Tag Archives: David Pawson

WHEN A GOOD THING BECOMES LAW David Pawson’s teaching on water baptism

David criticizes people who talk about “receiving Jesus”. But David ignores many passages of the NT. Consider John 1:11-13. “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (and no mention of baptism there).

David teaches that if not water-baptised one is not really ‘born again’ or ‘saved’ (https://youtu.be/wFuJa5n3hAU). He says all four things: repentance, faith, water-baptism and receiving the Spirit are necessary to have eternal life. Let’s look at the implications of his doctrine . . . .

Thus, if you have not been baptised, despite being a disciple of Jesus, you do not have eternal life. You are not sanctified, not a child of God. David doesn’t state this outright but these are the implications: you are condemned, heading for eternal separation from God. Thus if not baptised, in David’s view, you do not have eternal life. You may have experienced the Baptiser in the Holy Spirit but if not water baptised your experience of the Holy Spirit means little. You may have had a lifetime of the fruits of the Spirit but unless you are water baptised you will be rejected.

I know that many teachers insist that baptism is not merely symbolic. But if it is a ‘means of grace’ and deemed necessary for salvation, it comes close to the Roman Catholic doctrine known as ‘baptismal regeneration’. The NT is silent about whether baptism is just “symbolic”. Symbolism and metaphor abound on the lips of Jesus and are frequently used by the apostolic writers. Symbolism is important and should not be ignored. Symbols transmit truth.

It is clear that the first believers practised water-baptism and we ought to follow their example.  In fact we ought to follow their example in many practices which are ignored. We think we know better. Shame.

But to demand that believers be water-baptised to make them “saved” or to get them “into the Kingdom” is to introduce something that sends every unbaptised believer to condemnation. Can you imagine the Father saying to such ‘well sorry you missed getting baptised so there’s the door—depart from me!”?

Is that really what God our Father is like—a despot who watches to see if His children who receive His Son then fail to be baptised and then sends them to everlasting punishment? NO. It’s all about relationship with Jesus and the Father and abiding in Christ, being in Him and He in us.

Millions of Jesus’ precious, devoted saints assume that baptism is symbolic. They know they have experienced washing of regeneration, assurance of salvation, forgiveness of sins, victory over sin and have entered into eternal life in Jesus—having “received Jesus” (John 1:12) they go through life without any conviction they are lacking water-baptism.

We may persuade others to be baptised but to insist on this is deeply divisive. They have a walk with Jesus. They have a conscience. They also have the Holy Spirit. We can encourage people rather than insist. Commanding to be water baptized can put people under pressure especially if salvation depends on it! Commands bring condemnation, but encouragement strengthens and enables us to obey God and that’s Grace. People can then be open to God who can lead believers to be water baptized.

Are we going to be condemned over the adherence of a doctrine or not? If we are, then it’s doctrine that saves us and not the holy name and sacrifice of Jesus. Read John 1:11-13 again, and 1 Peter 1:3—and the whole of the New Testament. Otherwise we get only part of the picture.

I am persuaded that when we join the great throngs in the new world praising the Father and the Lamb we will meet John Wesley, Geo Whitfield, Charles Finney, General William Booth and the millions who embraced their teachings, together with witnesses, reformers, evangelists, prophets, revival leaders, and so on.

Is Baptism really Necessary?

Last post I quoted Jesus from John 3 : He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Condemnation comes by disbelief in Jesus and not by failing the baptism test, a test which many people demand to be set before others to make sure they are acceptable to God. As important a place as baptism is in the whole scheme of things (and yes, I have been baptised as a believer and yes, I have baptised others who believed) the New Testament as a whole does not support the view that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Let me repeat : If baptism is necessary for salvation, then millions upon millions of believers who have failed to be baptised as believers,  no matter how godly and how full of the love of Jesus, will face condemnation.

In Mark 16 we read He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

You cannot use this verse to mean that believers who are not baptised or baptised as believers will be condemned. No. This is all about believing. Without believing, baptism does nothing. There are many who i know who were baptised but they do not confess faith in Christ. Faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God, not what we do. If you believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, changing completely around from the heart (metanoia), you are justified in God’s sight (Romans 3:21-26; 4:1-5; 5:1-2, 10-11; 8:1-4; 10:9-10).  Baptism is an immersion into a state already established as has been shown.

Repentance and faith bring us into the Kingdom. Baptism can then follow—people are baptised as believers –‘believers baptism’! So the Ethiopian after believing Philip says “What is to prevent my being baptised?”—the desire came from his heart, having believed. Then later at the house of Cornelius Peter says “how could anyone forbid water for baptising these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47) Baptism was a privilege following an experience with the Holy Spirit even without any reference to repentance!

Sometimes ‘baptism’ has nothing to do with immersion in water. It can mean the immersing of the person or persons in a spiritual experience. Here are examples of baptism used in a spiritual sense in the New Testament.

Noah and family were immersed into the terrifying covenant of salvation from judgment (1 Peter 3).  And the Israelite ancestors were immersed into Moses in the sea and the cloud as a profound experience of salvation from the Egyptian Pharoah’s army (1 Corinthians 10). But neither Noah and family nor the children of Israel were immersed in water. In both cases it was the unbelievers who were immersed in water (and drowned). But the believers were immersed in the most dramatic events and were saved. Neither Paul nor Peter taught that water baptism saves. In the same letter Peter had already stated emphatically that God has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead  . . . “ (1 Peter 1:3-5)

We also see Jesus stressed at the prospect of the most traumatic experience—His sacrificial and atoning death for us all: I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed  (Luke 12:50).

And again, His reply to the disciples who asked for the best places in the Kingdom of God was Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? (Mark 10:38)

Many commentators take baptism to be part of the gospel. So David Pawson points to Matthew 28:19-20 teaching that “making disciples is in two steps—first, by immersing them; second, by teaching them to live in the way Jesus had instructed”.  But in saying this David has omitted the essential steps of repentance and faith.  Disciple-making begins with repentance and faith. Also this “baptism” goes well beyond water to be seen as an immersing in the character, the kingdom, the life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, especially when we read that in the rest of the New Testament, water baptism was practised consistently only “in the name of Jesus”.

Certainly, water baptism has an important place in establishing a good foundation right at the start for new Christians. But that is just the beginning—discipleship is an ongoing perseverance, a dying daily, a determined transformation of the mind as Paul would insist (Romans 6:3-8; 8:13; 12:1-2) in all his letters.

I hope to address further how the apostle Paul sees baptism and its place of value for the new believer, in my next post.