Should Baptism Be Spontaneous?

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You see the precedent in Scripture: when the Ethiopian eunuch responds enthusiastically to teaching from Scripture about the good news of Jesus, Philip baptizes him on the spot (Acts 8:36-38). And in Acts 16:32, after the Philippian jailer believes in Jesus in response to Paul and Silas, that same hour they baptize him and his whole household. So there appears to be biblical precedent if not warrant for spontaneous baptisms when someone first professes faith.

Yet complications quickly become apparent in practice. In this video, pastors Darrin Patrick, Mark Dever, and Matt Chandler discuss some of those complications faced by church leaders in obeying the Great Commission. Church context is key, Patrick observes. In an area like St. Louis with heavy Roman Catholic influence, believer’s baptism by immersion is a bold public step of faith. But in much of Dallas, where Chandler pastors, baptism testifies to a history with the church but not necessarily genuine, saving faith. In such areas, Dever warns, we must beware giving false assurance and generating false testimonies to a watching public.

When you’ve watched the video, join the discussion about how church leaders can be mindful of the problems while “aggressively obedient” to Scripture, to borrow Chandler’s phrase. How would you respond to the argument that we’ll see false converts no matter what, so why withhold baptism from someone who’s willing?