What is Baptism?

101 5pm church update header I got a call from a lovely and very enthusiastic lady who wanted to speak to someone about getting her baby baptised.

I love doing baptisms. I don’t always enjoy these kind of calls!

Lady: Can I talk to you about getting my baby baptised?

KDN: Sure, We love doing baptisms, always lovely to hear from others who also love baptism. What would you like to know?

Lady: My daughter is so beautiful and I just know that God would want her in heaven. I was baptised in your church when I was a baby (your church is the one near the Morpeth St bridge isn’t it?) – so I thought I should get her baptised there as well?

KDN: That is special, has Trinity been a special place for you and your family?

Lady: Oh yes, it is such a beautiful building. When we have visitors from Interstate we always take them down to North Terrace so that can take photos of the wonderful architecture there.

KDN: It is beautiful. Your name is not familiar to me, are you going to church anywhere at the moment?

Lady: O no! I learnt all I needed to know about religious things back when my parents took me to church in primary school. Then they stopped and I stopped as well.

KDN: Oh, that is sad. Well maybe I could help you find out a little more about Jesus, given that Baptism is all about faith in Jesus.

Lady: Thank you, but no thanks. I just want to have my baby baptised, but don’t want it to be too religious or anything. I thought we could invite some family members to the baptism one week, and your church could put on a nice service and then morning tea afterwards. I know my family would love to see inside the building again – and the photos would be wonderful. I could help with Morning tea if you liked – and make a nice slice.

KDN: Well, baptism is a sign of active faith in Jesus and in the case of a baby, the active faith of the baby’s parents. Here is a suggestion, why not come to one of our church gatherings and listen to what is preached and said in the gathering and meet some of the folk who come every week. And then you might be able to consider what it means for you to be a person of faith. And we can talk further when I meet you in person.

Lady: Could my baby be baptised then – so I don’t have to come back more than once?

During my time in ministry, I have had several of these kinds of phone calls. I always feel a little torn. I long for the person and want them to listen to what they are saying about baptism and faith in Jesus. If only they could hear themselves they might realise that faith in Jesus has meaning and it is good. What a joy when someone who has a faulty understand of the gospel comes to know and accept the gospel. On the other hand, I feel frustrated, because I love, respect and value the many faithful saints that do we have in our congregation, whom I see living out their faith – those who take their faith in Jesus seriously and for whom baptism is special, significant and meaningful.  When someone so obviously disregards the importance of faith, I feel let down.

So quickly, what is baptism?

 Baptism is a sign or a seal.  Baptism neither confers God’s grace, nor is it a precondition to receiving God’s grace.  Baptism impresses on our minds God’s promises, informing us, by sight and touch.  It strengthens our faith, not faith in the sacrament, but our faith in God’s promises to us.  It is a long-standing Christian custom, but there are genuine Christians who are not baptised, just as there are many baptised people who do not have true faith in Jesus Christ.

What does Baptism symbolise?

Baptism is closely linked to the idea of turning away from our old ways and turning to God (which the Bible calls ‘repentance’). The act of baptism symbolises the washing away of sin.  This is another way of speaking of God’s forgiveness.

Baptism then, is only meaningful where there is a genuine decision and desire to follow Jesus Christ.  It is a commitment to following and serving him for the whole of our lives.  The expectation at Baptism is that the person will continue as ‘Christ’s faithful soldier and servant until their life’s end’.

 Who may be baptised?

Any person who professes faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and has at least a basic understanding of the Christian faith may be baptized.  Faith is demonstrated in service and so that is why those baptized are generally members of the congregation where they actively serve.

In the case of children it is the parents and godparents who express this faith on behalf of the child.  That is only meaningful where the parents and godparents have a genuine faith in Christ themselves.

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