This paper will defend the position that baptism is the act by which a person makes his public profession of faith. It seeks to strengthen the work done by authors such as Bobbie Jamieson in Going Public, in which it is argued that baptism is the biblically prescribed act for a person to publicly confess their faith. This contrasts with other outward signs being validated such as praying a sinner’s prayer or walking an aisle. While these acts may be valuable and meaningful to a person, they are not the biblically prescribed means to profess faith, which is reserved in Scripture for baptism.
One passage that is often used against this understanding of baptism’s role is Romans 10:9-10. Therefore, this paper will defend the position that in Romans 10:8-13, Paul is obliquely referring to baptism as the act by which a person calls upon the name of the Lord. Commentators such as Leon Morris in the Pillar New Testament Commentary on Romans have argued that there is nothing to suggest that Paul is referencing baptism in this passage. This paper will seek to offer a counter argument to such claims. It will do so in the following steps.
First, an initial discussion of the context and interpretation of Romans 10:9-10 will be offered. This exegesis will establish that the passage is unclear about the role of baptism as the confession of faith. This will necessitate a broader net to be cast to prove the thesis. The net will be cast over the following verses: Romans 6:2-4, Acts 22:16, Acts 2:21 in conjunction with 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, and James 2:7. These verses have been chosen because of the connection they make between calling upon the name of the Lord and baptism.
The Romans 6:2-4 passage will demonstrate how Paul connects baptism with the beginning of the Christian life. Following the lead of George Beasley-Murray and Douglas Moo, the paper will argue that baptism was tightly connected to the entire conversion-initiation process and could stand in as shorthand for all that the process entailed.
Moving on from Romans, the paper will investigate how calling on the name of the Lord is connected to baptism in Acts 22:16, where Ananias informs Paul to get baptized and to call on the name of the Lord. This idea will be further reinforced by explicating the connection between Acts 2:21, in which Peter tells his listeners that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, and Acts 2:38, where Peter informs those who enquire what they must do considering his message that they are to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. This connection will establish a correlation between calling on the name and being baptized in the name of Jesus. Having established this connection in Peter’s thought in Acts, it will be strengthened by comparison with his words in 1 Peter 3:21 where baptism is described as an appeal to God for a clear conscience. The paper will argue that eperotema is correctly understood as “appeal” and not “pledge”, thus lending weight to the thesis of this paper that in baptism the person is calling out to God for salvation as his confession of faith. James 2:7 will conclude the discussion by connecting the name that is called over a person to that person’s baptism.
Having established the wider New Testament understanding of baptism, a return to Romans 10:9-10 will be undertaken to demonstrate that in its biblical theological context, the passage is most likely referring to baptism as the act of confession. This will lend more weight to the argument that baptism is the act by which a person goes public with their faith. By removing Romans 10:8-13 as an impediment to seeing baptism as the public profession of faith, churches may hopefully place the emphasis upon baptism as the confession of faith and not some other outward action such as walking an aisle, raising a hand, or praying a prayer.