Got Baptism?

By Pastor Jeremy Vogt

 

On Sunday, April 5th (Resurrection Sunday) we will be celebrating baptism with 7 folks at Cariboo Bethel.  Baptism Sundays are (to me) the most precious and siginificant moments in our life together as a church family.  It is difficult to top the privilege of hearing the story of someone’s encounter with God’s grace through Jesus Christ. And that moment of baptism, when a person is dunked in water and symbolically immersed in Christ’s death and resurrection—Wow!
Yet some may wonder why we practice baptism at all. We don’t believe that baptism has any saving power, so why do we bother?  Isn’t baptism just an old fashioned religious ritual with little significance to our actual Christian life? And why would we waste a perfectly Good Easter Sunday with testimonies and baptisms?  Wouldn’t it be better to have a nice Easter pageant or an extra inspirational sermon?

 

Perhaps I’m just creating a straw man here, but I thought it might be useful to remind ourselves of the meaning and importance of baptism.  Listen to our Confession of Faith on the subject:

 

We believe that when people receive God’s gift of salvation, they are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of having been cleansed from sin. It is a covenant with the church to walk in the way of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Baptism by water is a public sign that a person has repented of sins, received forgiveness of sins, died with Christ to sin, been raised to newness of life, and received the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of the believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ as expressed in the local church. Baptism is also a pledge to serve Christ according to the gifts given to each person.

(To study up on our Confession of Faith, click HERE. And, here are some more scripture passages to study.)

Let’s examine a few aspects of this confession. First, it’s clear that baptism is clearly instructed as an ongoing practice for followers of Jesus. In Matthew 28:18-20, during Jesus’ final instructions to his newly trained group of church planters, Jesus commands them to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirt…” Christians are called to baptize those who decide to follow Jesus based on the message of the Good News that we share.  Christians throughout history have taken this instruction as a clear command to continue the practice of actual water baptism as a sign of our immersion into the death and life of Jesus Christ and into the life of the Trinity.

 

In Acts 2:38, toward the end of Peter’s famous first sermon the diverse group of Jews who want to be saved ask Him what they should do. Peter replies this way: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter instructed the new believers to express their commitment to following Jesus with the public sign of baptism. 

 

Second, you may have noticed that our confession says repeatedly that baptism is a ‘sign’.  It is a sign of our cleansing through Jesus, it is a public sign of repentance from sin, it is a sign that we have received forgiveness and new life, it is a sign that we have received the Holy Spirit, and it is a sign that we have been ‘incorporated’ into the Body of Christ.  This language helps us remember that baptism is an external picture of the internal saving work of Jesus in our lives.  Baptism is not a ritual that brings God’s approval. Baptism does not release any more of God’s grace to us. Baptism does not save us. It is a public sign for us to remember and for others to witness that these things have already happened by God’s kindness expressed to us through Jesus Christ.  The power of baptism is not saving power…but its power and significance comes as a public marker of our declaration that Jesus has saved us and that we are committing our lives to follow Him.

 

Third and finally, you might notice that baptism is not ‘just between me and God.’ We are firm in our understanding that baptism is a sign of the condition of our relationship with other believers.  Listen carefully to the powerful confession, “It is a covenant with the church to walk in the way of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit…. a sign of the believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ as expressed in the local church.” Baptism is first and foremost a public sign of your commitment to Jesus Christ. We must also remember the truth that baptism symbolises our belonging in the Body of Christ and declares our commitment to the local family of believers.  This is the reason that baptism is so tightly woven together with membership in Mennonite Brethren churches. 

 

When I am helping someone understand what baptism is, I often use the analogy of the wedding ring on my finger. The ring on my finger is a powerful external sign of a permanent internal commitment that I have made to stay faithfully married to Kara Joy.  The ring doesn’t MAKE me married, but it is a sign to everyone that I am married. Similarly, baptism is a powerful, external sign of our permanent internal commitment to Jesus Christ and to His family in the local church.

 

On Sunday, April 5th, you will have the privilege of watching 7 people ‘put on the wedding ring’ of baptism. You will witness and cheer as they declare their allegiance to Jesus and their allegiance to you, Cariboo Bethel Church. Let’s be in prayer for each of them, and let’s prepare for a wonderful morning filled with inspiration and celebration! 

 


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