Dear Salvation Army, Baptism & The Great Commission?

16″ Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Salvation Army Doctrine #1:We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.”

I do not mean to stir the waters, pun intended, but I have often wondered what your Salvationist response would be on this topic.  I must confess that I have often struggled with reconciling our doctrine with the lack of fulfillment of the great commission as described in verse 19; “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”   Yes, I understand that we are non-sacramental in religious practice, but one wonders why even such a discussion often evokes the same response one might expect from a discovery of a sin issue.  Seriously, it’s generally frowned upon, knee-jerk reactions abound every time Communion and Baptism are even mentioned.  It almost seems like we treat such conversations as heresy and equate such talk to sin.  Why is that?
Why such harsh attacks on even the mention of these religious practices?

I bring the topic of Baptism up today in this pondering so that we can dialogue together, so that we might bring a deeper understanding of our theology to the forefront and that we do not linger amongst the shallow answers of “Because that’s how we have always done things“…but why?


Historical Context:
We ought to recognize that Industrial England, the birth place of The Salvation Army, certainly had it dichotomy of the upper class and the poor.  Many within the lower East-end would not have been welcome in The Church of that day.  Also, within the lack of practice of Baptism and Communion, we know that our theological tradition precludes the need of such symbolic practices because we are “baptized by the Holy Spirit” and “The Sacrificial life is more important than participation in the Sacraments”.  Understandably so, but I wonder if such staunch views have prohibited some in recent years of full membership?  What I mean is, does our lack of practice or participation in these fundamental “Christian” elements, distract some would-be soldiers in joining our ranks?  There are certainly many views on the subject.  On one extreme – there are those within other denominations who feel since one was never “properly” Baptized they cannot claim to be Christians.  And then on the other side of the spectrum, there are those who view practices of water baptism to be archaic and unnecessary.

 So back to my original question…
If we believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice, Why do we fail to include parts of the “Great Commission”?  Again I don’t mean to stir up controversy, but I would like us to answer this…I want you to help me fill in the content here that I struggle with.  No, I don’t have a baptismal in my corps building, no I don’t baptize my members, but I’m curious how we decide to fulfill some of the “Divine rule of Christian faith and practice” while excluding others?  Why is this topic so taboo?

Another question that comes to my mind then is this:  Are we a fluid moving Army or are there somethings that cannot change within our structure and practice?  I am in no way advocating we change our stance on Baptism or Communion; but is there a point where the reasons we refrained from such practices in another age and era should be reconsidered in another age and era?  Would this be going backwards or progressing forward?  Or perhaps there is too much emphasis on the baptism part and there ought to be more emphasis made on the “make disciples” component to the Great Commission.  Perhaps this is the “happy middle”?


Again, I’m curious on your answers here.
As always, I look forward to the responses that sound off with shock and awe that such a question should ever be asked within the Army.  Again, it is surprising to me how we often treat this topic as “hush, hush“, almost as if we’re talking about a sin.  Why is that?  Couldn’t we even deepen our understanding of our own doctrine by talking out-loud about such things and there by adding clarity to the topic for others?  Also, I am not looking for a lecture here either, simply a dialogue and what your response might be on this specific topic.

Something more for the Army to ponder today, hopefully you don’t label me a heretic for even asking the question.  Blessings on you today!

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and views of The Salvation Army, but rather the writer’s own thoughts, questions and opinions expressed.  Reader discretion is advised.  


50 thoughts on “Dear Salvation Army, Baptism & The Great Commission?

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  1. I am aware of officers baptizing soldiers and others on request. The same with a form of Communion, sometimes referred to as a Live Feast. I am not aware that either are prohibited or even frowned on. I know this does not address your primary question re: matching our first doctrine with specific Scripture. Will leave that to those better equipped.

    1. Agreed, I’m certainly not claiming to be a scholar of our doctrine, but I have found it interesting how some officers even shy away from talking about this topic altogether. Thank you

  2. The thief on the cross was not told by Christ to get down go get baptized then come back hang on the cross again and then you will be with me . I think if one really shows an inward change in his life but feels the need to be baptized he or she should be able to be ,if they know it’s an outward sign of a inward cleaning and this would help the to afford the Lord in them.

      1. Let me first say I am a former Salvationist (4th generation) and also attended SFOC. What Doug writes is where I have a problem. I am a member of a church that practices the two sacraments, baptism and communion. I was actually baptized as a salvationist but only because an officer was willing to do that (that officer is no longer a part of the army). The problem I find in this discussion is that it is usually polarized. That is you are strongly for it or strongly against it. I have no problem saying “We don’t practice the sacraments”. Where I have the problem is if someone believes God is asking them to do this, why close that door. If an officer is not comfortable with doing this, then find another officer who is willing. Why must we polarize the issue. As was said, Jesus did not make the thief be baptized, but that would have been impossible. The same cannot be said for someone who is not impeded by anything other than a closed mind.

    1. It’s not like this isn’t something that those in Christian history who saw baptism as crucially important didn’t recognize. There’s a long tradition of recognizing a “baptism by blood” i.e. martyrdom, and, after all, baptism is seen scripturally as a participation in Christ’s death on the crucifixion and I’m pretty sure the thief had that covered. It’s not very wise to build our normative practice on exceptions.

      1. The problem is that the Corp can be divided, those that practice the sacraments are the weters and those who don`t the dryers. Why whould any officer risk a divition in their Corp

    2. Doug Rick: I love this answer when addressing this topic. This is my sisters favorite response and I think one that comes down from several Army Officers. First Jesus had not yet died, and rose from the grave when the thief was forgiven and promised eternal life in heaven. Second from John 3 we know that baptism is mandated by Jesus, in several places Jesus clearly stated unless a man is baptized he shall not enter heaven. Wherever there is a requirement must be met set down by the Word, no man can change God’s word either by not doing it or make some change in the church practices.

  3. Back in the very early 60’s, I was stationed in Kalispell, Montana in the Corps there…………we had several soldiers who not only wanted to become Senior Soldiers, etc., but, they also requested to be baptized and have communion……………..we contacted DHQ and were told that would be fine and so we began having baptism and communion…………after their first becoming Salvation Army Soldiers. Baptism is Biblical. Baptism is an outward sign of an inner work divine, and we then began baptising those who wanted to be baptised and receive communion, in the form of consecrated bread. It was a beautiful thing and made several people happy.

  4. The great commission does not require us to Baptize with water. The scripture encourages us to fully immerse (baptise) in the name (charactrer) of all that it means to be God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are plenty of other scriptures that speak of water baptism, and The Salvation Army’s tradition regarding sacraments has other obstacles, but the Great Commission is not one of them.

  5. As a Senior soldier in the Salvation Army, who was brought up outside the Salvation Army, but in a Christian home. I attended the Presbyterian church as a child and became part of the uniting church prior to my marriage to a Senior Soldier. I was not forced by anyone to become a Senior soldier, however my greatest questions when doing my recruits class was why not baptism & communion? I understand the issue with Alcohol as it was a problem, & still is within the communities in which the Salvation Army works & outreaches, even though they now have non alcolholic drinks. Baptism is still a confusing issue to me as I don’t understand why we only dedicate the child to God & not baptise. I’m already baptised so it’s not a personal issue for me. I don’t believe we should exclude it, but maybe promote dedication to God first & baptism as an option when people are old enough to make the decision for themselves.

    1. I agree with you. I feel that baptism and communion are an act of worship that are bible based and meaningful to the person each time they participate in the service. Each time you witness a baptism your committment to God is renewed, each time you eat the bread and drink the “wine” (juice) you are becoming renewed in your service to Christ. Every Sunday my Corps officer has an alter call, inviting all who have a burden to come lay them at Jesus feet, to kneel in prayer. Our congregation answers the call many times because we know at that moment our burdens will be lighter. I was raised and raised my children in the United Methodist Church, so I am baptised and my children were baptised and I would like to see my grandchildren being raised in The Salvation Army baptised and given communion. I still attend the Methodist church from time to time and if I attend on Communion Sunday, I participate and feel a sense of connectedness with that church body.

  6. Hey Pastor, if you want to see a more complete and detailed study on it, I wrote out a lecture that goes into very minute details that I think might intrigue you. Just send me a request in my email below and I’ll send you the lecture and you can let me know what you think.

  7. Dear all. This a topic I am so passionate about and don’t shy away from discussing. In fact about two weeks ago, it was a topic in my Corps Cadet class.
    In as much that I am very much assured that baptism does not in any way contribute to one’s Salvation, my stand has always been that the SA, should revisit this issue. I agree with you that we have lost many would be soldiers due to this fact. If we could take out time to conduct enrolment ceremonies, which many today call baptism, why not use the baptism as means of enrolment? We would lose absolutely nothing in doing.

    That said, many years ago, I read a book by a Salvation Army officer, I can’t really remember the title, but he pointed out that anyone who felt the need to be baptised with water could arrange that with another church and still remain a Salvationist. I firmly advocate this position and do advise people to do it. Afterall, as Paul said, he was called to preach the gospel and not baptise, while we preach others could baptise.

    I also believe that if William Booth was alive today, he probably would have discontinued enrolment ceremonies, as people are still attaching the same meaning/importance to it as they did to baptism, which led him to stop the practice.

    In summary, it should be open for discussion and prayerful consideration, and the greater good of the greater number of people should guide the final decision.

  8. Thank you for your ‘pondering’ Scott. I am so thankful for the teaching we received in the church we were saved in and for the wonderful blessing we received in water baptism. Many people I know were set free from bondage and brought into a wonderful freedom in God through baptism. After 29 years in that church God led us to join the Salvation Army and sad to say I know many people who would join us if Baptism and Communion were part of our teaching and worship services. I believe not only are people missing out but also The Army and I pray that these scriptures concerning water baptism and communion will be looked at, reconsidered, prayed about and reestablished.

  9. JUST A THOUGHT OR TWO: The Greek word, Baptizo means to be “marked” It is an intriguing thing that the “trinitarian formula ” (i.e. like one would hear in a formal high church liturgy prayer), is only given in that one verse in the entire New Testament. John had said, “I baptize with water, but one comes after me who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” There may also be a tie-in in history involving Mariah Eter when one hinge-moment at a camp with many attending, Many left the campsite over a dispute as to whether one should be baptised in the name of Jesus or whether one should be baptised in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (I do know some say you can’t be baptised more than once.) This might be more of a reason as to why The Salvation Army don’t practice water baptism as a rule. It would be interesting to get Methodist input here, as much Salvation Army is in fact old Methodist practice and views.

    1. Hi Sid ! I m ….. third or fourth generation ….Salvationist . I m interested to go through your lecture on Communion and baptism .
      Please send me on my following email address:

  10. Even this has become one of our sacred cows in The Salvation Army. The fact that we don’t baptize has become more of an identification for us than a belief. In many ways we have swung to the other side of the pendulum. Our not celebrating a sacrament has become a sacrament.

    However, the key word in this commandment is not baptizing, but teaching. Baptism was a natural follow up to the teaching and affirmed the adherence to the teachings.

    If we are more concerned with our identity as Salvationists and not our identity in God, then we have truly lost the meaning of why we no longer baptize.

  11. This has been an issue for decades that need to be resolved.. Coming from the Church of England into the Salvation Army was a new transition for me. However I never ever thought that baptism or Communion was a confirmation of Salvation.
    As a retired officer I am amazes the army hasn’t moved on and included these sacraments in our worship. I know many Salvationist and officers who want to be baptized,but they don’t want to go against the army . I believe baptism and Communion should be part of our worship when people feel that it will help them develop a deeper Spiritual life.
    We should not send our people to other churches for spiritual sacrament.
    The Salvation Army has changed to the church concept and are part of the World Council of Churches, therefore it seems they have given up their traditional concept as started by Booth.
    We are trying to draw close to the LBGT movement and it is time to move on to enhance our Spirituality.

  12. Is there anyway this can be brought to the attention of our high ranking officials? Otherwise, it will be a fruitless discussion.

    1. I guarantee the more we as soldiers talk about this the more it is brought to the attention of higher ranking officers. There are even some of those higher ranking officers who read this blog and others like it.

      1. Good then. It will be nice to have a reaction, at least to provide some insight into how this is viewed up there.

  13. Okay, I have a really difficult time with the theology on this. It makes sense that William Booth might have separated from practices that could only happen in a church that ostracized people, but that is no longer relevant today. This was motivated by a social need, not a theological one, and that is important because I have really sensed that TSA has done some serious theological gymnastics to get around baptism.

    One thing, TSA is literally one of the only churches, alongside the Quakers that say they don’t do baptism or communion, which I think should make its officers and members think.

    First, baptism came from Jewish practices for ‘spiritual cleaning’, and John the Baptist’s ministry connected this practice with the cleaning of sins (Mark 1:4-5). John the Baptist was a prophet of God, and really seemed to be paving the way for Jesus’ new ministry of atonement. Furthermore Jesus, who we might agree serves as our model for the Christian life, was baptized with water. Yes, John the Baptist said that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t necessitate that it will replace water baptism, but perhaps accentuate it.

    I say this because the New Testament writers when writing about baptism either directly or indirectly refer to water Baptism. 1 Peter 3:21 – “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”

    Second, every covenant God has made with mankind was marked with a sign. Circumcision is an example of this. In Colossians 2:11-12 Paul says: “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Here he is comparing Baptism with circumcision, suggesting baptism as the sign of this new covenant (there is more evidence, but I’ll refrain from being exhaustive, this comment is already long enough, ha ha). The descriptor of baptism being a burial is what would be a clear indication to the readers of the time to mean water baptism as it refers to the immersion that all early Christians and Jews were familiar with, both symbolically and literally. It is in line with God’s choices to have a sign for his new covenant, and it in baptism which symbolizes a cleansing death and burial, provided through Christ.

    Third, it’s a historical fact, with or without scripture, that the apostles, these men that we all have entrusted the building up of the church, were all baptized with water, and that perpetuated the practice for the next thousand or so years of the church. Even still, it’s a biblical fact that the apostles were baptizing with water in their ministry all over (Acts 8:36).

    I mean, is it necessary to be saved? Not exactly, but God gives us many commandments. Your salvation won’t be compromised if you have premarital sex, but God still says to not do it. I think God clearly asks us to be baptized so therefore, we should, even though this command is a little more mysterious than the other moral commands he gives.

    1. Interesting read. However regarding the issue of the Holy Ghost baptism not replacing water baptism, what do you make of the following from Acts 19:1 – 3?

      1. While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the interior and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2. and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers ?”” “No, they answered, “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3. “Into what, then, were you baptized?” Paul asked. “The baptism of John,” they replied.…


      Ephesians 4:5 – 6
      …4. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.…

      Also, I think it is a danger saying that pre-marital sex will not compromise one’s salvation and comparing that with baptism. Any unconfessed sin compromises salvation. One must confess and repent from pre-marital sex. Being baptised or not is not a sin to be repented from, it is a mere symbol of repentance, that does not even have impact on the true status of the person being baptised. Like one pastor put, if you are not truely repented, and regenerated, you merely go into the water a ”dry sinner” and come out ”a wet sinner”.

      The various references made to baptism in the gospels, does not necessarily refer to water baptism. For example, note that Jesus was already baptised when he asked in the follow in Mark 10:38

      “You do not know what you are asking, Jesus replied. “Can you drink the cup I will drink, or be baptized with the baptism I will undergo?”

      As you pointed out too, the disciples to whom he asked the questions were probably already baptised.

      My point is that baptism does not guaranty one’s salvation nor will the lack of it deny any of salvation.

      That said, I believe TSA should reconsider this issue, and live room for its practice where necessary as is already being done according to several responses I have read here.

      On communion, in my home Territory, we used to celebrate love feast. (I don’t know if it is still being practiced) I have also read here someone making reference to it. When I was on an official duty to the Central African Republic, I attended a church where it was served, and I participated. I don’t see why some territories will practice and others will not. I think it should be allowed.

      1. Well the scriptures in Acts and Ephesians may stimulate a conversation about whether the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens at the same time or at a separate time as water baptism (which is a whole other conversation), but it doesn’t suggest that water baptism is obsolete. I think there is enough acknowledgement of water baptism in the New Testament to prove that.

        I think we are actually in agreement with my point on premarital sex, because my point is that much is asked of a Christian that doesn’t directly lead to our salvation, because we are saved through Faith, and only faith, in Jesus’ blood, but an honest faith in Jesus wouldn’t ignore all his commands and teaching. If we conclude that Jesus truly asks that we be baptized as a sign of his covenant (and I think there is good reason to think he does), then to not do it would be an unrepentant sin, regardless of what we believe baptism does for us on a theological level. You wouldn’t say that committing a sin causes us to fully lose our salvation though, in that regard, it isn’t ‘necessary’ for our salvation, even according sacramental Christians.

        In regards to Mark 10:38, sacramental Christians would agree that baptism is a representation of our participation in Christ’s death, so at the time of the scripture, Christ is in the process of developing this sacrament as he had not yet been crucified. It wasn’t until after his death that the full meaning of baptism was established.

      2. Take note of these please.
        There actually 3 types of water baptisms
        1. Jewish baptism
        2. John’s baptism
        3. Believers/Christian baptism
        The believers in Ephesus at the time of Paul’s visit only knew John’s baptism Acts 19 vs 3.
        After Paul had explained to them the difference between the 2 baptisms, Acts 19 vs 4, they were then baptized in the name of the Lord (believers baptism) Acts 19 vs 5.
        Finally, hands were laid on them and they were filled with the Holy Ghost Acts 19 vs 6 (Holy Ghost baptism)

        I think the time has come and now is the time when The Salvation Army should revisit its position on this subject.
        About 13 years ago, after i had listened to explanations and read some Army books on Army’s position baptism and was still not satisfied – yes, i was grossly not satisfied because none of those explanations was enough reason to discard our Lord’s clear instruction – i went to a friend in another Church and he got me baptized. I’m still in the Salvation Army though

  14. As an officer, many years ago, God brought me through a deeply personal period of growth. In my devotions God impressed on me to be baptized in response. I reached out to a local pastor who was a personal friend and on my furlough was baptized I his church but was not placed on his members roll. As a third generation Salvationist I would rather of been baptized in the Army. My personal thoughts on this matter is that if baptism is requested of me by a solider I would want to know they understand salvation is separate from baptism.

    While on furlough attending the Nazarine church I’ve participated in Communion. I don’t have issue with this. What I have noted is they observe this tradition every first Sunday of the month. Does this lead to an insignificance in the meaning? I’m not so sure. Perhaps if it does the individual needs to look within to their own spiritual connection with God.

  15. Hi. As an ex officer (baptised during my officership and baptised many with help of a local Pentecostal church) it does seem sad that is a divisive issue. The thief on the cross was not baptised but was promised ‘This day you will be with me in paradise’ by Jesus, so clearly baptism does not ‘save’ people as it is rather an outwards sign of an inward change.

    Many say that the uniform serves a similar purpose – but those that choose to belong, believe but not feel called to full soldiership could feel second class if we took that view.

    Having fully understood the place of sacraments and observed and taken part in many baptisms, it serves as a powerful tool to bring others to faith to.

    If the great commission says ‘baptise’ then why not? What have we to lose? Some may say that the Army is not a church but a mission – many observers would struggle to agree – we are Church. Let’s take a full part and dive right in (pun intended).

  16. The Salvation Army provides a very nice booklet explaining its position on the sacraments and the Biblical reference for it so I will refer you to that material for your examination. Personally I have struggled with it here in the South because it’s so ingrained in the culture and it’s difficult for our youth to understand, however I have seen firsthand how distorted the sacraments can become. I have attended Church Services (not Salvation Army) and heard the Pastor tell the congregation that if they were not saved or in good standing with Jesus that participating in communion would make them sick. I have talked to men wanting to be re-water-baptized because they wanted to cover all their bases. When accepting Jesus as our Savior confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness Jesus doesn’t start to save us, the thing is done! It’s an insult to ask him to do it again. Water doesn’t make it stick. I am not saying that the sacraments are bad actually they are quite wonderful, it’s the miss-understanding of the sacraments that I believe the Army wants to avoid, is it difficult sometimes? Yes, do I miss it having grown up in another denomination? Yes. But I know the real business of a life as a saved soul is intercessory prayer, following Matthew 22: 37-40.

  17. When Jordan and I had Izzabella, we had her dedicated at the Army and baptized in the church I grew up in.

    I must say that this act garnered a bit of shock, and even some disapproval. Some couldn’t understand why we would have her baptized if we were Salvationists. They weren’t shy about sharing their opinions either.

    Then there were those who “approved”. They felt that doing both would do no harm.

    Ultimately, the baptism was to honor my deceased Mom who was Catholic. But we also did it for Izzy. We didn’t see the harm in it, and we still don’t.

    1. There is no harm in Baptism in and of itself. The problem would only come if you put faith in the baptism for salvation and not in Jesus Christ. Too many people think they are saved just because they are baptized but have no understanding of the cross, burial, and resurrection and how that applies to our salvation.

  18. I am a child of Salvation Army officers and I have wondered about the same thing! My folks have been promoted to Glory for many years now so I never asked them but whenever I do raise the subject I am shut down or ignored or told…. like you say… “It’s the way we do things!” so yeah, I too would like an answere!

  19. A very good friend of mine from the Southern Territory prepared a “feast” at his home for my wife and I (both life-long Salvationists). It was very much, as always intended, a meaningful remembrance of our Lord and a sacred time together. I like what he said about it that if a first century Christian could somehow attend one of our Sunday services today, there would be very little that’d look familiar to him, except for perhaps the Lord’s supper. Not observing this or baptism, for whatever reasons or rationale already discussed here, DOES manage to separate us just a little more from the entire church body. Now I seem to recall Jesus praying for unity of believers at the end of John and I’m convinced He wasn’t talking about us all wearing uniforms 🙂

    1. I consider your contribution very profound and strong enough reason the high council should take another critical look at these issues.

  20. I have seen so many changes in the acts of worship within TSA, at least in the USA, that I’m surprised this hasn’t been considered as well. I’ m also struck by the concept of officers saying ” we aren’t a church, we are a holiness movement”. My corps worship service is much like many other mainstream modern churches. There isn’t much that sets us apart, including music, except monthly communion and baptism. This has been an obstacle for many would-be soldiers.

  21. Without trying to be too vague, I will try to sum up the reason that we as Christians (Not just Salvationists) should not Baptize with water. This may come as a shock to most who read this and it all boils down to rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)
    Here you have brought up the “Great Commission” as being a “Divine rule of Christian Faith and Practice,” However it was never spoken to “Christians”.
    Let me explain. People weren’t called Christians until about 8 years after Pentecost (Acts 11:26) and so, the Great Commission wasn’t given to all Christians. When you study and rightly divide the scripture you need to ask these questions… 1. Who is it talking to? 2. What is it talking about?
    The Great Commission was given to the Apostles to go to “all nations” but this was not yet including the Gentiles. They were sent to the people of Israel… as it says in Acts 1:4, “He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem.”
    But why? Surely Jesus wanted to include the Gentiles… This is where Paul comes in. Throughout the New Testament we Learn that Paul was given insight into the “Mysteries,” which had not been made known to the 12 Apostles or anyone before that. Paul was given a new gospel which would include the gentiles in the gospel of grace through faith.
    In Galatians 2:7 we see that Paul and Peter were indeed preaching two different gospels to two different groups of people. Paul to the uncircumcised (the Gentiles) and Peter to the circumcised (the Jews).
    So if the “Great Commission” was for the Apostles, and the Apostles were sent to the lost sheep of Israel, then it was not given to the Gentiles who through Paul’s Gospel became the Body of Christ (Christians).
    The Apostles were preaching the “Kingdom Gospel,” which was for the nation of Israel but they rejected it and so the “Kingdom” was put on hold. Paul was sent to the Gentiles (Acts 13:44-47) and it was explained in Romans 11:25, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
    I realize this hasn’t been specifically about “Water” Baptism, but to understand why we as Christian’s aren’t called to baptize with water you have to understand how to rightly divide the scriptures and who the Great Commission was for.Paul doesn’t tell us to baptize with water because the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the Body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:13)
    2 Tim. 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” This does not mean that all scripture is specific instruction for us.
    Furthermore, while Peter was called to follow the Great Commission, he too at the end of his life, instructed the early Jewish believers of Jesus to follow Paul. (2 Peter 3:14-17)
    A lot to take in, I know.
    There are many reasons why people wish The Salvation Army would do baptism but most of those reasons are tied to traditions and upbringing and not an actual understanding of scriptures and what we as Christians are called to.
    Hope this helps a little.

  22. I didn’t have time to read through all of the responses but felt that I should respond rather in a simplistic way. I am an officer and by no means a biblical scholar, but I think the responses are focused on the water part and forgetting the Holy Spirit part that is in Acts 1:5 “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.””
    This was just before Jesus went back to heaven and was speaking to the disciples. In a modern way of thinking (my translation) he was saying look, John’s way was good for that period of time, but, something better is coming to wash over them and fill them as believers.

    What power is in the water? Does it forgive us or wash away our sins? We are saved not by water but through our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The water is simply showing that something is suppose to have changed in the heart, but often has not.

    1. afternoon I personally think John was uncovering a mystery water have no power I believe but the Word of Christ has, He said we should be baptized and if you read the book of Acts Apostles are baptizing every new convert and they confirm them with the laying of hands (impartation of the Holy Ghost) only Christ Jesus baptises with the Holy Ghost if a person lays hand on you and prays that you receive the Holy Spirit he is asking for a confirmation and that Christ baptise you with the Holy Spirit so man can only baptize with water(as a sign of a response to God) burying your old self that and rising with Christ. Was not Established by John but John clarified and performed it as it was supposed to be.

  23. I am grateful for the thought provoking article on this topic. I too am a life long, 4th generation Salvationist. I have grown increasingly concerned in recent years as the Salvation Army has seemingly become “anti-sacramental” rather than “non-sacramental.” I do not believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation, however it is a profound outward expression of an inward experience testifying to the fact that a life is surrendered to Christ. One of the most significant experiences of my spiritual journey was being baptized in the Jordan River. Reflecting afterwards, I felt deeply saddened that the Salvation Army had denied myself ( and every other salvationist) the freedom and joy of this experience. It is so unfortunate that Salvationists, as shared in these posts, have had to go to other churches to experience something that Jesus Himself experienced. I have had similar moments when participating in the Lord’s supper (aka.. Communion) where reflecting on the body and blood of Christ for my salvation has been deeply moving.

    I have heard some say that by being “non-sacramental”, the Salvation Army has a prophetic witness. I actually believe that this is arrogance – how does our failure to follow Christ’s teaching (“do this in remembrance of me…”) witness to other churches who faithfully live out these scriptural commands? (yes, I see this a failure to be true to our first doctrine). What is the witness? Many churches are clear that baptism and communion are not conditional on salvation, but they both provide opportunity to give witness to the work of Christ within our lives. Quite frankly, it is time to revisit this issue within the Salvation Army. Hanging on to “the way we’ve always done things” has been the death of many churches and organizations. I believe that the sacraments would breathe new life into the Salvation Army going forward!

    1. Hi Nancy, I completely agree with you. As I said earlier in one of my posts, why deny members the experience of baptism, only to replace it with something else (enrolement) that serves to fulfill the same purpose.

      If baptism serves as a public declaration of faith, then we should stick to just that.

  24. I will be brief. I hope.
    When I was commissioned and ordained, I did not do that of myself. It was done by a higher power in our denomination. The great commission and also baptism is given and done to/for us by a higher power, God himself. The commission, by Jesus; the baptism by The Holy Spirit. I believe that the commission is stating that we are to make disciples and to do this we need them to know all aspects of God, i.e. The Trinity. By doing this, we facilitate their complete understanding and commitment, and make them able to fully enter into covenant with God. He then baptizes them with himself (the Holy Spirit). He indwelt them. Our part of the commission is completed, when said person recognizes the truth of God’s great sacrifice and accepts him fully and as such is then baptized by His Spirit.
    Communion is a different event all together, and has been taken so out of biblical context that Jesus himself wouldn’t recognize it’s meaning today. The event took place during the Jewish Seder dinner when Jesus was equating himself and his coming sacrifice to that of the slaughtered lamb and blood used in Egypt to save believers and followers from death. The 3rd cup of the service is the cup of redemption and Jesus was alluding to the redemption found only in Him. The Afikomen (bread) represented the killed lamb. He was foretelling of his death as our sacrificial lamb. Basically he’s telling his Jewish followers, things are about to change. Salvation and redemption are going to come through me.
    Eating a piece of bread or drinking wine/grape juice can be used by you to remember this, but, when so many Christians have no clue of the history behind his statements, it has become a hollow practice for most.
    I have led Messianic Seders for the last 18 years and relish those segments where we do honor Jesus’ commitment, in the proper place. But, also, everyday life should be honoring him as our sacrificial lamb who has redeemed us and reconciled us to God, so that His Spirit could indwell us through HIS baptism.

  25. Baptism and communion are essential to the full Christian walk. Are they symbolic? Of course. Do uniforms serve no more purpose than that of symbolism? Baptism, while symbolic, is more importantly meant to be a public celebration of a changed life. It’s meant to be the central focus of the great commission. We bring people in, speak the gospel, and if they believe we baptize and celebrate.

    It’s funny that the idea of religious practice was brought up. Is it not religious wear uniforms? Is it not religious to have membership (soldier) classes? Is it not religious to practice somewhat of a uniformed liturgy?

    The Salvation Army has been stuck in a rut for some time. While the doctrines are standard Christian doctrines and are good practice standards, there is so much more that the Army puts into practice that defies those doctrines in so many ways.

    The Salvation Army was a progressive movement, it has since stopped that progression. If Christ commands it, it must be done. The New Testament makes it very clear to not add anything extra to make life more difficult. The Army’s stance on alcohol and tobacco fall under this category of unbiblical principles.

    Church is a community. A community that celebrates its victories through food a drink. A community that dunks people in water. The dunking of a person is much more than simply symbolism. It’s the persons action of complete vulnerabilty and openness to the spirit and the community. If the Army wants to be a movement again then it has to learn to change. A good start would be with uniforms.

    1. Apart from the part on the alcohol and tobacco, this classic. I am confident that if this discourse is sustianed with the same tempo, and with strong arguments being put forward such as this, TSA authorities will sooner or later look into this issue positively.

  26. I have a few points but they all revolve around the understanding that none of this is necessary to salvation.

    1) Baptism is a Jewish tradition adopted by the early Jewish Christians. As already noted, John baptized with water but one will come who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

    2) If adopted do we sprinkle or immerse? Child or adult? An argument in the universal Church for years.

    3) “Do this in remembrance of me” comes from Luke 22:19 but in the last supper appearances in Matthew and Mark, no such words appear. We also read similar words in John 13:15 “do this as I have done for you” but seem to discard this action as sacrament.

    4) When taking the bread and “wine” do you use wafers or broken loaf? Single cup or a small plastic cup? Again minor but still arguments that exist outside the Army.

    5) Why do we focus on these 2 sacraments? Is it because of the Protestant understanding? If we look to the Catholic sacraments we do follow many namely Holy Orders, confirmation, marriage, confession (at the mercy seat not behind a wall) and, in some cases, the anointing of the sick.

    The first doctrine contains the word “inspired”. Penned by man with some irregularities between them. Who brought the food to feed the 5,000? The boy or the disciples? How did David serve Saul? On the battle field (1 Sam 17) or as a musician (1 Sam 16)? 4 men wrote down the events of Christ 30+ years following and only 2 were there. Do I believe the bible untrue? No? Word for word? There seems to be evidence to suggest the writers put their own spin on them.

    Personally I love the act of communion and if I am at a service where it is being served and my heart is in the right place I will partake. My uniform is my baptism. None of this is necessary to salvation and with all the ambiguity surrounding the proper methods that’s what it really comes down to, we don’t need them to be saved.

  27. I find this discourse a very interesting one. The courage of the poster to raise the matter here for discussion is very commendable. I know some officers who shy away from discussing it to avoid being labelled I have gone through a lot comments on the thread and have come to realize that there are a good number of Salvationists who share almost if not totally the same opinion with me on The Salvation Army stance on baptism.
    I was born and raised in a family of Salvationists and have been a Salvationist all my life.
    As a young Christian, I asked questions from my leaders why we do not practice baptism like other Christian churches as commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of the replies I got were:
    1. Some Christians denomination erroneously taught that it’s a requirement for salvation
    2. There were serious arguments among Christian denominations about the mode of baptism that is authentic and that the Salvation Army didn’t want to get involved in such arguments.
    3. Water baptism was a Jewish tradition
    4.The baptism referred to by Jesus was Holy Ghost baptism
    5. In fact one officer told us that The Salvation Army baptizes with flag.

    After much searching of the scriptures, I was convinced that all the answers put together were not weighty enough for the founders of the Salvation Army to take the decision they took. It was like as we say here, throwing away the baby with the bath water. The instruction the Lord gave was very clear. We saw how the disciples obeyed and carried out the instruction – they baptized their converts in water in the name of Jesus Christ. I have heard a lot of salvationists say that water baptism is not necessary and I shudder. For those that hold such opinion, probably they understand all mysteries, my question is, why did the Lord command it? Why did the apostles take the pain to baptize about 3000 converts who got saved through Peter’s preaching in a single day, Acts2 vs 41. Why did Peter baptize Cornelius and his household even after they had received the Holy (Ghost baptism) Acts 10 vs 47. Why did Paul re baptize Ephesians (Acts 19 vs 5) who were already baptized with John’s baptism (Acts 19 vs 3) before he laid hands on them to receive the Holy Ghost {baptism}? (Acts 19 vs 6) Why was it that the Spirit didn’t take Philip away from the Ethiopian Eunuch until he had baptized him in water? I believe it is not for us to understand all the mysteries of God before we obey his least command. His ways are higher than our ways. The most important thing is obedience. Samuel told Saul, ’Obedience is better than the sacrifice of fools…’

    God sent John the Baptist to preach repentance to the Jews and to baptize those that believe him. John 1 vs 33, Mathew 21 vs 25. Later, Jesus went to him to be baptized, but John tried to refuse him, and Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,’ Mathew 3 vs 15. If Jesus submitted to be baptized by John the Baptist as God instructed, why are we arguing? If not for anything, let’s do it to fulfill all righteousness like Jesus did. It does not cost one anything to be baptized except wet clothes and perhaps some pride. I got baptized some years after i got convinced that that’s the right thing to do.

    Let me end by clearing the misconceptions about John’s baptism, Believers’ (Christian) baptism and Holy Ghost baptism.
    1.John’s and believers’ baptisms are both performed in water (water baptisms) Mathew 3 vs 6, Acts 8 vs 36
    2.John’s baptism was instructed by God John 1 vs 33, Mathew 21:25
    3.Believers’ baptism was instructed by Jesus Christ Mathew 28 vs 19
    4.In John’s baptism, the baptizer was John and his disciples and it ended with John’s death.
    5.In believers’ baptism, the baptizer was Jesus disciples and now Christian leaders and is performed in the name of Jesus. It started after Pentecost and has continued up till now.
    6.Holy Ghost baptism is in the Holy Ghost. Mathew 3 vs 13
    7.In Holy Ghost baptism, Jesus Christ is the baptizer Mathew 3 vs 13

  28. I think the Army prefers to see its self as an evangelical movement with out the trappings of a ‘church’. But when it suits us we are happy to be called part of the ‘church’. Dispite the argument God looks at the heart. To quote an old friend. “The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart”. By Grace you are saved through Faith (Eph 2:9).

  29. I am not a Salvationist, but a member of the Church of Christ who absolutely believes that baptism is a necessary part of salvation. However, for the past year or so, I have been working with a youth program that is sponsored by the Salvation Army, and I came across your post while doing some research to try and understand the position of the group that I work with a little better. Reading through your post and most of the comments, I see a great deal of conflict between what many read in the Bible and what they say they believe, and it has left me wanting to know more about your beliefs. How do you resolve the conviction that many of you say you feel that baptism does hold some importance (even if you don’t think it’s necessary, but just a special act) with the fact that your tradition says you don’t need it at all? I would also like to bring to your attention a verse that I don’t think I saw mentioned in any of the comments (I read most of them). In John 3:5, Jesus himself says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” To me, that seems a very clear statement, directly from Jesus himself. Most of the arguments here seem to claim that Jesus never told us to baptize, so I’d be interested to hear how you answer to a verse like this.

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