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A significant practice within Christianity: BAPTISM

Syllabus reference:
v Demonstrate how Baptism expresses the beliefs of Christianity.
v Analyse the significance of Baptism for both the individual and the Christian community.

What is Baptism?
Baptism is the sign of new life through Jesus Christ. It unites the one baptised with Christ with his
people.

Background to Baptism
n John the Baptist baptised people with water (in the River Jordan) as a sign of their repentance
or turning away from sin. But he also predicted a time when Baptism would take on greater
significance.
n Jewish initiation ritual of immersion in water

adopted by Christianity

(symbolic action representing passing through


waters of Red Sea into freedom)

n Circumcision was also an act of initiation. Paul argues against needs for circumcision, calls for a
circumcision to the hearts and ears to becomes obedient to God (Rom 2:29, Deut. 10:16)
n Jesus announced the need for spiritual rebirth through water and the Spirit in his conversation
with Nicodemus, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit
(John 3: 5-8)
n Jesus commanded his disciples to baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
(Matthew 28:19).
n Baptism was in/into the name of Jesus the person being baptised became a member of the
Jesus group and acquired a special relationship with him.
n Early forms of baptisteries:
person led down stairs
immersed in water
emerged from other side

Identification with the dying and rising


of Jesus and symbolic of a changing of
life.

n From about 200 CE (Tertullian, Christian writer):


Candidate fasted
Answered questions about Christian faith
Renounced Satan
Immersed 3 times
Anointed with oil (signifying spirit of God coming upon the candidate)
Followed be meal of milk and honey, showing that the new Christian, united with Jesus, had
reached the promised land.

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n Echoes of Christian baptism in Jewish scriptures:


stories of the Flood (Genesis 7-8)
passage through the Red Sea (exodus 14)
crossing of the Jordan River to the promised land (Joshua 3:16)

Importance of Early Baptism


n The early Christians saw Baptism as a gift of the Holy Spirit, a special moment of grace and
blessing where the individual was transformed changed into a new creature who was focused on
serving Christ and becoming closer to him.
n Christian scriptures inform that baptism is important for the following reasons:

Necessary for salvation

Must be preceded by faith (Acts 8:13) and repentance (Acts 8:38)

Administered in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

Allows believers to:


o Participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:4)
For surely you know that when we were baptised into union with Christ Jesus, we were
baptised into union with his death. By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and
shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of
the Father, so also we might live a new life (Romans 6: 3-4)
o To form part of the body of Christ
In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been
baptised into one body by the same spirit, and we have all been given the one spirit to
drink (1 Corinthians 12:13)
o To be cleansed of sins
you have been purified from sin; you have been dedicated
to God; you have been put right with God by the Lord Jesus
Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Cyprian being baptised in Carthage 246 CE

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Approaches to Baptism
Anglican
Roman Catholic
Lutheran
Orthodox
Uniting Church

infant baptism
and all follow baptismal procedure below

Elements of Baptism

Can be performed by priest, minister or deacon.


Generally celebrated during / following Sunday worship.

Stages within the celebration of the rite of Baptism:


1. Reception of the Child
Welcoming rite
Questioning of parents / godparents / sponsor willingness to have child (or
sponsored adult) baptised and responsibilities
Signing by priest / minister, parents and godparents of the child or adult with the
sign of the cross. This recognises (i) the primary role of parents in the training of the
child in the practice of the faith and (ii) the role of godparents in supporting the
parents in their role as faith educators.

2. Celebration of Gods Word


Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word and readings from the Bible.

3. Celebration of the Sacrament


Exorcism, followed by anointing with oil.
Blessing of baptismal water.
Parents renunciation of sin followed by profession of faith (Apostles Creed)
Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and anointing with Oil
of Chrism (as a sign of being part of the boy of Christ)
Clothing with a white garment (symbol of purity) and the giving of the candle (in the
Catholic church, this is lit from the Easter candle as a reminder of the risen Christ)
Optional rite of blessing of the ears and mouth (ephphatha) links to Jesus healing of
a deaf and mute man (Mark 7:32-35)

4. Conclusion
Conclusion with Lords Prayer
Final blessing parents are blessed
Intercessions said to strengthen the faith of those present (important at the rite of
Baptism recognises that the faith of he infant in nurtured within a faith community).

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Variations
n Orthodox:
Infant baptised by total triple immersion (invoking Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
Followed by chrismation (anointing of oil) of forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, breast,
hands, feet with words proclaiming he seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Infant given small piece of bread and sip of wine as first Eucharistic experience.
n Baptist, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Wesleyan, Assembly of God, Adventists:
Do not acknowledge infant baptism or baptism in another church.
Focus on adult baptism, as it is not possible to baptise infants who do not understand enough
the concepts of repentance and faith necessary for baptism.
Practice total immersion.
n 2004 document, Australian Churches Covenanting Together, the following churches agreed to
recognise the sacrament of Baptism administered in each others church: Anglican, Congregational,
Antiochian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Uniting
Church.

Adult baptism - St. Nicholas Episcopal church


Southeast Florida

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How Baptism expresses the basic beliefs of Christianity (1)


Baptism is linked to Christian beliefs about:

Spiritual rebirth

Cleansing and purification in Christ

Jesus announced the need for spiritual rebirth through water and the Spirit in his conversation with
Nicodemus, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit (John 3: 5-8)
you have been purified from sin; you have been dedicated to God; you have been put right with God by
the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:11)
those baptised are pardoned, cleansed and sanctified by Christ World Council of Churches,
Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Geneva, 1982, page 2.

Admission into the Christian church

Faith in the Holy Trinity

Faith in the power of the Holy Spirit

The need for salvation, faith and repentance

Participation in the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ

Jesus commanded his disciples to baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew
28:19).
God bestows upon all baptised persons the anointing and the promise of the Holy Spirit, marks them with a
seal The Holy Spirit nurtures the life of faith in their hearts until the final deliverance when they will enter
into its full possession, to the praise and glory of God. World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and
Ministry, Geneva, 1982, page 2.

The necessity of faith for the reception of the salvation is embodied and set forth in baptism is acknowledged
by all churches. Personal commitment is necessary for responsible membership in the body of Christ. World
Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Geneva, 1982, page 3.

For surely you know that when we were baptised into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptised into union
with his death. By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as
Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life (Romans
6: 3-4)
Fully identified with the death of Christ, (the baptised) are buried with him and are raised here and now to a
new life in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, confident that they will also ultimately be one with
him in a resurrection like his, World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Geneva, 1982,
page 2.

Forgiveness of sins

By baptism, Christians are immersed in the liberating death of Christ where their sins are buried, where the
old Adam is crucified with Christ, and where the power of in is broken. Thus hose baptised are no longer
slaves to sin, but free. World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Geneva, 1982, page
2.

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How Baptism expresses the basic beliefs of Christianity (2)

Scriptural links:
Mark 10:38
Through his Passover, Christ opened up to all humanity the fountain of baptism. Baptism is linked to
Passover and the Passion. In some churches the blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of
Christ symbolise baptism and Eucharist, the rituals or sacraments of new life.
Romans 6
Three elements that sum up Pauls understanding of baptism - it is in Christ Jesus; it is in the Holy
Spirit; it helps create Christian community.
Romans 8:1-17
Union with Christ in baptism involves reception of the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God.
Romans 8:29
Through baptism the Christian is sealed with a spiritual mark that cannot be erased. They then
belong to Christ even if sin prevents then from achieving the full fruits of their baptism.
1 Corinthians 10:112
Baptism is an exodus from slavery to new life in God.
1 Corinthians 12:1 3; Galatians 3:27-28
Baptism is a liberation of our humanity that allows us to overcome barriers of division based on sex,
race or social status.
As they grow in the Christian life of faith, baptised believers demonstrate that humanity can be regenerated
and liberated. They have a common responsibility, here and now, to bear witness together to the Gospel of
Christ, the Liberator of all human beings. World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry,
Geneva, 1982, page 4.

1 Peter 2:5
Baptism allows us to become living stones to be built into a spiritual house, and to share in the
common priesthood of all believers.
Council of Florence (1438-1445)
Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door that
gives access to all other sacraments.

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The significance of baptism for the individual and the Christian


community
Since baptism is intimately connected with the corporate life and worship of the Church, it should
normally be administered during public worship, so that members of the congregation may be reminded
of their own baptism and may welcome into their fellowship those who are baptised and whom they are
committed to nurture in the Christian faith.
World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Geneva, 1982, page 7.

The significance of baptism for the individual

Baptism is significant for the individual because


it initiates them into the Christian life.
introduces them to life guided by the Holy Spirit.
gives them access to any other rites or sacraments offered by their particular church.
In addition
it frees them from sin.
allows them to be reborn as a son or daughter of God.
they also become members of Christ and are incorporated into the church and therefore
share in its mission.
to some degree, the individual, as they mature, also shares in the rich heritage of baptismal
scriptural texts and in the equally rich symbolism typically used in the baptism ritual.
the Red Sea crossing, the Flood, the
death and resurrection of Christ

the water, oil, new garment and candle

For example, the candle, lit from the Easter or Paschal candle, reminds them that Christ has
enlightened or illuminated them, and that they are to become the light to the world (Matthew 5:14).
The individual also finds an ever-growing significance in the sacred gestures and words that form
part of the baptism rite:

the sign of the cross


the proclamation of Gods Word in the
Scriptures
the gathered assembly that witnesses the
baptism

the Trinitarian blessing


the anointing with sacred chrism and/or oil

The significance of baptism for the Christian community


Baptism is significant for the Christian community in all of the above ways. The major difference is
that the individual is personally involved in the baptism rite for the first time, whereas the members
of the community have completed their rite of initiation and welcome and witness the baptism of the
new adherent into their church community.
The Christian community is aware that baptism is the sacrament of faith and helps the individuals
faith to grow. In many churches, the baptised person, along with the entire Christian community,
renew their baptismal promises each year either in the form of a recital of the Creed, or during the
Easter liturgy. Baptism finds added communal significance through the role of the sponsors or
godparents - firm believers and witnesses, who assist the newly baptised child or adult, on the
winding road of the Christian life. Indeed, the entire Christian community bears some responsibility
for the faith life of the newly baptised Christian. That is why many Christian Churches insist that
announcements of impending baptisms and the actual rite of baptism take place during their official
Sunday worship, when the whole Christian community is gathered.
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Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist in the River Jordan

Orthodox baptism full immersion of infant three times

Roman Catholic baptism

Baptist Church example of full immersion adult baptism


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