Review: Going Public – Why Baptism is Required for Church Membership

GoingPublic_CVR

Should we baptize babies? Or should we wait until they are grown up and declare their belief in Jesus? What about if their children? More so, what do we do with all of these people in our church? I’ve grown up in solely non-denominational churches, one which had membership, the other (that being Calvary Chapel and their affiliate churches and campuses) which had open membership. Jamieson says, “This whole book aims toward the conclusion that churches should require prospective members to be baptized—which is to say, baptized as believers— in order to join” (1). This is important because, according to Jamieson, 

Evangelical ecclesiology tends to be consumed by the question of ‘what works.’ Pragmatism has not only moved to the center of our churchly solar system, but like an aging star it has ballooned and swallowed everything in its orbit. So we tend to neglect ecclesiology as a theological subject altogether or at best sketch a bare outline of what a church birthed by the gospel and grounded on the final authority of Scripture should look like (1).

Introduction

What does baptism have to do with the church or church membership? Baptism is one’s public profession of their faith.

Jamieson’s purpose is to show that “[t]ogether baptism and the Lord’s Supper mark off a church as a unified, visible, local body of believers. To put it more technically, they give a church institutional form and order” (2). Jamieson says that “according to Scripture baptism is required for church membership and for participation in the Lord’s Supper, membership’s recurring effective sign” (8).

Audience: Jamieson writes primarily to help baptists understand the importance of credobaptism and it’s place in the life of their local church (Jamieson believes that paedobaptists are in the universal Church, just that they shouldn’t be members of credobaptist churches). Who should be a member? Who shouldn’t? Should everybody be allowed? Why even have membership? Who gets to partake in the Lord’s Supper? Not only is this debate for Baptists, but also those who believe that only believers should be baptized (9).

Jameson is saddened at excluding paedobaptists from church membership, but he says that it is far worse to disregard one of Christ’s commands and erase the symbols that proclaim our union with Christ. Baptism and partaking in the Lord’s Supper are visible signs that Jesus gave to the church to separate them from the world (besides loving one another).

Summary

Bobby Jameson, previous assistant editor for 9Marks, divides Going Public into three sections:

  • Part 1 – Getting Our Bearings
  • Part 2 – Building a Case
  • Part 3 – The Case Stated, Defended, Applied

In Part One, Jamieson tells the reader why this debate is worth having and maps out the argument so that we can survey the land that we will be coming up on. Both paedobaptists and credobaptists agree that believers must be baptized to be members of the church. Where they disagree is on the timing of baptism, and Jamieson seeks to show how post-conversion baptism is the view that correctly follows Jesus’ command.

Part Two offers a theology of baptism. Jamieson says that baptism is the passport into the Kingdom and it “it constitutes someone a ‘church member’” (96). The Lord’s Supper is celebrated by the church, since it was given to the church for their remembrance of Christ’s death which bought the church, and thus one must be a member of the church to take part in it.

It’s not surprising, then, that Paul can say we are baptized into one (universal) body at conversion; yet we become one (local) body through participating in the Lord’s Supper (122).

In Part Three, Jamieson summarizes his argument on why baptism is required for church membership (chapter eight). In chapter nine he responds to seven arguments against his credobaptist position. Chapter ten turns the tables and brings seven arguments against open membership. Chapter eleven gives some general principles on how to apply and practice baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and church membership in church.

Besides having a solid argument (for reviews from different denominational perspectives, see here), Jamieson starts off each chapter with a summary outline of what he will cover in that chapter. As he moves through the chapter he provides bold headings for each new section which corresponds with one point on the outline. Jamieson makes it pretty difficult to lose sight of his argument and readers will appreciate these outlines. They provide a simple yet tremendously helpful roadmap for each chapter. As it is almost impossible not to know what will come up in the chapter, this is perfect for note taking, reviewing, and reading in general.

Recommended?

Rather than prooftexts, Jamieson seeks to draw out what the whole Bible (specifically the New Testament, though without neglecting the theology of the Old) says about baptism for Christians. Jamieson wants to stay true to the whole word of God. He means no disrespect to his paedobaptistic brothers and sisters, but he refuses to demur his basic point: to participate both in church membership and in the Lord’s Supper, one must be baptized, not as an infant, but as a Christ-proclaiming believer. Having been in an open-membership non-denominational church for the last 12 years, I’ve been curious about the pros and cons of “membership.” This book is highly recommended, and it gives many answers to many questions that its readers may have. It will cause quite a stir among many, but I think it is well worth the shake up.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon or from B&H Academic!

(Special thanks to B&H Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.)

Why is the Ethiopian Eunuch so important?

Horse

I’ve been reading Alan J. Thompson’s latest volume in the NSBT series titled The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus (my review of it here). In chapter 3, Israel and the Gentiles: the kingdom and God’s promises of restoration, he points out that Acts 1.6-8 says a lot about how the book of Acts will play out. Throughout his book Thompson shows how the kingdom of God is seen throughout Acts, how Acts continues the themes from Luke’s Gospel, and how Acts tells us that God keeps his covenant promises.

In Acts 1.6 the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus answers them in verses 7-8, and many people find his answer to be an odd one. Though I can’t get into it now, Thompson believes and gives evidence for the position that the disciples did understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God (Acts 1.3). The disciples ask about the kingdom of God and Israel in 1.6, and he answers them in 1.7-8.

In 1.8 Jesus gives three phrases which reflect the OT:

  • ‘when the Holy Spirit comes upon you’ (Isa 32.15)
    • This refers to the “end of the desolation of Judah and the coming of the new age with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit” (107)
  • ‘you will be my witnesses’ (Isa 43.12)
    • God’s people will be transformed, now that he is the only God and Savior, and will be his witnesses to an unbelieving world around them.
  • ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Isa 49.6)
    • A Servant representing Israel will restore Israel, and this restoration will include Gentiles (Isa 49.6 is also used in Acts 13.47, where Paul and Barnabas explain their reasoning for reaching out to Gentiles).

God will rebuild the Davidic Kingdom “through the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to the throne of David (2:30-33), the pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit of the last days (2:16-17), the ingathering of the exiles of Israel (2:5, 9-11) and the repentance and turning to the Lord of Israel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, which unite under one Davidic King (2:38-47; 4:4; 8:4-25)” (116).

Outcasts

In Acts 8.26-40, Philip comes across an “Ethiopian,” a “eunuch,” a “court official,” although after 8.27 the man is only referred to as a eunuch. Why a eunuch of all titles? Thompson shows that Luke says four things about this eunuch:

  • v34, ’the eunuch’ asks Philip about a passage of Scripture (Isa 53.7-8)
  • v36, ‘the eunuch’ asks about baptism
  • v38, ‘the eunuch’ is baptized by Philip
  • v39, ‘the eunuch’ did not see the vanished Philip again “but went on his way rejoicing” (116).

Fly Away

Luke emphasizes the fulfillment of Isaiah throughout Acts (Acts 1.8; 8.34 quoting Isa 53.7-8; Acts 13.47; and in many more places). While the eunuch is reading Isaiah 53, it is in Isaiah 56 where we see God’s promises for the eunuch. “Isaiah 56 looks forward to the time of God’s salvation when the exclusion of those with defects from the assembly of God’s people in [Deut] 32:1-7 will be overturned“ (117).


Isa 56.3 says, “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’”

In 56.5 the Lord tells the eunuchs, “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”


The Lord will give joy to those who love and worship him (56.7-8). 56.8 ties the gathering together of Israel with the gathering together of foreigners, including eunuchs. Here in Acts 8, the “despised and rejected” eunuch is reading about the “humiliation and ministry of this despised and rejected Servant” (117).

“All the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Cor 1.20). All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. Israel looked forward to the physical resurrection, and it happened in Christ Through Christ’s resurrection Israel was and is being gathered together with Gentiles included, as the one people of God. Christ “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two” (Eph 2.14-15). Christ, seated at the right hand of God, rules and reigns now, and we are to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Baptize