Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Baptism has been an important part of the Christian faith since Jesus walked into the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus was baptized to set an example for us and to bring glory to His Father. We know from the Scriptures that God the Father was pleased with Jesus when He was baptized.
There are many different ideas of what baptism means. There are also a number of views on when a person should experience baptism. Though we want to be respectful of the sincere beliefs of others, according to the New Testament baptism was the way that Christians publicly proclaimed their faith in Christ. It was not a covenant with the parents, but it was the outward expression of the individual's inner commitment to Christ. In the New Testament people were not baptized until they were old enough to make the decision for themselves. In the New Testament, people were always baptized by being immersed or dipped completely under the water. The word "baptism" actually means to immerse or dip under. If that was what baptism meant in the New Testament, why would it have a different meaning today? Much of the confusion concerning the meaning and timing of baptism would be cleared up if we simply practiced baptism when and how it was done in the New Testament.
Baptism is a picture of how Christ died for us, was buried for us, and rose again for us. When we stand in the water we are saying that we are taking our stand for Christ. As we are dipped under the water it symbolizes us "dying and being buried" to our old way of life. When we come up out of the water it symbolizes how we are raised to "new life" through our faith in Christ.
Baptism does not save us from hell; instead it shows the world that we have already been saved from our sin and received new life in Christ. The New Testament makes it very clear that every person who has trusted Jesus as their Savior and made a commitment to follow Him should be baptized after making that decision. If we have never been baptized, then we should be baptized after making a sincere commitment to Christ. This is how we publically proclaim our faith in Christ. Baptism will enhance our connection to God and improve our personal spirituality. Occasionally I meet a person who tells me they publicly professed their faith in some way other than baptism. While it is not my place to judge others, it seems that God already has shown us the way He wants us to publicly profess our faith in Him. Efforts to "edit" God's clearly declared system seem unwise to me.
Some people were baptized as infants before they are old enough to understand what baptism meant. While that may have been a very lovely ceremony to watch, we cannot find any examples in the Bible of an infant or small child being baptized. There are some examples in the Bible of children being "dedicated" to the Lord. So we know it is appropriate for parents to dedicate their children. But we should not confuse a baby dedication with the ritual of baptism. People who were baptized as infants should get re-baptized when they are older as a testimony of their own faith. Being re-baptized does not mean they do not appreciate what their parents did for them; it simply means that now they are making the decision themselves to be a Christian.
There is something powerful about being baptized. It gives us a sense of spiritual cleansing. It makes us feel closer to God. It is also a step of obedience to God, since He is the one who told us to do it once we had trusted His Son as our Savior. If we have not been baptized at all, we should do it as soon as we can. If we were baptized as an infant but it had no real meaning to us, then we should consider being re-baptized as our own expression of faith in Jesus Christ.
Anyone living in Central Vermont who is interested in being baptized, Faith Community Church of Barre will be holding their next baptism service on Sunday, August 8, 2010 at the annual church picnic. If you are interested in being baptized, please contact Pastor Terry Dorsett so that he can set up a time to meet with you to make sure you understand baptism and are ready for this exciting spiritual experience.