Baptism

What is Baptism about?

There are many “myths” and “superstitions” regarding baptism, a few of which follow:

Myth 1:

Some Christian traditions assert that it is the moral duty of parents to have their baby baptised at the earliest possible occasion, in case the baby should face a life-threatening condition. For they say that a person must be baptised in order for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, as part of God’s family. However if you read the Scriptures you will find that Jesus eagerly welcomed children  and even condemned his own disciples for turning the children away

13People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Mark 10:14-16

The Presbyterian Church, along with many others, reject this “myth” as being against the Word of God.

Myth 2:

Some people think of baptism as somehow guaranteeing us or our child a place in heaven after death. However Jesus makes it quite plain that only a true faith in Him as Lord and Saviour can do that. He condemned those that thought they could earn God’s forgiveness by going through certain ceremonies or doing specific acts

21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24

Myth 3:

Baptism is sometimes called a “Rite of Passage”, something which every person should go through as part of their life experience; i.e birth, baptism, change to adulthood, marriage, becoming a parent, growing old, and dying. Yet baptism is much more than a ceremony we go through, or a good excuse for a family get-together. It is an act of faith and commitment, on the part of the parents in child baptism, or on the individual in believer’s baptism.

What Baptism Is

Baptism is an act which is vitally important in the Church and the life of Christians. The Presbyterian Church only holds Baptism and Holy Communion as the two rightful sacraments ( A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”- Augustine, to which the Reformed Church added the words “…ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel”). In other words baptism is a significant act in which individuals affirm their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord, and make promises to God about their own life, and in the case of child baptism promises to God concerning their family life and the way in which they will bring up their children.

As such it is a reflection of the inward relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, and is a statement of the assurance that we belong to the Family of God. Therefore Baptism is only for those who are believers and are willing to make these promises with sincerity.

Baptism in the Presbyterian Church

As we have noted the Presbyterian Church practices both infant and adult baptism.

Infant Baptism

We firmly hold that children are a blessing from God, who has given us the privilege of being parents. Therefore God has set us in human families and we have a responsibility to God for the way in which we live as a family. In addition we believe that God has given us the privilege of being part of His heavenly family through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and this very much includes children. We take our authority for baptising children primarily from the example of Jesus in eagerly welcoming children into His presence. We also follow the example of the early Church in the Apostle’s time in bringing whole households to the Lord, and the example of the Church from very early in its history in baptising children into the family of God.

Adult Baptism

For those who have never been baptised before, we are eager to provide the opportunity for them as an act of profession of their faith to be baptised.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, which is taken by the Presbyterian Church to be its subordinate standard (secondary to the Scriptures) , is a drawing together of the passages of Scripture on specific themes or ideas. It says of baptism:

SECTION I : Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptised into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up to God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.

SECTION II : The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.

SECTION III : Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.

We must be absolutely clear that what matters in baptism is not how much water is used, whether it is by total immersion or sprinkling. The blessing of God, through baptism, does not depend on what we do but on God gracious act through the work of the Holy Spirit, in making us part of His family.

So Why Should We be Baptised?

BECAUSE:

  • Jesus Himself was baptised and commanded us to be baptised.
  • In doing so it is a means of publicly confessing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Lord.
  • In the act of being baptised it is a sign of what God has already done for us spiritually in cleansing us from our sin.
  • It is an affirmation that we are part of God’s people, His heavenly family.
  • That we are showing our desire to live as a disciple of Christ, demonstrating His love in our lives.
  • Expressing our commitment as a disciple of Christ, to share the Good News of the Gospel with others and bring them to the point where they too may be baptised.

So Why Should Our Children Be Baptised?

BECAUSE:

  • As Christians we believe that God has blessed us with children and we wish to publicly acknowledge this fact.
  • In being blessed with children we are conscious of our responsibility to God for the care and nurture of these children, and through baptism we publicly commit ourselves to do this.
  • The Lord has brought us together into family units and as a family He has also given us the privilege of  being part of the larger family of God through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore through baptism we demonstrate our sense of belonging and incorporation in God’s family.
  • The act of baptism was commanded by Jesus Himself, and was carried out on whole households by the early Church.

Once Baptised Always Baptised?

Sometimes when people, who have been baptised as children, come to a personal faith in Christ, they think that they need to be baptised again. There are also some Christian Denominations who reject infant baptism and state that a person must be baptised again as an adult believer, making a profession of faith. Yet we must ask the question – Do we really believe that the Lord is so judgmental that He would reject a person’s baptism as being unacceptable, when they have made a true commitment to the Lord in later life? Do we really believe that our salvation and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ are dependent on when and how we were baptised?

There are some people who make a mockery of baptism, by being baptised and baptised again,  every time they feel that they have fallen away from faith. In essence what they are arguing is that, like the Jews, the act of “spiritual washing” must be repeated over and over again because its effect is only temporary. The sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross was once and for all. We do not need to be continually baptised.