Biblical Foundations: A Sign of God’s Grace
Biblically speaking, Baptism is given four different meanings:
Cleansing & Forgiveness. In baptism, we are cleansed of sin. (Acts 2:37-38, Hebrews 10:19-23, Acts 22:14-16)
New Birth & the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that we must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God. In baptism, we are born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-16, Acts 2:38-40, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
Union with Christ – Dying to Our Old Life, and Rising with Christ. In baptism, we die with the Christ in his crucifixion and are united to him in his resurrection (Romans 6:3-6)
Entrance into the Body of Christ. In baptism, that we enter into the covenant community of the church (Ephesians 4:1-6, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
Notice the emphasis here: All of these meanings point us to the heart of baptism: the gift of salvation in Christ. Baptism means salvation and participates in that reality. In contrast to popular belief, Baptism is not about our commitment to Christ, but instead about his commitment to us.
Anglican teaching aims to say nothing more and nothing less than Holy Scripture.
Article 27 from the 39 Articles says that: “Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth.” What does that mean? Simply this – baptism is an outward and visible sign of what Jesus has done for you, not what you have done for him.
To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism says that, “The inward and spiritual grace [of baptism] is death to sin and new birth to righteousness, through union with Christ in his death and resurrection. I am born a sinner by nature, separated from God. But in Baptism, through faith in Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, I am made a member of Christ’s Body and adopted as God’s child and heir.”
However, we also need to understand that Baptism is not a magic rite, nor is it a replacement for faith and repentance. Sadly, it is possible to have the outward sign, but lack the inward reality of Christian faith. As theologian Richard Hooker said, “All receive not the grace of God which receive the sacraments of his grace.” It is a promise of God that is conditional on the receipt of the promise by the individual. We do also make promises in Baptism: to trust and obey Jesus Christ as Lord, and, in the case of young children, to raise our child in the Christian faith.
Should Infants Be Baptized?
Anglicans do hold to infant baptism and encourage committed Christians to have their children baptized. As Peter declared in Acts 2, “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)
Since an infant has no capacity to understand the promises that are made, infant Baptism must be accompanied by a deep and abiding commitment of at least one parent to raise the child in the life of Christ and in the community of the Church. Infant baptism without this commitment is a scandal in the church of Christ.
Why not wait until the child grows up to maturity to decide for himself to commit to the promises of Baptism?
Here are some reasons:
- In the Jewish Community, male children are admitted ceremonially into the people of God as infants, through circumcision. (Genesis 17:1-14)
- Whole families—Jew and Gentile—were baptized in the early Church. (Acts 16:31-34)
- Jesus accepted and blessed children too young to understand or respond. (Matthew 19:13-14)
- Infant baptism underscores the initiative of God in our salvation. It is, after all, a sacrament of God’s grace and not of our works.
But of course, we also rejoice when adults and older children who have not been baptized decide on their own to become baptized. Baptism is a joyous step of obedience and public profession of faith for those who have decided to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
How Do We Do Baptism?
At New Creation, we offer two methods of Baptism: immersion and effusion. Effusion is another name for pouring, and all ages are welcome to have water poured only on their head. We encourage immersion (as does the Book of Common Prayer) because immersion makes plain our dying to our old life and rising to new life in Christ. Either method is entirely appropriate and acceptable and both have been used by Christians since the earliest times.
What About Sponsors & Godparents?
It is a joy and an honor to be asked to be a Baptismal Sponsor or Godparent (infants and young children typically have Godparents, youth and adult candidates typically have Sponsors). Sponsors have a serious and solemn responsibility in the development of a candidate’s faith and life in the Church. Accordingly, sponsors should be adults who will actively share in the candidate’s spiritual development and guidance. Godparents promise to ensure that the child is brought up in the Christian faith and life.
Sponsors help the newly baptized become disciples of Jesus Christ in a number of ways. They spend time with their godchildren; they demonstrate their love of their godchildren and of Jesus Christ through their words and their deeds. They share their own spiritual journey. They remember and honor birthdays and baptism days with a card or call. They offer wisdom and counsel as their charges confront the challenges of growing as Christians in a secular world.