Article 11. Baptism

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We believe that the baptism of believers with water is a sign of their cleansing from sin. Baptism is also a pledge before the church of their covenant with God to walk in the way of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Believers are baptized into Christ and his body by the Spirit, water, and blood.

Baptism is a testimony to God's gift of the Holy Spirit and the continuing work of the Spirit in the lives of believers. Through the Spirit we repent and turn toward God in faith. The baptism of the Holy Spirit enables believers to walk in newness of life, to live in community with Christ and the church, to offer Christ's healing and forgiveness to those in need, to witness boldly to the good news of Christ, and to hope in the sharing of Christ's future glory.

Baptism by water is a sign that a person has repented, received forgiveness, renounced evil, and died to sin, 1 through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Thus cleansed, believers are incorporated into Christ's body on earth, the church. Baptism by water is also a pledge to serve Christ and to minister as a member of his body according to the gifts given to each one. Jesus himself requested water baptism at the beginning of his ministry and sent his followers to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." 2 Baptism is done in obedience to Jesus' command and as a public commitment to identify with Jesus Christ, not only in his baptism by water, but in his life in the Spirit and in his death in suffering love.

The baptism of blood, or baptism of suffering, is the offering of one's life, even to death. Jesus understood the giving of his life through the shedding of his blood for others as a baptism. 3 He also spoke about his disciples' suffering and death as a baptism. 4 Those who accept water baptism commit themselves to follow Jesus in giving their lives for others, in loving their enemies, and in renouncing violence, even when it means their own suffering or death.

Christian baptism is for those who confess their sins, repent, accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and commit themselves to follow Christ in obedience as members of his body, both giving and receiving care and counsel in the church. Baptism is for those who are of the age of accountability and who freely request baptism on the basis of their response to Jesus Christ in faith. 5


(1) Rom. 6:1-4; Acts 2:38-39.
(2) Matt. 28:19.
(3) Luke 12:50; 1 John 5:7-8.
(4) Mark 10:38.
(5) Matt. 28:19-20; John 4:1; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27.

Commentary

1. Some churches refer to baptism and the Lord's Supper as symbols, sacraments, or ordinances. In this confession of faith, these ceremonies are called signs, a biblical term rich in meanings. Sign is, first of all, an act of God: signs and wonders in Egypt (Exod. 10:1; Num. 14:11), signs to prophets (Isa. 7:14; 55:13), and Jesus' performance of signs (John 2:11; 12:37; 20:30). John 2:18-22 sees Jesus' death and resurrection as a sign. A sign is not only an act of God, but a human action as well: eating unleavened bread at Passover (Exod. 13:9), binding of the commandments to oneself (Deut. 6:8), keeping of the Sabbath (Exod. 31:13; Ezek. 20:20). Likewise, baptism is a sign, representing both God's action in delivering us from sin and death and the action of the one who is baptized, who pledges to God to follow Jesus Christ within the context of Christ's body, the church.

2. First John 5:7-8 identifies three aspects of baptism: the Spirit and the water and the blood. This passage refers, first of all, to Jesus' baptism. But the New Testament also says that believers are to identify with Jesus.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit: According to the New Testament, water baptism and baptism with the Spirit are closely connected, though not always in the same way. The Holy Spirit rested on Jesus at the time of his baptism (John 1:33). In Acts, believers received the Holy Spirit before, with, or after water baptism.

The baptism of water: Baptism has its roots in the Old Testament practice of ceremonially washing what had become unclean through disease, sin, or other cause (Lev. 14:1-9; 16:24-30; 17:15-16). Gentiles were initiated into the covenant people with proselyte baptism. Christian water baptism signifies the cleansing of the person from sin and incorporation into the new community of faith. The church may baptize by pouring, immersion, or the sprinkling of water (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12; Acts 2:17; Tit. 3:5-7). Scripture also refers to baptism as a pledge to God (1 Pet. 3:21) and as a commitment to faithfulness and ministry (Rom. 6:1-11). Jesus' baptism can be seen in the light of this pledge. In the New Testament, baptism follows a person's faith. Baptism therefore is for those who are ready to enter a faithful relationship with Christ and the church.

Thus, baptism should always be done by the church and its representatives, if possible in the presence of the congregation. It should be public because baptism means a commitment to membership and service in a particular congregation. Thus, water baptism is to be reserved for those old enough to make such a pledge. Infants and children have no need for baptism, since they are safe in the care of God. When they are able to be accountable for their own actions, they are able to make the church's faith their own.

The baptism of blood: Baptism by water is also a pledge of the believer's acceptance of the baptism of suffering and death. Water baptism identifies us with Christ in his way of the cross and his resurrection (Rom. 6:5-11). We are buried with him "by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3-4).

Index
  1. God
  2. Jesus Christ
  3. Holy Spirit
  4. Scripture
  5. Creation and Divine Providence
  6. The Creation and Calling of Human Beings
  7. Sin
  8. Salvation
  9. The Church of Jesus Christ
  10. The Church in Mission
  11. Baptism
  12. The Lord's Supper
  13. Foot Washing
  14. Discipline in the Church
  15. Ministry and Leadership
  16. Church Order and Unity
  17. Discipleship and the Christian Life
  18. Christian Spirituality
  19. Family, Singleness, and Marriage
  20. Truth and the Avoidance of Oaths
  21. Christian Stewardship
  22. Peace, Justice, and Nonresistance
  23. The Church's Relation to Government and Society
  24. The Reign of God

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