Baptist Estuaries

Every church has a signature reality that gives shape and substance to its existence.  The Mass is central to Roman Catholic life.  Classically Reformed churches take their focal point to be the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.  Pentecostal churches believe in the practical and powerful applications of the spiritual gifts to the body and work of Christ. 


I am a Baptist, an ecclesiastical heritage that has been around since the days of the Protestant Reformation.  There are Southern Baptists, Conservative Baptists, Free-Will Baptists, National Baptists, Progressive Baptists, Independent Baptists, Reformed Baptists, and the like – Yes; we are legion!


We are joined together by what we call the Baptist “distinctives,” which include such things as biblical authority, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and soul liberty significant things; assuredly.  But we get our name because of the practice of “Believer’s Baptism.” 


Those who listened to the Apostle Peter preach that first sermon in Christian history were “cut to the heart” by the Gospel that they heard. Peter, replying to their visceral query of “Brothers, what shall we do?” gave what we believe was a very clear-cut answer:


 Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2.38, 39).


It’s not as if baptism givers us any kind of special “in” with God.  Baptism as taught in the New Testament does not so much offer forgiveness of sins – that is God’s singular gift to us by way of the shed blood of Jesus at the Cross – as it communicates to the church and to the world that you have turned away from your former way of life (whatever that was or meant) and have now turned towards Jesus and the life He now offers us.  Your world begins to be permeated and given direction by Jesus Christ – both in terms of quality and content.  That one has entered the oceanic dimensions of God’s world is represented via the estuary of baptismal water; in this light, baptism is a kind of spiritual tributary, emanating from and leading into the full spectrum of what the Scriptures call “the Kingdom of God.”


The Apostle Paul offers this instructive insight:  “In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God of God, who raised Him from the dead.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2.11-15).


No mean accomplishment for one simple act; eh?  All of the powers that were arrayed against us and that had dominion over us because of our sinful condition were effectively combated, whether the legitimacy of the Law or the malevolence of evil operatives.  The act of baptism, by which one is literally and completely immersed in water for a brief moment, speaks to the fact that you who are a Christian have “died” to your sin-nature and are now “alive” to Jesus and His holy love.


I was baptized on a Sunday evening in March 1979 before a gathering of Baptist brethren.  My wife was baptized in the Susquehanna River amongst fellow Pentecostals.  We recently had the privilege of baptizing my lovely cousin in the Atlantic Ocean while staying on Cape Cod.  And just the other week, First Baptist joined ranks with St. Paul Baptist to share a baptismal service.  One dear Christian sister and two fine Christian brothers from amongst our respective ranks were baptized.  The Rev. Marjorie Duncan-Reed and I had the privilege of ministering together in the water. 


And our respective congregations, filled with blacks and whites, Asians and Hispanics, came together in a beautiful display of what life in the Kingdom of God is like:   It was expressive of the love of Jesus, and it was instructive, as the world might learn a thing or two about human relations, especially when God’s love fills our hearts and permeates the air that we breathe – Praise God!  All the more; may the lives of these three believers continue to give glory to God and serve as a witness to others who desperately need Him in this hate-ravaged, self-centered train-wreck of a planet, for they have attested with their lives that the love of Christ encompasses all of us who will “immerse” themselves in Him.  It was and is a truly grand day!


Bradley E. Lacey

Pastor, First Baptist Church at Conshohocken

November 2017