Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Practices of a Christian: Baptism

The Bible, particularly the New Testament, is filled with admonitions for followers of Christ to be baptized. In fact, the Gospels begin with John the Baptist preaching and baptizing people in the Jordan River. He encouraged his followers to go into the water of the Jordan as a sign of their repentance and a “washing away” of their sins. A highlight in the story of Jesus is when he went to the river to meet his cousin and to be baptized. Although he was not a sinner, Jesus submitted himself to baptism.

After the resurrection of Christ, the meaning of baptism changed for Christians. There was still the washing element, but now we have the symbolism of being buried with Christ and raised again to new life. This becomes especially significant for those Christian traditions that practice adult baptism by immersion.

In our tradition we have options. We believe that adult believers can be baptized. We also believe that it is a good thing for Christian parents to baptize their children. These children are brought into the faith through baptism. We baptize our children with the prayer that they will live faithfully and someday receive and accept the Christian faith for themselves.

Many traditions have various baptismal practices and methods. For me it is simple; if God calls you to do it, you should do it. Therefore, we practice baptism by immersion (dunking), sprinkling, or even pouring. The significance of baptism is not in the action, or the amount of water used, but in the grace of God that works miraculously.

Baptism is a necessity for those who follow Christ. It is not an option. We are not to get baptized if we feel like it. We must get baptized. It is an act of obedience. In Acts 2.38 Peter says, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The command to be baptized is a command. To be completely obedient to Christ, you must submit to his baptism.

Here is one final note: Baptism is a one-time event. Many Christians feel that they should be re-baptized because of some sin or experience in back sliding. Others believe that their infant baptism was not effective because they do not remember it. However, we should always remember that it is God that works in our baptisms. Whenever you were baptized, a miracle took place. God was at work and your baptism was effective and sufficient. Ephesians 4.5 reminds us that we have only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” When you feel that you need another baptism it may be because you question your own faith, rather than the grace of God.

Let me conclude with one admonition: Go and sin no more. Come and be baptized.

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