Baptism has been an important practice in Christian churches for 2,000 years because of its significance in the New Testament. Baptism has also been a point of contention in Christianity because not all churches agree on what it symbolizes and how it’s to be performed. Some denominations don’t perform baptisms at all.
The Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, as well as The Salvation Army, are two Christian traditions that don’t practice baptism. While they understand baptism’s importance in the Bible, they believe that they are free not to practice it today and have good reasons for not doing so.
Why don’t Quakers and The Salvation Army perform baptism? What about non-denominational churches? Do they perform baptisms? Which denominations believe baptism is necessary for salvation? Keep reading to learn more.
Why don’t some denominations perform baptisms?
To many Christians, the Bible is clear that people should be baptized. While some denominations like Presbyterian and Lutheran baptize infants and others, like Baptist and Assemblies of God baptize adults, they are each convicted to practice the ceremony. Other Christians believe differently.
Why don’t Quakers baptize people? The first Quakers in 17th-century England longed for a revival of early Christianity because they believed that modern churches had proper form but little substance. Churches had rituals and structure yet lacked heartfelt devotion to God. (Also see What Christian Denominations Don’t Take Communion?)
Most Christians agree that going through the motions of the faith isn’t the same as genuine belief. The Quaker’s solution to this problem was to eliminate certain forms or practices, like baptism because it would remove empty expressions of the faith.
At the time when the Quaker tradition began, many theologians, pastors, and churchgoers were debating the nature of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Because people didn’t agree on the nature or importance of baptism, some believed that eliminating the act was a way to rise above the argument.
The Quakers wanted to be more Spirit-led and chose to believe it’s the heart that matters most and not the actual baptism itself. Because of this, baptism was eliminated as one can connect to God outside the water. (Also see What Denominations Speak in Tongues?)
Why doesn’t The Salvation Army baptize people? The Salvation Army believes that only the baptism of the Holy Spirit is required for obedience. According to their logic, if baptism isn’t required for salvation, why should a church risk it be misinterpreted as such?
To avoid confusion on requirements for salvation, The Salvation Army eliminated baptism altogether. A key verse for their argument is 1 Corinthians 12:12-13,
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (ESV)
Do non-denominational churches perform baptisms?
The majority of non-denominational churches are Protestant and evangelical. By definition, they aren’t associated with a traditional denomination like United Methodist, Southern Baptist, or Evangelical Free, yet they sometimes network or partner with like-minded churches.
Generally, non-denominational churches practice baptism. Their beliefs about baptism often align with Baptist beliefs about it more so than with other denominations and traditions. This means that non-denominational churches baptize professing believers as opposed to infants. They practice full-immersion baptism, not sprinkling or pouring.
Non-denominational churches vary in worship, style, and size. Because they are independent, it’s necessary to answer about them in general ways. If a person is considering attending a non-denominational church and is curious about their convictions about baptism, it’s best to ask someone at the church or search their website for a page that explains their beliefs and practices. (Also see What is a Non-Denominational Church?)
Which denominations believe baptism is necessary for salvation?
Some traditions not only believe that people should be baptized, but that it’s necessary for salvation. Historically, Protestant denominations like Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Assemblies of God, and many others argue that baptism is necessary for obedience but not necessary for salvation. For those that argue that baptism is necessary for salvation, key verses include,
- Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (ESV)
- Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, “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.” (ESV)
Do Churches of Christ believe baptism is necessary for salvation? Critics charge that Churches of Christ, a tradition that arose out of the 19th-century Restoration Movement, teach “baptismal regeneration,” which means baptism is necessary for salvation. (Also see Denomination vs Sect: What’s the Difference?)
Theologians in that tradition deny the charge, arguing that baptism is a part of repenting and believing in Christ for salvation, which is what other Protestant churches teach. Critics argue that baptism is an expression of conversion and shouldn’t be confused with conversion itself.
Baptism in Christian history
Nearly all Christian denominations perform baptisms. The ordinance played a large role in the early church. In the early third century, for example, Tertullian of Carthage wrote a work titled On Baptism, which is the oldest treatise on the subject. However, the most important teaching about baptism is found in the New Testament.
One of the most notable passages is Matthew 3:16-17, which depicts the baptism of Christ. Since Christians desire to follow in the footsteps of Christ, his baptism is significant.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. Suddenly the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!'” (ESV)
Additionally, Christ commands his disciples in Matthew 28:19 to baptize people all over the Earth,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)
Because many Christians this is a direct command from God baptism is common denominations.
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