Baptism is an ordinance given by Jesus Christ to the church. It is meant for those who have come to embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and for that reason it is an outward sign of an inward faith. It is a public profession of belief and a kind of rite of initiation into the family of God. We baptize those who make a profession of faith and who personally decide to follow Jesus Christ. For this reason we do not baptize infants…we do dedicate young children and parents to the Lord in prayer, sometimes in corporate worship services. However, these dedications are not the same as baptism. There is more than a little diversity and confusion on the subject of baptism. I want to take a few moments to answer a few common questions about baptism and to describe how our church will go forward with a baptism celebration weekend August 2-3.
Why should people be baptized? People should be baptized because we receive an ordinance that Christ gave to the church. It is always in the context of faith and belief in the gospel…this is to precede baptism. The gospel teaches that all humans have broken God’s laws, need a Savior, and that salvation in Christ can be received by faith. Those who receive this gift of salvation are to be baptized in obedience to Jesus Christ and as a public expression of their faith.
What are our dreams and aspirations for baptism in the life of Aspen Ridge Church? We dream about transformed lives in the power of the gospel, and we long to hear about the transforming power of the Christian faith in the lives of Christ-followers. We want to elevate genuine conversions to Christ whenever and wherever we can. We have been praying for at least 12 baptisms in the ministry year of 2013-14. So far we know of some 52 children and youth who have professed faith in Christ; further, we know of 3 baptisms. There may be a number of reasons for a smaller number of baptisms, but one in particular may be the parental input we seek when we are dealing with children and their decision to be baptized.
Who may baptize? Since Jesus Christ gave baptism as an ordinance to the church, it is meant to be carried out in coordination with church leadership. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) was given to the Apostles as representative of the church, and this commission respects the pastoral oversight of Christ’s church. We believe baptism is a pastoral function, meaning that it is to be overseen by the church’s pastor(s). This does not mean that no others may baptize; however, it does mean that it is the prerogative of the pastoral staff to oversee and, if inclined, delegate responsibilities for baptism.
Why not spontaneous baptism? We have heard questions about spontaneous baptism, and a desire to immerse believers immediately or in the moments after placing faith in Christ for salvation. We do acknowledge that in Acts 2 and Acts 8 there are examples of individuals being baptized on the same day as their conversion. Baptism is surely a rite of initiation. But what must also be noted is that on these occasions an apostle or deacon has had the equivalent of an orientation meeting with such converts, and that baptism throughout the New Testament is meant for the corporate gathering of the church.
It is our practice to have an orientation meeting with those who want to be baptized. This orientation meeting is an opportunity to discuss assurance of salvation and to clarify that this assurance is not grounded in water baptism. We want to use this occasion to teach what baptism is and what it is not…so there is no confusion on the part of those who are being baptized. Stated another way, we want to do what we can to confirm that those who we baptize are genuine Christians. We do not want to pat people on the back who are on the way to hell. Baptism, if misunderstood, could become a false assurance that a person is a believer when in reality they are not.
For these reasons we will hold orientation meetings the last weekend of July…on Saturday, July 26 at 5:00 PM and Sunday, July 27 at 9:00 AM. At these meetings we will hear of the faith of those who want to be baptized and will explain what baptism is and is not. We will also do what we can to prepare for this event to be as meaningful as possible for the individual, their family, our church and our community.
If you have further questions about baptism or would like to consider being baptized during the weekend of August 2-3, please contact the church office. We welcome the chance to celebrate God’s work in the lives of our church family!