The Historic (Reformed) Theology of Baptism & the Lord’s Supper in Baptist Confessions & Catechisms

The following examples demonstrate that the historic Baptist position on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper was essentially a credobaptist version of the Reformed view. This contrasts with the views of many Baptists today who conceive and speak of the ordinances as mere acts of the believer (e.g., acts of remembrance, public declarations of faith) as opposed to also being signs and confirmations of God’s promises to us, and thereby means of his grace in the life of the believer.

The Belgic Confession and The Westminster Confession (to be clear, neither of which are Baptist) can be cited as representative of the Reformed view:

“Our gracious God, taking account of our weakness and infirmities, has ordained the sacraments for us, thereby to seal unto us His promises, and to be pledges of the good will and grace of God towards us, and also to nourish and strengthen our faith; which He has joined to the Word of the gospel, the better to present to our senses both that which He declares to us by His Word and that which He works inwardly in our hearts, thereby confirming in us the salvation which He imparts to us.” (Belgic)

“Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ, and his benefits; and to confirm our interest in him.” (Westminster)

Even The Augsburg Confession (not Reformed, but Lutheran) overlaps with this Reformed view on at least this point: “[The Sacraments] were ordained, not only to be marks of profession amongst men, but rather that they should be signs and testimonies of the will of God towards us, set forth unto us, to stir up and confirm faith in such as use them. Therefore men must use Sacraments so, as to join faith with them, which believes the promises that are offered and declared unto us by the Sacraments.”

So our church, CrossWay Milwaukee (Reformed Baptist), expresses our convictions this way in our statement of faith: “We believe that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances instituted by God for the Church as signs to represent Christ and His benefits, and pledges to confirm believers’ interest therein. In this way, they serve our spiritual nourishment when received in faith—the signs themselves not to be confused as actually becoming those things signified nor as having any saving effect in and of themselves. We believe that Christian baptism is the immersion of a professing believer into water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is properly connected to conversion and inclusion in the church. We believe the Lord’s Supper is a memorial administered with bread and wine designed to commemorate Christ’s death and exhibit believers’ communion with Him as well as each other.”

The First London Confession of Father (1644)

“To this Church He hath made His promises, and giveth the signs of His covenant, presence, acceptation, love, blessing and protection. Here are the fountains and springs of His heavenly graces flowing forth to refresh and strengthen them.”

“That the way and manner of dispensing this ordinance, is dipping or plunging the body under water; it being a sign, must answer the things signified, which is, that interest the saints have in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ: And that as certainly as the body is buried under water, and risen again, so certainly shall the bodies of the saints be raised by the power of Christ, in the day of the resurrection, to reign with Christ.”

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Closed Membership & Close Communion in Baptist Confessions & Catechisms

The First London Confession of Father (1644)

“Jesus Christ hath here on earth a spiritual kingdom, which is His Church, whom He hath purchased and redeemed to Himself as a peculiar inheritance; which Church is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world by the word and Spirit of God, to the visible profession of faith of the gospel, being baptized into that faith, and joined to the Lord, and each other, by mutual agreement in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances commanded by Christ their head and king.”

“Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ, to be dispensed upon persons professing faith, or that are made disciples; who upon profession of faith, ought to be baptized, and after to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

“That the way and manner of dispensing this ordinance, is dipping or plunging the body under water; it being a sign, must answer the things signified, which is, that interest the saints have in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.”

[Implicates closed membership. Makes explicit close communion.]

The Second London Baptist Confession (1689)

[See also the exact same wording in the Philadelphia Confession (1742) and the Charleston Confession (1767)]

“The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.

“Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world.”

“Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance.

“Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.

[Implicates closed membership. Does not comment either way on open or close communion.]

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Ministry Built on a “Foolish,” Cross-Shaped Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

Ministry Built on a “Foolish,” Cross-Shaped Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
CrossWay Community Church
January 8th, 2023

Podcast link.

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