After seeing the baptisms on Sunday, I know that my kids are going to ask me to baptize them the next time we are in a pool together.  I love how my kids watch what is going on in church. I’m excited that they want to imitate other believers in steps of obedience.  But baptizing my kids in a pool is just dunking my kids!

We have 5 baptisms this Sunday at 9:00 AM and 11:10 AM.  The testimonies are powerful because they are God-glorifying in his grace to save, his power to transform, and his grace to sustain through the difficulties of life.

I encourage you to help your family prepare for what they will see and hear by discussing baptism this week.

Why do we baptize?

Jesus Christ gave two visible signs of his special presence to his people.  These signs are baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Sometimes they are called “ordinances,” emphasizing the fact that they were ordained by Christ.  Christ ordained these practices both by example and by command.  (Matt. 3:15-16; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21; John 1:29-34; Matt. 28:19).  When churches practice baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they obey Christ’s teaching and example.  In so doing, they portray Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:4).

What is baptism?

Baptism is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.

In this definition, notice that there are two parties involved: the church and the believer.  Both parties have a role to play.  The church is publicly identifying someone as a Christian.  The New England Patriots wear silver, blue, and red so they can recognize one another on the field when they are trouncing the red, black, and white Atlanta Falcons.  Baptism is the team jersey for Christians.

For the individual believer, baptism functions as profession of faith.  Water baptism does not create the reality of saving faith in the one being baptized.  Rather, water baptism testifies to the presence of saving faith.  Water baptism does not cause our sins to be forgiven. Rather, water baptism testifies that the individual is a sinner, has faith in Christ’ death for salvation, and hope in the final resurrection.  For the believer, baptism is where faith goes public.  In this way, baptism can be likened to a swearing-in ceremony, where the believer is marking himself off from the world and declaring allegiance to Christ and his church.

Who can be baptized?

Simply, anyone who has been saved.  In every example in the New Testament, baptism was preceded by a profession of faith (Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-39; 9:17-18; 20:23-48; 16:31-33).

When can someone be baptized?

While Scripture clearly reserves baptism for believers, it does not directly address the age at which believers should be baptized.  New Testament baptism largely appear to have occurred shortly after conversion, but every specific individual mentioned is an adult coming from a non-Christian context.

This weekend, we have several younger believers raised in Christian homes being baptized.  Our context at FCBC (people raised in Christian homes) is different than the New Testament (people raised in non-Christian homes).  Therefore, it is best to see when to baptize as a matter of Christian wisdom and prudence.  In other words, how the candidate’s spiritual state is determined will vary somewhat due to circumstances; therefore, when a believer gets baptized will subsequently vary from person to person.

At the very least, a person is eligible for baptism when the credibility of their conversion is discernable and evident to the church community.  This fits with the proper understanding of baptism, namely, a public profession of God’s saving work in the life of a believer.  Through baptism a person is publically confessing their faith, and the church as witnesses is affirming the credibility of that profession.

These notes draw heavily from FCBC’s baptism class called “What is Baptism?”,  Mark Dever’s The Church: The Gospel Made Visible, Bobby Jamieson’s Going Public: Why Baptism is Required for Church Membership, and Thomas Schreiner’s Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ.

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