If you are interested in either having your child baptized or yourself please review this brief summary of what the Bible teaches concerning baptism.
What is baptism?
Baptism is a sacrament of the church and it is more than a mere ceremony. It is an action commanded by God that has eternal implications. Who has commanded that we be baptized? Matthew 28:18-19 tells us; Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” God’s own son Jesus felt baptism was so important that not only was he baptized but he also wanted all of God’s people to be baptized.
The origin of baptism goes back to certain purification rituals of Old Testament Judaism (See Mark 7:4) but it is much more. Titus 3:5-7 tells us; He (God) saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Here baptism is spoken of as a ‘rebirth’ and a ‘renewal’; it is also a kind of cleansing. It is not a removal of outward grime but rather is an inward washing. As the Apostle Paul recounts his conversion to Christianity he tells us what he had been told; And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (Acts 22:16) Here Ananias told Paul to be baptized and that baptism was a “washing away” of sins.
Galatians 3:26-27 tells us another interesting fact concerning baptism. It says, You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Through baptism God washes away our sins and we “clothe” ourselves with Christ. That means we adopt his actions and attitudes.
John 3:5 tells us even more. Here Jesus speaking to Nicodemus says, I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Baptism is a kind of rebirth. We keep our present parents but we also become God’s child. In a way baptism is an “adoption ceremony.” Through baptism we recognize that God is our true Father and we turn our attention to his guidance.
What happens when we are baptized?
All of the above happens and much more. In Acts 2:38-39 the Apostle Peter told his listeners, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call. Among all the other blessings of baptism we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit! Since the Holy Spirit has been called the ‘comforter’ and ‘guide’; since he ‘translates’ our prayer requests to our Heavenly Father (see Romans 8:26-27) and since he gives special gifts to God’s people we should value his presence in our lives. The Holy Spirit is one of God’s “baptismal presents” to us.
Who is to be baptized?
Before the time of the reformation both adults and children were routinely baptized. At the present time some Christian denominations feel only adults should be baptized. They say a person has to know what they are doing and they have to make a commitment before they may be baptized.
Please understand that this is a fairly recent interpretation concerning baptism. Also please consider the following Bible passages and their implications.
- People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Matthew 18:15-17)
- Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” (Matthew 28:18-19)
- I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5)
- Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call. (Acts 2:38-39)
- See also Acts 16:29-34
We need to remember that baptism is God’s activity. Through baptism we are not reaching up to him, he is reaching down to us. It is not a decision we make – it is both a decision and an action he makes for us.
How much water should we use?
Here again there are differences of opinion among certain groups of Christians. Some groups, looking at the baptism John performed, say that only immersion is good enough. However, when you look at the original Greek words of the New Testament (and not an English translation) you will see that the Greek words for “sprinkle”, “pour” and “immerse” have all been translated into the one English word “baptize.” Since baptism is God’s activity and since sprinkling, pouring and immersion were all valid forms of baptism in the early church any of these three forms is valid. The amount of water that is used is not important – what God does with and through the water is important. (If you need a lot of water for baptism to “work” how much wine do you need for Holy Communion?)
The role of sponsors or “God-parents”
Although the Bible does not speak about godparents these individuals are important. Because of their role they should be Christians. And they should be serious about the obligations they will assume.
Godparents are to assist the child’s natural parents in teaching the child about God. They are to make sure the child reads the Bible and attends worship services. If the child is not spending regular time with God they should speak to the child (and parents) about this. Because of this, parents should choose Godparents carefully. You are giving these people your permission and authority to remind you and your child of your obligations to God.
Baptism is far more than a little water connected to a few words from God. It is a blessing from God that unites us with him. With faith in God it brings us salvation and eternal life. It is a turning away from our sinful, human nature and a binding to our Heavenly Father.
Thank God for your baptism every day. And if you are someone’s godparent encourage that person and remember them in your prayers.
Do you want to know more about baptism?
Consider the following quotation from a Christian authority on the Bible.
Baptism, Christian [Easton’s Bible Dictionary]
An ordinance immediately instituted by Christ (Matt. 28: 19, 20), and designed to be observed in the church, like that of the Supper, “till he come.” The words “baptize” and “baptism” are simply Greek words transferred into English. This was necessarily done by the translators of the Scriptures, for no literal translation could properly express all that is implied in them. The mode of baptism can in no way be determined from the Greek word rendered “baptize.” Baptists say that it means “to dip,” and nothing else. That is an incorrect view of the meaning of the word. It means both
- to dip a thing into an element or liquid, and
- to put an element or liquid over or on it.
Nothing therefore as to the mode of baptism can be concluded from the mere word used. The word has a wide latitude of meaning, not only in the New Testament, but also in the LXX. (Septuagint) Version of the Old Testament, where it is used of the ablutions and baptisms required by the Mosaic law. These were effected by immersion, and by affusion and sprinkling; and the same word, “washings” (Heb. 9:10, 13, 19, 21) or “baptisms,” designates them all.
In the New Testament there cannot be found a single well-authenticated instance of the occurrence of the word where it necessarily means immersion. Moreover, none of the instances of baptism recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (2:38-41; 8:26-39; 9:17, 18; 22:12-16; 10:44-48; 16:32-34) favors the idea that it was by dipping the person baptized, or by immersion, while in some of them such a mode was highly improbable.
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If you are interested in baptism or have questions please call 262-335-4200 or send a message here.