Saturday, March 16, 2013


This week our church secretary sent out an e-mail to congregation members to let us know there is a young boy who is getting baptized tomorrow. To Christians, baptism is a very big deal, a very happy big deal. At our church, if we know about it ahead of time, we do something special.

First of all, there are men in our congregation who make these beautiful baptismal chests.

Isn't that pretty? I know they try to keep ahead of the demand as it would be rather tough to whip one of these beauties out at the last moment. I don't know how long this has been the tradition in this congregation, but I think it is really special.

The rest of us bring gifts, then, to place in the chest. When we arrive at church tomorrow one of these chests will be right up front. As people arrive we will see some of them going up front to deposit a gift for the young boy who is getting baptized.  At the end of the service he and his family may gather around the chest for photographs, marking the special occasion. When they go home tomorrow, the chest and gifts go with them. Won't that be a special reminder to him, perhaps a lifelong reminder, of the day he was baptized?

Baptism is done many different ways within Christian Churches. Some of the differences are based on traditions. For example, giving this baptismal chest and gifts is a tradition within our congregation. It isn't something we've read about in the Bible; it is just something we do to celebrate a joyful event. Some of the differences are based on varying theological understandings of Biblical accounts of baptism.  This accounts for such differences as sprinkling versus immersion and infant versus someone old enough to make the decision for themselves.  Mike and I spent hours and hours discussing these differences, even when we were dating, as we come from different denominational backgrounds. 

Most Christians agree, though, that baptism is very important and very special. I've heard baptism compared to adoption. People have said that the day you are baptized is the day you are adopted into God's family, the day you become a Child of God. It isn't quite that simple, I suppose, given that we believe everything, including ourselves, belongs to God in the first place. However, I think it is a fairly good way to explain baptism to someone who is new to Christianity.

I am not a theologian. Although raised in the church, I have never attended a Bible College or Seminary. I do have a theologian in residence as my husband has both a Bible College and Seminary degree. As I write this post, he is sitting right here in the same room with me, easily accessible. However, I am recklessly tackling this subject without his help. As far as he knows, I am furiously typing out cute granddaughter stories. So, if you landed here by googling "baptism" and were hoping for some deep theological insights, you may be disappointed.  I can tell you a few things, though.

Baptism is done in obedience to God's Word. That is to say, the Bible tells us we should do this so we do.  

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19 (NIV) 

That is one of the verses that tells us to do it. To be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (we'll talk about the Trinity another day) is a command. We who are disciples of Christ, meaning His followers, want to do this out of obedience. We don't do it in secret, either. We want others to know that we are His followers.

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” I Corinthians 6:11 (NIV) 

Baptism is also a washing away of our sin. Do people sin even after they are baptized? Yes, of course. With our human understanding of time you may think we are to be baptized over and over again, each time we sin. Nope. As children of God we are able to repent and claim this forgiveness of sin over and over and over. I would think that must get so tedious for God, but his love for us is big enough to handle it.

Baptism points to the fact that we are to die to ourselves. Our will is no longer paramount. It is so hard to remember and to live this way, but Christians really do want God's will to be what matters, not our own. We love our Lord and he loves us. HIS love is so pure, so complete, we are overwhelmed by it. Dying to ourselves is not a sad thing, it is a great thing. This next verse means a lot to me.  

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”Galatians 2:20 (NIV)  

My firm belief is that as a baptized child of God, I have Christ living within me. What could be better than that? This is a great heritage to claim!

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