Dr. Andrew Jackson
Essentials and Nonessentials
I break down theology and practices into two categories: essential and nonessential. Essentials are nonnegotiable because it changes the Gospel (who Jesus is, resurrection, second coming etc). However, there are a variety of thought and ways related to nonessentials, such as specific eschatology, and I would put the means and ways of water baptism and communion in this category. I approach non-essential issues pastorally with a focus on the discipleship of a person. Some people come from different traditions, and so I would be flexible for their good and upbuilding. I would not be rigid. This pastoral approach takes discernment and interaction with a person.
Water Baptism of Salvation
This is water baptism following a person’s salvation. This baptism would be the focus in public worship services. This baptism is essential, but the process of this baptism varies. This baptism must be primary and central in the practice of the church. Many, like the couple that left the church, emphasize that baptism must be only one time. Salvation is one-time, but the Bible does not say specifically that water baptism must only be one-time. Also, it depends on a person’s view of salvation. If one believes in election than their salvation is absolutely one-time and so baptism would also be one practice.. But if one believes that salvation is a process (conversion and sanctification), then I believe baptism could be strategic for spiritual growth (sanctification). Although this Titus passage speaks of rebirth and renewal happening in one event, ”through the water of rebirth (regeneration) and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5)”, regeneration and renewal could applied separately. The focus is on the Holy Spirit who brings a born-again experience, water baptism does not salvation. So the emphasis should be on the Holy Spirit, and not the water of baptism.
Water Baptism of Re-Consecration
This type of water baptism is more pastoral for me. This category would be for those who were saved, but had “back slid” or totally lost their faith (depending on one’s theology) There are many people who are not walking visibly with the Lord, but keep their confession of belief in Christ. They are not resistant or hostile or confess unbelief. If I sense their heart of repentance, desire to generally reconsecrate their life to Christ, and verbalize wanting to be baptized, I would do this for their spiritual growth, not for their salvation. And I would explain this to them so they fully understand. Another aspect of baptism is for a special consecration. This would be for people that are being led by God into a specific new season (a clear demarcation) in their faith or ministry or mission. If they had a moving of the Holy Spirit and verbalized a desire to visibly engage in a special consecration, then I would baptize them for their spiritual growth, not for their salvation.
Water Baptism of Renewal
I approach this category pastorally. This category would be for people who were baptized as an infant and when they were very young. Or they come from a mainline or Roman Catholic background as adults. If they come to a new realization of their faith, express a personal conviction that they were only a nominal Christian, and want to be baptized for a visible confession of their spiritual renewal, then I would baptize them, but not for salvation. Usually, these type of people just want to express a renewal of their salvation. Again, I would explain this to them so they fully understand the meaning of the baptism.
The baptism of renewal and consecration are pastoral and are part of the process of sanctification and making disciples and pastoral care. To eliminate confusion, I would consider these baptisms be separate from public worship services. However, I would still have witnesses, including family. What you have to protect from is the perception that you are lax on water baptism and so anyone can be re-baptized. Baptisms in all cases should be sacred and special events. For renewal and consecration baptisms, I would require a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s movement and guidance in a person’s life, and a strong witness in your heart that the Holy Spirit is leading this way. So, in the end, you are not just doing what people want, but you are obeying the Holy Spirit’s guidance.