Category: Church and Discipleship, Word: BAPTISM
January 29, 2016 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
VII. CHURCH and DISCIPLESHIP
The American ideal has often portrayed the solitary individual succeeding against all odds by diligent effort. As heirs of the Reformation, evangelical Christians have championed the truth that each person is individually responsible for his or her own salvation. An unfortunate consequence of these twin forces is the “Sunday church” has often become merely an aggregate of individuals. They view church as simply a means to an end, no more connected to each other than passengers on an airplane flight. They think of themselves as “Lone Ranger” Christians.
The picture emerging from the New Testament is radically different. The local church is an expression of the body of Christ, with individual members contributing to the good of the family of faith and sharing in—and drawing life from—the whole. Family language flows from virtually every page of the Epistles. Evidently the first generation of Christians understood that the Christian life could not be lived in isolation. There was no such thing as a Christ follower who was not actively involved in the life of a congregation of believers.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, many encouraging signs are emerging that “life together’ is gaining new appreciation. Many believers are expressing longing for authenticity and community with each other. They are discovering that Christian discipleship works only in the contest of church, a truth as old as the Book of Acts. This is reflected in the six following studies of this section.
In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh…. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
DEFINITION: Baptism is the initiation ceremony into Christianity in which one is marked publicly by water in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, symbolizing new life in Christ as well as pictorially re-resenting Christ’s own death, burial, and resurrection.
Many of the world’s religions as well as important social organizations include an initiation ceremony. This serves the important function of separating those who are “in” from those who are “out.” Such identity markers pay a crucial role in the group’s self-understanding. One of the great scandals in Christian history has been that the ritual Christ intended for all His followers to share has become the subject of division and bitterness, as noted below.
At least the following facts of consensus about baptism have emerged:
- Baptism is a ritual performed with water because of Christ’s command.
- Unlike the Jewish initiation ritual of circumcision, baptism is equally for females and females.
- The name of the Father, Son, and Spirit is called over the one baptized (Matt. 28:19-20)
- True Christian baptism is to occur only once in a lifetime (see “one baptism” in Eph. 4:5).
- Water baptism is for (identified with or because of) the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
Much more difficult are other issues that have divided believers through the centuries.
1. Who is eligible to be baptized? Baptists in particular believe the only proper candidates are those who have already personally professed faith; others believe that for infants, the faith of the parents is sufficient (along the lines of Israelite parents presenting their sons for circumcision).
2. Who is eligible to baptize? Liturgical traditions have emphasized that baptism is a church ritual, and only those authorized by a local church (or denomination), usually ordained ministers, may perform baptism; others believe baptism is a Christian ritual that may be performed by any other Christian, spontaneously by request.
3. What is the proper means of baptism? Baptists, of course, note that immersion is the best way to portray death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4); others emphasize that the Bible nowhere dictates the method and point to biblical images of sprinkling (Heb. 10:22; 1 Pet. 1:2)
4. Does baptism have value as a sacrament? Baptists and many others view baptism as simply an ordinance, an act of obedience ordained by Christ, many others see baptism as a “means of grace” by which Christ does something supernatural in the life of the person being baptized (strengthening and confirming faith); in general evangelical believers have resisted the teaching that the act of baptism itself is necessary for salvation, that is, “baptismal regeneration.”
Despite these challenges, it remains that Christians everywhere recognized water baptism as the mark that one has begun a life of following after Jesus. Further, the New Testament has no examples of unbaptized Christians. Although the topic is often confusing, thinking about one’s baptism should be a cause of joy.
REFLECTION: What, if anything, have you decided about these four areas of disagreement? Is there someone with whom you should discuss these matters? When did you receive Christian baptism?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank You for commanding baptism as a way to mark the beginning of a life following You. Help me to be true to my baptismal confession. In Your name I pray. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.