Today I want to talk about baptism. In our church, we practice pedo-baptism, which means that we baptize babies and small children. Of course, adults who are just coming to faith, or who have never been baptized, receive the sacrament of baptism, as well. Here I don't wish to focus on the different views of how and when to baptize (though I will say that I LOVE infant baptism and feel such gratitude for this doctrine). Rather, I want to explore how our love for the church can grow as we witness and participate in baptism. In other words, if you are yourself baptized, why does it matter to you when someone else receives baptism on a Sunday morning?
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the two sacraments recognized by most Protestant churches (Anglicans, as well as Catholics, recognize seven sacraments). As such, these two are powerful means of grace in the life of the believer. I wrote a few days ago about the Lord's Supper, and how we can take hold of all that God offers us in the supper.
Likewise, baptism is a means of grace in our lives. I'm talking about our own baptisms, but also the baptisms that we witness in church. Here is what I mean.
Baptism reminds us of our own baptisms. It's like how married people remember their own wedding vows every time they attend a wedding. When anyone is baptized at church, we hearken back to the covenant made with God when we ourselves joined the church in baptism. Martin Luther, when the devil accused him, and he questioned his salvation, is said to have exclaimed, "But I am baptized!" In this way, we, too, can remember that we are God's children. He is the one who has called us from death to life; we have died to sin and have been raised to new life in him. When I see a tiny, helpless baby coming to be baptized, I remember that I, too, am just as helpless save for God's work in my life. I can only receive, not earn, just as the baby can do nothing to earn God' favor.
Baptism keeps us tied into the life of the church. At our church, lots of promises are made during a baptism. First, the parents affirm their child's need for the cleansing blood of Jesus. They promise many weighty things, such as bringing up the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and striving to the best of their ability to teach and train the child in the ways of the church. Then, all the members of the church stand up (I love this part). And our pastor tells the parents to look out at all the people standing there. And then we all promise that we will do everything we can to assist the parents in keeping those hard promises they just made. Then we all sing "Jesus love you, this we know, for the Bible tells us so" to the babe. We don't do this for adult baptisms, but I really think we should. We all need to be reminded all the time, don't we?
Baptism helps us love children and families. As a congregation, we make very serious promises to families when their children are baptized. What does this look like? While not specifically relate to baptism, loving the children of the church goes far in loving their parents, and also in loving the church itself. I think this deserves a post of its own, so will save more specific ideas for later in the week!
This past Sunday a family dear to us brought their (gorgeous) infant daughter for baptism. The baby leaned heavily on her mama's shoulder, sound asleep, as they walked on the stage. I remembered back to this couple's dating days. Then not dating. Then dating again, then engagement and wedding. Longing and longing for a child, and God saying yes to many, many prayers. I was overcome with emotion to see that perfect baby, still sleeping as she was handed to our pastor, and he said to her, "Because your mom and dad love Jesus, and because Jesus loves little children, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." What a picture of perfect repose in Christ -- being carried to him while we rest, knowing that we can bring nothing, not even faith, for it is a gift. And we receive, just as that baby received the water of baptism.
I realize that this discussion may bring up all kinds of questions, such as:
Does baptism mean the baby is saved? (No, but it is not out of the question. John the Baptist leaped in his mother's womb when he heard about the Savior. Nothing is impossible with God.)
Why didn't you talk much about adults being baptized? (The bulk of the baptisms in our church are infants and children of believers. But, Lord, haste the day when more and more new converts are coming to be baptized!)
Sprinkling or dunking? (Not in my area of expertise, but I can point you in the right direction if you have questions.)
This is the 24th part in a series. Go here to read the series from the beginning. Go here to read over 700 other 31 Day series on all kinds of topics.