One of the more unique characteristics of the Riverlawn community of faith is its make-up. While it represents the confessional faith of the Presbyterian Church (USA), its members come from a very wide range of backgrounds. Many of the individuals and families in the congregation grew up in different faith traditions: Catholic, Methodist, Baptist – the list goes on. Others were raised with no faith. But what does any of this have to do with baptism? A great deal actually. With these backgrounds come a great deal of questions. “Is baptism necessary to make it into heaven?” “Why do we baptize babies?” “What is a sacrament anyway?” Let’s take a look at some of these:
What Is Baptism?
We believe that baptism is one of the two sacraments Jesus commanded his followers to practice (The Lord’s Supper is the other one). A sacrament is defined as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Just as circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant promises in the OT, baptism is a sign of the new covenant in the NT (Col 2:11f; Ps 103:17f).
Why Be Baptized?
Is it necessary for salvation? No, the Bible makes it clear that the thief of the cross (Lk 23:39ff) who professed faith in Christ was promised salvation without being baptized. Is baptism necessary to remove original sin? Eph 2:4-10 makes it clear that by grace through faith in Christ our sins have been removed – no work, not even baptism, can remove our sins from us except our faith in the atoning death of Christ. We are baptized because Christ commanded it of his disciples (Mt 28:19-20).
Who Can Be Baptized?
Adult followers of Jesus – his disciples – can certainly be baptized. Because the children of believers have a special relationship to God (1 Cor 7:14), Presbyterians believe that the children of an adult member can also be baptized.
Why Do We Baptize Children?
Basically, there are three reasons from the Bible and one from tradition. 1) Since the OT covenant was sealed in the sign of circumcision for male children, we believe the NT sign of God’s covenant also extends to children (Col 2:11-12). 2) Jesus showed us that his attitude was to welcome children who were brought to him (Mt 19:13-15) and we, his people, should welcome them too. 3) In Acts 16:30-34, we read that when the head of the household came to faith, the whole household was baptized. We take that to include children. 4) The practice of baptizing the children of believers stretches back to the 2nd century Church.
What Happens In Baptism?
A helpful analogy (though not a perfect one) is that in baptism, God gives us a blank check (Eph 1:13-14). That check will only make a difference in our life if we endorse it and cash it. Children need to be taught to accept the faith and receive all the blessings which come from a life given over to Jesus Christ (1 Cor 12:13). Baptism will begin a journey of faith for your child. While the church will help you keep the vows made in baptism, parents still play the most important role. You can help your child’s faith grow by your Christian example as well as biblical teaching and prayer.
How Can I Or My Child Be Baptized In This Church?
Adults who are ready to profess their faith in Christ and join the church should speak to the pastor about our new member’s class. It will be necessary to join the church to be baptized as an adult. Children may receive baptism as long as one of their parents/guardians is a member of the church. A meeting with the pastor will be arranged and a suitable date for the baptism will be planned. Since baptism is the sacrament that brings us into the church, all baptisms are normally part of a Sunday morning worship service.