In the first part of this series I wrote: “I am protesting anything that divides us as the Body of Christ … I protest anything that keeps us from working together to win souls for Christ … We are not in competition with each other, we are in competition with the Devil to win souls for Jesus Christ.”
Here in Part 2, I propose to begin a discussion about Baptism. Not all Christian groups have the same understanding of Baptism. But, are those differences worth fighting about? Some groups practice only “believer’s baptism”, meaning the person being baptized must be of an age of accountability (can understand what is going on).
Others baptize infants, then require Confirmation once the child reaches an age of accountability. Some practice re-baptism as a means of washing away recent sins, or as an initiation rite into the local church.
In past centuries, wars have been fought over what form of baptism is “the right way”. Many Christians today judge and divide one another based on baptismal practices. What is baptism, and why do Christians practice it?
At Matthew 28:19, Jesus is recorded as saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
A disciple is a student. The first instruction is to make students of people from all walks of life. The second instruction is to baptize them in the Name of the Triune God. The third instruction is to teach them to obey God.
When we baptize an infant, we are accepting that soul into the family of God. This is a sign of the God that loved you before you knew God existed. As part of the Service of Baptism for infants and those unable to speak for themselves, the entire congregation agrees to “do all in our power to support [the baptized person] in their life in Christ”.
When the child reaches the age of accountability, they are invited to accept what was done for them before they knew what was happening. At that point, the baptized person must be willing to acknowledge the presence of God in their life.
When a person able to speak for themselves is baptized, it is believed they have made an informed decision to follow Christ and make Him King and Lord of their life. In any case, the expectation is that the baptized person will study and learn how to follow Christ.
Re-baptism is often practiced as a means of “washing away sin”. The risk in that is the belief that God may not have done the job the first time, or that sin can wash away the grace of God. I do not believe either is the case.
In every case, we are called to make disciples, not to judge who is worthy of being a disciple.
Blessings and Peace to You All,
Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. St. Andrew's worship service is at 10 a.m., every Sunday, and broadcast on KWXC 88.9 FM at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.