FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS ) – The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) made a donation to Southwestern Seminary to provide the baptismal pool in the rotunda of the school’s new J.W. MacGorman Chapel, dedicated Dec. 1.
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said the convention’s decision to support the seminary by helping to build the new chapel came easily.
“Our ministries are joined at the heart,” Richards said. “We desire the same results out of the efforts that we put forth together to reach people for Christ. We support the vision and the dream of training those who serve the Lord through the building of this facility.”
During a special service following the dedication ceremony in the new chapel, Birchman Baptist Church senior pastor Bob Pearle baptized five believers in the baptismal. Both Birchman members and Southwestern guests attended the service.
While baptizing one of the candidates, Pearle reiterated that baptism is to symbolize faith that has already been placed in the death and resurrection of Christ.
“One of the distinctives we have as Baptists,” Pearle said, “is that we have ‘Believer’s Baptism’ and ‘believer’ is always first.”
Richards said by funding the baptismal, an octagonal pool built in the rotunda of the new chapel, the convention essentially makes three statements.
“We're making a statement about evangelism. Baptism is the outward sign of the inward experience,” Richards said. “We're making a statement about missions because I think that there will be churches that will be started in the Fort Worth area—perhaps even in the entire metroplex—that as they are beginning, they don't have a building, they surely don’t have a baptistery. This would be a prime place for some of those new church starts to come and do their baptismal services.”
The third statement, Richards said, concerns the ordinance itself.
“While salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the ordinance of baptism is still a very important aspect of our belief as Baptists,” Richards said. “So, therefore, we wanted to underscore that baptism is by immersion. We also believe that it is by the proper authority, which is the local church.”
While the seminary, since it is not a church, does not have the authority to baptize, Richards said it will provide a place for churches that do not have a baptismal and a place for students to practice the ordinance before entering formal full-time pastoral ministry.
In his booklet, “What is Baptism?” Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson says that the scriptures concerning baptism are some of the most misinterpreted and misunderstood, but he then offers succinct clarification on the meaning of the passages from his study of the original texts. The booklet describes ancient churches’ immersionist baptisms and why Baptists believe the method is most aligned with the Bible. Patterson also discusses the symbolism in immersing a believer in water.
“Here in MacGorman Chapel, this octagonal baptistry, featuring eight of the best-known New Testament baptismal texts, is designed to tell that story,” Patterson writes. “As the candidate for baptism steps into the baptismal waters, he reenacts the death of Jesus, His burial, and His resurrection. In so doing, the disciple of Christ openly confesses his confidence and faith in that historic reality as the sole basis for his salvation.”
In the close of his booklet, Patterson reaffirms a message characteristic of all gatherings at Southwestern, reminding readers and hearers that Christ alone has provided the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world and that only a relationship with Him can reconcile sinful man to God.
“There are not many acceptable ways. Just as there is but one Lord, so there is only one faith,” Patterson writes. “And there is but one true baptism. After conversion to Christ, a disciple makes just one public declaration or profession of his faith in Jesus. Therefore, two questions are imperative. Have you experienced godly sorrow for sin, which led you to repent and place your faith in Jesus alone for forgiveness and salvation? Second, have you publicly confessed Jesus as your Savior and Lord in baptism by immersion?”
Those questions will no doubt be the crux of all activity to come through the new chapel as Southwestern’s leaders work to keep spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth their focus.
Richards, along with Patterson and GuideStone president O.S. Hawkins, who spoke and prayed, respectively, during the baptism ceremony, said the convention hopes to be further involved with the seminary and its new chapel by holding events such as the annual convention and evangelism conferences in the new chapel in the coming years, though no events have been scheduled yet. Overall, Richards said the convention is excited to support the furthering of the Gospel and the salvation of souls through its support of the seminary.
“The baptismal fount will be a testimony of evangelism, missions, [and] the doctrinal fidelity to the ordinance of baptism to all those who come by,” Richards said.