How to baptize 1,000 people in four minutes 57

Last weekend Noble and Furtick announced the astounding news that between them they’d baptized more than a thousand people. I was curious to see how they did it, especially given that, for NewSpring at least, none of the baptism candidates knew about the baptism until a few minutes before they entered the water.

How did Noble do that? What powerful message on baptism did he preach to persuade so many believers to take that sacred step?

The answer: he didn’t say much at all.

His sermon was focused mainly on Joshua taking off his shoes when, according to Noble, he met Jesus in Joshua 3. Jesus asked Joshua to obey the small, insignificant step of taking off his sandals. As a consequence of his obedience in such a minor matter, God put Joshua on the map.

Noble then asked what minor steps we needed to obey God in, and suggested that it might be baptism. He then explained baptism to his congregation. You can see the entire sermon here, but it was full of nonsensical examples that had the church voting for Chevy or Ford, and cheesecake or cheeseburger. You’ll have to watch it yourself to see how it related to baptism, but somewhere in there he did teach about the Why, How, Who and When of baptism.

With such an ambitious agenda, you might think this would take a few weeks to cover, though Noble got through it all in less than four minutes. The following clip is an edited version of the substance of his teaching. (I have edited out extraneous material on marital authority, fear of water, and infant baptism.)

Please understand that I am not criticizing anyone who was baptized last week, nor the church’s mission to baptize believers. What is disappointing is that the pastor thought it was worth a thousand people immediately taking an important spiritual step, yet he didn’t think it worth more than a few minutes of substantial teaching on a doctrine that literally defines his denomination.

Now, a part of his message is unassailable and praiseworthy–if Jesus tells us to do something, we really have no argument against it. That is true, but there is much more that Scripture offers us on the meaning and mode of baptism than demanding straight obedience. Can we not be obedient and informed? One would assume that knowing more about the sacrament would add to the believers’ blessings.

Commentator Tommy had guessed last week that Noble had achieved his numbers by presenting the sacrament as meaningless.

My interest here is the irony of Baptists celebrating nearly 1000 baptisms, by a group who thinks it’s meaningless.

Tommy appears to have been correct. Where does one find any meaning in Noble’s presentation here? Noble’s message was that this is such a minor step–just like taking off your shoes–, that you’d only refuse to do it if you were afraid or proud.

The only meaning he did provide was that this meant one was “going public” for Jesus.

If that’s all it is, how does getting wet in an above-ground pool behind the church building make one’s faith any more public than attending church in the first place? If going public is what it’s all about, why can’t we just post an announcement on Craig’s list?

Surely there’s more to baptism than this.

(Noble posed four questions: Why, How, Who and When. If I am to complain about his cursory answer, it might be expected that I provide my own, and so I will. Over the next few weeks, PP will answer these questions, probably in four different posts.)

57 thoughts on “How to baptize 1,000 people in four minutes

  1. Ben Sep 22, 2009 10:31 am

    You are right James. I don’t know how I could have ever concluded that you were doubting someones baptism or salvation.

    The only meaning he did provide was that this meant one was “going public” for Jesus.

    If that’s all it is, how does getting wet in an above-ground pool behind the church building make one’s faith any more public than attending church in the first place? If going public is what it’s all about, why can’t we just post an announcement on Craig’s list?

    Surely there’s more to baptism than this.

    (Noble posed four questions: Why, How, Who and When. If I am to complain about his cursory answer, it might be expected that I provide my own, and so I will. Over the next few weeks, PP will answer these questions, probably in four different posts.

  2. James Downing Sep 22, 2009 10:34 am

    Ben – I suppose that is sarcasm, but there is no doubting of salvation at all in that quote. I’m not sure of your point.

  3. Josh Sep 22, 2009 10:43 am

    Not to threadjack the comments (and if you guys feel this does, I won’t be offended if you delete this comment), but I wonder if anyone has any biblical support for a few of the statements people have made about baptism in this thread.

    1. Believers should be baptized only one time. The bible says there is “one baptism” in Eph 4:5, but I think the context is that of Christian unity, rather than the number of times a person can be baptized. In other words, being baptized in the name of Christ by Paul is the same as being baptized in the name of Christ by Appollos or Barnabas. I had a friend who went to the Holy Land and was telling me that he was baptized in the Jordan River. He had already been baptized and was a long time believer. It seemed odd to me, but I couldn’t really think of a reason why it was wrong.

    2. Baptism should only be performed by ordained ministers or some other “official” person. Can any believer baptize another believer? If not, why not? Who would be eligible to baptize, according to the bible?

    I don’t really have a firm belief about either of these things either way, but would be interested in everyone else’s thoughts.

    • James Duncan Sep 22, 2009 11:02 am

      No threadjacking, Josh. Those are good questions.

      Unfortunately, not much time to answer them now, but the one baptism rule is fairly well-established Christian doctrine. Westminster Confession XXVIII.VII: ‘The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.”

      As for who can baptize, it needs to be a priest or an ordained minister of the gospel. This is why Jesus sought out John, and why he used John’s priestly status as a defense when he cleaned out the temple later in his ministry. (An issue I’ll be discussing in more depth shortly.)

      Westminster describes it this way: ” by a minister of the Gospel, lawfully called.”

  4. James Duncan Sep 22, 2009 11:09 am

    Just to tease you a little on the aspect of John as priestly baptizer–this was the issue that converted me from an immersionist to a sprinkler.

    But that’s another story, which will be told on another day.

  5. James Downing Sep 22, 2009 11:11 am

    Josh, those are good questions. I don’t have bullet-proof answers either, but here are my thoughts:
    1. Outside of Ephesians 4:5, I would just question the purpose of baptism if it is something you do more than once – as a beleiver. And if the act is made useless in doing it several times, why even bother ever getting baptized?
    2. I don’t think there is any scriptural backing for this. However, generally, someone ordained by a particular denomination would share the same view of baptism, and be able to avoid any confusion as to why you are being baptised.

  6. Josh Sep 22, 2009 11:12 am

    Thanks, Duncan.

    Did the Westminster Confession have any biblical support for the one baptism doctrine?

    Good point about John the baptist. I’ve always thought it was interesting that Paul didn’t do a lot of baptizing himself. Obviously at Pentecost there were people baptizing besides the Apostles themselves so I assume they appointed people to help out. Is that what you mean by “ordained”?

    • James Duncan Sep 22, 2009 11:23 am

      Westminster cites this: “TIT 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Of course, that fits into the context of the whole doctrine, which is supported by other texts as well. But this is the one cited for the one-baptism doctrine.)

      The concept is that baptism is something God does to us, so there’s no need for him to do it twice.

      As for baptism in Acts 2, the large number is consistent with baptism as sprinkling. A single priest–Peter perhaps–could sprinkle 3,000 quite easily and quickly. It would be similar to what Moses did in Exodus 24:8:

      Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

  7. James Downing Sep 22, 2009 11:13 am

    I was posting at the same time Duncan was, and didn’t see his answers. I am eagerly awaiting those posts now.

  8. Josh Sep 22, 2009 12:54 pm

    But if that was the case, why didn’t John baptize by sprinkling? It’s obviously easier that way.

    Speaking of John, the Pharisees asked John the Baptist in John 1 if he was Elijah, the Christ or the Prophet (Isaiah?). John said he wasn’t, that he was the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness….” So they asked him: “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

    I am not familiar with any reference to baptism in the OT. Obviously the pharisees had some familiarity with baptism, but thought it should be performed only by the Christ, the Prophet or Elijah. Anyone have any thoughts about this?

    • James Duncan Sep 22, 2009 1:04 pm

      Josh, John had to have sprinkled. That’s what convinced me, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

      The baptism of Jesus passage doesn’t actually show immersion. When you read that they came up out of the water, that does not necessarily mean they were both under the water, just in it. They might have been under, then came out, but that would require reading more into it than is there.

      Also, it says that after Jesus was baptized they came out. Shouldn’t it be as he was baptized if you want to prove immersion in this passage?

  9. Seth Sep 22, 2009 1:40 pm

    I have to throw this in there, in the orginal Greek text the term used is baptizo. This word means immersion. This is the only word used in the NT to describe baptisms. If God had meant for us to sprinkle water on someone would he not have used the greek word rhantizo which means sprinkle? But that word appears nowhere in the NT. I might be getting ahead of all your posts on this subject, but I just wanted to throw that in there.

  10. Paul Sep 22, 2009 1:42 pm

    Josh, I understand(i think) thepoint you are trying to make. Good works never save. We are only saved by the blood of Christ. That much is clear. Matt. 7:15-23 teaches you will know authentic faith by the fruit of a person’s lifr (I know the context is false teachers, but the implications are the same). I do think that if a person understands and cna articulate the gospel, and is repenting of their sins, i see no reason to baptize them into the church body. However, if their continues to be habitual, unrepentant sin, and no fruit in keeping with true repentance even though they are receiving faithful teaching and discipleship, something is not right. Jesus conlcudes in that passage that there were many who make a decision for Christ but do not have authentic, saving faith.

  11. James Duncan Sep 22, 2009 1:58 pm

    Seth,

    You’re correct that it is a meaning of the word, but it’s not the only meaning and shouldn’t be as determinative as the rest of Scripture in interpreting the mode. Baptizo also means to wash, as in Luke 11:38 when a Pharisee noted that Jesus had not washed (baptizo) before dinner.

    Do you think baptism is more likely a sign of God washing us, or more like us sinking under water?

    Yours is a good argument, however, and I’ll make sure I address it more completely in my baptism series.

  12. Tim P. Sep 22, 2009 2:01 pm

    The statement that “baptizo means immersion” is not correct, and this is another problem with the video. It can mean to immerse something, but it has a much broader semantic range that this. For example, it can carry a meaning along the lines of putting an object in contact with a liquid so that the properties of the object are altered (e.g., “to dye” is a possible meaning; this is why it has the idea of “cleansing” attached to its meaning). It is the “change” that is being emphasized, not the actual mode. When words have broad meanings, we don’t simply pick up a lexicon and point to a possible definition and insist that a word means that always in every circumstance; the context of the passage in which the word is used is important, and there are places in the NT where baptizo is used where it cannot carry the meaning of being “immersed” (e.g., Mark 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:2; see also Hebrews 9:10, where the noun form of the word is connected to sprinkling ceremonies under the Mosaic law in the rest of the chapter). At any rate, to the best of my knowledge, the word baptizo never carries the meaning of placing an object in a liquid and then immediately removing it, in either classical or koine Greek.

  13. Seth Sep 22, 2009 2:29 pm

    Duncan

    I do believe it is God washing us, but since we are fully cleansed of our sins, would not a full fledged dunking symbolize that better and more fully than alittle water being sprinkled on your head?

  14. James Duncan Sep 22, 2009 2:35 pm

    Tim, very nice.

    Seth, if God’s doing the washing, how much water do you think he needs?

  15. James Downing Sep 22, 2009 2:50 pm

    None?…

    Sorry. Just joking. This is an interesting conversation. Not sure I have a well thought out position on this yet.

  16. Seth Sep 22, 2009 2:57 pm

    Its symbolism. Like when we take communion. The water symbolizes Gods washing our sins away.

    • James Duncan Sep 22, 2009 3:15 pm

      You’re getting close, Seth. Both of them are sacraments, which means that while they are symbols, they are also real spiritual events.

      In both cases, they represent and celebrate God’s work, not ours.

  17. Tommy F Sep 22, 2009 9:22 pm

    It took awhile, but PP readers now insist on proper terminology, and insist that words be used correctly….

    JDuncan, it appears you’ve won the argument that words do matter.

    SCOREBOARD.

  18. Josh Sep 22, 2009 9:38 pm

    Josh, I understand(i think) thepoint you are trying to make. Good works never save. We are only saved by the blood of Christ. That much is clear. Matt. 7:15-23 teaches you will know authentic faith by the fruit of a person’s lifr (I know the context is false teachers, but the implications are the same). I do think that if a person understands and cna articulate the gospel, and is repenting of their sins, i see no reason to baptize them into the church body. However, if their continues to be habitual, unrepentant sin, and no fruit in keeping with true repentance even though they are receiving faithful teaching and discipleship, something is not right. Jesus conlcudes in that passage that there were many who make a decision for Christ but do not have authentic, saving faith.

    “Fruit” doesn’t mean living right. If it did, how would the “fruit” of someone who is a born again believer be any different from a “good” mormon or jehovah’s witness? Fruit is what comes when something reproduces itself. In Genesis 1, the bible says: The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. An apple tree produces apples. If an apple dies, it might take root and produce more apples.

    In the same way, if a believer dies to himself and uses his life to preach the gospel, he will produce after his own kind: A Christian should produce other Christians. A false teacher will not produce people who believe the gospel, but he might produce people who live an ostensibly moral life.

    More importantly, why do you add the amorphous requirement that someone be “repenting of his sins” in order to be baptized? That wasn’t mentioned in any of the three accounts I cited, and I am not aware of any biblical requirement that someone “repent of his sins” in order to be baptized. It might be because the phrase “repent of sins” isn’t found anywhere in the bible, or maybe it’s because NO ONE has ever “turned from his sins” because we all still sin, even after we’re saved.

    The people that Jesus doesn’t know in Matthew 7 aren’t people who believed on Jesus but failed to live a good life, they’re people who failed to put their hope in Jesus Christ. Their claim to salvation wasn’t the blood of Christ, it was their own good works: THEIR prophesying in his name, THEIR casting out demons in his name, THEIR good deeds in his name. These men were living a “good” life. They had “fruit,” as you define it. But they hadn’t believed on Jesus Christ or they would be claiming his righteousness, rather than arguing their own.

  19. Paul Sep 22, 2009 10:08 pm

    Josh,

    Good conversation.

    youare kind of all over the place there, but ‘ll try to respond briefly.

    fruit baring is a theme throughout the entire Bible. I could list endless references, but one will have to suffice. THe fruit of the Spirit that Paul speaks of in Glaltians. A true believer has a new heart that bears a fruit. He then lists what is in that fruit. Good works flow from this type of heart. Mormons for example, may do good works, but it is not from a new heart that is trusting in the righteousness of Christ.

    agree with you on fruit producing other fruit (Christians producing Christians). I just think this fruit baring motiff is larger and includes more in Scripture. Like I said earlier, I agree with you the context of Matthew 7. Yet, I still stand by my statment about the implications.

    I’m not sure if you are correct about repenting of sins being anywhere in teh Bible in regards to baptism. I’ll assume you are correct because even if you are right, it is implied all throughout out the Bible. Authentic faith in Christ is accompnied by repentance of sin. Baptism should follow authentic faith. I think the Bible implies that if one is to be baptized, that person must show they have faith in Christ by their confession of Him and by their brokenness and repentance of their sinful state before a holy God.

  20. Josh Sep 22, 2009 10:44 pm

    I’m not sure if you are correct about repenting of sins being anywhere in teh Bible in regards to baptism. I’ll assume you are correct because even if you are right, it is implied all throughout out the Bible. Authentic faith in Christ is accompnied by repentance of sin. Baptism should follow authentic faith. I think the Bible implies that if one is to be baptized, that person must show they have faith in Christ by their confession of Him and by their brokenness and repentance of their sinful state before a holy God.

    We aren’t required to be “broken” by sin in order to be saved. We’re required to put our faith in Jesus Christ. Obviously if we believe we have no sin, we aren’t putting our faith in Christ, we’re putting it in our own “good” life (and we’re also wrong, of course.) Did Philip ask the Ethiopian if he was “broken” about his sin? Is anything in that passage about the Ethiopian’s sin? Did Peter tell Cornelius to “turn from his sin”? No, he said, everyone “whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Is this true, or isn’t it? Are you suggesting someone can believe on Jesus Christ and go to hell because he wasn’t sorry enough about his sin? I’m also confused about how Paul was able to make sure the jailer (and his family, don’t forget) had “repented of sin” when he baptized them the very night they believed.

    The only requirement for baptism is being born again. The only requirement to be born again is to believe on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sin by grace. If we are required to do something to receive grace, it is no longer grace. The water of life is available without price to all who desire it, not just to those who “deserve” it because of their lifestyle change.

  21. Tommy F Sep 23, 2009 12:00 am

    JDuncan,

    You wrote: “Just to tease you a little on the aspect of John as priestly baptizer–this was the issue that converted me from an immersionist to a sprinkler.”

    I couldn’t resist: chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-chk

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