Baptism Ė Part 3

The Ritual of Baptism and Reaffirmations

Didache 7:1-7

Galatians 3:27-28

Ephesians 4:1-7

Psalm 103:17-18, Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13-28, 26:69-75; John 21:15-17

Matthew 9:27-31; Mark 9:17-27

John 9:13-38

John 11:1-27

Joshua 24:1, 14-25

Psalm 119:33-40

Exodus 24:1-8; Deuteronomy 8:1-11

Deuteronomy 5:1-3, 7:6-9

Acts 4:1-13

2 Peter 1:1-11

Philippians 1:1-11

1 Peter 1:14-25, 4:8-11

Romans 12:4-18

John 13:33-35, 15:12-17

1 John 3:10-24

1 John 4:7-21; 2 John 1:5

More of Baptism

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Didache 7:1-7 (2/26/18)

All Christians baptize. After that we each have our idiosyncrasies: We Christians probably argue more about the rite of baptism than we do about the nature of the Trinity! I suspect that some of us have been waiting, during the past few weeks, for proof from scripture that the way our denomination baptizes is the correct way.

Surprising news: the Bible doesnít give any instructions on how to baptize. (And donít bother arguing that "baptize" means "dip," because remember that Jesus was baptized by his death and resurrection, and Noah and the children of Israel were baptized by staying dry.)

The earliest teaching we have on methods is from the Didache, or "Instruction," (dih-dah-KAY), a part of the Apostolic Fathers. This latter work is a collection of very early, non-canonical writings of the Church fathers who immediately followed the apostles. According to the Didache, we should baptize in water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, which we all do, and fast beforehand, which many of us donít.

Galatians 3:27-28 (2/27/18)

To be honest, we donít totally understand what happens during baptism. Part of what happens is that the baptized person is marked as a member of Christís holy Church, a member of the one body of Christ Jesus.

Another part of what happens is a mystery, in the sense of "something to be revealed later." The Holy Spirit acts upon us in a special way. God doesnít love us any more after our baptism, because God loved us completely before our baptism. We are no less a sinner after our baptism, because, to be blunt, once we committed that first sin, we became permanent sinners Ė we just try not to be practicing sinners! Nevertheless, and at that moment, the Holy Spirit is most particularly present in our lives, and for that moment we are washed clean.

Ephesians 4:1-7 (2/28/18)

We are baptized into the body of Christ in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The UMC baptismal liturgy, like Paul, urges us to faithful discipleship through the action of the Spirit. Even though we are members of different denominations, our differences are much less important than our unity in Christ.

Psalm 103:17-18, Matthew 16:13-20 (3/1/18)

When infants are baptized, their parents and sponsors often take vows, as we saw earlier. It is typical (probably not universal; nothing ever seems to be) for persons baptized as infants to later be confirmed. In confirmation, the previously baptized person professes faith in Christ on his or her own behalf. Peterís profession of faith at Caesarea Philippi is a model for us all. The pastor may or may not use water during confirmation, but it is not a "rebaptism." The pastor says, "Remember your baptism and be thankful. Amen."

Confirmation is not necessary for those who were baptized as "believers," that is, those old enough to understand the significance of baptism and consent to it. This age is typically taken to be 12 or 13 years old or above, although for some children, earlier baptism is appropriate.

Matthew 16:13-28, 26:69-75; John 21:15-17 (3/2/18)

Even though he was apparently the first of the disciples to say aloud what they were all thinking Ė that Jesus was the Messiah Ė when the chips were down, Peter denied even knowing him. Even the greatest of us can fall away. Fortunately, Jesus is greater than all of us, and he will always take us back when we reaffirm our love for him. "Remember your baptism and be thankful. Amen!"

Matthew 9:27-31; Mark 9:17-27 (3/5/18)

It is typical Ė although not universal Ė that the miracles of Jesus are immediately preceded by a profession of faith. In the absence of faith, there is likely to be an absence of miracles; in Mark 9:19, Jesus calls the crowd a "faithless generation" when the disciples were unable to cast out the unclean spirit, and in Mark 6:5-6 he was unable to do "mighty works" because of the unbelief in his home town. In contrast, Jesus often makes a direct connection between wholeness and faith, as in Matthew 9:29 and Mark 9:23. Profession of faith is an integral part of baptism, as well as miracles.

John 9:13-38 (3/6/18)

I love the story of the blind beggar who sees what the Pharisees cannot: "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." I love his quick wit and his sharp tongue. And I love his profession of faith: "Lord, I believe."

John 11:1-27 (3/7/18)

The story of the raising of Lazarus is one that we have visited in several studies, but today we are particularly examining vss. 21-27, Marthaís profession of faith. In vs. 21, she expresses her confidence that Jesus, had he been present, could have healed Lazarus. In vs. 22, she acknowledges Jesusí special connection to God, without any statement about who Jesus is. In vs. 27, she agrees that Jesus presents resurrection in his own person, and finally, she says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Although the specifics differ somewhat, this reminds me of the description of Jesus in the Apostlesí Creed, which is often used in the baptismal liturgy as a profession of faith.

Joshua 24:1, 14-25 (3/8/18)

It is optional, but worthy and traditional, for the members of the congregation to reaffirm their faith during a baptism, thus emphasizing the unity between old and new members. Reaffirmations of faith go far back: the children of Israel reaffirmed their commitment to God immediately after entering the Promised Land.

Psalm 119:33-40 (3/9/18)

Itís all very well to affirm our faith, but if we donít do anything about it, what is the value? The psalmist says that we must learn and keep Godís commandments, observing them with our whole heart. Faith is action as well as belief.

Exodus 24:1-8; Deuteronomy 8:1-11 (3/12/18)

God has from time to time made covenants with his people, and occasionally these covenants are renewed. Godís part is to be God and to love and protect his people. Our part is to be obedient to his commandments. In reaffirming our faith as a congregation, we are participating in a long tradition of renewing our relationship with God.

Deuteronomy 5:1-3, 7:6-9 (3/13/18)

Weíve read several passages about renewal of the covenant between God and his people. Note that on Godís side, the covenant remains the same, because God remains the same. What changes is the generation of people, so each time you will see something about "renewing the covenant God made with our ancestors" for ourselves (e.g., vss. 5:3 and 7:7-8). The good news is that God keeps covenant with those who love him and keep his commandments for "a thousand generations." This is roughly 30,000 years; so far, so good.

Acts 4:1-13 (3/14/18)

Affirmations and reaffirmations of faith are generally made in public. (Well, counting the inside of your church building as "public.") Peter and John were arrested for curing a lame man in the name of Jesus Christ. During the trial, Peter makes a very public affirmation of faith!

As to the charge that they were "uneducated," you should consider the source. They had spent three years studying theology with Jesus, and both of them could read and write, as shown by their letters.

2 Peter 1:1-11 (3/15/18)

Affirmation of our faith is essential, but it is not enough. Peter says we have to add virtue to our faith. Then we have to add knowledge to our virtue and faith. Still not enough! We have to add self-control to our knowledge, virtue, and faith. This process Ė which is called "continuous improvement" in the business environment Ė is known as "sanctification." Faith in Jesus is the road to salvation; continuous improvement in your Christian walk, in company with the Holy Spirit, is the road of sanctification.

Philippians 1:1-11 (3/16/18)

The Church is not a club, it is the body of Christ, and we are all members of one another. When a person is baptized into the Church, those of us who are already members have responsibilities toward the new member. Paul said to the Philippians that they were all partakers with him of grace, both in his imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. The pastor reminds us of this when he says,

1 Peter 1:14-25, 4:8-11 (3/19/18)

Peter urges us Ė twice Ė to love one another earnestly, to use our gifts to serve one another, and to do all this in order that God may be glorified. The pastor reminds us of this when new members are baptized, saying,

Romans 12:4-18 (3/20/18)

Every single person is gifted. Is your gift the same as mine? Probably not. Is your gift as important as mine? Certainly! The great thing about our churches is that all of our gifts can be used, and all are used toward the same purpose: service of our brothers and sisters and showing the glory of the God. Paul tells us this, and then he says something else important about our gifts: everybodyís different; try to get along.

The pastor reminds us of this when he says,

John 13:33-35, 15:12-17 (3/21/18)

When the pastor commends newly baptized persons to our love and care, we need to pay special attention. The commandment of Jesus is that we love one another.

1 John 3:10-24 (3/22/18)

Weíre seeing a trend in these scriptures related to the UMC Baptismal liturgy.

(By the way, I only selected or omitted a couple from the list, primarily because of the constraints of an email study. You know my bias: Love God, love your neighbor, and you donít really have to worry about any other rules. I got this bias from John. So you might have thought I chose all these scriptures emphasizing love for your fellow members; I didnít.)

The trend is this: love for your fellow-members of the body of Christ is not optional. Love the members you already know. Love the newly baptized. The pastor reminds us of this during the baptismal service when he says,

1 John 4:7-21; 2 John 1:5 (3/23/18)

The pastor concludes the baptismal liturgy by addressing the newly baptized in the following words:
And we conclude this study of baptism on the following note: God loves you. Love God, love your neighbor.

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

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

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