Examination of Candidates for Baptism and Church Membership
BAPTISM and uniting with the church are great and important steps in the Christian life. They are compared to the beginning of a new life by birth. John 3: 3
In the great commission are given the fundamentals of church membership. In examining candidates we should ever keep in mind these great basic truths of the gospel as set forth in this commission Christ gave to his ambassadors to be followed strictly in the development of a perfect church, Christ, having acknowledged that all power came from God to him, said to his disciples;
"Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you, and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Matt. 28: 19, 20, R. V.
Christ commanded his disciples to do nothing but what he lived, and therefore his life was a perfect example, not simply for the early church, but for all believers, even to the end of the world.
Christ lived the word; he taught as an example; and he is declared to be "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb. 13: 8), and we are bidden to "follow his steps." (1 Peter 2: 21). Therefore, to teach whatsoever Christ has commanded is to set the goal of Christian perfection for his disciples.
The great commission sets forth fundamental principles. We are to "go," to the world; we are to "teach," and believers are to "observe" whatsoever Christ has commanded, and baptism is included. We are to be baptized "into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Through believing and obeying the commandments of Christ, we are adopted into the royal family of heaven, and become the sons of God. John 1:12.
A most beautiful setting of Christ's commission is found in " The Desire of Ages," page 826. It says:
"In the commission to his disciples, Christ not only outlined their work, but gave them their message. Teach the people, he said, ' to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.' The disciples were to teach what Christ had taught. That which he had spoken, not only in person, but through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament,is here included. Human teaching is shut out. There is no place for tradition, for man's theories and conclusions, or for church legislation. No laws ordained by ecclesiastical authority are included in the commission. None of these are Christ's servants to teach. 'The law and the prophets,' with the record of his own words and deeds, are the treasure committed to the disciples to be given to the world. Christ's name is the watchword, their badge of distinction, their bond of union, the authority for their course of action, and the source of their success. Nothing that does not bear his superscription is to be recognized in his kingdom."
According to the gospel commission, then, the minister, in examining candidates for baptism and for church,-fellowship, is limited and prohibited from using tests or requirements not found In the Bible. The writer has sometimes heard questions asked candidates that he considers out of place. In no question should we place an obligation or exact a promise for which we cannot find in the Bible a "Thus saith the Lord." Therefore, according to Christ's instruction, we should proceed something after this manner in the examining of persons to he baptized and received into
1. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour and his word as your teacher in all things pertaining to your moral obligations to God and to your fellow beings?
2. Have you the evidence that Christ has accepted you and forgiven your sins?
3. Do you take the Bible, including both the Old and the New Testaments, to be the supreme guide in your Christian life? (This, of course, would not exclude reading or instruction from outside sources that might be of worth.)
4. Do you recognize in your baptismal vow that you are taking upon yourself the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and that these omnipotent powers are pledged to you, as a child of God, to give you faith and power to live the Christian life?
5. Do you take the Bible, above all other books and above all other teaching and counsel of men, to be the standard of your daily living in the development of a perfect Christian life, and do you hereby promise to make the Bible your dailystudy and companion?
6. Do you recognize your baptismal vow as a fitting memorial of the death of the old man of sin and of a resurrection to a new life in Christ Jesus, and further, that the baptismal sacrament also shows your faith in a resurrection from the dead to a life that shall know no end? Rom. 6:3-6.
7. In accepting membership in the body of Christ, his church, do you recognize your obligation to become a coworker with Jesus Christ in the work of saving others; and that you are to follow in the steps of your Master in self denial and sacrifice, for the-good of those about you?
8. Do you recognize that the Scriptures place obligation upon every person to render to God an amount equal to at least one tenth of his income, for the support of the gospel; that this is a personal recognition that Jesus Christ has "bought us" and all that we possess, and that we are simply his "stewards" and not our own, and that in rendering to him a portion of our substance we are recognizing Christ as the one that has purchased us with his own blood? 1 Cor. 7:23; Lev. 27: 30.
9. Do you recognize that the Scriptures teach that "we are to preserve the body given us by the Lord in the most perfect condition for service, and therefore, that we are to eat and drink and dress, and conduct our daily lives in a manner that will be becoming to a perfect follower of Christ? 1 Cor. 6: 19, 20. This leads us to eat "for strength and not for drunkenness." Eccl. 10:17. It leads us, as Christians to dress in modest apparel and not for show and the gratification of human pride. 1 Tim. 2: 9.
10. Do you understand that in prayer we are invited to come into the presence of our Creator, the great "I AM," and there " shut the door," and hold sweet communion with God? In this blessed privilege and duty is found the secret of power and success in the Christian life. Matt. 6: 6.
11. So far as you have studied the Scriptures, are you in harmony with the teaching of Seventh-day Adventists as a denomination, and do you desire to connect with this Christian body of believers, and to pledge your moral and financial assistance In extending the gospel at home and abroad as far as God shall give you the ability?
R. A. UNDERWOOOD.
The Church Officers Gazette, Vol. VII, No. 3, pp. 1-2 (March 1920).