Our church family gathered recently to celebrate and witness a number of people profess their faith through baptism. It was wonderful to be together with so many congregants from our five campuses and their loved ones!
For those who have been around churches for a few years, baptisms may seem rote or routine. And for those who are less familiar with church, baptisms may seem strange – You found religion or something…and now you want to get dunked in water? What’s that all about?
Indeed, what exactly is baptism all about? Let’s find out…
What happens in baptism is a matter of life and death. I know that is a bold statement, so let me unpack it, beginning with the second part.
There is a death we must die.
One of the most famous verses in the Bible is Romans 6:23, which begins “For the wages of sin is death.”
The wages of sin is death. Now sin is an especially religious word. We don’t hear it used much outside of religious contexts, and if we do, it’s something like, “It would have been a sin not to have indulged in a slice of that extra rich chocolate cake.”
But simply put, here’s what sin is in the Bible: sin is when we choose our way instead of God’s way. Sin is when God instructs us in the right way, but we decide it would be right to do something else instead.
And Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. What does this mean? Well, when you go to work and do your job, the wages your boss gives you is a paycheck. But when we work for sin, the wages it pays us is death.
The first time the word “sin” appears in the Bible, it’s likened to a vicious animal that is waiting to devour someone (Genesis 4:7). And according to the Bible, humanity has made a deal with sin. We’ve decided to work for sin. So like a vicious animal, sin has in turn devoured us. We have chosen to do things our way instead of God’s, and sin has given us our wages; death.
If we have eyes to see it, we see this death all around us—all of the brokenness we see in the world and the disconnection from ourselves, one another, and from God that we feel—this is all a kind of death. This is where we find ourselves. This is the normal human condition. We often speak about our condition as a kind of death when we say things such as, “It kills me inside to think about…” or, “When I heard the news, I died inside.”
This darkness, disconnection, and death characterize life in this world, and according to the Bible, it’s all because of sin. And this spiritual death we feel eventually culminates in literal, physical death. These are the wages we have earned. There is a death we must die.
But here’s where the good news comes in. There is a death that leads to life, and if that death becomes your death, you will live.
That death was the death of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners.
What this means is that though Jesus never sinned, by dying on the cross, He identified Himself with sinners. It means that the wages Jesus received were not the wages He deserved, but the wages we deserve. And so it means that if we are united with Jesus, when He died, we died with Him!
This means that on the cross, Jesus fully immersed himself into our darkness, our disconnection, and ultimately, into our death. In doing so He has brought sin to the death it deserves so that we can escape sin’s destruction. It means that Jesus’ death can be our death.
There is a life we must live.
Romans 6:23 begins, “For the wages of sin is death,” but as the second half of the verse explains, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So just as there is a death we must die, so there is a life we must live.
When Jesus rose again to life, His new kind of life burst into creation, and is available to all who are united to Him. Because Jesus has united Himself to us and shared in our death, we may be united with Him and share in His life.
The Bible speaks of this union in a way that is so close that it is as if we are completely immersed into who Jesus is. When a man and woman are united in marriage, they often say in their vows, “All that I am I give you, and all that I have I share with you.” As they are united, they unite their poverty and their riches. And as we are united with Jesus, we come to share in both His death and His life.
This union with Jesus, and therefore His death and life, is what we celebrated as we witnessed people get baptized a few Sundays ago. What these baptisms proclaimed is not that being immersed into water saves them, but that these people have already been immersed into Jesus, and that’s what saves them.
Water baptism is a symbol of this real identity, union, and immersion into Jesus (Romans 6:3-4). As we are immersed in the water, we proclaim that we have been immersed into Jesus’ death, have died to our old way of life, and are choosing to die to sin in our daily experience. And as we rise from the water, we show that we were raised with Jesus, and that we share in and seek to live His new kind of life.
What about you?
There is a death we must die, and there is a life we must live, and that death and life may be ours as we are immersed into Jesus.
If you have been united to Jesus by faith but have not been baptized, keep an eye out for the next time our church celebrates baptism, and consider participating.
If you are unsure of what to make of Jesus, consider the Bible’s claims on the human condition and the matter of life and death that is before each one of us.
If you would like to talk and learn more, please reach out to a pastor at one of our campuses.
Baptism is a symbol of this very real matter of life and death. Through baptism we celebrate and demonstrate our union with Jesus, and that: All Jesus is He gives to us, and all that He has He shares with us. Whatever the future holds, Jesus will love us and stand by us, As long as He shall live –- forever and ever.
Everyone will gather at our Olathe Campus to celebrate all that God has done in the last 30 years. The celebration will include our witness of new life proclaimed in baptism, along with a time of fellowship with our church family from all campuses.
Following the baptism celebration, we will enjoy a birthday barbecue and party! It’s gonna be a blast, so bring the whole family (and your favorite side dish to share). Barbeque, balloons, face painting, photo booths. Fun for everyone!
There I was, dripping with water, standing by the ocean, and looking into a crowd of people. I had just gotten baptized on a beach in Florida. But this wasn’t the first time. Some 20 years earlier my parents wrangled the squirming ball of baby that was me and had me baptized as an infant. Not every Christian can put “baptized twice” on their spiritual resume, but I can!
My own story shows that the practice of baptism is often understood and practiced differently from church to church. Looking back on my own experience I can see how misinformed I was about what baptism is and how it should be practiced. You may have not been baptized twice, but perhaps you have lingering questions about this practice of the Church.
This article will explore what baptism is, why it’s important, and how it is practiced at Christ Community.
What is Baptism?
Baptism was instituted by the Lord Jesus and is practiced by the Church (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) and it is one of the marks of a true Church. Our website states, “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.”
What I find really interesting about baptism is its connection to the gospel. Baptism, as the statement says, is a tangible and visible sign of the gospel (Rom 6:1-4; Col 2:11-15). The New City Catechism, a 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 this statement on baptism, but what is often debated is the timing (credo or paedo) and the mode (immersion or sprinkling). More on this later! At the moment let’s consider why baptism is important.
Why is Baptism important?
The very fact the JESUS commanded the Church to practice baptism makes this practice immensely important! Let’s not forget, Jesus Himself was baptized (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:9). Both His example and His commandment to go and baptize fill this practice with significance. In other words, baptism is important because Jesus is important!
I love how our statement on baptism (and the Lord’s Supper) describes the spiritual importance of this practice, “Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the Church in genuine faith, these practices confirm and nourish the believer.”
Is baptism important? Yes! Baptism is nothing short of a God-sanctioned practice that both nourishes our faith and tangibly expresses the gospel!
How is Baptism practiced at Christ Community?
At Christ Community we practice credobaptism by immersion. Say what? That is a technical way to say that we baptize believers (credo is Latin for “I believe”), those people who are able to articulate their conversion to Christ, by immersing them in water. When we baptize these believers, we immerse them in water and raise them out.
For those interested, you can view this baptism video below to see a baptism celebration at Christ Community.
Other churches practice baptism differently by baptizing the infants of believing parents. This is done by sprinkling water upon the baby in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is what happened to me when I was an infant. This has been called paedobaptism (paedo is Greek for “child”). While at Christ Community our regular practice is credobaptism by immersion, we do practice child dedication. We believe that the incorporation of infants and children into the church family is immensely important, both for the church and the family involved.
Another area where Christians differ on the subject of baptism is whether or not baptism should be required for church membership . At Christ Community we do not require people to be baptized in order to become members of the church. Our practice is grounded in our understanding that membership in the church is dependent upon a genuine conversion to Christ (Acts 2:47, 16:5).
Conversion, not baptism, is our core requirement for those who want to become members at Christ Community. That may sound straightforward enough, but a unique challenge at Christ Community is the fact that many of our members were baptized as an infant. Should those who were baptized as an infant be re-baptized after their conversion?
The Bible does not command people who were baptized as a baby to be re-baptized after their conversion. In fact, the Bible says basically nothing about infant baptism. The Bible does, however, command every Christian to be baptized. The Scripture does seem to allow those who were baptized as infant to be re-baptized as a public profession of their conversion and as an expression of their unity with the Church.
If you have never been baptized and are considering it, we would love to talk with you more about it! Our baptism service is a really fun time! We come together as a church and celebrate the work God has done in saving people from their sin.
Hearing people share their story about becoming a Christian is one of the most encouraging and joyful things we do at church.
Resources for Further Study:
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, By: Thabiti Anyabwile and J. Ligon Duncan III. [This is short and very accessible treatment on what the Bible says about baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is published by The Gospel Coalition, one of our ministry partners. This is a great place to start for people interested in learning more about Baptism!]