem. I wouldn't call that profession credible. If someone else says, "I've placed my faith in Christ", and then proceeds to tell me that they understand they're a sinner, and that Christ paid the price for their sin on cross, and that they have accepted that fact by faith, then I view that as a credible profession.
     
  8. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    Because repentance is a necessary and inherent part of saving faith, any credible (or non-discreditable) profession of faith will necessarily include a profession of repentance....or at least a tone in the profession of faith that gives the evangelist confidence the convert has repented.

    For "lifestyle" sins - like those listed in I Cor. 5 as sufficient for excommunication - I believe it is incumbent on the evangelist to specifically address the convert on them. These situations can be quite complex. Living with someone, or even caring for their children, while unmarried means you are entirely wrapped up in their lives. And the changes required are drastic and hard.

    Before administering baptism, I do not believe a specific plan of action must be laid out by the convert for how he will begin life in obedience. But, I would say he must clearly lay out his commitment to living up to the calling he has received.

    That profession could be general, like "I am committed to living according to whatever the Scriptures require, by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit." He can be instructed, guided, and helped in the specifics of this as he grows in his faith.

    In some sense, this would be like the evangelist explaining the hard consequences and the difficult road that those who believe must travel. It is a warning that what he is considering is no small thing. If he accepts this, then he has accepted the gospel and ought to be baptized and welcomed as a member. Specifics of the situation can be handled by the close leadership and aid of the elders and the church. He should then be granted "full access" - membership, baptism, Lord's Supper, and all the rest...based entirely on his profession of faith/repentance after being duly warned of the difficult times that will soon follow his commitment.

    So, I guess my answer is an adjustment to #3 - baptized, admitted for membership, and immediately admonished under discipline, if he continues in the sin.

    This immediate admonishment is justified because, as a condition of baptism and as part of his profession of faith, he committed to repentance. If he refuses to honor his own words, then the traditional steps are taken. But, when he professes repentance (as part of his profession of faith), we must believe him.
     
  9. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Excellent thoughts Jeremy. However, is this not a sort of "credible profession of faith"? The fact that you are limiting it to those who "are not in gross, contiual and serious rebellion" states that you too limit it, in some fashion, to a "credible profession." Your following statements seem to further solidify this perspective.
    Which leads to the obvious question.
    We are not living in their time and culture, which makes this a bit more tricky. We have to be careful because doctrine does not submit to culture and epoch, yet much of what we have is more descriptive than prescriptive. Time frames seem immediate, but not necessarily so. We have to remember that, in their culture, to be baptized as a profession of faith and identifying with Jesus as the Messiah was to apostatize from the perspective of the religious establishment. It was not en vogue, as it can be here in the West, at least in certain circles.
    In cultures where being baptized is a sure way to face being ostracized by family and friends as well as possible persecution at the hands of religious leaders, government officials and even family, any clear profession of faith is a credible profession of faith. It is, in a very real sense, to die to self.
    On the contrary, in our culture many want "in." They want to be part of the religious group that lives well. Their friends are being baptized or they were at camp and "everyone was doing it." In such a case baptism can actually be a trap that offers a false sense of security. And, because this is a reality in our culture of microwave instant gratification perspectives, easy believism and entitlement mentalities, we face challenges that not every culture faces.
    Though I hate to use the terminology, it may be fitting to say that, in light of these influences, it may be appropriate to "fence" the baptism of those who "merely" profess faith. It is possible that we'll do more harm than good.

    I don't think I've really said anything in opposition to what Jeremy, Bill, Ken and others have stated. It's just that I'm not sure we think through all the implications involved in the challenge at hand. Jeremy's consideration that we must not baptize someone who we would have to immediately excommunicate is very valid. This also leads to the answer to Scott's question.


    I see that Scott's question was withdrawn, but will comment on it briefly since it is pertinent. Slightly different than Jeremy, I would propose that biblical confrontation take place and baptism be reserved for further evaluation. If the adulterer confesses and repents then we could proceed. If they don't, then there really is no sense in considering baptism for they have shown that they are not of us. If repentance takes place later on then we will praise God, warmly welcome them and proceed with baptism accordingly.

    Excellent discussion!

    -----Added 8/21/2009 at 11:26:19 EST-----

    Jeremy, I also see how you qualified your statements in later posts. I hope my thoughts aren't seen as oppositional, but rather complementary.
     
  10. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    Would you "wait" to have this confrontation at a later time, or would you do it concurrent with the time the convert first professed faith?

    Don't know how clear I was, but I think that sort of follow-up question about repentance is appropriate to ask at the time of first profession. Thus, if he answers in the affirmative, I would not delay baptism. So it doesn't sound to me like we disagree.

    If the adulterer did not profess repentance from his adultery at the time of his supposed conversion, I likewise would wait to administer baptism until he affirmed that. There is no faith without repentance. Same with church membership, Lord's Supper, and everything else.

    -----Added 8/21/2009 at 11:26:19 EST-----

    Absolutely. I was considering writing some of the things you did, when I realized it would make my post long enough that it likely wouldn't be read :lol: That's not as much of problem on the PB as it is on other forums, though.

    It is a key point that this is a modern/Western problem that was not really known in many societies before us. No one in their right mind would profess Christ and not mean it. It does change the game.
     
  11. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Thank you Jeremy,
    There are many contextual variables, so I don't know that we can make a sweeping judgment on this. But, assuming that he has been attending and presents himself as a believer, the confrontation should take place immediately, regardless of where we are in the consideration of his baptism. The sin is a fruit of unrighteousness and confrontation will result in either further fruit of perdition or fruit of repentant righteousness. If he is unrepentant then growth would be pursued from an evangelistic perspective. If he is repentant then restoration would be pursued and, if attained, I would see no reason to put off baptism under the conditions already discussed in this thread.

    -----Added 8/21/2009 at 12:49:03 EST-----

    Heh, I've seldom been accused of being too concise. If anything, I suffer from using too many words... and others suffer through it. :um:
     
  12. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    :up:
     
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