When I was asked some time ago to conduct our first full baptismal service here in Spain
it prompted me to look again at Scripture and what other branches of our one (!) Church believed and were doing. I know that there is a lot of
controversy about some of this, and I certainly dont claim to have any definitive answers or special revelation. Have a look at this then below, and see what you
make of it. I have tried to be fair and open minded, whilst being true to what I personally believe.
Water Baptism - a short study for those considering partaking in it.
1. What about all the controversy and differences of opinion between those who Christen, those who baptise, those who sprinkle and those who immerse?
Carefully consider this quote from C.S. Lewis - from his book called Mere Christianity;
It [essential Christianity] is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms.
If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and
meals....even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the
true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: Do I like that kind of service? but Are
these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste,
or my personal dislike of this particular doorkeeper? When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those
who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them.
That is one of the rules common to the whole house.
2. Why do I have to do anything anyway - I'm already saved arent I?
Consider the link between the sign and the reality; The 1
Confession (27:2) says, There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it
comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be
your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to
you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God. Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you
for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will
be the sign of the covenant between me and you. It both is the covenant and the sign!"
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body". Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This
is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
Jesus didn't say this is like
my body - He said it is
3. So where do we get the word from, and what does it actually mean?
A look at the Greek text of the New Testament will shed some light on the subject. The Greek word baptizo
means to wash (by immersion) and rhantizo
to sprinkle. This word is simply transliterated
(i.e. not translated).
The mandate given to His disciples by the Jesus in Matthew 28:19 therefore, is to go and 'wash by immersion' (baptise) all the nations. It is
obvious from Scripture that the Messiah Himself was immersed
by John the Baptist!
4. So what is Christening?
The word "christen" comes from English culture and isnt really definitive in the modern day. It obviously derives from the word Christ, and means to bring to Christ.
It is usually used about infants rather than adults. There are basically three sorts of Christening services:
A Service of Blessing,
which is based what Jesus did when children were brought to him: Mark 10:13-16 records that he took the children in his arms, laid his hands
on them, and blessed them. This is about receiving Gods unconditional love.
A Service of Dedication,
which is about the parents making promises about the upbringing of their children.
A Service of 2Infant
Baptism, which declares the child to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
some extent the different emphases above overlap in most cases, and an atmosphere of thanksgiving to the childs birth and life is common to all three.
what exactly is the main point of Baptism?
Baptism is being immersed
ideally the person being baptised should go down into
the water (Acts 8:38) and be submerged in it. It is however sometimes acceptable that people are baptised by affusion in which water
is poured on the candidate instead. Remember it may be impossible for the person to be immersed through ill health, disability, or the simple lack of
deep enough water! water in the name of the
The words I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19 Great Commission again) would normally be used in a
Service of baptism, but some people are baptised in the name of Jesus (Acts 19:5 Paul baptising at Corinth) for
in this context the word means turning back to God, but also implies turning away from a sinful lifestyle, and making a decision to think differently, and was a key part of Jesus message (Matthew
4:17 Jesus first gospel preach immediately after the temptation in the desert!).
Its quite difficult to give a concise definition of baptism. This statement and the notes (hover over the highlighted words) try to offer a relatively short theological explanation;
the Bible's word means both belief and trust. Belief is agreeing to facts, and trust is putting ones personal security into someones hands. In the Bible baptism is always
linked with faith in Jesus. It denotes both assenting to the facts about Jesus life, death and resurrection, and also committing oneself to following him in a
in the New Testament it seems baptism was the way people became followers of Jesus, but the question of whether
baptism makes you a Christian was not tackled in those days when baptism always
accompanied a personal response.
Jesus disciples (followers) were soon nicknamed Christians (Acts 11:26), and this word describes all those who
believe in Jesus as God's Son, our Saviour, Redeemer and the Messiah, in the fullness of the way in which the New Testament explains Him to be.
(Read the whole N.T.!)
the universal community of those who actively, obediently and willingly follow Jesus through faith in Him, and by
His Holy Spirit's empowerment, having received the Gospels message.
Ephesians 1:22-23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the
church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills everything in every way.
6. Who was baptised back in Bible times?
The Acts of the Apostles gives the impression that wherever and whenever the gospel was proclaimed, those who believed were baptised immediately. Of course, this raises the long debated question of whether infants (those too young to express their belief)
were baptised. There are four household baptism recorded in the New Testament (Acts 10:48, 16:15, 16:33, 18:8), and some argue that there must have been infants in at least some of these. Others argue that any infants cant have been baptised since baptism denotes having faith, which the infants wouldnt have been able to profess.
text of the book of Acts doesnt tell us definitively either way, and there is no definite historical evidence about infant baptism dating before 3AD 200.
What does baptism actually do?
are generally four overall views of the effect of someone being baptised:
Christians need not bother with the physical sign of baptism if they experience the spiritual grace. Holy Spirit baptism is thought of as the fulfilment of the ceremony of water baptism.
(This view is often taken by churches which do not practice sacraments, such as the Quakers and Salvation Army).
b) It is an expression of obedience to Jesus, and as such is desirable but not essential:
It is thought of only as a sign which symbolises an underlying reality but has no actual effect. This view is called Zwinglian
(after a man called Zwingli 1484 1531) or Baptist (but many Baptist theologians are closer to the 5Reformed
view). One of the main points of baptism on this view is that it is a witness to others of ones personal decision to follow Christ.
c) It actually makes someone a Christian
This is a Roman Catholic or ex opere operato view. These Latin words mean it works by virtue of having been performed correctly.
But this fourth view would be that of The King's Church;
It is a 8Sacrament; a sign and a seal, effecting what it signifies in the context of faith.
This is the Reformed or Covenant view, held by the Church of England (in the 439 Articles of Religion) and the 1Presbyterian
Westminster Confession. In the context of faith means that the New Testaments language of 6efficacy …..
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as
Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will
certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also not the removal of dirt from the body but the
pledge of a good conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ …..
correctly applied to those who trust in Jesus for themselves. It
works if we
have a genuine faith in Jesus.
What does the Bible say about
scriptures should you start
are both the allusion to Jesus death
in Luke 12:50……
have a baptism to undergo, and
how distressed I am until it is completed!
baptisms place in the Great Commission in Matthew
29:19 for you to
the following eight instances of
baptism in the Acts of the Apostles (2:38, 8:12, 8:36, 9:18, 10:47,
16:33, 18:8 and 19:5) can be seen these five characteristics of
baptism similar to the explanation at main point 5.
it is usually in the name of Jesus Christ, implying allegiance to him,
it is closely
linked to preaching the gospel and making disciples,
repentance and faith and leads to sins forgiven,
includes the gift of the Holy Spirit,
implies incorporation into the church.
of course that not all of these
five are present every time.)
believes and is
baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
talk about salvation
us draw near to
God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts
sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies
with pure water.
is one body and
one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called one
one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and
all and in all.
talks about only one Baptism
are all sons of God
through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
baptised into Christ
Colossians 2:11, 12
you were also
circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a
done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,
parallels baptism with Old Testament circumcision
contemporary baptismal practices are a development of the apostolic
the New Testament, but that almost all of our presentday practices
the New Testament pattern. In the New Testament it seems that
administered to any person desiring to become a Christian at any place
any time. By contrast, most denominations
have delayed baptism,
reserved it to special times, places and ministers, and given it a
and planning which is remarkably lacking in the New Testament.
of faith of
English speaking Presbyterians, representing a theological consensus of
international Calvinism. Produced by the Westminster Assembly, it was
in 1646 and approved by Parliament in 1648. When the monarchy was
1660, the episcopal form of church government was reinstated and the
lost official status in England,
but it had already
been adopted by the Church of Scotland
(1647) and various other churches. Consisting of 33 chapters, it states
the sole doctrinal authority is scripture, restates the doctrines of
Trinity and Jesus, and gives reformed views of the sacraments, the
a child a Christian? No, because it is up to the child to
or not to follow Jesus Christ, and no church service has the power to
force a child
to make a particular choice. The best way of ensuring that a
become a follower of Jesus is for them to attend church regularly as a
so that they can all grow as part of the community which follows
question of the early
churchs practice was debated by Jeremias and Aland who came to opposite
conclusions: Jeremias maintaining that the early church did baptise
Aland that it did not. Although this seems an impasse, what
was the large body of information on which they agreed, and which is
generally held as a consensus view. These areas are: lack of
evidence before AD 200, existence of various practices after AD 200, a
developing sacramental theology, the catechumenate in the third
emergency baptism administered to catechumens and unbaptised children
in danger of death. From these we can come to a tentative
view on the
developments and variations in the baptismal practices of the early
of Religion were established by Convocation of the Church in 1563,
direction of Matthew Parker, then the archbishop of Canterbury,
which pulled back from some of the more extreme Calvinist thinking and
the peculiar English reformed doctrine. The articles, finalized in
to have a lasting effect on religion in the United Kingdom
and elsewhere through their incorporation into and propagation through
of Common Prayer.
5The Protestant Reformation was a reform movement
that began in 1517, though its roots
lay further back in time. It began with Martin Luther. The movement
began as an
attempt to reform the Catholic Church. Many western Catholics were
what they saw as false doctrines and malpractices within the Church. On
31, 1517, in Saxony (in what is now Germany),
nailed his NinetyFive Theses to the door of the Wittenberg
which served as a notice board for universityrelated announcements.
points for debate that criticized the Church and the Pope. Other
as Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin, soon followed Luthers lead. Church
and practices under attack by Protestant reformers included Purgatory,
particular judgment, devotion to Mary (Mariology), the intercession of
saints, most of the sacraments, the mandatory celibacy requirement of
clergy (including monasticism), and the authority of the Pope.
process of reform had decidedly different causes
and effects in England,
where it gave rise to Anglicanism. There the period became known as the
Reformation. (Abridged Wiki definition)
the power or
capacity to produce a desired
[From the Latin efficācia, from efficāx, efficāc, efficacious.]
εκκλησία — ekklesia, which literally means a
gathering or selection i.e.
eklectic in English or called out assembly, was a governmental and
term, used to denote a national assembly, congregation, council of
objective or a crowd of people who were assembled.
Christian rite (like the Eucharist) that has been ordained by Christ
is held to be a means of divine grace, and a sign or symbol of a
Westminster Confession (see 1
above) reads Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of
immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ, and his benefits;
confirm our interest in him: as also, to put a visible difference
that belong unto the church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to
them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.
material adapted from an article by John Hartley, modified Wiki texts,
other material from the internet.)