Ready or not?

The editor interviews Ellen G. White on preparation for baptism

J.R. Spangler is editor of Ministry.
Q. Sister White, what is the effect on the church when candidates are baptized before they have given evi dence of overcoming unchristian habits and practices? A. "The accession of members who have not been renewed in heart and reformed in life is a source of weakness to the church. This fact is often ignored. Some ministers and churches are so desirous of securing an increase of numbers that they do not bear faithful testimony against unchristian habits and practices.

Those who accept the truth are not taught that they cannot safely be worldlings in conduct while they are Christians in name. Heretofore they were Satan's subjects; henceforth they are to be subjects of Christ.

The life must testify to the change of leaders." Testimonies, vol. 5, p.

172.

Q. But shouldn't we baptize peo ple as soon as they indicate their desire? A. "Baptism is a most sacred and important ordinance, and there should be a thorough understanding as to its meaning. . . . There should be no undue haste to receive the ordinance." Ibid., vol. 6, p. 93.

Q. What is the result when indi viduals are baptized without having conformed to the standards and teachings of the Bible? A. "Public opinion favors a pro fession of Christianity. Little selfdenial or self-sacrifice is required in order to put on a form of godliness and to have one's name enrolled upon the church book. Hence many join the church without first becom ing united to Christ. In this Satan triumphs. Such converts are his most efficient agents. They serve as decoys to other souls. They are false lights, luring the unwary to perdition. It is in vain that men seek to make the Christian's path broad and pleasant for worldlings. God has not smoothed or widened the rugged, narrow way." Ibid., vol. 5, p. 172.

Q. Has the Adventist Church been too demanding in insisting that the requirements listed in the Church Manual and based on Scrip ture be accepted before an individ ual can be baptized? A. "There is need of a more thorough preparation on the part of candidates for baptism. They are in need of more faithful instruction than has usually been given them.

The principles of the Christian life should be made plain to those who have newly come to the truth. None can depend on their profession of faith as proof that they have a saving connection with Christ. We are not only to say, 'I believe,' but to prac tice the truth. It is by conformity to the will of God in our words, our deportment, our character, that we prove our connection with Him." Ibid., vol. 6, pp. 91, 92.

Q. What is involved in the "thorough preparation" you just mentioned? A. "Preparation for baptism is a matter that needs to be carefully considered. The new converts to the truth should be faithfully instructed in the plain 'Thus saith the Lord.' The Word of the Lord is to be read and explained to them point by point.

"All who enter upon the new life should understand, prior to their baptism, that the Lord requires the undivided affections. . . . The prac ticing of the truth is essential. The bearing of fruit testifies to the char acter of the tree. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. The line of demarcation will be plain and dis tinct between those who love God and keep His commandments and those who love Him not and disre gard His precepts. There is need of a thorough conversion to the truth." Evangelism, p. 308.

Q. How carefully should we ex amine candidates to make sure they are practicing the principles of truth before they are baptized? A. "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 they 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. Before baptism there should be a thorough inquiry as to the ex perience of the candidates. Let this inquiry be made, not in a cold and distant way, but kindly, tenderly, pointing the new converts to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Bring the require ments of the gospel to bear upon the candidates for baptism." Testi monies, vol. 6, pp. 95, 96.

Q. Can you give us a specific il lustration of what you mean? A. "One of the points upon which those newly come to the faith will need instruction is the subject of dress. Let the new converts be faithfully dealt with. Are they vain in dress? Do they cherish pride of heart? The idolatry of dress is a moral disease. It must not be taken over into the new life. In most cases, submission to the gospel require ments will demand a decided change in the dress." Ibid., p. 96.

Q. Is baptism simply a matter of accepting Christ or does it signify that the candidate is actually joining the church? A. "They are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. They pledge themselves to become active mem bers of His church in the earth. They are to be dead to all the allurements of worldly desires; but in conversa tion and godliness, they are, through sanctification of the Spirit to exert a living influence for God." Sons and Daughters of God, p. 15.

Q. Should we be just as careful in preparing young people for baptism as adults? A. "No one is to take part in the solemn ordinance of baptism with out giving the subject careful, prayerful thought. The candidates, and especially the youth, are to be carefully instructed in regard to the obligations they assume in taking this step. They pledge themselves to devote their lives to God's service; and the three great powers of heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, pledge themselves to cooperate with them, to work in and through them." Manuscript 118 (Oct. 6, 1902).

Q. Should the evangelist baptize the candidate as soon as possible and leave the pastor to give fuller instruction later? A. "A laborer should never leave some portion of the work undone because it is not agreeable to per form, thinking that the minister coming next will do it for him. When this is the case, if a second minister follows the first, and presents the claims that God has upon His peo ple, some draw back, saying, 'The minister who brought us the truth did not mention these things.' And they become offended because of the Word. Some refuse to accept the tithing system; they turn away, and no longer walk with those who be lieve and love the truth. When other lines are opened before them, they answer, 'It was not so taught us,' and they hesitate to move forward.

How much better it would have been if the first messenger of truth had faithfully and thoroughly educated these converts in regard to all es sential matters, even if fewer had been added to the church under his labors." Evangelism, p. 321.

Q. What additional caution do you have for the Adventist ministry concerning the readiness of candi dates for baptism? A. "Our ministering brethren make a decided failure of doing their work in a manner directed by the Lord. They fail to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. They have not gained an experience through personal communion with God, or a true knowledge of what constitutes Christian character; therefore many are baptized who have no fitness for this sacred ordinance, but who are knit to self and the world. They have not seen Christ or received Him by faith." Ibid., p. 319.


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J.R. Spangler is editor of Ministry.

April 1978

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