In his book, Reformed Is Not Enough, Douglas Wilson argues that baptism is the objective sign of the new covenant. Those who are born into the church and baptized as infants are members of the new covenant and therefore Christians. He anticipates an objection to his position: “You mean that you are saying that lesbian Eskimo bishop lady is a Christian?” He replies, “She is not a Buddhist, she is not a Muslim, yes, in the New Testament sense, she is a New Testament Christian.” But would the authors of the New Testament call such a person a Christian? What is it that defines a Christian?
The authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith (a document which Wilson says he believes in) had a word for such a person: false professor. By “professor” they did not mean someone who teaches, but someone who professes something to be true. They are religious hypocrites who profess that they are Christians while they are self-deceived. A practicing lesbian in New Testament Christianity would not be called a Christian, but called to saving faith and repentance while being removed from the membership of the church. This was Paul’s instruction to the church in Corinth concerning the man living in unrepentant sexual immorality:
“When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’ . . . Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 5:4-13; 6:9-11).
Paul did not call this man a brother, but someone bearing the name of brother who demonstrated by his actions that he was no brother at all. By removing him from the membership of the church, Paul and the church in Corinth are saying to this man that they see no evidence in his life that he is a Christian because Christians do not live this way. Christians have been changed by the radical work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. The New Testament defines a Christian as someone who is a disciple or follower of Christ (Acts 11:26). It is only those who abide in Christ’s words who are his true disciples (John 8:31). An unrepentant practicing lesbian is not following Christ or abiding in his words and therefore not a Christian (Rom 1:21-28).
As a Baptist, I can consistently respond to Wilson’s position by advocating regenerate church membership. Because only those who know God are members of the new covenant, only those whom the church recognizes as Christians may partake of the ordinances of the new covenant. Wilson’s position dilutes the purity of the church by intentionally introducing into it those who have not been born again. Wilson is right in saying that being Reformed is not enough, we must become Baptists as well.