Baptism: What is it? Why it’s important? How do we practice it?
By: Darin Lund
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!]
- Baptism and the EFCA: The 2005 Mid-Winter Ministerial Conference. [This is a manuscript document of four different lectures that were hosted at the EFCA Mid-Winter conference. This article explains both credo baptism and paedo baptism, while also looking at the history of baptism in the Church and in the EFCA.]
 See the very helpful article on re-baptism by Greg Strand (the EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing): https://www.efca.org/blog/understanding-scripture/baptism-faith-rebaptism-and-roman-catholic-church