More about baptism and why it matters
Baptism is part of what has been called ‘the normal Christian birth’. Jesus’ parting words to his followers were:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything have commanded you.
It is important to recognise that we are told to baptise disciples, not believers. There may be a vast difference between the two; after all demons are ‘believers’ (James 2:19). So it is our aim to become disciples of Jesus Christ and part of that process is to submit to Christian baptism.
The Cost of Discipleship
Baptism is for those who have brought their life into submission to Christ and are determined to follow that through, whatever the consequences. Of course, we are not yet perfect and continually come to God for forgiveness. Nevertheless, a disciple is radically committed to loving God and loving their neighbour.
Baptism should only be undertaken by those who are wholeheartedly determined to follow Christ, whatever life brings. It is important to be knowledgeable of discipleship and baptism.
What is Baptism?
Baptism is a public celebration of Christian faith which involves full submersion in water. The water itself, is not in any way special or magical. The act of baptism is not optional for Christian disciples; we must follow the example of the Lord Jesus who identified himself with us by submitting to baptism.
It is easy to underestimate the importance of baptism; in other parts of the world submitting to baptism may cost someone friends, livelihood, family or even life itself.
At Jesus’ baptism we read of his Father’s approval and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus. At baptism services we rejoice in the assurance that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is both pleased with the obedience of those being baptised and present to bless and honour them. Sometimes God meets people in a dramatic way in their baptism; more often his Spirit comes gently to powerfully confirm and strengthen the individual’s faith.
Baptism is ‘Union with Christ’
Galatians 3:26-28, Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Baptism signifies union with Christ. The person is baptised (literally plunged) into Christ (Galatians 3:27). The significance of being in Christ can only be fully understood with reference to the Apostle Paul’s understanding that every human being is born in union with Adam. We were all present in Adam when he sinned, and so we inherited a fallen nature. The first man fell from grace and we all fell in him. Christ came into the world as a second or last version of ‘Adam’.
As we turn to him in repentance by faith we are delivered out of Adam into Christ. ‘For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many [all humanity] were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Christ] the many [Christians] will be made righteous.’ Baptism then signifies this miraculous transformation from sinful humanity fit for destruction, to righteous humanity being made fit for eternal life.
Baptism is Into the Church
Galatians 3:26-28, 1 Corinthians 12-13
Baptism signifies identification with both Christ and his body.
Going under the water and rising out of it represents Christ’s death and resurrection (Colossians 2:11-12). We are not only baptised into Christ’s death, we are also baptised into the resurrection life of the church family. We are saved into the
community of God’s people who are called to serve together. With our Christian brothers and sisters we are to reach out to a fallen world with the truth and love we have already encountered in Jesus Christ. The idea of a Christian that doesn’t need the Church is nonsense - the whole purpose of salvation is to join with other Christians in worshipping and serving God forever. Baptism signifies this radical commitment to God’s people.
Baptism is Public Confession of Faith
Romans 10:9, 1 Timothy 6:12
Baptism is also portrayed in the New Testament as a public confession of faith. In Romans 10:9 we read that part of what saves us is our public confession of our faith. Elsewhere he describes baptism as a ‘good confession in the sight of many witnesses’ (1 Timothy 6:12). It is often difficult to find an appropriate way to publicly acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Baptism is a great opportunity to do this.
Baptism is Public Obedience to Christ
Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-4
Perhaps the most important aspect of baptism is that of obedience to the command of Christ. Many people feel reluctant to be baptised for many reasons and yet Christ’s command remains. Baptism is a symbolic act of obedience which
demonstrates a person’s death to sin and new life in Christ.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t you baptise babies?
We believe that the significance of baptism is only properly expressed when the person is old enough to demonstrate committed Christian faith. Of course this is not to say that God doesn’t love, accept and welcome children - quite the
Children are extremely welcome in our church, there is a programme specially designed to teach them about the Christian faith. We hope and pray that they will respond to God from a very early age. However, we think that baptism is best reserved for those who are old enough to be aware of the radical implications of Christian discipleship.
I was baptised as a baby. Should I be baptised again?
For many Christian families the baptism of a baby is highly significant and undertaken with sincerity and prayer. We don’t want to dismiss the value of this. Nevertheless, we would encourage you to consider being baptised as a mature
Do I have to speak about my faith in front of the whole church before being baptised?
Giving some form of public testimony about your faith is a normal part of a baptismal service. We can help you in this - perhaps by helping you prepare something written which you can read out, or interviewing you in a series of questions and answers.
I’m scared of water. Do I have to be completely submerged?
This is quite a common difficulty. There are a range of possibilities we could explore to enable you to be baptised.
I’m not sure when I became a Christian. Is it important to have a ‘conversion experience’ before I am baptised?
For many people, particularly those brought up in a Christian home, this is common. It might be that you cannot remember a time when you did not love Jesus. Perhaps you asked Him into your life many times and cannot remember a specific time when that felt like a conversion. This could leave you wondering whether you are actually a Christian. This is not an issue.
Baptism is for all those who have repented of sin, accepted the Lordship of Jesus Christ and have made a mature decision to follow him. If that is the point you have reached then you are a Christian whether or not you have had a dramatic conversion experience. Who knows, you may have a dramatic baptism experience!