Baptism / Christening
The word baptism comes from the Greek word ‘Baptizo’ (from Bapto) and means to immerse, or to overwhelm.
The church’s understanding of baptism has three aspects:
– Identification with Jesus Christ, – Openly joining the ranks of those who believe in Christ. – Proclaiming the gospel: died, buried and raised with Christ (Christianity.com).
Water has been an important symbol throughout biblical history: Noah and his family were saved from worldwide destruction through the waters of the flood; the Israelites under Moses gained their freedom from slavery through the waters of the Red Sea; the Israelites under Joshua entered the Promised Land through the waters of the Jordan River; Elisha began his ministry after the rapture of Elijah by passing through the waters of the Jordan; John the Baptist called for repentance to be shown through baptism in water; and every Christian since Jesus’ ascension has used baptism in water to show their repentance from sin and faith in Christ. Jewish tradition even relates water baptism to Adam and Eve, thus: after being sent out of Eden, the only remaining taste of paradise afforded them was the water that flowed out from Eden, and they repented whilst sitting in the river (either Gihon or Euphrates) – Talmud Bechorot 55a.
Baptism is a public/congregational/denominational declaration of belief, a pledge of allegiance.
Romans 6: 3-4, “What are we saying then in baptism, if we are not declaring that we understand our union with Christ in his death? Baptism pictures how we were co-buried together with Christ in his death; then it powerfully illustrates how in God’s mind we are co-raised with Christ into a new lifestyle.” (see also Hosea 6:2)
Colossians 2: 11-12, “You were in Christ when he died which means that his death represents your true circumcision. Sin’s authority in the human body was deleted in him dying your death. In the same parallel ( your co-circumcision in his death), your co-burial and joint resurrection is now demonstrated in baptism; your co-inclusion in Christ is what God’s faith knew when he powerfully raised him from the dead.”
Ephesians 4: 5 There is only one legitimate Lordship ; one faith and one Baptism, we are all immersed in the same Oneness.
Francois du Toit (A commentary on Ephesians 4:5) “John’s baptism announces the incarnation : yet it communicates a mere prophetic picture of what Jesus’ spirit baptism will fully interpret of mankind’s co-inclusion and joint immersion into his death, resurrection and ascension. In the incarnation we have the prophetic word on exhibit, intercepting human history by assuming human form; thus we see divinity immersed into our mankind and declaring that there would be no stopping him from entering into our hell and deepest darkness. In dying our death, God would bring closure to every destructive mindset and futile fruit we inherit from Adam’s fall. Just as he was raised out of the water in his baptism, we would be co-elevated together with him in his resurrection into newness of life.”
And just as God was immersed in humanity through Jesus, so we are immersed in the Godhead through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
So, how much water do you need to be baptised? The obvious answer according to the definitions would be, “enough to be immersed”. Is the ritual of sprinkling then sufficient? Yes, if insufficient water is available, but bearing in mind that the ritual of baptism is a declaration of the belief that one is totally immersed in and through the Oneness of Christ (John 17), not a physical washing, and therefore the amount of water is not really an issue.
Is baptism needed for salvation? Baptism is certainly important as required of every believer . However the NT does not teach that baptism is necessary for salvation (For example: being saved before baptism (Acts 10: 44-48); the thief on the cross with Jesus).
Baptism is for whom? If we accept that baptism is a declaration of belief, then we must assume that one must be capable of making such a decision. This would then make baptism of babies/infants false. We believe that the rite of dedication is more acceptable for these individuals. This aligns with the dedication of Jewish babies and the rite of circumcision, not baptism (Jesus was dedicated/circumcised on the eighth day, presented at age 12, baptised at age 30).
Who can officiate in baptism? Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. This was spoken to the disciples and subsequently to all, by Jesus. Does the Bible provide any details regarding who can perform a baptism?
First, it is obvious that a person who baptises someone else should be a Christian. A person who is an atheist or belongs to another religious group should not be baptising Christians.
Second, church leaders traditionally baptised people in the New Testament. This was not limited to elders or pastors, but also included missionaries like Paul and his associates who performed baptisms during their missionary activities. The church leader Philip also baptised an Ethiopian in Acts 8:36-39.
Third, the Great Commission was originally given to those with Jesus before He ascended to heaven, but applies to all believers. It teaches that we are to make disciples of all nations, baptising them… (Matthew 28:19).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Many Christians have an understanding of having an experience known as ‘being baptised in the Spirit’. This implies an immersion by the Holy Spirit and is usually understood as a further baptism, empowering the believer with gifts of the Spirit not previously manifested, such as speaking in tongues. But do not the scriptures tell us that on the day of Pentecost that the Spirit was poured out on all flesh? This would indicate that the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ occurred some 2000 years ago, as a recreation of the waters at the original creation. Mirror: 1 Cor 12: 13, “For in one spirit we were all immersed into one body; Jew and Gentile alike, whether we were slave or free is no longer relevant, we are all saturated into one spirit . We are drinking from the same fountain.” One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5).
So what do our experiences of ‘being baptised in the Spirit’ mean? All children are born with certain, but differing, giftings. As they mature and experience life, these giftings manifest and can be perfected with practice. This is how we believe the giftings of the Holy Spirit, usually associated with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, are manifested. As the natural gifts in children need nurturing by more mature persons or peers, so too we find that the gifts of the Spirit may need to be introduced and nurtured by other more experienced Christians.