Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Experiential Baptism: What Is It?

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So, what is Experiential Baptism?

It is a theology of baptism that says that baptism is “for the forgiveness of sins” in the sense that it is God’s way of showing us PHYSICALY a reality that happens SPIRITUALLY.

Since we do not see God forgive us “by grace through faith”, how can we know that it happened?  The only way besides baptism (and not a very good one) is to rely on our own knowledge of the Scriptures to determine whether we are saved or not.  This is one of the problems with the Anabaptist View.  You have to rely on the knowledge of justification by grace through faith in order to know whether you are saved by it.  Since we are not all theologians (and most of the world’s population couldn’t read before 1900), we need a different (eastern other than western) way to “see” our salvation taking place.  Human knowledge just won’t give us the assurance we need to live free before God because human knowledge is flawed.  I don’t want my assurance of salvation being set on a soteriology that might be false. That’s not very assuring.  We “see” our salvation experientially through baptism (as well as some other things we will discuss later).  God “shows” us spiritual realities that we cannot fully understand by giving us baptism.  We get to “experience” these realities in a way we can understand right now, on earth.

Let me give an example.

I graduated college awhile ago, but let me ask you this: At what point did I REALLY graduate?  Was it when I paid all of my fees and passed all of my classes?  Was it when a state official with authority signed my diploma? Or, was it at my graduation ceremony where my diploma was given to me?

(This is where the “Jeopardy” music should be playing)

If you just picked one of these than you are right AND absolutely wrong.  Any one of them can be said to be when I graduated and none of them is a better answer than the others.  It matters what sense I meant when I asked the question.

Passing my classes and paying my fees are graduating in the “meritorious sense” because these are how I earned my diploma.  I paid for the courses and passed them.  Once I had done this, I had graduated (even though I didn’t know it).  The state official who signed my diploma caused me to graduate in the “procurement sense” because this is when I received (although I didn’t know it) graduation from the person who had the right to grant it.  When I recieved my diploma at the graduation ceremony I graduated in the “experiential sense” because I was told (through the ceremony and diploma) that I had “procured” all of the needed “merits” and had graduated.  I didn’t KNOW I had graduated before the ceremony and thus could only “experience” graduation after the ceremony was over.

Salvation works the same way.  I have tailored the next paragraph to read like the graduation example.

Jesus Christ dying on the cross was “for the forgiveness of sins” in the “meritorious sense” because Jesus earned my salvation for me.  I could not earn it on my own so Jesus died for me.  When He did this (although it was 2000 years ago) I was saved (but couldn’t know it because I wasn’t born yet, but my salvation was still earned at this time).  When I first believed, God gave me His grace “for the forgiveness of sins” in the “procurement sense” because this is when I received salvation (although I didn’t know it and couldn’t see it) from the One that had the right to grant it.  When I was baptized, it was “for the forgiveness of sins” in the “experiential sense” because I was told (through baptism) that I had “procured” all the needed “merits” and was saved.  I didn’t KNOW I was saved before baptism and thus could only “experience” salvation once I had been baptized.

I hope I have been as clear as possible here.  Experiential Baptism can be a very hard concept for our Western minds to get a handle on.  I would be glad to answer any questions about this (either on the blog or by email at but would ask that you wait until I discuss a particular verse before you ask me question on it.

Tommorow, I will start a study of the relevant passages of Scripture about baptism to show how Experiential Baptism is taught in the Bible and was the understanding of the early church on this issue.


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