Monday: Baptism
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The New Testament uses several images to describe what baptism means.

Image © Ain Vares from GoodSalt.com

First, baptism symbolizes a spiritual union with Christ (Rom. 6:3-8), involving participation in His suffering, death, and resurrection, as well as the renunciation of one’s former lifestyle. In this way, baptism is linked with repentance and the forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38); the new birth and reception of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13); and, consequently, entrance into the church (Acts 2:4147).

Baptism symbolizes a covenantal and spiritual relationship with God through Christ (Col. 2:11-12). Baptism represents what circumcision represented in the Old Testament. And, too, baptism symbolizes a transfer of loyalties, one that places a person into a community that is consecrated to the service of Christ. The reception of the Spirit in baptism enables believers to serve the church and work for the salvation of those who are not yet of the faith (Acts 1:58).

Several years ago the Joint Committee of the Church of England on Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion made an impressive admission. The statement said that ‘the recipients of Baptism were normally adults and not infants; and it must be admitted that there is no conclusive evidence in the New Testament for the Baptism of infants.”-Baptism and Confirmation Today (London: SCM, 1955), p. 34, quoted by Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988), p. 1102. The meaning of baptism precludes infants as legitimate candidates, because biblical baptism requires faith and repentance on the part of the participants. Also, the idea of the role of the Word of God in the development of faith (Rom. 10:17indicates that repentance must be coupled with biblical and spiritual instruction. These elements are necessary in order for candidates to bring forth ‘fruits worthy of repentance’ (Luke 3:8as evidence of their relationship with Christ.

The nature of baptism helps us to understand the difference between an ordinance and a sacrament. Baptism, according to those who see it as a sacrament, is the means that brings about the transformation in a person from spiritual death to life. In this understanding, the age of the person doesn’t matter, because it’s all a supernatural event anyway. On the other hand, baptism as an ordinance is an indication or symbol of an internal change (a supernatural event) that has already occurred in the life of the believer by way of his or her experience with Jesus. In this view, candidates for baptism ought to have already experienced faith in Christ; therefore, the question of who is baptized, and when, becomes very important.

If you have been baptized, think back upon the experience. When you understand what it means, why (in a sense) do we need to be ‘baptized’ every day? How can this be accomplished?

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Monday: Baptism — 19 Comments

  1. I am thankful that I was taught the right way to go through the baptism ritual which is biblically correct. The Bible is crystal clear that the candidate who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16).

    The Bible puts the doctrine of baptism in perspective and is indisputable or to be doubtful, however, is it for real and am I reading correctly the last paragraph in part it reads, "as the age of the person doesn’t matter"? Am I misconstruing something here? Certainly I need clarity what implies by, "age of a person is not a matter"! My take on that statement is, it has wrong connotations. One statement can distort the entire scope of the doctrine of baptism.

    [MODERATOR NOTE: the quote he is referencing to is found in the second to last paragraph not the last]

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    • The statement was comparing the belief that baptism is a sacrament and therefore effective even if the one being baptised is a small child, with our belief that baptism is an ordinance, and therefore a person has to be able to understand what they are doing in order to be baptised. If baptism is a sacrament and works because it is done in the right way, then the age of the person doesn't matter. That is not our view, but the one held by most churches.

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    • From email correspondence it is apparent that the way the lesson is presented appears to be a bit confusing for some people, particularly the following:

      The nature of baptism helps us to understand the difference between an ordinance and a sacrament. Baptism, according to those who see it as a sacrament, is the means that brings about the transformation in a person from spiritual death to life. In this understanding, the age of the person doesn’t matter, because it’s all a supernatural event anyway.

      We need to be clear that Adventist teaching does not regard baptism as a sacrament. The author is simply presenting it as a view that differs from Adventist teaching. He points out that "in this understanding," i.e. the understanding of baptism as a sacrament, "The age of the person doesn't matter." That's why churches that accept the view of baptism as a sacrament perform infant baptisms.

      The author then goes on to present the Adventist understanding in the rest of the paragraph:

      On the other hand, baptism as an ordinance is an indication or symbol of an internal change (a supernatural event) that has already occurred in the life of the believer by way of his or her experience with Jesus. In this view, candidates for baptism ought to have already experienced faith in Christ; therefore, the question of who is baptized, and when, becomes very important.

      As some of our comments indicate, this change in the life can happen relatively early in life, and setting a specific age limit may not be best. From what I have observed, it seems to me that when such a commitment by a young person is not followed up on, it can serve to undermine the experience of a young person and thus contribute to a falling away from the faith later on.

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    • My question is for baptism of children younger than 11 or 12 years of age.

      My grandson is 6yrs old. He is very bright, he knows who Jesus is, He can resite all the books of the bible. He can complete the children's bible study.
      He wants to be baptized. He also can ask questions that makes me wonder does he really understand enough. Am I wrong to tell him that he is not ready for baptism?

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      • I do not think you are wrong to tell your grandson that he is not ready. I wish we had some kind of interim baptism, a step that could be taken by children that was not "baptism", but a commitment to the Lord (a step toward baptism that holds import and acknowledges their love and promise to God). We can't vote, get married or get a driver's license until we are much older than 12 or 13. Perhaps
        baptism should happen when you are, at least, 18.

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      • Ooh! bibi (swahili word for grand ma) today's lesson is clear about your question, for us the question is who is to be baptised and when should he/she be baptised. One should be able to understand and internalise that baptism is more than just going down into water, it should be accompanied with true repantance and am afraiding if your grand son real understand these complex teachings as in Romans 6:3-8 at his age and cognitive ability. Never the less our fundamental believe is straight forward that the age is important for one to be baptised. Ahsante(thanks)

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  2. In response to Martha's question about her 6year old grandson: I was 9 when my minister father baptized me 50 years ago. I still remember that Sabbath afternoon vividly. I remember the feeling of peace and being in the very presence of God. After all these years I understand more theology, have more maturity, etc., but at 9 I understood enough to be baptized: Jesus loved me, He died for me, I loved Him.

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  3. Colossians 2:11-12 in the New Living Version of the Bible states "When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
    This is a beautiful way of expressing what baptism is. Firstly, it says when you came to Christ,this suggest a conscious deliberate act on our part and an awareness of what one is doing. Coming to Christ mean that we understand and have decided to follow Jesus. The text also mentioned the cutting away, not physically but spiritually, of our sinful nature. A mental engagement in this process is not optional. Baptism as a sacrament would suggest that it is the process of baptism that effect the change in our lives. This is not the case,rather it is the Holy Spirit that make us aware of sin and that leads us to repentance and baptism. The understanding of baptism in terms of ordination, suggests that baptism is part of a sequence of events that results, naturally, from a transforming encounter with Jesus. It is therefore a symbol and in and of itself, has no power to change lives.

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  4. Thanks to all for being a part of the SSNET Sabbath School family and for contributing your thoughts.

    Martha, I was 7 when I was baptised. 40 years later I can remember lying in bed in the middle of the night, thinking about the cross and deciding to give my life to Jesus. I got up in the middle of the night and went into my parents room and woke them up to tell them. They were happy but told me we could talk about it in the morning. Looking back, I guess I was not going to be baptised that night anyway so there was no reason to wake them up. After my baptism I remained very active in the church, and am today a lay pastor, full time paid Bible Worker, elder etc. Looking back I could tell the pastor was not excited about baptising me at 7. I found out I was right, when I met him again last spring. I asked if he remembered me. He said, "yes. We baptised you a little early didn't we." I told him no. Ever since I have always been in love with Jesus and have never left the church.

    Today, what I do in your case, with a 6 year old, is I give them a baptism workbook to complete. That will show the family and me how serious they are about baptism and how much they understand. This is very rare. I have only baptised 1 or 2 people under the age of ten. I also, regardless of age, ask why they want to be baptised and what baptism means. This helps me and the family, to determine if they are really ready or not.

    The last time I did this it took the child, who was under ten, a few months to complete the workbook, which was not hard, and did not really take that long, but it gave him time to grow and mature so that by the time the baptism took place he was really ready and it was very meaningful.

    It bothers me when parents expect their kids to be perfect and understand everything before they can be baptised, especially since no adult is perfect or understands everything before they can be baptised.

    Remember Joel 2 tells us in the last days God's Spirit will be poured out in little children, and I am sure your child can be one of those children too.

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  5. Baptism as Symbol of Inware Cleansing

    In this discussion I would like to add some comments on baptism from the first epistle of Peter. The apostle uses the flood at the time of Noah as a symbol of inward cleansing in baptism (1 Peter 3:20-21). The central point is a "good conscience" (vs. 21) which is a purified conscience. The source of this inward cleansing is the "sprinkling of Christ`s blood" in behalf of the baptismal candidate, even after baptism (1 Peter 1:2). Christ`s death is the foundation of such inward cleansing.

    However, it is the risen Lord who purifies the sin and guilt stricken conscience. It is "an appeal", an intensified request, from the baptismal candidate "to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ"... (1 Peter 3:21 English Standard Version). No longer is the once guilt loaded conscience burdened with a beavy load of sin. Exalted to the throne of God (vs. 22), the risen Lord takes away the heavy weight from off our shoulders and cleanses our conscience with his own atoning blood before, at and after baptism. This ordinance reminds us of God`s unmerited grace in Jesus Christ offered to us every day anew.

    Winfried Stolpmann

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  6. It is important to establish an understanding of baptism and the role it plays in salvation irrespective of age. My daughter, at the age of seven, understood that all her family members were baptised and were going to go with Jesus when he comes and she had no intention of being left behine. Growing in a christian environment allowed her to continue increasing in her understanding of the process and other doctrines.

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    • Thank you, Neville, for sharing your experience and your daughter's. It is true that when persons as young as seven are baptized, it is extremely important for persons more experienced in the faith (ideally the parents) to follow through and help guide and nurture the young person in the faith.

      But perhaps we should do more of that even for older "babes in Christ." It is just possible that a convert aged 60 may need just as much nurturing. If we were more diligent in this nurturing, perhaps the rate of "apostasy" would not be so high.

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  7. I believe that, as it is with every doctrine, also the meaning of baptism should be explained by us in the light of the gospel. And it is not difficult to understand the significance of baptism if we take into consideration the following Bible texts:
    Romans 6:6: Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with.
    Romans 6:8: Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.
    Colossians 3:3: For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
    Muslim scholars accuse protestant Christians (including us) of proclaiming an unethical gospel, because in their opinion the Law of God would never allow someone righteous (Jesus) to die instead of condemned and guilty sinners. And in order to prove their point they quote Deuteronomy 24:16.
    There are two ways we can answer this accusation and solve this theological problem. The first one is found in the following quote from our present Sabbath School Lessons 'Growing in Christ' (Lesson 5, October 27-November 2):
    "From the New Testament’s point of view, Christ’s redemptive death is substitutionary. He took our place... Though some reject this idea because they don't like the notion of someone suffering in place of another (especially in the place of someone who is guilty), that’s the heart and soul of the gospel message".
    The second answer is found in the above mentioned Bible verses and especially in 2Cor 5:14: "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died".
    So, when Muslim scholars accuse us of proclaiming an unethical gospel we can quote the above verse and say, 'You are wrong, because according to our gospel, not only One died instead of all but also all died in One! It means that we were actually punished in Jesus, and thus the righteous demands of the law were met (Romans 8.4), and the gospel remains ethical!'
    In 1896 professor Prescott wrote in The Bible Echo the following words, which according to Ellen White were inspired by Holy Spirit:
    "Jesus Christ had exactly the same flesh that we bear, — flesh of sin, flesh in which we sin, flesh, however, in which He did not sin. We were all in Jesus Christ. He was our representative; He became flesh; He became we. All humanity was brought together in Jesus Christ. He suffered on the cross, then, it was the whole family in Jesus Christ that was crucified".
    Knowing this it is not difficult to understand the meaning of baptism in the light of the gospel:
    Romans 6: 3-4 (New King James Version):
    3. Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
    4. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    If we already died in Christ and with Him two thousand years ago, if “our old man died in Christ” than what should be done next with this dead “old man”?
    Whenever in this world someone dies what do people do with the dead body of that person?
    They burry it! Likewise, because we also died in Christ, so what needs to be done with our dead old man?
    Our old condemned man who died in Christ needs to be berried!
    So what is baptism? Baptism is a burial of our old condemned man and life that already died in Christ two thousand years ago!

    Now, is it lawful to burry anyone who is still alive, who didn't die?
    No, it is a horrible crime, and we would go to prison for life for doing this!
    However, the sad truth is, that unfortunately, millions of Christians all over the world, including me, were and still are buried alive! They were baptized without any knowledge and acceptance of their death in Christ. And this should be considered as a form of spiritual crime too.
    So let us stop burying people alive!

    Best Christian regards,
    Slawek

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    • So what should I think or do when the "old man" resurfaces. How much of the old man resurfaces to make "reburial" an appropiate action?

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  8. The lesson author speaks of "the reception of the Spirit in baptism." To me, that smacks of sacrament. If baptism is an ordinance, then it symbolises the fact that one has already received the Spirit.

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  9. The church still need to vote for baptismal candidates, is this to verify repentance as John did in the river Jordan when he asked Pharisees to show fruits of repentance and refused to baptize them?

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  10. I have always noticed in our church that the members were asked to raise there hand in acceptance of the one having been baptized AFTER the baptism. In all my years of observing baptism and having been baptized myself, I have never seen a church body vote them out. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) . I do believe that this asking for raise of hands, accepting the one that has already been baptized, is a vote of confidence for the newly reborn in Christ individual, rather than a vote to refuse church membership. When one is baptized and comes up-out of the water he/she is a new person in Christ. There is no question that the person has repented, from us as members stand point. Baptism is a symbol of Christ washing away all our sins, and consecrating ones life to Christ. There is a chapter in 'Steps to Christ' it would behoove you to read chapter 5 titled, consecration. Anyone who has access to the internet has access to 'Steps to Christ' (egwwritings.org), you will have to down load google chrome for it to work well.
    Again, I have no question of repentance when one has been baptized. I leave the judging to God, otherwise I would be practicing Pharacism, and that is not Biblical. I don't know of any true Christian congregation who has voted against a person's decision to go all the way with Christ.

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