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“So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.” Matt. 27:66

The Sacraments

Baptism

Sacraments | Baptism | The Lord’s Supper

The Rev. Dr. Eric Myers presides at a Baptism. Photo by Stacy Najaka.

Baptism is the sign and seal of incorporation into Christ. Jesus through his own baptism identified himself with sinners in order to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus in his own baptism was attested Son by the Father and was anointed with the Holy Spirit to undertake the way of the servant manifested in his sufferings, death, and resurrection. Jesus the risen Lord assured his followers of his continuing presence and power and commissioned them “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19, NRSV).

The disciples were empowered by the outpouring of the Spirit to undertake a life of service and to be an inclusive worshiping community, sharing life in which love, justice, and mercy abounded. (Directory for Worship, W-2.3001)

Baptism is rich with multiple meanings which overlap like beautiful water lilies on a pond.  Download Meanings of Baptism.

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Help people make the connection with baptism in all of life and ministry. Download Emphasize Baptism.

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Download the Catholic / Reformed common agreement on the mutual recognition of Baptism.

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Explore These Living Waters, the Reformed / Catholic agreement on baptism and resources for its study

Find liturgical ideas from the French baptismal liturgy.

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Baptism in the Directory for Worship

(W-2.3001 – 2.3010)

Baptism is the sign and seal of incorporation into Christ. Jesus through his own baptism identified himself with sinners in order to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus in his own baptism was attested Son by the Father and was anointed with the Holy Spirit to undertake the way of the servant manifested in his sufferings, death, and resurrection. Jesus the risen Lord assured his followers of his continuing presence and power and commissioned them “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19, NRSV). The disciples were empowered by the outpouring of the Spirit to undertake a life of service and to be an inclusive worshiping community, sharing life in which love, justice, and mercy abounded.

In Baptism, we participate in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Baptism, we die to what separates us from God and are raised to newness of life in Christ. Baptism points us back to the grace of God expressed in Jesus Christ, who died for us and who was raised for us. Baptism points us forward to that same Christ who will fulfill God’s purpose in God’s promised future.

In Baptism, the Holy Spirit binds the Church in covenant to its Creator and Lord. The water of Baptism symbolizes the waters of Creation, of the Flood, and of the Exodus from Egypt. Thus, the water of Baptism links us to the goodness of God’s creation and to the grace of God’s covenants with Noah and Israel. Prophets of Israel, amidst the failure of their own generation to honor God’s covenant, called for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream. (Amos 5:24) They envisioned a fresh expression of God’s grace and of creation’s goodness—a new covenant accompanied by the sprinkling of cleansing water. In his ministry, Jesus offered the gift of living water. So, Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s grace and covenant in Christ.

As circumcision was the sign and symbol of inclusion in God’s grace and covenant with Israel, so Baptism is the sign and symbol of inclusion in God’s grace and covenant with the Church. As an identifying mark, Baptism signifies

a. the faithfulness of God,
b. the washing away of sin,
c. rebirth,
d. putting on the fresh garment of Christ,
e. being sealed by God’s Spirit,
f. adoption into the covenant family of the Church,
g. resurrection and illumination in Christ.

The body of Christ is one, and Baptism is the bond of unity in Christ. As they are united with Christ through faith, Baptism unites the people of God with each other and with the church of every time and place. Barriers of race, gender, status, and age are to be transcended. Barriers of nationality, history, and practice are to be overcome.

Baptism enacts and seals what the Word proclaims: God’s redeeming grace offered to all people. Baptism is God’s gift of grace and also God’s summons to respond to that grace. Baptism calls to repentance, to faithfulness, and to discipleship. Baptism gives the church its identity and commissions the church for ministry to the world.

God’s faithfulness signified in Baptism is constant and sure, even when human faithfulness to God is not. Baptism is received only once. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to the moment when it is administered, for Baptism signifies the beginning of life in Christ, not its completion. God’s grace works steadily, calling to repentance and newness of life. God’s faithfulness needs no renewal. Human faithfulness to God needs repeated renewal. Baptism calls for decision at every subsequent stage of life’s way, both for those whose Baptism attends their profession of faith and for those who are nurtured from childhood within the family of faith.

a.    Both believers and their children are included in God’s covenant love. Children of believers are to be baptized without undue delay, but without undue haste. Baptism, whether administered to those who profess their faith or to those presented for Baptism as children, is one and the same Sacrament.
b.    The Baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God’s love claims people before they are able to respond in faith.
c.     The Baptism of those who enter the covenant upon their own profession of faith witnesses to the truth that God’s gift of grace calls for fulfillment in a response of faithfulness.

Baptism is received only once. There are many times in worship, however, when believers acknowledge the grace of God continually at work. As they participate in the celebration of another’s Baptism, as they experience the sustaining nurture of the Lord’s Supper, and as they reaffirm the commitments made at Baptism, they confess their ongoing need of God’s grace and pledge anew their obedience to God’s covenant in Christ. (Directory for Worship, W-2.3009)

As there is one body, there is one Baptism. (Eph. 4:4-6) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes all Baptisms with water in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit administered by other Christian churches. (Directory for Worship, W-2.3001 – 2.3010)

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Comments

  • Thank you for this thorough, yet simple, explanation of baptism. Infant baptism has always been a stumbling block in my understanding, as it doesn't seem to follow scriptural examples of baptism. This blurb has given me a broader perspective for considering the fullness of baptism in my life with Christ. by Debby Martin on 07/13/2012 at 10:59 a.m.

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