"3rd Discourse" between Dr Ern Baxter and Bishop Earl Paulk.
Earl Paulk: Let Brother Baxter drink a sip of water then we will get right down to a question or two. I hope that all of us have followed the sequence of the messages that Brother Baxter has been bringing us on how we have stopped so many times on the elevator before we have got to the top. And the enthroned Christ is made known among us by the works of the Holy Spirit. How many of you really believe before the Lord that you really understand that? Let me see your hands? Some of the questions that may relate to that may be some questions that we may deal with this afternoon. One of the questions that keeps coming back is the relationship between water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which I believe Brother Baxter adequately addressed this morning. Paul was at Ephesus and after he baptised them he said he laid hands on them, and the laying on of hands seemed to bring forth the evidence. What I want to do is sort of tie up here, Brother Baxter if I can, why we receive the baptism in water in covenant in our hearts – so far as there is evidence as the classical Pentecostals have claimed, it interests me at Ephesus that they said “We did not know”. So obviously the way we preach is the way people receive baptism. If we preach the understanding of the Kingdom as a part of that or the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then they receive it. And of course it is a matter of faith and what we receive in our hearts. The question is if you are talking about any kind of evidence – of course they heard things and they rushed to what they heard – but in relationship to water baptism itself should we expect some sort of outward evidence or is that received in their hands? Either or? Both and?
Ern Baxter: In my attempt to practice what I preach, I believe that the laying on of hands is an expression that the writer to the Hebrews uses for the receiving of the Holy Spirit. As I understand it the residence of the Holy Spirit is the bodies of believers. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. But as an individual temple of the Holy Spirit I am part of a corporate community which in turn is also a temple of the Holy Spirit. And He dwells among us as a people. When people receive the Holy Spirit the question is where does He come from? Does He come out of the sky? Does He come out of the air? Where does He reside? Where’s the Holy Spirit’s residence? Does He live in the Vatican? Does He live in St Pauls Cathedral? He lives in the corporate community and if we only understood this. When this body of believers comes together on a Sunday morning to celebrate Eucharist, that is the Holy Spirit celebrating His residence. Now if I am a member of that community and the Holy Spirit is going to come out of His residence to own new members in the family, then as I lay hands upon him we are imparting to him out of His residence the Holy Spirit. And if you understand that, I lay great stock on the laying on of hands. Number 1. I don’t want everyone laying hands on me.
To me the laying on of hands means impartation. And the Bible says lay hands on no man suddenly. And I don’t want any man laying hands on me suddenly because I’m not sure I want what he’s got to give me! But if I understand the laying on of hands and I understand the residence of Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit resides in the redeemed community and as we lay hands upon people at the time of baptism, we are communicating the Holy Spirit out of the redeemed community to incorporate them into the redeemed community. Now this is a matter of reaping what you preach. I went up into the backside of the Canadian North as a young man and I got up there and never saw such total ignorance. These were remittance men, these were criminals, these were people who run away from society and we were twenty miles beyond the end of the steel. These people didn’t know anything and I went in there and I preached the Peter package. They didn’t know any different and had never heard anything else and they said “Well how do we get into this?”. I said, “Repent and be baptised and receive the Holy Ghost” so they said, “Okay” so I baptised them in the lake and they came up and out of it and received the Holy Ghost and that was normal to them!
It wasn’t until I got back into civilisation that they wanted to take it all apart. That’s why I will not address the question of “irreducible minimum”. We are living today on irreducible minimum. I think he’s saved. I think I received the Spirit. I haven’t been baptised – oh does one get baptised? What in God’s Name are we presenting? Now if you present it people will come in and you are responsible for telling them what to do to come in! What must I do? Repent, be baptised and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Okay – and you get what you sow. Now if you haven’t got the guts to sow it, then don’t have the expectation to sow it. You have got to sow it. Now I don’t want to come off hear that all my life long I have been doctrinally pure in terms of what I’m saying because I can remember the transition that I made. Well I transitioned from the emotional dramatised altar call where I begged men to come out of their human spirit to propositional response and I remember the trauma. I said, “God I can give an altar call – I’m good at that! Lower the lights and I can do a job on that. But if I have to get in that baptistery and expect those people to have a supernatural experience – that takes faith!”.
I remember the first time I ever got into a baptistery and there were 17 candidates and I was trembling because I had promised them. I had preached and taught and promised them that if they obeyed God then He would give them the full results of that thing. I remember I put the first one down and pulled him up and boy we didn’t just have immersion we had sprinkling. He came up and splattered water all over the congregation. But he came up with a manifestation of a reception of the Holy Spirit. Now someone said – what if?! I don’t know what if. I don’t want to deal in irreducible minimums, I just know that every child of God has a right to the full thing and I am not going to encourage him to settle for something else.
Earl Paulk: Let me absorb that and read it out in terms of a pastoral experience. The new birth or entering into covenant that puts you into relationship that gives you the opportunity to receive what God has provided. When a baby is born, innate within that child was going to be the ability to speak, to walk, to do many other things that at the moment he does not manifest. But by covenant and by birth he has entered into that relationship where it is available. Some demands a time of growth and movement in that direction in order to see the fulfilment. That is why we talk about maturing – the Bible talks about babes in Christ. Now if we teach them properly about water baptism and the covenantal graces of God and the full provisions then we would expect them when they enter into this dimension to receive not just the coming forth and the newness of life but all that goes with it. They might not be the fluent speakers in a heavenly language like they may learn to be or become to be in the knowledge of that gift that is within them. It seems to me though that we have been remiss in water baptism and assuming that it is just some sort of symbolic thing and they go down and come up and say that they are new now. It seems to me that coming out of the water baptismal pool there should be provided an ongoing expectation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that to that degree that there are ministers waiting to assist, to share and carry them on. Just as you teach a child, a child has to be taught and to learn. There must be expectation that it is now theirs. They are every bit a child when they are born into a natural realm. They every bit a child of God with total supernatural attributes – the possibility that all is there when they come into this covenant. So because of that expectation and proper teaching they come out with at least the glowing expectation, whether at that moment they see the manifestation or whatever happens. As Ern said, it’s my judgement. That’s the what if. We are not to deal with that. We are simply to say – this is who you are now, this is what the provisions are. And then press them on into that where they can receive the fullness of God. Amen?
Well we’ll deal with that as time goes along. The second thing I’d like to hear Brother Baxter speak on and this has come also as a question from you has to do with the carrying over the concept of the circumcision of the Old Testament with the little boys of eight days old and coming into the New Testament where we know that there is a personal need for entering into covenant. What place does the covenant of the family and the infant and the time of dedication – we do not practice infant baptism here, what we do is bring the children into our covenants – it seems to me that while there is the need for the child himself to enter into baptism for themselves. What validity is there for praying over a child and bringing them into the covenants and fellowship? Is there any value to that? Is it just a practice that looks good or is it worth the public notation?
Ern Baxter: I think it is worth the public act. Circumcision in the Old Testament was the circumcision, as Paul says, in the flesh. It was the fleshly sealing of the eight day old child based on his birth into a proper genetic stream. He was born into the seed and at eight days he was circumcised. Now the Reformed paedo-baptists – those who practice infant baptism – who have a wooden hermeneutic where sometimes you wonder if they really understood the New Covenant because they say it is one covenant with two administrations! But it is not. Jeremiah says that this covenant is not like that covenant. This is a different covenant; this is a better covenant with better promises and better everything. Now when you are born again into the Kingdom of God, you need (if you are going to use circumcision at all in terms of baptism) it is as a new born babe in Christ that you receive water baptism. You may be forty years of age but what was natural in the Old is now spiritual in the New. The Bible says that which is natural was first, then that which is spiritual. So that when one is born into the Kingdom of God now, now he bears the mark of belonging to the redeemed community – at whatever age he comes in. So that’s the parallel of circumcision from the Old Testament to the New Testament if you want to make circumcision have something to do with baptism.
Now when it comes to children and I might say Bishop that there are a number of outstanding reformed scholars (and I was surprised when I read it) who said that they were unsatisfied with infant baptism and there was no New Testament Scripture to support it and that they would like to suggest to their Reformed brothers that adopt some form of dedication and then let the people be baptised when they come to a rational response. I believe that there is a difference, and it’s not an elective difference, but it is an opportunistic difference between the child of Christian parents and a child of non-Christian parents. That a Christian parent sanctifies the child. It doesn’t say it regenerates the child – it doesn’t say it saves it.
The basic etymological meaning of “sanctify” is “to set apart”. A child raised under godly parents is set apart to an environment of godliness – just like Timothy was. Paul said, “Timothy you had a good grandmother and a good mother and they taught you the Scriptures from childhood. They sanctified you. They set you apart”. So that when we bring our children – we are members of community. The Bishop is using so many words here that I wish we had time. “Covenant”. You see that’s a word that you don’t hear much about in evangelical Christianity. But when people come into proper community, they come into covenant. They come into covenant relationship! Now as members of the covenant, I am interested in you – I am interested in your business. I want to know how many kids you have got – whether they go to school because they belong to me too – we are in covenant! And you get a new baby and I want you to bring him into the community. So Sunday morning we get up and say, “The Browns have got a new baby and he’s going to be around here – you’d better look out for him – because he’s ours now!”.
I remember up in Dick Iverson’s church there is a little girl there and I knew her grandparents and parents and I saw her grow up as a little child and she got married to a magnificent musician and leader of a choir and was such a godly girl. During her pregnancy her life was threatened from the pregnancy and the church went to prayer for her as if it was their child and she came through. I happened to be there on the platform on the Sunday morning when she brought her baby for dedication and she said the most beautiful thing – I will never forget it. She said, “You know when I was in danger of my life and the baby’s life and you prayed for me – God brought me through. I’ve brought my son this morning for you to see and I brought my son to see you. Because he is going to grow up here”. And I sat there unashamedly the tears running down my face. And I said, “That’s it!”. It’s the covenantal members bringing their children. Last Sunday I preached on “Compromises”. You don’t go into covenant and leave your herds behind and you sure don’t leave your kids behind. You bring them. We don’t save them – we are sanctifying them – we are setting them apart to our own godly home. We are setting them apart to the godly community – to the ministry and oversight. They are getting the best chance covenantally that they can have. The danger with paedobaptism is that you make the mistake of saying that all Christian babies born to Christians are automatically elect. What are you going to do with billions of babies that are not born? Are they all elect? It’s not apples and oranges.