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This article describes "believers' baptism", making statements like:

only believers who had placed their faith in Christ were baptized - as a public testimony of their faith and identification with Him

...and:

Water baptism by immersion is a step of obedience to be done after salvation as a public profession of faith in Christ and identification with Him.

Are the quotes reasonable representative of the theology of "believers' baptism"? What is the biblical basis for the assertion that baptism is a public profession of faith (as opposed to a sacrament)?


I don't think this is a duplicate of Which Bible verses support adult-only baptism?. I'm not asking about baptizing adults vs. infants. Please read carefully the last sentence. I don't feel that any of the answers to the other question satisfactorily address that point.

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    I'm not clear as to how this question differs from your next one.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 5 at 19:59
  • I had focused on the part of the question that said "I would ask that answers show where the Bible says that only believers are to be baptized or if not then what series of texts of scripture and lines of reasoning are used to support this view." So I can see this is distinct, but with a lot of overlap. But, most of the answers do answer this question...
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 6 at 14:18
  • @curiousdannii, perhaps it is unclear to me how that translates into Baptism being intended as a public sign of faith? I suppose it would have that effect, but BB proponents seem to think that is the primary intended effect, whereas other expressions of faith (praying, the Eucharist) have other, primary objectives. Perhaps the answer is that this is also incidental?
    – Matthew
    Sep 6 at 14:26
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    @AlBrown, that's possibly worth an answer. At least, it would be interesting to see the response to such an answer. Interested in making it such?
    – Matthew
    Sep 6 at 15:26
  • @mtthew Here’s an excellent answer (to a related but different question but is as much if not moreso an answer to yours, christianity.stackexchange.com/a/82978/54533 great could only be better adding rom 10:9 “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”
    – Al Brown
    Sep 6 at 16:58
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The term “Believers Baptism” is used in two ways. From what I remember a decade or two ago, it was just the idea that only professed, adult or teen, decided Christians should be Baptized.

More and more it seems to be connected to whether Baptism is an explicit step in justification as in one of your quotes. “Justification” from viewing the process as justification by faith (which comes solely by grace if adhering to election), and then sanctification by the Spirit of obedience which faith brings. So I have heard it more saying that “believer’s baptism” also implies that baptism is not part of justification but rather a show of obedience and/or a public showing and uniting with a particular church (denomination). I’m not a fan of this definition because it conflates the two. Someone who thinks only the decided should be baptized but sees it as part of the process of salvation can no longer express the first belief by saying “believers baptism” because they would be implying it is not part of the salvation process, but even there the two ideas are related.

So I agree this is a separate question. However, while the hyperlink is about whether Baptism should be Adult-only, there is a way in which the two are connected.

First about infant baptism. My understanding of the issue is that the first people to follow Christ (to become Christians) were only people who had decided to follow Christ, no one was (even tentatively) ‘born into it’. And then these new Christians would immediately be baptized in that faith (and yes John a bit a couple years prior). Some now say, “See. Only converted professed believers were being baptized, no babies.” But then others say, “Well that’s only because Christians didn’t exist yet so there weren’t Christian families where the whole family was Christians having babies. If there had been then of course they would baptize as soon as possible.” Hence the disagreement.

Thats not a full answer to what youre asking but it still reflects directly on your’s: Because if reading the Bible and you see that no one is being baptized except the converted who have decided and hence obviously have already professed.. then it might not (in such a person’s mind) take a separate instruction-verse telling you that’s how it works: 1. Profess. 2. Baptized.

Clearly, adults in Christ’s time presented with the opportunity to be Baptized would first decide and say whether they believe. For that matter just saying yes to baptism is doing so. I can see someone thinking that really is not the same as professing faith as a means of salvation and then just being Baptized as obedience.

One reason people can go there is by bringing in other verses about salvation by faith alone:

Ephesians 2

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Especially:

Romans 10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

And others. Only by bringing in other verses would it be logical to see what was happening in Christ’s time and conclude that profession and baptism wasn’t the explicit justification process, unless one has a priori sentiments about faith vs activity, which I personally do, although the verses certainly help: personally I don’t think it should be seen as salvation making or breaking, shouldn’t divide the Body, and can be seen reasonably both ways. That said, why would anyone in either camp not do it? That makes it even less of a divider in my opinion.

Finally, it’s worth noting that they are also related in that if one believes it is explicitly part of the salvation process, then they would want to baptize their babies. Hence the correlation between the beliefs about Baptism.

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  • "while the hyperlink is about whether Baptism should be Adult-only", true, but one of its arguments is that Baptism is primarily a profession of faith, which is what I'm asking about. Anyway, inasmuch as your answer comes down to an assumption (which some would argue is unwarranted) of a causal relation, I find it useful. (An interesting follow-up might be how such folk respond to IB being widespread in the early church...)
    – Matthew
    Sep 6 at 16:08
  • As far as baptism and Sola Gratia, IB proponents would point out that baptism isn't something we do, but something that God (through a priest/pastor or other Christian) does to us. Very similar to the Eucharist, which is also not a Work, or at least, we aren't the ones doing the work! In a sense, we are saved by a work, but by the work of Christ. Thus, when we speak of salvation not being through works, we must be clear that we mean human works.
    – Matthew
    Sep 6 at 16:17
  • I have heard someone respond to that. He said that may be what they did, but the bible says salvation is by faith alone. So until one has faith, forcing them to publicly express such faith is wrong. (Opposing IB is an attempt to push hard the concept “salvation by faith alone in christ alone through grace alone” and putting your money where your mouth is on that, by not playing games by baptizing infants when we just said what cause justification). My only question os whether there are other steps in the justification. i guess must not be or Id know. But cant seem to get an answer.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 6 at 16:21
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    I think IB proponents might respond to that by saying that the confession — which is a traditional, but not necessary part of a Baptism service — is coupled to the actual sacrament of Baptism in a way that allows for that objection. Anyway, my objections to not practicing IB are a) that it denies that God can work faith even in an infant, and b) this. The latter, admittedly, being slanted by my belief in inherited Sin.
    – Matthew
    Sep 6 at 16:27
  • Interesting thanks. I dont know at all. One of the rare cases where im really about 50/50. Although, I dont agree that there is an actual downside to IB. Aside from that idk. But that does mean: do IB and do and publicly confess as adult whenever believe.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 7 at 8:53
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At Matthew 3:13, "Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John to be baptized by him." Vs14, "But John tried to prevent Him saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?"

Vs15, "But Jesus answering said to him, Permit it at this time, for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him."

Keep in mind from vs1 that John's baptism was for any needing forgiveness of their sins/repentance, (vs2). This explains why John found it so difficult to allow Jesus-He who knew no sin-to undergo baptism.

Because John's baptism was valid for all Jews, Jesus, being Jewish, also had to undergo it. He must be like His fellow Jews in every respect. Moreover, the coming of the Spirit at Jesus' baptism marked the beginning of His ministry.

Verse 17, "and behold, a voice out of the heavens saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

Now, the main reason I went through these verses is to show that the baptism of Jesus Christ was very public. You did make this statement in your question? "only believers who had placed their faith in Christ were baptized - as a public testimony of their faith and identification with Him."

Notice Matthew 3:5, "Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan." John's baptizing prepared the people to meet the Messiah, and announced to them that such preparation involved repentance and faith.

Since Jesus Christ was baptized publicly are we not suppose to follow are Masters lead? In other words, water baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace. This is one way we identify with being disciples of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing "THEM" (that is the disciples) in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." (Disclaimer, I do not believe water baptism is necessary to be saved or born again.)

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  • "them" is a pronoun, The antecedent noun is nations not disciples. The Greek word translated in some versions as "make disciples of" is a verb. Some versions say "teach". However, it is a verb. "THEM" cannot and does not refer to disciples because there is no other noun than nations it can refer to. Jesus said to baptise and teach nations.
    – davidlol
    Sep 6 at 20:18

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