Baptism Ė Part 1

Scriptures, Declarations and Responses


Selected Scriptures Undergirding the (UMC) Baptismal Covenant Our Response to Godís Grace We declare our intentions to be Christians The Church Responds Proclamation in accord with the universal and historic Church of Jesus Christ
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Battesimo della gente, (Baptism of the People), by Andrea del Sarto.  Click to enlarge. Wikimedia Commons.
"Battesimo della gente" (Baptism of the People), by Andrea del Sarto.
Click to enlarge. Wikimedia Commons.
(By the way, when you see someone with a staff in the shape of a cross,
baptizing in the wilderness, it's John the Baptist.)
Genesis 17:1-16, Selected Scriptures Undergirding the (UMC) Baptismal Covenant (1/8/18)

Godís gracious gift, offered without price: initiation into the family of God through the Old Covenant of circumcision and the New Covenant of baptism through water and the Spirit.

You may remember that about a year ago I said I was working on a "long study." It is shaping up to be several studies, and today we are starting one of them, on baptism. It probably shouldnít be the first one logically, but itís going to be the first one chronologically.

There are few things that all Christian denominations have in common, but one of them is baptism. We all baptize. Now, some of us baptize infants, and some of us baptize only believers. Some of us immerse, and some of us pour or sprinkle. The liturgies vary from denomination to denomination; some are ornate, and some consist of a profession of faith followed by the pastor saying, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (We all say that.)

Therefore, this study is based on the baptismal liturgy of the United Methodist Church, and more loosely on a booklet called This is Your Baptismal Liturgy . Weíll look at both the UMC liturgy and a selection of scriptures that undergird and direct it. Iím hoping that the words of our liturgy and the scriptures (and maybe my comments) will deepen your understanding of your own baptism and any that you participate in.

Our baptism initiates us into Godís covenant people. This week, weíll be reading scriptures that talk about two of the most important of the covenants that God has made with us. The sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and Sarah (commonly called the "Old Covenant" by Christians) is circumcision.


Isaiah 55:1-5; Jeremiah 31:31-34, Selected Scriptures Undergirding the (UMC) Baptismal Covenant (1/9/18)

The Old Covenant didnít work out Ė not because of anything God did or didnít do, but because of what his people did and didnít do. Under the covenant with Abraham, God said he would be their God and bless them, and their part was to worship him only and obey his commandments. The sign of this covenant was written in their flesh, that is, circumcision. After many centuries, it was clear that the people were determined to worship a lot of gods and disobey the commandments of their own God. They broke the covenant. Godís gracious response was to promise a new covenant, written on the heart and not in the flesh. Both covenants are Godís gift. The UMC baptismal liturgy puts it this way:

1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 11:23-25, Selected Scriptures Undergirding the (UMC) Baptismal Covenant (1/10/18)

At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted a "new covenant." The old covenant is kept in remembrance by circumcision, as God directed Abraham. The new covenant is kept in remembrance by the act and liturgy of communion, as Jesus directed his disciples. The covenants are gifts from God, and their meaning is revealed to us by the Spirit. The UMC baptismal liturgy says:
By the way, the letter to the Corinthians was probably written before the Gospels, so this account from Paul is likely to be the earliest written record we have of communion.


Hebrews 9:1-28, Selected Scriptures Undergirding the (UMC) Baptismal Covenant (1/11/18)

Remember that God initiated covenants with his people, and he gave them to us without price. That doesnít mean "without conditions." The chief condition was to love and worship God only. The writer of Hebrews points out that even in the old covenant there were subsidiary rules about the form and place of worship. An important rule was this: one sin, one sacrifice.

The new covenant, also given without price, has a critical change: all sins, one sacrifice. Jesus, through the Spirit, offered his own flesh and blood as a perfect and eternal sacrifice for the sins of us all. This covenant also has a condition, namely, we must believe in Jesus and accept his sacrifice on our behalf.


Acts 10:44-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8, Selected Scriptures Undergirding the (UMC) Baptismal Covenant (1/12/18)

The early Christians were all Jews, and they initially thought that the Messiah Jesus had been sent to the Jews only. After Peterís vision, and the undoubted evidence of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Gentiles of the family of the Roman Cornelius prior to baptism with water (Acts 10), the early Church began baptizing Gentiles without a qualm. Acts 16 tells about the baptisms of the Macedonians Lydia and her household and a jailer (whose name is not given) and his household. Without the testimony of the Spirit, these Gentiles would not have been accepted into the fledgling Church. Jews were also baptized, as we see in the story of Crispus, ruler of the synagogue in Corinth, and his household (Acts 18).

The UMC baptismal liturgy puts it this way:

John 15:12-17; Romans 4:13-25, Our Response to Godís Grace (1/15/18)

We saw last week that God has, from time to time, made covenants with his people. God gives us these covenants freely. How do we respond to these gifts? Our part is to accept the covenant for ourselves, and to love and obey God, through faith. The UMC baptismal liturgy (primarily for those who were baptized as infants) says,

Romans 5:6-11, 6:1-11, Our Response to Godís Grace (1/16/18)

We are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. We are dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ. Our response to Godís gift is to give up sin. In the words of the UMC baptismal liturgy, we

Ephesians 4:11-32, We declare our intentions to be Christians (1/17/18)

Becoming a Christian is fairly easy Ė weíll be going into that later this year, but mostly a profession of faith in Jesus Christ will do the trick. Being a Christian is hard work! At least for me it is; maybe itís easy for you to Iím still working on these and on most of the other characteristics of Christians that are described in the gospels and letters that make up the New Testament.

In the UMC baptismal liturgy, the candidate for baptism (or the parents of infants, speaking for themselves) renounce the forces of wickedness and repent of personal sin, accept Godís gift of freedom and power to resist evil, and confess Jesus Christ as Savior and trust in his grace. In other words, we vow to grow in every way to be like Christ.


2 Peter 1:1-11, We declare our intentions to be Christians (1/18/18)

As Christians, we vow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, not only to give up bad habits like falsehood and slander, but also to take on good habits, like virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Iím still working on these, too. Iím glad that Peter says "make every effort," and that he apparently expects this process to be gradual. Virtue depends at least in part on faith, knowledge depends at least in part on virtue, and so on.


Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25, The Church Responds: Promises of parents and sponsors (1/19/18)

God instructs us not only to love the LORD and obey his commandments, but also to teach our children to do so. The UMC baptismal liturgy recognizes this when it asks parents or sponsors of candidates not able to answer for themselves:

2 Corinthians 5:17-21, The Church Responds: Promises of adults who have experienced grace (1/22/18)

As members of Christís holy Church, we are new creations. We represent Christ to the world Ė whether we are doing a good job or not! If candidates for baptism in the UMC can speak for themselves, they are asked this question:
Pastor Craig emphasized this morning that ever since the resurrection, we are the body of Christ. This week, letís try to do a good job of representing Christís holiness.


Ephesians 2:1-10, The Church Responds: Promises of adults who have experienced grace (1/23/18)

We used to be dead in our sins, but baptism is the mark (not the magic) of Godís grace, which makes us alive again in Christ. The UMC baptismal liturgy asks us for a promise that we will be faithful members of the Church "according to the grace given to us." As "Christís representatives in the world," we should carry out the good works that God has prepared for us to do.


James 5:7-20, The Church Responds: Promises of sponsors for adults (1/24/18)

Not all adult candidates for baptism have sponsors; however, when sponsors come forth, they take on a special responsibility for the new brother or sister in Christ. They vow their support and encouragement. James says we must be an example of suffering and patience, and steadfastness. Prayer for the new member (and old ones) is crucial. If the new member begins to falter, the sponsor must try to bring him back from wandering.


Philippians 3:17, 4:8-9, The Church Responds: Promises of sponsors for adults (1/25/18)

When adults who are baptized in the UMC have sponsors, the sponsors take a vow as well:
Paul says twice that his converts should imitate him. In saying just how they should imitate him, he gives us some guidelines for what own behavior as sponsors should be!


1 Thessalonians 5:9-28, The Church Responds: Promises of the congregation (1/26/18)

Weíve now come to the point in the baptismal service of the United Methodist Church where the congregation makes some promises of its own. Normally at this time in the baptism of children or infants, Pastor Craig turns to the congregation and says that anyone who is not willing to provide babysitting (presumably free) should leave now! He wants us to understand that we are not just watching; we are taking on an obligation, both to the child and to God. Itís a serious business.

The congregation is asked,
All who are present respond,

Luke 24:44-50; Acts 1:4-12, Proclamation in accord with the universal and historic Church of Jesus Christ (1/29/18)

In the next part of the baptismal liturgy of the United Methodist Church, the candidates for baptism (if able to speak), their parents and sponsors, and the congregation all profess their faith together using the Apostlesí Creed, which no doubt you know. The Apostleís Creed sets forth the most basic and universal beliefs of Christians Ė beliefs that we affirm and proclaim because Jesus instructed us to.


Acts 2:32-41, Proclamation in accord with the universal and historic Church of Jesus Christ (1/30/18)

Candidates, their parents and sponsors, and the congregation are asked three questions:

"Do you believe in God the Father?" "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?" and "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?" In reciting the Apostlesí Creed, we affirm our faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How could we baptize in that name without believing in it?

More of Baptism
Scriptures, Declarations and Responses
Thanksgiving over water and the act of Baptism
The ritual of Baptism and reaffirmations

Copyright 2020, 2021 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.


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