Weak Ecclesiology Yielding Different Evangelistic Results

John Richardson, the ‘Ugley Vicar’, asks why our gospel presentation doesn’t lead to a question about baptism:

Now let me ask, how many of us would then have got the response Philip got: And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ My guess is, none. In fact, I am sure the answer is none. The way we present the gospel, the way the gospel was presented to us, and the way we teach others to present the gospel, does not lead anyone to ask, ‘What is to prevent me being baptized?’

He says it’s because we evangelicals generally don’t believe baptism does anything, which in turn is because we don’t believe that the Church really matters, except insofar as it can help us in our ‘personal walk’. Quite right, I think: because we don’t mention that salvation is through the Church (no, not through being on some bureaucratic membership roll), which is the living reality of the new humanity that Christ has made, people don’t ask how to join the Church. So obviously they don’t then express a desire to get baptized into the life of the Body of Christ.

Getting saved

After a discussion of our fallen state and the work of Jesus Christ:

‘How shall I be saved?’ Well, the you that exists is a relational you, or we wouldn’t even be having this discussion about our status before God – that is, our relationship with him – of enemy or adopted child and heir: you are what you are by your relationships. God must save you, relationships and all. The redemption of society, which is relationship, must take place in the Church, which is Zion, the city of God. In the Church, the Body of Christ, you will be in Christ: so you will share in the covenants through whose fulfilment in Christ you will be covered by the atonement.

You enter this salvation, the Church, by baptism of water and the Holy Spirit, a thing visible and a person invisible joined together, that Christ may then be in you and you in him through the connexion of his holy word heard and his great Supper eaten, which is his wedding feast brought forward to the present. You take these, by faith, as the administration of his death and bodily resurrection, where he promises you forgiveness and eternal life.

What Faith?

By what faith are we found in Christ? The essence is this:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead and buried.
He descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
and the life everlasting.

Amen.

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