The Association Forum

A round table discussion on instruction for baptism.

By Various authors

Prerequisite Instruction for Baptism

[It is difficult to conceive a discussional topic more vital to the life and spiritual welfare of the church than this. The presentations which follow are not official dictums; rather, they are the earnest, honest convictions of individ­ual ministers expressed through the Association Forum. But they are the con­victions of leaders,— union and local presidents, successful evangelists, and faithful pastors. They present a challenge to every laborer in this movement, and should at the proper time and place be crystallized into a sound and whole­some working policy.— Ed.]

Who has not sensed a renewed in­spiration to loyalty in defense of the foundation principles of truth in the atmosphere of that song which is so often rendered in mighty volume by a Seventh-day Adventist congregation?-

"Faith of our fathers! holy faith? We will be true to thee till death!"

If we are to prove true to the " faith of our fathers," we must maintain the standards which they established.

Memory carries me back to my boy­hood days, and I recall how careful our ministers were to instruct faith­fully all persons in the fundamentals of our message before they were ad­mitted into church membership. In those days, our membership lists did not increase as rapidly as in later years; neither were there correspond­ing losses in membership through apos­tasy and disfellowship, which has be­come present-day history. In those pioneer days no minister would take members into the church without ex­plaining the gift of the spirit of proph­ecy and the work of Mrs. E. G. White in connection with the remnant church. Thorough instruction was given on all points of faith and practice, such as the keeping of the Sabbath, the state of the dead, tithe paying, health re­form, dress reform, the ordinance of humility, et cetera. There was no pos­sibility of uncertainty in any mind as to our position on the health question — why we discarded the use of pork, tea, coffee, tobacco; or as to the rea­sons for maintaining simplicity in dress, which involved the discarding of specific things, such as artificial flowers, feathers, rings, bracelets, neck­laces, or following the latest styles in any particular.

Today there is a tendency on the part of preachers to skirt around such topics as these, and make no attempt to explain our denominational position regarding such matters before admit­ting people to church membership; and this policy results in serious mis­understanding and often fatal results. How frequently do we find people in our churches who have been baptized by some minister who failed to do his duty in giving instruction on these vital topics, and after this minister has gone on to other parts, there is brought to their attention by his successor these unexpected features of church membership. I have seen most serious situations develop in churches as the result of this very thing. People who thought they understood all that church membership involved, and had been freely admitted to membership, when they came to find out that there was much more required, have rebelled against further instruction, oftentimes creating widespread dissension and apostasy. To be specific, I have known of persons' being taken into the church without being instructed concerning the ordinance of feet washing, and when this came to their attention, they felt that they had been deceived, and left the church. I have known of other cases where no explanation or instruc­tion was given concerning the gift of the spirit of prophecy to the remnant church, and this has caused trouble and separation from the church.

The worker who avoids the presenta­tion of these vital truths, may be con­sidered a fine preacher, and be lauded and praised; he may baptize a large number of believers, and write up glow­ing reports for our papers; but I pity the worker who follows him and at­tempts to perfect and establish the work begun.

Our work is to preach the full mes­sage, not a part of the message. God does not require some men to preach the whole truth, and others only por­tions of the truth.

I fear that in our desire to gather in large memberships, we are in dan­ger of lowering the standards. There is little, if any, satisfaction in a system which permits one man to bring in a large number of partially instructed members, while the follow-up worker must drop many of these " new mem­bers" from the church records. We manifest deep concern about the neces­sity of bringing many into the church, but what concern do we feel for the large number going out from us? In all fairness and honesty, we owe it to Christ, to the message, to the individ­ual accepting the truth, to the church, and to the evangelist or preacher in­volved, to be absolutely candid, and to hold back nothing, presenting every phase of truth clearly and distinctly.

To seek for persons to join the church, and at the same time fail to tell them all that is involved,— what they will be expected to give up, what they will be expected to do, etc.,—seems a terrible thing to me. I would far rather see a worker bring in twenty-five members each year, but people who understand all points of the message,— the spirit of prophecy and all the rest,— than a hundred members who are largely ignorant of what is involved, and must find out for themselves, after being admitted to the church, just what it means to belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, getting this information through read­ing our literature or from the lips of some strange worker upon whom de­volves the unpleasant task of bringing testing truths from the realm of ob­scurity created by his predecessor. There is no occasion for any withhold­ing in proclaiming a well-rounded mes­sage, for honest hearts require honest dealing, and will respond in an honest way. Greater caution and care along this line may lessen the size of some reports, but it will also mean less apos­tasy and discord in the church.

Union springs, N. Y.

The Test of Discipleship

BY D. P. Wood

The responsibility for the mainte­nance of spiritual standards of the church rests with the ministers, and one of the keenest tests of faithfulness in meeting this responsibility is con­cealed in the minister's attitude toward the proper instruction of new members.

We are living in an age of great achievement, and surely this should also be true in service for the Lord. But in order to make a glowing report of achievement in numbers, our min­isters have received many individuals into church fellowship who were not prepared for the step. Should we not be more interested in the quality of thoroughly indoctrinated converts rather than in the quantity of names added to the church roll? Where there is a real burden for souls resting upon the heart of the minister, every pre­caution will be taken to instruct thor­oughly each person who wishes to unite with the church.

Our work as ministers or evangelists is not done until we urge home upon the hearers the necessity of a change in character in accordance with the pure principles of the truth. Many new converts are gained through con­vincing arguments which we present, but they lack true heart conversion. The message which we preach seems logical and clear, and appeals to the intellect, but it does not touch the heart or change the character. It is character, however, and not mental as­sent, which will entitle them to heaven. Christ is to be presented as the center and attraction in all the doctrines; and without a personal acquaintance with Christ, the mental assent to doctrines is but a dead form.

In " Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers" we are told:

" The test of discipleship is not brought to bear as closely as it should be upon those who present themselves for baptism. It should be understood whether those who profess to be con­verted are simply taking the name of Seventh-day Adventists, or whether they are taking their stand on the Lord's side, to come out from the world, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing. When they give evidence that they fully understand their position, they are to be accepted." — Page 128.

Not alone in the doctrines of the Sab­bath, the coming of the Lord, the state of the dead, the prophecies, at cetera, should the new members be thoroughly instructed, both as to the letter and the spirit of these important truths; there should be equal instruction concerning the matter of tithes, the gift of the spirit of prophecy, and health reform in all its phases. It is a fact that compara­tively few Seventh-day Adventists have a proper knowledge of this great truth, and that many people of the world are far in advance of us in precept and in practice of health reform principles. Our ministers have not been faithful in giving instruction along this line, and the reason is apparent,— it is because ministers do not conform their lives to these principles. I believe that in this matter, example is stronger than pre­cept. How can we apply the " test of discipleship " as the Lord requires us to do, unless we ourselves are fully standing on the Lord's side, having come out from the world and separated from every unclean thing? Again I say, the responsibility for the mainte­nance of spiritual standards of the church rests with us as ministers. It is a solemn responsibility.

Brooklyn, N. Y.

The Greatest Need

By L.K. Dickson

TIfs greatest need, as I view the mat­ter, is more definite proof of real con­version in the life of the candidate be­fore he is baptized. If there is to be neglect anywhere in preparation for this sacred rite, let it not be in this regard. Better by far that one be un­informed on doctrines than to be un­converted. The great cause of so many leaving the church by apostasy is not so much because they do not know or believe the doctrines which we teach, but rather because of the fact that they have never known what a thorough and true surrender of heart is.

Conditions will never better them­selves in our churches until we check the flow of unconverted members enter­ing our ranks. My personal conviction as to one very strong factor in remedy­ing this serious situation, is based on the need of more careful personal vis­itation on the part of the evangelist.

There must be time for personal work as well as pulpit work. Nothing can take the place of personal work. The evangelist who has awakened interest under the power of the Spirit of God, is the most effective personal worker for prospective candidates. One half the danger will be passed when we learn more about presenting Christ in every discourse on the doctrines which make us a separate people, and the other half will be effectively met when the evangelist receives a greater con­viction as to the importance of his per­sonal visitation.

New York, N. Y.

The Scripture Basis


Every person who professes conver­sion, should give evidence that he really has turned from sin in heart and life. Every truth held by this denomi­nation as essential to salvation should be presented to the new believer, ac­cepted by him, and put into practice in his life before his baptism; at least, he should have been instructed in all these things, and should have signified his intention to walk in harmony with them.

From the very beginning of a series of meetings, or from the point of con­tact in personal work, emphasis should be placed upon the fact that God's standards for the Christian are higher than are the standards of the world, and that these divine standards make no provision for anything in life and practice which leads to sadness, sick­ness, or death, or that in any way de­files mind, body, or soul. By referring in our studies from time to time to the texts of Scripture found in 1 Cor­inthians 6: 20; 10: 31; 3: 16, 17, we establish a basis for teaching tithing, health reform, dress reform, temper­ance, and the evils of theater going, pernicious literature, and indulging in the follies of a jazz-mad world. By keeping these principles fresh in the minds of the people from the begin­ning of our contact with them, little or no difficulty is experienced in secur­ing intelligent acceptance of all the so-called vital points of truth.

The " Moral and Spiritual Stand­ards," adopted by the Autumn Council at Des Moines, Iowa, in 1925, I always present for consideration by new con­verts, in order that they may under­stand our position as a denomination on all these points.

In the earnest attempt to do thor­ough preparatory work I instruct and examine candidates by asking them to subscribe to the following covenant and inquiries:

Covenant: "We, as candidates for baptism and for membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, hereby signify our intention to take the name ' Seventh-day Adventist,' covenanting through divine grace to keep the com­mandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. In a covenant of this character, we recognize the entire Bible as the rule of our faith and prac­tice, and leave room for the Spirit of God to enlighten us in regard to the truths of His word, not being bound by any creed."

Categorical Examination: [Full ac­cord with principles signified by rais­ing right hand.]

" 1   Do you accept the Bible as the rule of your faith and practice?

" 2   Will you study to learn the truths of the word, and practice those truths in your life?

" 3   In so far as you have studied and investigated the doctrines as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, do you believe and ac­cept of them?

" 4   Have you confessed your sins to God, as far as they have been made known to you; and have you on your part, as far as in you lies, tried to make matters right with your fellow men?

" 5   Do you claim by faith in Christ that God for Christ's sake has forgiven your past sins, and that He is yours and you are His?

" 6    Do you recognize the fact that as truly as God claims the seventh part of time as His, so He claims one tenth of all our income as His for the sup­port of His work in advancing the gos­pel of Christ, and will you faithfully render to Him His own the tithe?

" 7    Will you submit to the decisions of the body of the church in matters of church discipline? In other words, will you seek the peace, harmony, and unity of the church, rather than press an individual opinion to cause confu­sion in the church?

" 8    Will you contribute of your sub­stance, as God may prosper you and as He impresses your mind, for the up-building of the various branches of His cause? In other words, do you recog­nize the principle that when you take in light, you at the same time assume the responsibility to give that light to others, using your means as God im­presses you, also your time and your talents, that others may be blessed with the light of truth that has brought blessing to you?

" 9    Will you seek to build up the in­terests of the church by attendance at its meetings, ordinances, and by add­ing your influence to extend its work, while the church leaders, on their part, exercise their watchcare over you?

" 10  Do you understand the prin­ciples of Christian temperance as taught by Seventh-day Adventists, and will you carry out those principles in your daily life, abstaining from the use of liquors, tobacco in all forms, coffee, tea, swine's flesh, and all habit-forming drugs? In short, will you study the, subject of Bible temperance, and practice it in your life?

" 11  In matters of dress, do you ac­cept the Bible rule of plainness and simplicity? Do you subscribe to the principles concerning the matter of dress as adopted by the Autumn Coun­cil of this denomination in 1925, and which have been read in your hearing to-day?

" 12  Do you believe in the Bible doc­trine of ' spiritual gifts ' in the church, and do you believe in the gift of the spirit of prophecy which has been manifested in the remnant church through Sister E. G. White, and which has been connected with this message from its very commencement? And as far as you understand the instructions from that source, are you in harmony with them?

"13  Do you recognize the binding obligation of all ten of the command­ments as spoken by the Lord from Mt. Sinai, and by God's enabling grace will you keep those commandments, the fourth with the rest, rendering to the Lord as His sacred time the seventh day of the week, by the world called Saturday?

"14  By submission to Christ and His grace, will you seek to grow in grace as well as in the knowledge of His truth?

"15  Do you, by going forward in baptism, thus declare that from hence­forth you will have no part in such soul-destroying amusements as card playing, moving picture shows, thea­ters, dancing, and all other entertain­ments and amusements which tend to deaden and. destroy the spiritual life and perceptions, i. e.,

"a   To abstain from novel reading, and the reading of all fiction and stories condemned by the instruction to the church through the spirit of prophecy?

"b   To co-operate to the extent of your ability in every program of the church for the finishing of the work of God in the earth?

"c   To refrain your lips from all destructive criticism, faultfinding, and all evil speaking, and to refrain from all evil thinking of your brethren; persistently believing in and defend­ing the innocence and good name of your brethren in the faith, closing your eyes to any and all evil reports and rumors which others may bring to you that are intended to lessen your con­fidence in any member of the church, admonishing as a brother or a sister, any of your brethren who may indulge in criticism or talebearing, or a lack of confidence in the officers of the church, the leaders in this movement, or in the brethren?

"d To live peaceably with all men, as far as lieth in you, carefully observ­ing the laws of the land, in' so far as those laws do not conflict with the laws of God; also observing the rights and liberties of others, and in every way endeavoring to be a good and loyal citizen of your country, a good neigh­bor, and exert a good influence in your community?

"Do you from the heart subscribe to all these principles?

"16  Do you believe that Jesus is soon coming again to take the faithful to live with Him?

"17  In view of the fact that the Scriptures say that every man that hath this hope in him purifieth him­self, even as He is pure,' do you to-day signify your intention to endeavor, by the help of God, to live a purer and better life from this time onward? "

Reading, Pa.

(This discussion to be continued in October)

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By Various authors

September 1928

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