New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Monday, May 13 2002 Vol 02 : 085

Here for you in this issue:
Re: [NTCP] Immediate baptism?
Re: [NTCP] Immediate baptism?
[NTCP] Immediate baptism

Date: Sun, 12 May 2002 01:12:15 -0400
From: Richard Wright
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Immediate baptism?

Good word.

The same principle applies to communion. The so called "warning" in
Corinthians 11* is not a requirement to have ones life "right" before
being allowed to partake at the Lords table. The word unworthily is an adverb,
and modifies the drinking and eating, not the drinker and eater.

Taken in context, it should be clear Paul was talking about the manner and
focus of their meeting, not their worthiness. To place unscriptural
requirements on believers is to quench the Spirit. That's not to say we
shouldn't keep short accounts with God, just that our worthiness is founded on
Christ, not on our performance.

* 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord,
unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a
man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation
to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

On Sat, 11 May 2002 20:07:18 -0700, George Patterson wrote: Delaying baptism
for legalistic reasons is a major cause of failure to follow through. It isn't
a matter of making baptism immediate as much as dropping non-biblical
requirements for baptism, that leave seekers thinking that they have to make
themselves perfect outside of the church to merit their entry. It was like a
mother leaving her newborn child outside the door in the cold until it stops
dirtying its diapers. We have had almost no failures in follow up when we
removed these man-made requirements, provided that we called seekers to repent
and not merely make an intellectual decision. George Patterson

Dick Phil. 3:12-14

Date: Sun, 12 May 2002 15:54:35 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Immediate baptism?

The following post addresses questions/comments by Jim R., Guy M., Vanessa D.,
Dan S., Keith S., and Jay F.:

Jim R. wrote:

>(And converts who are that messed up would probably be from a church or Jewish
>background, NOT a pagan background, I suspect.)

OWWWW! Be nice, guy. By the way, BARUKH HA-BA (lit. "Blessed be the one who
comes"-- a Hebrew idiom which simply means "welcome!". Now go back and look at
Mat. 21:9; 23:39; Mar. 11:9, 10; Luk. 13:35; Joh. 12:13 with new [Jewish]
eyes). Glad to draw you out of hibernation, brother; you always had something
worthwhile to say. Doesn't mean I always agreed, though. :-)

>But that's a whole different issue from the two or three years it took in the
>late second century and onward. (Or, as Beresford Job has so colorfully
>noted, if you were single, it could take decades-- after 200 or so--before the
>bishop would assent to letting you be baptized ... and thus saved.)

Okay, that is new info to me. I haven't really studied particulars of the late
2nd century Church's practice of a "waiting period" in any depth. Just the
historical "lead-up". My educated guess would be that the abuses were not
universal, though. Do you have a few references I could look up? I do not
personally advocate any such length of time. Or discrimination against
singles. Just a period wherein people can understand what baptism entails and
where they can honestly count the cost of discipleship. Week(s) maybe.

>George Patterson and others have extensively field-tested the whole issue of
>rapid baptism and communion vs. delaying same. They found, resoundingly, that
>their former regular dropout rate of 95% on the mission field (note: a more
>pagan environment) plummeted to 0% when they shifted to rapid baptism and
>communion, getting new converts involved as family just after their decision.

It's been a few years, but I too have read some field studies which suggested
rapid baptism is best. So in essence I agree. Again, I was just trying to
provide a historical backdrop; some perspective to Dan B's dilemma. I do not
advocate past ecclesiastical excesses. I only suggest a "probationary" period
for those who seem to balk at "baptism FOR the remission of sins" and for those
of whom one is not sure(?) of true repentence-- perhaps one might get some kind
of bad "vibes" from their desire to be baptised right away. So do you surmise
that the 95% dropout rate "plummeted" to 0% (can that be true?!?!) because of
quick baptism per se, or more because, via baptism, "newbees" were incorporated
into full body life from the get-go? In other words, why couldn't the
not-yet-baptized who were drawn into a loving family environment fulfill that
statistic just as well? What factor did *quick* baptism actually play in the
above statistics?

>But Acts 16:33 says that he took Paul and Silas THAT SAME HOUR and cleansed
>their wounds and was baptized, he and his family STRAIGHTWAY. If there was
>ever a chaotic situation that demanded a cooling-off period, that was it. Why
>didn't Paul tell them to wait until they'd finished their confirmation
>classes, Michael?

Point well taken, Jim. Perhaps I can only suggest that there *was* a small
Jewish presence in Philippi when Paul and Silas payed that city a call (Act.
16:13). And, if you'll note, P. and S. did have a time of instruction with the
jailer and his family before anyone hit the water (Act. 16:32). Admittedly a
short one. After the earthquake incident, I'm sure the jailer et al needed
very little prodding to believe *anything* P. and S. had to say. However, the
gospel in later years branched out into purely pagan areas in which the person
of a Jew and his fundamental beliefs (i.e., the OT) had to be explained for
*the gospel* to make sense-- hence the analogous situation of the very
effective "storying" movement used today in reaching "pagan" tribal groups.
Such was likely not the need in Philippi. Jews were already in the city-- a
much more evangelistic lot than today's Jews-- and their basic beliefs were
certainly familiar to the local populace. Though I admit I can only speculate
and cannot prove this. :-) You have produced a worthy counter-example.

>Michael, you build your case from an absolutely correct, undebatable premise:
>"And therefore, when we lead someone to Christ these days, I'm of the opinion
>that it behooves us to put off his/her baptism ( conversion) if he/she does
>not have sufficient background as to its biblical meaning."

Glad we agree there. Then you admit that it is *sometimes* profitable to put
off baptism, right? That was my "absolutely correct, undebatable premise".

>Then you make a bit of a jump into metaphor: "Baptism requires Jewish 'eyes'
>to be fully understood."

I don't know, Jim. Jewish eyes seemed good enough for Jesus and the Apostles.
It might do you good to try on a pair.

>Then you seem to wind up vaguely in favor of an open-ended probationary period
>for those whose eyes aren't sufficiently Jewish yet.

Sorry for the mis-communication. Perhaps this post better explains my true

>In fact, you wind up in the same position as the ecclesiastically heretical,
>second-century church, with their delayed baptisms.

I don't suggest delaying baptism to prove who has the *real* power, or anything
like that, but only when there seems sufficient reason to do so (see above).
By the way, the second-century church was not completely "ecclesiastically
heretical" ... if it was the Church at all-- your (our) heritage. You may have
to apologize one day, to those concerned, for such sweeping indictments. You
owe more to those ancient brothers and sisters in Christ than you seem to be
aware of. Or are willing to acknowledge.

>Over to you, brother Michael. Somehow I sense that you'll have a comment on
>all this.

I sense from your sarcasm that I have probably offended you in our past
discussions. I am truly sorry. I have tried to be reconciled to others on
this list to whom I have been insensitive ... and I want to be with you as
well. I know I have been too forceful with some of my past arguments and have
been seeking by God's grace to change. Please accept my honest apologies.
Would you please forgive me? Jim, I don't mind a mild dose of sarcasm in the
least (in fact I rather enjoy it!), but I just want to be sure it is not
issuing from a wound I have inflicted.

Guy M. asked:

>In short, do you baptize people who get saved but are living in an immoral
>relationship? Any feedback would be appreciated.

Anyone coming into the covenant is coming in fresh with a load of greater and
lesser sins. If a person acknowledges his/her intentions to make the wrong(s)
right in front of some sort of "accountability group"-- and that goal may in
some instances take a bit of time-- then I would baptise him/her. Repentence
is a lifestyle, not just a one time affair.

Vanessa D. wrote:

>I find it disgusting that anyone would try to decide things differently from
>what Jesus would have done. He certainly would not have worried about such
>superficial things!

You remember a while back when I sent in a post, in response to one of yours,
which demonstrated from the NT that Jesus followed lots of rabbinic tradition,
... so long as it did not contradict God's word ("Tradition and Weirdness"
thread, Nov. 12 post)? Well, the same essential principle applies here.
Except in this case there is much more solid *biblical* evidence for "legal"
marriage, complete with contract, (Mal. 2:14) and pomp 'n ceremony (Jud. 14:20;
S.O.S. 3:11; Jer. 2:32; Joh. 2:1-11). Marriage in the Bible was certainly
consumated by the act of male sexual penetration, but that was not all that was
involved. There was a period of betrothal (no sex yet!) that was so binding
that violators could incur the death penalty (Exo. 21:8, 9; 22: 16; Deu. 20:7;
22:23-28; 28:30; Jer. 2:2; Hos. 2:19, 20; Mat 1:18, 19; 2 Cor. 11:2). Then
there were negotiations for a bride price which in effect protected the woman
financially should the man ever succeed in divorcing her (Gen. 34:12; Exo.
22:16; 1 Sam. 18:25). On the wedding day the bridegroom-- having earlier wooed
his love, presented her with an object of value, signed the contract, and
completed the bridal chamber to his father's satisfaction-- would send forth
his groomsman before him through the streets to announce to the city/village--
and the bride-- "Behold, the bridegroom is coming!". Then, while the wedding
attendants and the bride threw their festive clothes on quickly, the people
would stream outside their houses and then parade the blessed pair on their
shoulders through the streets til they reached the bridegroom's father's house.
There there would be a (usually) week-long come-'n-go feast, during the
beginning of which the bride and groom would retire to their newly built
chamber to consumate their marriage ... while two witnesses stationed outside
the door awaited the presentation of the "cloth" (Deu. 22:16) spotted with
proof of the bride's virginity (blood). Once "the cloth" was brought to the
bride's father, and displayed to all the wedding guests, the party really got
started ... with music, drinking, singing, drinking, dancing, drinking,
speeches, drinking. And did I mention drinking? Now read Mat. 25:1-13; Joh.
3:29; 14:1-3; and Rev. 19:7-9 with new (Jewish) eyes. My point being, of
course, that "living together" did not constitute a legal marriage in ancient
Israel. In fact, it could result in the death penalty ... for the woman (Deu.
22:21). Although "concubines" (still an arrangement which had to be negotiated
with the woman's parents or, if she were a slave, owners-- Jud. 19:1ff) had
certain rights, a couple's sons begotten from such an relationship did not
*automatically* inherit from the father's estate. Sons from a legitimate
marriage did! Marriage then was a higher, more binding, and legally safer
arrangement with an accompanying ceremony, contract, and point of consumation
... that ensured a place in the covenant community of Israel for the resulting
offspring. Becoming "one flesh" with a harlot was/is not marriage, though it
had/has physical and spiritual consequences. And should therefore be avoided
(1 Cor. 6:16-18). However, people who enter the covenant community from an
immoral background (such as myself) should be treated gently, I think. But not
pampered. We should be patient when working them through the particulars of
their own personal repentence, but not let them think that things may go on as
they always have. By the way, neither the OT nor the NT portrays polygamy as a
sin. It becomes a real problem when such a marriage goes loggerheads with
civil law, or when a polygamous man seeks church servant-leadership. So if our
newly baptized brother/sister is in a knotty relationship, our job together is
to find a biblically and culturally appropriate solution to the problem-- one
that best reflects the character of Christ in both holiness and mercy. It will
never be without pain, I'm afraid.

Dan S. wrote:

>In reality baptism is a part of salvation.

I certainly agree with you here, Dan; at least it is the biblical gate through
which we, by faith, appropriate an already completed salvation. And I agree
with the conclusion of your post ... so long as you can allow for those rare
instances in which it is wisest to wait.

Keith S. wrote:

>I don't want to get sidetracked into an argument on sacramentalism, but could
>it just be that God does impart some grace at baptism?..............

You betcha!

Jay F. asked:

>Could that grace be connected with "the pledge of a good conscience toward

That's the ticket!


Date: Mon, 13 May 2002 02:37:47 EDT
Subject: [NTCP] Immediate baptism

Dear Michael M. and patient-hearted onlookers,

When I said, "Over to you, brother Michael. Somehow I sense that you'll have a
comment on all this," I was just making another one of my limp attempts at
humor. And I was referring ONLY to your propensity for thoroughness. I have
NEVER been offended at anything you've said. (If I had, you'd have heard about
it!) You're a terrific guy whom I value highly, and I wouldn't want you to
write any differently than you do. Sure, it would have been nice if you had
found a white flag to run up the pole at some early point during the episkopos
exchange; but that wouldn't have been Michael.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO ALL: We are not interacting here just in order to beat each
other into shape or establish a new Ecclesiastical Correctness. All this stuff
we've been producing needs to find its way into the mainstream of house church
thought. So much good stuff has flowed across our monitors! If you have the
time to condense the very best of it all into a book, it would be a very
valuable addition to the knowledge base of the house church movement.

Anyway, on to your points, Michael: You asked for references on the ancient
practice of delayed baptism. The Tertullian quote was from "On Baptism,"
18:10-11. A web search will turn it up in various good or bad translations.
You can also go to At the bottom of
this post, I'll append a quote from that site.

By now, you've seen George Patterson's own reply 5/11 on this issue. Yes, he
really says (to my face and in print) that the dropout rate went from 95% to
0%. Of course one never hits absolute zero, but you know what he means. You
can start a check on George at

My understanding is that he urges a fast baptism AND communion participation.
This ushers them into true fellowship as part of the inner circle. As to your
hypothetical question about whether participation in a "loving family
environment" would work just as well without baptism, I sort of think that love
should include truth--and confrontation when necessary.

Yes, we can agree that baptism should be delayed whenever there's a good reason

Btw, just finished 2.5 days together with 19 church planters who have launched
anywhere from half a dozen to a couple hundred house churches. It was historic
in that was, to our knowledge, the first conference of just house church
apostles from across the US who are not at all connected to each other. As I
recall, almost half of them were full-time. The meetings took place at the BBB
Ranch near Woodland Park, CO, near here. The fellowship was fantastic! And no
hint of friction. There was a lot of comparing of notes and some very good
statements of basic principles--which will probably find their way onto the
Dawn Ministries web site in a few weeks. The Holy Spirit was definitely in
charge, and a lot of kleenex was used up. One example of the power present
there: Colorado (and other nearby areas) have been in the grip of a 100-year
drought. So far, only 30 minutes of rain this spring. We prayed together
about this--fervently, loudly, and unitedly. Twice! And within the hour it
started to sprinkle. That night (Saturday, 5/11) it started raining about 10
or 11, and rained lightly all night long. By 11 a.m. Sunday, the ground and
trees at my place were covered with snow!

I hope to meet some of youse guys at the Southern House Church Conference in

Your faithful brother,

Jim Rutz
Colorado Springs

P.S. Here is the quote from above:

David F Wright was Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History, University of
Edinburgh. In "A Lion Handbook - the History of Christianity" - Chapter on
Beginnings, Section on Instruction Before Baptism, page 115, he writes:

"At the birth of the Church, converts were baptised with little or no delay.
But a course of instruction prior to baptism soon became customary, especially
for non-Jewish converts. Hippolytus of Rome again provides valuable evidence. A
convert's occupation and personal relations were scrutinised, and then came
pre-baptismal instruction which took 3 years (even longer in Syria). Good
progress, or the imminence of persecution could shorten the period...More
intensive preparations, including fasting, exorcism and blessing, immediately
preceded baptism. The converts were often taught by laymen, such as Justin in
Rome or Origen in Alexandria. By the 4th Century the clergy had taken over the
instructions of converts, and the bishop had become personally responsible for
the concentrated teaching and discipline immediately before baptism (Here lay
the origin of Lent: from the 2nd Century baptisms normally took place at
Easter.)....Careful preparation for baptism was seen as essential because
baptism was commonly thought of as dealing with a person's past corruption but
not his future faults. This explains the practice of delaying baptism, the
development of a system of penitence to cover sins after baptism, and even
Tertullian's insistence on purity before baptism so that baptism became almost
a prize. The systematic teaching of converts along these lines flourished in
the 3rd and 4th Centuries. As infant baptism became increasingly common, the
practise faded." (Used with permission.)

Eventually baptism was seen, too, as the door through which one became a member
of the church, but with the church being now an ecclesiastical organisation as
opposed to the little extended families it had started out as.

Dr John Drane, lecturer in practical theology at Aberdeen University, adjunct
Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, California, and a
visiting Professor at Morling College, Sydney (we saw him, and this quote,
previously) "Introducing the New Testament". Chapter 22 and the section on
The Institutional Church on page 397 Published by Lion. Revised 1999 Edition:

"Instead of the community of the Spirit that it had originally been, the Church
came to be seen as a vast organisation. Instead of relying on the Spirit's
direct guidance it was controlled by an hierarchy of ordained men, following
strict rules and regulations which covered every conceivable aspect of belief
and behaviour. By the middle of the 2nd Century the change was complete. At the
beginning the only qualification for membership of the Church had been a life
changed by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, at the start there had been no concept of
church 'membership' at all...But by the end of the 1st Century things were
rather different. Now the key to membership of the Church not found in
inspiration by the Spirit, but in acceptance of ecclesiastical dogma and
discipline. And to make sure that all new members had a good grasp of what that
meant, baptism itself was no longer the spontaneous expression faith in Jesus
as it had originally been. Now it was the culmination of a more or less
extended period of formal instruction and teaching about the Christian faith.
And in all this we can see how the life of the Spirit was gradually squeezed
out of the Body of Christ, to be replaced as the church's driving force by the
more predictable if less exciting movement of organised ecclesiastical
machinery." (That is to say that baptism became your entry ticket to the church
on condition of submitting to that particular church's hierarchy and

End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V2 #85 < Previous Digest Next Digest >

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