After my last blog, people asked why the elders at Bethlehem Baptist (John Piperâ€™s church) are proposing to change its requirements for membership. The new policy being proposed by the elders is that under certain conditions members need not be baptized by immersion after coming to faith. Of course, the change would have to be approved by the congregation before the policy would go into effect.
One of the reasons that the elders are moving in this new direction is that â€œthe doctrinal bar of the eldership at Bethlehemâ€ has been raised significantly in a statement of faith titled â€œBethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith.â€ Here is the section on baptism:
12.3 We agree that historic Christian differences concerning the time and mode of baptism are not part of the defining beliefs of Treasuring Christ Together. Until the day when wider agreement can be reached, we desire that each local church or fellowship of churches search the scriptures and be fully convinced in their own mind as to what the Bible teaches concerning baptism. We believe that each church should practice baptism. It is not negligible. We believe it should be practiced with an obedience of heart, which submits to the authority of God in scripture according to the light that each church has. We do however deny the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, whether concerning infants or adults. We believe the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is not only contrary to Scripture but is seriously undermining to the gospel of justification by faith alone.
Apparently, the following statement is to be added to the above statement of faith:
We believe that baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in His death and resurrection, by being immersed in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (source).