I stand corrected, thank you to one of our faithful church members. My sermon this past Sunday (March 13, 2022) was on baptism from the text, Acts 2:37-41. In my sermon I made the point that the most basic meaning of a church being “Baptist” centers on the practice of infant baptism. Baptist churches do not practice infant baptism. They only baptize converts who are of an age and level of maturity where they are capable of making their own profession of repentance and faith.
As I did that I stated there are churches who do not call themselves “Baptist” yet they really are “Baptist” because they baptize only converts and not infants. I included in that list of churches those known as Nazarene or Churches of the Nazarene. But I was wrong to include them on that list because Nazarene churches in fact do practice infant baptism. I had been unaware of this practice by the Nazarenes until now.
That faithful church member told me the story where she recently attended the worship service at a Nazarene church with a family member. On the Sunday she attended she witnessed an infant baptism performed at that church. Her story prompted me to search the official doctrine statement of the Nazarene Church which led me to discover this.
The Church of the Nazarene Manual 2017-2021 (read it here) states the official doctrine of the Nazarene churches on the practice of infant baptism as this. “Christian baptism signifies for this young child God’s acceptance within the community of Christian faith on the basis of prevenient grace. It anticipates his (her) personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ.” This is clearly not a view compatible with that of Baptist churches. Baptist churches do not believe biblical baptism to be an anticipation of conversion to faith in Jesus at some time in the future but rather a declaration of conversion to faith that has already happened. I am so thankful for faithful church members who love God’s word and listen carefully to the pastor’s sermon. May God grant us many more faithful church members like this!
I will also point out, however, that the Nazarene manual states other views on baptism that Baptist churches would affirm. It states their view that baptism is the “sign of the new covenant of grace” and that they “do not hold that baptism imparts the regenerating grace of God”. Baptist churches in general I think would agree with those statements.
Yet Baptist churches see in the Scriptures clear teaching that baptism does not precede the presence of genuine repentance and faith in the one being baptized. Every account of baptism found in the Bible shows baptism following a person’s hearing, understanding, and profession of faith in the gospel. And further baptism is the confession of the convert’s own repentance and faith and not that of their parents or anyone else.
If you’d like to read more, here’s an article from Pastor John Piper making the connection between the Baptist view of baptism and the origins of the first Baptist churches following the Protestant Reformation. This may be very helpful to those who want to understand better what it means to be a “Baptist”. Read the article here.