There I was, dripping with water and looking at a crowd of people. I had just gotten baptized. But this wasn’t the first time. Twenty years earlier my parents wrangled a squirming baby and dutifully had me baptized.
Despite the variety of experiences that many people have with baptism, there’s no doubt that baptism is one of the true marks of the church and a requirement for every disciple of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 8:36, 10:47). This blog will explore what baptism is, why it’s important, and how it is practiced at North Bay.
What is Baptism?
The Lord Jesus instituted baptism and now the church regularly administers baptism (Matt 28:19). It is a public display of a spiritual reality (Rom 6:1-4; Col 2:11-15; 1 Pet 3:20-22), an outward gesture of a person’s entrance into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-14). Baptism is one of the marks of a true Church.
The doctrinal statement of our church describes baptism like this:
“The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the Church in genuine faith, these practices confirm and nourish the believer.”
Baptism is a God-ordained practice that tangibly expresses the gospel (Rom 6:1-4; Col 2:11-15).
Over and over again the Bible relates baptism to the gospel. The New City Catechism, a tremendous resource which distills the basics of the Christian faith into a question-and-answer format, in Question 44 asks, “What is baptism?” It answers with, “Baptism is the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; it signifies and seals our adoption into Christ, our cleansing from sin, and our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his Church.”
The Catechism elaborates. Question 45 asks, “Is baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?” and answers, “No, only the blood of Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit can cleanse us from sin.”
So far so good.
Many churches would agree with everything we’ve said, but what is often debated is the timing (credo or paedo) and the mode (immersion or sprinkling) of baptism. More on this in a bit!
Why is Baptism Important?
The very fact the Jesus commanded the Church to practice baptism makes baptism important! Jesus Himself was baptized (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:9). Both His example and His command, fill the practice of baptism with significance. Baptism is important because Jesus is important!
The Sunday school answer is correct: Jesus.
How Does North Bay Practice Baptism?
At North Bay we practice credobaptism by immersion.
This is a technical way of saying that we baptize believers (credo is Latin for “I believe”), only those people who are able to articulate their faith in Christ. When a person is able to explain their salvation, then the church publicly baptizes them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirt, by fully immersing them in water and then raising them out.
Other churches also baptize the infants of believing parents. This is done by sprinkling water upon the baby in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This happened to me when I was an infant. The name of this approach is paedobaptism (paedo is Greek for “child”).
Even though at North Bay we practice is credobaptism by immersion, we do practice child dedications. We believe that the incorporation of children into the church family is massively important. But we believe that the Bible teaches that only people able to articulate their faith in Christ are suitable candidates for baptism.
Baptism is a declaration of allegiance to King Jesus and a commitment to the church. That is why at North Bay, even though we allow space for spontaneous baptisms, as a general rule we only baptize people who are members of the church or actively pursuing membership.
Should I Be Baptized, Again ?
Many regular attenders at North Bay face the unique challenge of having been baptized as an infant. Should people who were baptized as infants be re-baptized after their conversion?
The Bible basically says nothing about infant baptism. It is doubtful that the so-called “household” baptisms recorded in the book of Acts involved infants. Those passages give hints that only those people capable of believing and rejoicing in the Lord were baptized. But the Bible does say emphatically that every follower of Jesus must be baptized (Matthew 28:18-20). At North Bay we encourage (but do not require) everyone who was baptized as an infant to be re-baptized as an adult.
We would love to talk to you if you have never been baptized!
We will be having our baptism service during Church Family Camp, on Sunday July 11th. This will happen at Assembly Park Bible Camp on beautiful Lake Minnesuing. This is an amazing time together of joy, fellowship and worship. For many Christians, their public baptism is a powerful experience that solidifies their faith. We would love to have you join us!
If you would like to take the next step towards being baptized, please reach out to the church office ([email protected]) and let us know!
NOTE: This blog post is a revision of an earlier post that was written for Christ Community Church in Kansas City.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Loughlin