A Rationale for Pre-Baptism Class
One policy change that the elders have recently made is to now require a pre-baptismal class. Below is an explanation of why I believe this policy change is best.
First, Scripture does not command immediate baptism. While there are several instances of immediate baptism in Acts (e.g., 2:41; 8:12; 8:36–38; 10:44–48; 16:33;19:1–7), the Bible never commands Christians to do the same. There are many practices that occur in Acts that Christians do not do. For example, Paul undergoes (Acts 18:18) and encourages others to take Jewish vows (Acts 21:23–24). If we say that Christians should follow the Acts baptism pattern, what prevents us from also saying that Christians should follow Paul’s pattern of taking and encouraging Jewish vows?
Second, new Christians are often unaware of what Christianity is. We live in an increasingly theologically illiterate context in which few new Christians can explain basic ideas like “gospel,” “sin,” “grace,” “atonement,” and the “Trinity.” A robust pre-baptismal class informs new Christians what they’re committing to.
Third, many Christians have followed a pattern of delayed baptism. As the gospel took root outside of Israel, early Christians began delaying baptisms in order to instruct former Gentile pagans with Christian truth. This was not a reality in Acts, because the religious context of Acts was predominately Jewish. The “God-fearers” in Acts who are hastily baptized knew the OT and thus didn’t need sustained instruction.
Jesus instructs us to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28). Undergoing baptism should be done in the same spirit. Baptisms should never be rushed. It is only after someone understand Christ’s teaching that baptism should be administered. A pre-baptismal class facilitates this understanding.