ANSWER TO BROTHER CHIANG SHUN TIEN
Brother Shun Tien:
In the Bible, there is no clear word that places baptism and breaking bread together. Nor does it say that baptism is a condition for taking the table. However, from the Bible, it seems that those who have not been baptized may not take the table. (1) The example in the Bible shows us that on the night the Lord was betrayed, all those who took the table together had been baptized. After Pentecost, all those who took the table had been baptized also. Therefore, from these two examples in the Bible, it seems that one who is not baptized should not partake of the table. (2) According to the meaning of baptism and the table, it requires one to be baptized first and then partake of the table because baptism is to enter into the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The table meeting manifests the Lord’s death by remembering the Lord until He comes again. If a person has not entered into the Lord’s death, how can he manifest such death? If a person does not become part of the Lord, how can he remember the Lord? Baptism implies our initial union with the Lord. The table meeting implies our continuing union with Him. Baptism implies our initial entrance into the Lord’s death. The table meeting represents our lasting entrance into His death. Baptism causes us to enter into Christ. The table meeting represents our constant abiding in Him. Therefore, we are only baptized once, but the table meeting occurs many times. Baptism represents our entrance, while the table meeting represents our walk. The order in the Bible is to enter the door first and then walk on the way. Thus, we see that we should be baptized first and then take the table.
Furthermore, we should remember that the believers spoken of in the Bible were all baptized immediately upon genuine faith in the Lord. No one who genuinely believed in the Lord and had His life waited to go through many processes before he was baptized. Furthermore, everyone in the Bible who believed in the Lord was immersed into water. No one went through the ritual of sprinkling, where water was sprinkled from a person’s hand onto someone’s head, as is practiced today. Therefore, the believers in the Bible were all baptized by immersion. Their believing and baptism were never separated. These two matters occurred within a very short period of time. We can say that once they believed, they were baptized. We know that only those who believe the Lord can come break bread to remember the Lord. Therefore, believers are those who have been baptized. By this we know that all those who partake of the table must be ones who are baptized. In the Bible the two matters of believing and being baptized are not separated in time. Therefore, in their meetings, the question of whether or not the people partaking of the table should be baptized ones never arose. As soon as they believed, they were baptized. Then they partook of the table.
Nevertheless, if a person truly believes in the Lord but has not been baptized by immersion, if he has only been baptized by the sprinkling ritual, can this person partake of the table? He can. The teaching of the Bible is that those who have not been baptized cannot partake of the table. However some people do not understand that the baptism referred to in the Bible is a baptism by immersion. They think that baptism by sprinkling, which they have received, is the baptism spoken of in the Bible. In the eyes of this kind of believer, they have already been baptized. Although we know the baptism they have received is not the baptism referred to in the Bible and although we know that it does not count before the Lord, it is a question of knowledge and light. We cannot refuse someone because he does not have knowledge. We cannot refuse to allow him to break bread and fellowship with us. The Bible says that we should accept all those whom the Lord has accepted. "Now him who is weak in faith receive,...for God has received him" (Rom. 14:1-3). Although one who has been baptized by sprinkling has not really been baptized, the Lord has received him; He has not rejected him because he has not been baptized by immersion. Since our Lord is willing to receive him and give him life, we certainly should also accept him and fellowship with him. The Lord receives him because he has faith, not because he has been baptized. "Therefore receive one another, as Christ also received you..." (15:7). We should also receive him because he has faith. Christ does not reject him because he has not been baptized by immersion. Our receiving others is based on only one principle: "God has received him." Whomever God has received, we should also receive. We should not look at whether or not he has been baptized by immersion. Therefore, if someone has believed in the Lord, received eternal life and been baptized by sprinkling rather than by immersion as the Bible says, we should receive him. Even if he has not even been baptized by sprinkling (like those of the Quaker denomination and the Salvation Army, etc.) and thinks that he does not need to be baptized, we cannot refuse to fellowship and break bread with him, because God has received this person.
Finally, the Bible teaches us that: (1) baptism should be by immersion, (2) the table should be taken after baptism, and (3) we should receive people to the table only on the ground that God has received them. Some who have not been baptized, or whose baptism is not according to the baptism by immersion in the Bible, should still be received by us. Our attitude is that anyone who has genuinely believed in the Lord can be baptized immediately. After baptism, they can partake of the table. If a person has not been baptized yet still comes and asks to take the table with us, we should advise him to wait awhile and then take the table with us. If he insists on taking the table immediately, we should allow him to partake of it. With those who have been sprinkled, whose baptism was not according to the Bible, we should allow them to take the table with us, but we should show them in the Bible that baptism by immersion is the baptism that is scriptural. In conclusion, in receiving people, we should only look at whether or not they have life and whether or not they have committed the sin in 1 Corinthians 5. As to other matters that are not according to the Bible, we should exhort the ones who practice them and hope that they will wait. But if they will not wait, we cannot refuse them.
The slave of Christ,
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(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 25: Collection of Newsletters (1), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)