Recently we received an email to the church address asking if we would accept a Catholic baptism. Jim Neff, one of our elders, penned the following reply, edited to remove specific personal references.
“Thank you for asking about the Grissom Road church of Christ. Your question as to whether the members of the Grissom Road church would accept a person’s Catholic baptism does not lend itself to a quick answer. Frankly, based on the information you provide I don’t know. Please bear with me.
Our response to any question on religion is, “What does the Bible say on that topic?” In this instance we may ask whether the person’s baptism is the same as that by which people in the first century became Christians, members of the body of Christ who were added by God as it says in Acts 2:47.
You mentioned that the person was baptized in the Catholic Church, or that theirs is a Catholic baptism. I do not know specifically what a “Catholic baptism” is or means. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:5 that there is only one baptism. There isn’t a “church of Christ baptism” nor a “Catholic baptism” nor a “Baptist baptism” in God’s word, only one baptism for the remission of sins. One needs to be wary because different churches do put different meanings on what they call baptism. It may not be the same thing as is described in the New Testament, by which people were saved. Some Baptists, for instance baptize a person whom they consider already saved, to make them members of the Baptist church. The apostle Paul in Acts 19 encountered some believers whose baptism was not right and needed to be baptized (again) into Christ. Baptism as I read about it in the New Testament is not what people would call a “church sacrament.” It is the response of an individual to the call of the word of God.
You can look up scriptures in the New Testament using words such as “baptized” and “baptism.” There are several good Bible programs on the internet such as “kingjamesbibleonline.org” that have search engines. Looking at the examples of conversions in the book of Acts, and reading the writings of apostles such as Paul, one can determine what people did in those days to become Christians. Generally speaking, one’s conversion as a Christian involves the following things which are not listed in any particular order:
a. The Hebrew writer wrote that the person who comes to God must first believe in God, and that God will reward those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
b. The believer who seeks for God will find him in the scriptures which are inspired by Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and are profitable as a source of our belief and guide in our pursuit of righteousness.
c. Paul wrote in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing the word of God. We gain faith in God through hearing or reading his word, written down for us in the Bible.
d. In Acts 2:37, the people who heard the apostle Peter speak were “pricked in their hearts” or convinced and convicted that they were in sin. They believed in God, they heard the word and measuring themselves by what that word said recognized the need to do something about it. We have to be convicted of our sin to move us to seek relief.
e. Doing something involves changing something about our lives. Peter told the people in Acts 2 that they need to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Repenting involves changing one’s direction, turning away from the old life serving ourselves (Romans 6) and toward serving God.
f. By our lives, we also confess Jesus as the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10 and Matthew 10:32).
g. And finally, we read in 1 Peter 3:21 that baptism saves us. Peter told those people in Acts 2 that they needed to be baptized. Paul describes baptism in Romans 6:4 as a burial. I’m sure you’ve heard that the Greek term translated in our English bibles as baptism means to immerse or plunge under. In more modern times, some churches have modified the meaning of baptism to say one may only need water sprinkled on their heads, or poured from a dipper. That is not what the Bible describes, but it is total immersion we read about in the New Testament.
h. Another factor involves when a person is baptized. Infant baptism is popular as a dedication of a child into a religious group, such as the Catholic church, who is later “confirmed” when they are older. I understand that many consider the “baptism” as a child to be sufficient if one is later confirmed as a member of the church. That is not what the Bible describes. The person who is baptized in the New Testament is one who can hear the word, believe it, be convicted, repent and submit to immersion for remission of sins. Those are things an adult does, not a child. Baptism is for adults who are accountable for their actions and capable of understanding God’s word in the matter.
i. Only when a person understands and believes, is convicted, repents, confesses Jesus as the Son of God, and is immersed for remission of sins do they become a Christian as described in the New Testament. At least that is what I read and you may read it for yourself.
j. There is no specific instruction given about just who administers baptism to a believer. It is not a “church sacrament” as that is usually thought of, but the answer of a good conscience toward God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21), an individual matter between God and a person.
I know there are people who are members of churches other than the church of Christ who have studied the scriptures on their own, concluded that they needed to be baptized, immersed, for the remission of sins and have done so. In that event, I can see no difference from what we would do in our building. Additionally we read where Christians grouped together in local churches for mutual support and edification (Acts 2, Ephesians 4). Paul said in Ephesians 4:5 there is but one faith. There is one church. I conclude from that it is possible for a person to be baptized into Christ, but be in a group that is not worshiping God according to His plan. Baptism is but a first step in a Christian’s life, that is why it is referred to as a birth.
That brings me back to your question. What do we ask of a person who wants to place membership? We ask if the person is a baptized believer, one who has been immersed for the remission of sins in the name of Jesus as described in the New Testament. That is all we can ask in that regard and we would have to accept the honest confirmation a person would give. I hope this explains things. We would be happy to have you visit our services and would welcome the opportunity to study these things with you more thoroughly if you wish.”
The Gospel Plan of Salvation = Hear the Gospel, Believe the Gospel, Repent of Sins, Confess Faith in Christ, Be Baptized