The baptism of adult persons is always preceded by the expression or, confession of a conscious faith. This confession marks the subject of baptism as a spiritually mature individual who consciously takes upon himself the obligations of baptism. This, of course, an infant is not able to do and it is therefore the parent that presents the child in baptism and assumes for it the responsibilities of the baptism vow. In the case of adult baptism, the, one who receives the sacrament answers for himself the questions that are put to him and, as we shall see presently, the very nature of these questions is such that the affirmative answer given constitutes in itself a confession of faith. 

This insistence of confession before baptism in all cases where adults are involved is based on the Word of God. This order is mentioned explicitly in the great commission of Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Examples, of how this was carried out are numerous in the book of Acts. After Peter preached the Word on the first Pentecost, we read: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.” (Acts 2:41) Concerning the labors of the evangelist Philip in Samaria it is said, “But when they believed .Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12) This same evangelist answered the question of the Ethiopian eunuch, “See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” by saying, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” (Acts 8:36, 37) Lydia, the seller of purple in Thyatira, was baptized after the Lord opened her, heart and “she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 16:15) And, finally, we may cite yet the text of Acts 18:8, “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.” All of this bears out the importance of always emphasizing that baptism, whether of infants or adults, may not be administered as “a custom or superstition,” but it is a “holy ordinance of God” which demands sincere intellectual and spiritual conduct on the part of those seeking to use the sacrament. We must not only know what we are doing when we seek “incorporation into the body of Christ through baptism” but we must also realize all of the responsibilities involved in that incorporation for unless, by God’s grace, we are prepared to faithfully assume them, our baptism cannot be a blessing, but rather it will aggravate the judgment of God upon us. 

In this light we will consider the five questions that are put to the adult person receiving baptism. It is to be noted that the first three of these questions have to do with our doctrine while the fourth one sums up the matter by asking assent to “all the articles of the Christian religion.” Now this is very important, not because the candidate for baptism is to receive here an examination in “dogmatics,” but because he is asked with amazing brevity to subscribe to or express agreement with the fundamental truths of the Word of God as these are systematically set forth in our doctrine. Although we will not go into the matter here, it is to be noted nevertheless, and every believer can trace this out in detail for himself, that every heresy that has arisen in the past leads to an ultimate denial of these fundamental truths that are expressly mentioned in the: questions for adult baptism. If we see this we will also understand that the sin of supporting heresy is not only a denial of the confession of the truth but is a repudiation of all that is contained in Holy Baptism. It goes without saying that this is a very serious matter, indeed. 

We make one other remark concerning these, five questions in general. In the Adult Baptism Form each question is answered with the word, “Yes.” In the Form for the Baptism of Infants, the three questions that are asked of the parents are lumped together and answered with just one “yes.” We take it that this difference indicates that when an adult person is to be baptized he is to give answer to each question individually, or, in other words, he responds five times with “Yes” instead of just once. This also would point to the importance of assimilating and understanding each of these questions. We must not rush through the form and receive a hasty “Yes” in order then to proceed with the baptism but rather each question must be thoughtfully considered and answered, one by one, so that thus the truth of the Gospel, the Word of God, is not slighted but is {made pre-eminent in the sacrament.

The first question asked is: “Dost thou believe in the only true God, distinct in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Who has made heaven and earth, and all that in them is, of nothing, and still maintains and governs them, insomuch that nothing comes to pass, either in. heaven or on earth, without His divine will?”

It does not belong to the province of this rubric to discuss the doctrines themselves that are explicitly mentioned in these questions. We leave that to another department of our periodical but we note here that the candidate for baptism is asked to confess his faith IN GOD TRIUNE and that concerning God, he confesses the truth of creation and providence. No less than three fundamental doctrines are acknowledged here, namely, that of the Trinity, of Creation and Providence. The assumption is that the candidate for baptism has been instructed through the preaching of the Word concerning these truths and their implications. He realizes then when he answers this question affirmatively that he is expressing his faith in the Living, Sovereign, Almighty and Eternal God and that beside this God there is none other. He acknowledges that GOD is LORD of all things and happenings for HE IS GOD. This must always be the starting point of our confession. Unless and until we are able to know GOD we are unable to confess the truth about anything. All true knowledge is basically theology and to know God is eternal life. (John 17:3) That eternal life we have by faith, which is the wonderful gift of God that enables us to see and to know Him as He is, the HOLY AND SOVEREIGN ONE>

Next the candidate for baptism is asked: “Dost thou believe that thou art conceived and born in sin, and therefore art a child of wrath by nature, wholly incapable of doing any good, and prone to all evil; and that thou hast frequently, in though, word and deed, transgressed the commandments of the Lord: and whether thou art heartily sorry for these sins?” 

Anthropology is that science or study in which man is made the object of investigation and research. Here you have anthropology at its best. Well may we rephrase the question: “What do you know about man . . . about self?” Oh, it is true that in the locus of dogmatics known as Anthropology more is treated than touches upon the question of man’s moral, spiritual nature or condition. His creation, fall and history are all comprised in this study but it may also be said that the aim of this study is to direct us to the consciousness of our own emptiness and vanity. All the factual knowledge that may be gained by a study of man’s origin and history is of no spiritual avail as long as he does not realize the pivotal fact of the whole matter: Man is a sinner, born in sin, dead in sin, prone to all sin. And even this fact by itself is wholly inadequate for it must needs be coupled with “the godly sorrow of repentance.” Only when one knows himself to be a sinner does he have true knowledge of “man.” Only then can he pass the test of “anthropology.”

To be noted in this connection, however, is the fact that this second question centers in the fundamental truth of total depravity, one of the five well-known points of Calvinism. Because of the pivotal relation of this truth to many other doctrines of the Christian faith, a deep-seated spiritual knowledge of it is essential as a deterrent against embracing all kinds of heresies. We mention one example in this connection, the doctrine of the free-willists. It is a spiritual impossibility to embrace and confess the doctrine of the free-will of man and at the same time to honestly answer “Yes” to the second question of the Baptism Form we are discussing. We must be honest with ourselves and with God. If we truly know that “we are conceived and born in sin . . . . . incapable of doing good . . . . . prone to all evil,” we cannot sincerely believe that God well-meaningly offers us salvation on the condition of our acceptance. Without even an elementary mastery of the complex system of Christian doctrine, we will feelintrinsically the impossibility of such duplicity and be led to embrace wholeheartedly the truth that salvation is the fist of Divine and sovereign grace. 

Thus the third question: “Dot thou believe that Christ, who is the true and eternal God, and very man, who took his human nature on him out of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, is given thee of God, to be thy Savior, and that thou dost receive by this faith, remission of sins in His blood, and that thou art made by the power of the Holy Ghost, a member of Jesus Christ and His Church?”

Here the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of salvation are combined into one question. This is both beautiful and essential. To confess the truth concerning Christ apart from the truth concerning salvation is cold and meaningless, revealing an ignorance of THE TRUTH that is without excuse. To confess Christ is to confess salvation for HE is the salvation of Jehovah. Here then we have a confession of the truth with personal application and this is resultant from our being incorporated into Christ and His body through baptism. Only then can and do we confess that “the true and eternal God became very man to be our Savior” and such a confession is also a matter of personal experience.

In this connection it is to be noted how that in the formulation of the question asked the various truths concerning Jesus Christ are so interwoven as to make them an essential part of the confession but that in the last part of the question the emphasis is properly placed upon the truth that salvation is all of Him alone.He merits it and He applies it. He is both the author and finisher of this work. All this He does unconditionally out of grace and through faith. There is no room in the Christian’s confession for the flesh to boast. Christ alone is the complete and perfect Savior and for us the sole question is, “Are we the recipients of that “gracious work?” Do we believe that “by the power of the Holy Ghost we are made members of Jesus Christ and His Church?”

Since then we are, by our own profession, members of His Church, we are asked in the fourth question: “Dost thou assent to all the articles of the Christian religion, as they are taught here, in this Christian Church, according to the Word of God; and purpose steadfastly to continue in the same doctrine to the end of thy life; and also dost thou reject all heresies and schisms, repugnant to this doctrine, and promise to persevere in the communion of the Christian Church, not only in the hearing of the Word, but also in the use of the Lord’s Supper?”

The substance of this question may be summarized in the question: “Are you resolved to be a faithful andliving member of the church?” We may bring the focal point home by selecting phrases out of the question and asking each reader to consider: DO YOU—

—assent to the doctrine of the church?

—steadfastly continue in that same doctrine?

—reject all heresies?

—persevere in the communion of the Christian church?

—persevere in the hearing of the Word?

—persevere in the use of the Lord’s Supper?

And we note in conclusion that the whole question is designed to bring home the thought that doctrine is not something to be professed alone but also and emphatically to be lived and manifested in the midst of the world in an undivided life that is harmonious with the doctrine confessed.

The concluding question of this Baptism Form has to do with the matter of submitting one’s self to the admonition and government of the church. It reads thus: “Hast thou taken a firm resolution always to lead a Christian life; to forsake the world and its evil lusts, as is becoming the members of Christ and His Church; and to submit thyself to all Christian admonitions?”

Our life must be in accord with our doctrine. The admonitions and discipline of the church aims to enforce the church’s doctrine as a living power that must be manifest in the lives of its members. As members of Christ’s body who confess that we are “prone to all evil” we must be willing at all times to subject ourselves to such admonition.

Sacred vows in humbleness spoken

Firmly resolving ne’er to be broken

Lord give us daily grace from on high

That we may keep them ’til we die.