Though paedobaptists often appealed to continuity from the Abrahamic covenant and the sign of circumcision, Judson could not help but notice that this analogy was applied selectively and there were significant points of inconsistency in their use of that analogy. The more Judson sought to answer these questions, the more he was forced to conclude that Christian baptism was only for believers and that church membership should only be made up of the converted.
What does someone need before being sent out by the church to serve in cross-cultural missions? Certainly, one should have a clear profession of faith and give some evidence of fruitfulness in evangelism and discipleship. One should have a sense of calling for the work, both subjectively and objectively. There will need to be a team of financial and spiritual supporters. Anything else?
Here’s something that often gets overlooked: Ecclesiology! Before being sent out, they should come to a biblical, convictional understanding of the church. This was a lesson that Adoniram Judson learned the hard way.
Judson’s First Test
Judson left America with a great deal of fanfare. It was only after Judson leveraged an offer from the London Missionary Society that the Congregationalist churches in America united behind Judson and his team for support. Under Judson’s missionary zeal, these churches formed the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the first mission agency in America. Now, Judson and his wife Ann were being sent out by these churches as the first American missionaries, fully supported by American Congregationalist churches.
But on the four-month trip over to India, knowing he would soon be working on Bible translation, Judson began to translate the Greek New Testament. He began to wrestle with the word baptizo. English translations had transliterated the Greek word, but Judson knew that the word meant immersion. When creating a new translation into a foreign language, how should he translate this word? As a paedobaptist, this was especially thorny, given that the mode of baptism used by Congregationalist churches was sprinkling. But the more Judson explored this issue, the more he became convinced of the practice of immersion.