Baptism of Adults
Adults who have not been baptized shall be ingrafted into the Christian Church by holy baptism upon their public profession of faith.
How does one become a member of the church? There are two or perhaps three ways in which this can happen. The first one is, of course, when one is born in the church. We confess of our children that “as members of Christ’s church they ought to be baptized.” A second way is when a family as a whole joins the church. Then the children in this family are also received into the communion of the church when the parents are accepted as members. The third way is when adults request admission, make profession of faith, and then are ingrafted into the church by holy baptism.
When speaking of “adults,” we refer to such persons past the age at which they would be baptized with the use of the Form for the Baptism of Infants. Again we have to state that no specific age can be given, but in the past the figures fourteen, fifteen or eighteen were used.
Apart from the children below the age of twelve, as mentioned in connection with Art. 57, there is only one way into the church. That is the way of profession of faith. If one was baptized, no baptism has to follow. If not, one will receive the sacrament upon profession of faith.
No one who takes church membership seriously and is convinced that this is the church of Christ to which he should join himself will object to making profession of faith before being admitted into the communion of the church. No one should be exempt from doing so either, unless he comes from a sister church with an attestation.
It does happen that someone from another ecclesiastical body wants to join the church because he has come to the conclusion that the church group to which he has belonged thus far is or has become unfaithful to the Lord and that it is his obligation to separate from it. When such a person requests to be received as a member, he can become this only upon profession of faith. He may have done so at one time in the church group from which he separates himself, yet this profession cannot be accepted as meeting the condition set in Art. 59.
At the profession of faith one does not declare that one is a believer or that one is a Christian — whatever is to be understood by this — but one makes profession of what he believes, the contents of one's faith. The first question asked at the public profession of faith makes this abundantly clear. In this question we speak specifically of the doctrine which is taught in this Christian church. Is this the same as the doctrine which is taught in the circle from which he feels he must separate himself? Obviously it is not. Thus a declaration made in that church group cannot serve as a condition for church
membership. It is imperative to declare in one’s profession of faith that one believes the doctrine that is taught in this Christian church.
It is not necessary that in each and every instance this profession is made publicly, in the presence of Christ's church. It can be made before the consistory or even before some office-bearers who have been appointed by the consistory. Much will depend on the situation and the person involved. If baptism is to follow, the profession of faith must be public, since the Form for the Baptism of Adults will be used.
When someone having made profession of faith in another church group requests admission into the church, it may be wise to appoint two or preferably three brothers to visit this person, to talk with him and learn what his motives and attitude are. At this visit and interview the brothers should read the Form for the Public Profession of Faith and ask the person whether he or she can wholeheartedly answer these questions in the affirmative. A “Yes” is in fact the profession of faith needed for admission, made before the office-bearers, who then can report this to the consistory. In the event the interview and examination take place before the whole consistory, the Form should be read at the meeting so that the answer can be heard and witnessed by all.
When someone requests admission who has not made profession of faith before in the ecclesiastical community to which he belonged, there is only one way in which this request can be granted: when he makes profession of faith in the midst of the congregation.
Sometimes one can read that a consistory admitted into the communion of the church “brother A.” or “sister B.,” a “baptized member” coming from the “C. church.” This is incorrect. The only gate through which one can enter the church is profession of faith. Someone who comes as a “baptized member” should be admitted to the catechism classes and should receive all the pastoral care and assistance the church members receive, and should be made to feel welcome; but a member he cannot become until he makes profession of faith. Consistories should remember this.
If someone has not been baptized, he is to receive this sacrament upon public profession of faith. Only the Form for the Baptism of Adults should be used, as the questions asked in this Form are an extended version of those contained in the Form for the Public Profession of Faith. By this baptism one is openly ingrafted into the Christian church, and from then on may share in all the rights and privileges that come with membership.
Previously this article also stressed the obligation of those making profession of faith and being ingrafted into the church to partake of the holy supper. Apparently it was necessary to stress this obligation. Apparently many have sought church membership for trivial and spurious reasons and had no intention to take their membership seriously. The situation has changed to such an extent that practically all who make profession of faith obey the call also to take part in the Supper of the Lord. Consequently, such a provision as was previously found in this article is no longer considered necessary.