Are baptism classes biblical?
Question: "Are baptism classes biblical?"
Answer: Many churches offer or require baptism classes prior to baptizing new believers. Is this practice biblical? To be clear, there are no examples of baptism classes found in the New Testament. Therefore, Scripture does not require any such class for baptism. Baptism is designed for people who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. All Christians should be baptized as an early step of obedience to Christ (Matthew 28:18–20).
A case can be made, however, both for and against baptism classes. Those who argue for baptism classes do so primarily as a safeguard to make sure a person understands what it means to believe in Jesus. This concern is due in part to many people who have been baptized at an early age only to later discover they did not understand what it meant to be a Christian.
Baptism classes can help participants better understand the reasons for baptism. Baptism does not provide salvation, since salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8–9). But baptism does provide a way to identify believers as followers of Christ and part of the family of the church.
Those who argue against baptism classes often point to the example of prompt baptisms in the New Testament. For example, 3,000 people were baptized on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). The Ethiopian who believed in Jesus was baptized right after believing (Acts 8:26–38). In the following chapter, Paul (then Saul) was baptized shortly after believing in Jesus as well.
These and other examples indicate that the early church did not require believers to go through some kind of education before being baptized. While there is nothing wrong with this practice, there have also been many examples of people who have been baptized without understanding what it means to be baptized or to believe in Jesus. Many churches have sought to provide baptism classes as a corrective to this concern. Both views are legitimate biblically and neither is commanded against. Ultimately, each individual church has freedom in this area.
In summary, though there is no biblical requirement for, or example of, baptism classes in Scripture, there are certainly valid reasons for offering such courses. Every church should desire to bring people to faith in Christ, help new believers understand the true meaning of baptism, and promptly baptize new believers. The steps in doing so can vary from church to church, so long as the practice of baptizing believers is accomplished.
Recommended Resource: Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Schriener and Wright
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