Have churches become complacent about baptism services? As people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and accept him as savior, the next step is baptism so of course we still have those special services.
I would say that many members of the church body pay little attention to this valuable part of worship. The common opinion may be that this service is only for the person being baptized. After all, we’ve already been baptized. This part of our Christian journey is out of the way. It’s been checked off the list. We come away saying, “Well, Joe was dunked this morning. Isn’t that nice?”I hate to admit that I’ve been guilty of this attitude. While I acknowledge that baptism is important, it seems to have lost importance for me because I’ve moved on. As I’ve been leading our Anchor Group study using the “Basics – Understanding the Foundations of a Healthy Church” book from LifeWay, the Lord has convicted me of this incorrect approach to baptism.
First, I want to be clear that baptism is not a requirement for salvation in Jesus Christ. It is possible to be saved by God’s grace and not yet be baptized. If you became a Christian and were involved in a tragic accident that took your life before you could be baptized, you would still be headed for eternal life with Christ.
On the other hand, baptism should be a top priority after salvation. It is a new believer’s first act of obedience to Christ. As believers, we are commanded by Christ in what we have come to know as the Great Commission to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) This is a direct command to believers and an indirect command to new believers.
But, what does baptism signify? Why does our Savior want us to take part in this act?
Baptism is our public declaration of our faith in Jesus Christ. By following this ordinance, we are displaying that we are saved by grace and now take part in the salvation provided by Christ on the cross.
In addition to being a declaration, baptism is also symbolic. Being plunged under the water and brought back up mirrors Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
Well, that’s great! We’ve talked about what this means to the person being baptized, but what about those of us who have already been baptized? Is there additional meaning for us? You betcha!
Part of our responsibility during a baptism service is in officially recognizing this person’s profession of faith. We are to accept this new believer into the family of Christ. We affirm them and commit to walking with them as they grow in their faith. It is for this reason that baptism is intended to be a function of the church. We do not consider it appropriate for a baptism to happen in a small gathering away from the church body. The church body should be present to bear witness to the event. Where the baptism takes place isn’t necessarily important. What is important is that the church family is present.
Have the service in a fancy heated baptistery. Have it in a stock tank. Go to the river where the water is cold and fresh. I remember well just how cold the water was in that creek where I was baptized! The key here is, have the baptism in a church service so that the new believer can be surrounded by new Christian brothers and sisters.
And, for those of us who are already baptized, rejoice in the reminder of your own baptism! Celebrate with this new believer! Give glory to the Lord Jesus Christ!
Brent and his family have been members at The Summit Church since 2005. Since that time he has been involved in various ministry areas including technology, teaching, and most recently serving as a church elder.