Patterson celebrates Baptist heritage during Reformation Day chapel
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)- Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, celebrated Baptist heritage during the seminary’s Reformation Day chapel service, Oct. 31.
The Baptist faith, he said, is “part of the fifth wave of the Reformation.” The first wave of the Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther in 1517, was only one of the reform movements that spread across Europe in the 16th century. During the same period, the Anabaptists—literally, the “re-baptizers”— also led a movement known as the “Radical Reformation.” The Anabaptists called for a return to the practice of baptizing only born-again believers. They often upheld this conviction in the face of persecution and death. Because of their perseverance, however, the conviction that baptism should be given only to believers has spread throughout Europe and across the world. Today this conviction survives among Baptists.
“If you want to be faithful to the Book, and if you want to be faithful to that part of the Reformation that died on every hand (for teaching believer’s baptism) … then stop being ashamed of being a New Testament Christian and a Baptist,” Patterson said. “You are not judging anybody else’s eternity. Many other folks who are not a part of our movement are born-again believers. Praise God for that. All we are saying is that the best way to be faithful to the Lord Jesus is to keep the whole of the Great Commission.”
Patterson based his sermon on the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:16-20. The passage, he said, would likely have been a favorite among Anabaptists because it upholds their foundational principle of believer’s baptism. When Jesus called the apostles to “make disciples,” He was not referring to what, today, is commonly called discipleship. The modern definition of the term is summed up in the third part of Jesus’ command: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (NKJV). According to Patterson, the command to “make disciples of all nations” was a command to “win them to faith in Christ.” Jesus then said that those who do come to faith should be “baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Patterson also noted that Jesus’ command to “go” would be better translated as “having gone.” Jesus assumed that his followers would go, and they often did so as a result of persecution. The apostles, and later the Anabaptists, often had a bad reputation. Patterson said this partly as a response to Baptists who refuse to display the name “Baptist” in their church titles because it carries negative connotations in the minds of unbelievers.
“If you’re ashamed to be a Baptist, don’t be one,” Patterson said, reminding his audience that involvement in the Baptist movement is not seen as necessary for salvation. “But if you believe what the fifth front of the Reformation believed, and you believe that a man really does have to have a born again experience, and then he makes a public confession of that through the waters of baptism, … then stick that name Baptist out there … and be thankful to God for the heritage you have.”
Additionally, Patterson said that the Anabaptists favored the Reformation emphases summarized in the statements “faith alone” and “Scripture alone.” The Anabaptists, however, believed that Reformers, such as Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, had not carried out these emphases completely. To do so would involve the practice of believer’s baptism. They questioned how Protestants could speak of faith as the foundation for salvation when they also baptized infants who were unable to understand and believe the Gospel. Similarly, they asked how Protestants could claim to follow Scripture alone when they did not obey Scripture’s command to baptize believers only.
Archived Flash Media and MP3 recordings of Patterson’s sermon can be viewed, listened to or downloaded through the seminary’s Web site, www.swbts.edu.