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This article explains what we as a church believe and practice regarding baptism. It is accompanied by a number of testimonies from people who have been baptised at Eden in the last few years. We hope you find this both interesting and encouraging.

Why should we be baptised?

  • The example of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17).
  • The command of Jesus (Matthew 28:19).
  • The command of the apostles (Acts 2:38).
  • The example of the early church (Acts 2:41, Acts 8:36-39, Acts 9:18, Acts 10:47 etc).

What does baptism mean?

The word ‘baptise’ means to immerse, to dip, to plunge. When something is baptised it is pushed under the water before emerging again (or not in the case of a sinking ship!). Baptism was a Jewish ritual washing. In the New Testament it is a symbol of cleansing from sin: Acts 22:16. Passing through the water symbolises the removal of our sin by Jesus' death on our behalf.

In the New Testament this action is also seen as a symbol of our dying with Christ and being raised again to new life - Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12. Christians have known a death and a rebirth. The Old Life has died and been buried. There is a new life now. Paul teaches that our dying, burial and new life all take place in union with Jesus own death, burial and rising again. This is symbolised by baptism. It portrays what has taken place in our experience. It shows that we are united with Jesus and. we have left our old life behind.

Baptism is also the initiation rite for joining the church. It is a symbol of identification with Christ and his church - Ephesians 4:4-6.

How should we be baptised?

Christian churches disagree about this. Some say that merely pouring water or touching the forehead with a small drop of water is sufficient. But there are several reasons for insisting that in normal circumstances baptism should be by full immersion.

There is the meaning of the word baptise: i.e. to dip or immerse. It looks very much as if John the Baptist took Jesus down into the river and that he emerged from out of the river (Mark 1:5, 10). John chose to baptise at Aenon because there was plenty of water there - John 3:23 and Acts 8:36-39 also seems to indicate full immersion. Also, the symbolism of union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection which is integral to Paul’s argument in Romans 6 is simply not present in any other kind of baptism. Therefore we should be baptised by immersion except in extraordinary circumstances.

Who should be baptised?

Again, Christian churches disagree. Many baptise babies of believers on the basis of the Old Testament (OT) practice of circumcising the male children of Jews who were seen as part of the covenant. They say that the promise of God’s grace extends to children of believers in the New Testament (NT) church and so it is legitimate to baptise them. The problem with this is that the NT doesn’t make this connection with the children of believers. And when the NT connects circumcision with baptism, it assumes that those who are baptised have experienced inner spiritual regeneration: (Colossians 2:11, Philippians 3:3). Few evangelicals would want to claim this for infants.

In the NT there is no clear example of babies being baptised. The so-called Household Baptisms in Acts (e.g. Acts 16:33-34) seem to stress some kind of active response on behalf of everyone in the household. Moreover there is in the NT a clear order: Believe and be baptised (e.g. Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:32) and to baptise infants violates this. For this reason we conclude that only those who can profess faith in Jesus for themselves should be baptised. For children and teenagers, we normally recommend that you wait until you are around 16 at the earliest - I can explain more about this if you would like.

If you have further questions, we recommend Peter Comont’s helpful little booklet Should I be baptised? A booklet for those considering the subject of baptism. The church office can supply copies.

What does baptism do?

It is important to realise that there is nothing magical about baptism. It is a rich symbol, not an act that is powerful in itself. All the same, it is a rich and moving symbol because what it symbolises is so personal and so important. When we are baptised we are declaring to God, to the church, to our family and friends, to the world and to the devil and all the spirits, good and evil, that we belong to Jesus; that we have decided to follow him; that we have died to our old life and, started a new life which we live with him and in his power. This is an exciting and important declaration and one that helps us in our relationship with the Lord.

Eden and Baptism

At Eden Baptist Church we are delighted to baptise new converts and other Christians who for a variety of reasons have not been baptised as believers. Candidates discuss baptism and their own personal testimony with the pastor. We will want to hear about your faith in Christ, what difference it has made, and to be sure that you understand some basic Christian teaching. We baptise folk in good faith that their lives are lived under Christ’s lordship, and that there are not visible sins, which we do not know about, which would discredit the witness of the testimony.

Then we arrange a date for your baptism in a convenient service. We encourage you to invite family and friends including non-Christians, who will probably be intrigued! We encourage candidates to give their testimonies in the service though this is not compulsory. If there are songs or hymns you would like sung, please suggest them. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet and that are suitably modest! We supply towels and changing facilities: please bring a change of clothes. Please find a friend can hold your towel for you and give it to you as you come out of the pool.

In the pool

In the pool you will be asked two questions:

  1. ‘X, do you confess that you have turned from sin and placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your saviour and lord?’ [answer ‘I do’].
  2. ‘And do you promise, depending on God’s grace, to serve Christ faithfully in the fellowship of the church, for the rest of your life?’ [answer ‘I do’].

The pastor will say:

‘Then, X, on your profession of faith in Jesus Christ, I baptise you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ [Bend your knees!]

Then we have a moment of quiet prayer before you go up the steps out of the pool and off to get changed.

If you would like to talk about being baptised, please contact me through the church office or at home.

Julian Hardyman
December 2003