With the diversity of backgrounds in our community at Rivertree, the topic of baptism periodically comes up during our Discover Lunch, baptism services or as new families connect with our church. Having experienced a "believer's baptism" is also part of our membership process. So, what is baptism? What does it mean, and why do we practice it?
What is baptism?
Baptism is a beautiful and important aspect of Christian devotion and outward display of a commitment to Christ. The practice of baptism in the New Testament was administered only to those who made a profession of faith in Jesus. This is what we mean by "believer's baptism", that the person getting baptized believes that "Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead" (Romans 10:9). People in the New Testament were baptized by being immersed or put completely under water and brought back up. The Greek word baptizo means "to plunge, dip or immerse" something in water. So, this is how we practice baptism at Rivertree- by immersion.
What does baptism mean?
There are several different meanings, symbols and things of which we are reminded when we think about baptism. First, it is an act of obedience to Jesus' command and follows his example. Jesus himself was baptized and instructed his disciples to baptize those who would come to faith after his ascension in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptism is also a symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism represents death of our old man and our new life in Christ. So, baptism is also a symbol of what God has accomplished in the life of a believer through the cleansing of sin. Baptism is a symbol of the spiritual change that God has worked in our lives, the transition from spiritual and eternal death to spiritual and eternal life. It is moving from hopelessness into hopefulness, from darkness into light, and from slavery to sin to freedom in Christ. In baptism, we symbolically express our acceptance of death with Christ, putting an end to our old way of life and rising with Christ to begin a new kind of life in Him. In doing so, baptism expresses our new identity in Christ.
Why do we still practice baptism?
Baptism is a public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. In baptism, we express, with our whole body, our heart’s acceptance of Christ’s Lordship. Becoming a Christian involves the body as well as the heart. In conversion, the heart is freed from sin to be enslaved to God. Since the Lordship of Christ lays claim to our whole body, it is fitting for us to express our surrender to His Lordship with our whole body. Baptism gives expression to the fact that we belong to God and that we are part of his body, the church. We still practice baptism because Jesus taught that it is part of discipleship, it gives believers the opportunity to publicly declare faith in Christ, and it edifies the entire church when they hear the story of the one getting baptized and witness his or her faith in Jesus.
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