A few weeks ago we had the wonderful blessing of celebrating baptism in the church. As a Reformed church, we understand baptism in a covenantal sense—that is, we recognize that it is the sign and seal of God’s covenant promise (from our liturgy), “by grace alone: to forgive our sins, to adopt us into the body of Christ, the church, to send the Holy Spirit daily to renew and cleanse us, and to resurrect us to eternal life,”
We also recognize that there are many views of Christian baptism, and so I wanted to give you some understanding of the biblical reasons that we baptize as we do. We will look at this together over the next few months.
First of all, we baptize because the Lord commands it. Jesus says in Matthew 28, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” It doesn’t get much simpler than that, does it?
But what is Christian Baptism?
We need to recognize that Christian baptism is not the same as other baptisms. It is not that the act itself is all that different; basically, every kind of baptism involves sprinkling, pouring, or immersion in water for the sake of cleansing. But the meaning of baptism isn’t always the same. For instance, baptism was quite common among Jewish groups in Jesus’ day as a sign of ritual purity. And John the Baptist certainly baptized people at the Jordan River, but John’s baptism was a sign of repentance before the coming of our Lord. These are not the same as Christian baptism.
The difference is that we, as Christians, are baptized into the name of God. Jesus said, “…baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In Christian baptism, God’s name is placed upon us and we visibly become a part of His covenant people.
Paul clarifies this in Romans 6:3–5: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Christian baptism is different from other baptisms because of what it means…the promise of being united to Jesus!
Baptism is about what Godhas done for us…by His grace alone. He places His name on us…isn’t that amazing?!
Next time we will look at the way Christian baptism relates to the Old Testament covenant of circumcision…