What is Baptism?

Because we follow a Lord who "came that we might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10), we take frequent opportunities to celebrate together the changes, blessings, and richness given to us by God. Baptism is one of the most wonderful ways by which Jesus Christ called the church to joyfully celebrate God's hopes for and involvement in the human race.

What does baptism really mean?

Baptism is one of the two sacraments recognized by churches of the reformed theological tradition, the other being Holy Communion. A sacrament, by definition, is a means of grace. That is, it is a ritual act, which Jesus called us to do, using tangible signs in which God expresses and mediates to us in a special way his loving grace. In baptism, the "tangible sign" is the washing of water. Although the symbolism contained in this sign is nearly inexhaustible, there are several meanings which are particularly important. By the washing of the water we are both reminded of and joined to:

  • the cleansing work accomplished by Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross which washes away the dirt of our sin;
  • the refreshing, life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit of God;
  • and the descent of Jesus into death and his subsequent rise to new life.

What is more, after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus told his followers to Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you... (Matt. 28:19). In this way, Jesus suggests that in addition to its other meanings, baptism is also a sign of entry into the community of faith.

Why does Christ Church baptize infants as well as adults?

The significance of baptism has its roots within the traditions of the Jewish community. A Jewish child was both a member of a family and a member of a community called God's "Chosen People." Divine grace was given to every Jewish baby at birth, in that a child was automatically a recipient of all God's promises to Israel. To recognize this act of grace at birth, the Jews adopted the custom of circumcising male children. Within the first century there is evidence that infant baptism was regarded as communicating the same truth to the Church family that circumcision communicated to the Jewish community. The Scriptures tell us that when the Philippian jailer became a Christian, he was immediately baptized along with his family (Acts 16:19-34). Other documents from the earliest days of the church show that infant baptism was also practiced where the children of believers were concerned.The baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God's love claims people before they are able to respond in faith. The baptism of adults witnesses to the truth that God longs for us to respond consciously to his love with active repentance and the gift of our entire heart, soul, mind, and strength. Both are the sign and seal of inclusion in God's grace and covenant with Christ. Both imply a continuing call to confirm the promises made by an ongoing life of discipleship and spiritual growth.

How does baptism affect your child's relationship with God?

We do not believe that baptism is, as some suppose, an "admission card" into heaven. Just because a child has been baptized, doesn't assure his or her eternal salvation. Nor does lack of baptism mean that such a child would be spiritually lost if something terrible were to happen prior to his or her experiencing this sacrament. Scripture itself records Jesus' tremendous affirmation of children:

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked his people; but Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' And he laid his hands on them... (Matt. 19:13-15)
If you have lost a young child, we hope these words of our Lord will be a particular comfort to you. Having said this, however, there is much that you as a parent can do to ensure that your child's baptism is but the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship between your child and the God who entrusted him or her to your care.

What is your role as a parent following the baptism of your child?

As a parent, you establish a covenant with God to raise your child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Deut. 6:6-7). Through your training and the church family's support, your child will hopefully one day confirm the vows you make on his or her behalf, by making a personal profession of faith in Christ and recognizing his or her dependence on God alone for salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). There are a variety of things you as parent(s) can do to nurture your little one towards this end. Pray constantly for your child. Instruct your child in the ways of the Lord. Be a living example of Christian character to your children. Volunteer your services in the children and youth ministry of our church, and encourage others to do the same. Demonstrate in your own life a commitment to Christian worship, fellowship, education, and service. Remember, faith is more often "caught" than it is "taught." If knowing and serving Christ is important to you, then it is very likely to become important to your child. If it is way down the priority list for you, then it is likely to be so for your loved one too. While you won't be alone in trying to encourage your child to grow spiritually, you clearly play the most important part.

Why do we baptize in public rather than in private?

Baptism is a worship event of the community of faith. No one has ever baptized himself! The Christian life is not only an individual relationship between a believer and Christ, but involves a relationship with the total family of God, the Church. "No one lives to himself or dies to himself," says the New Testament. Jesus called the church into being to provide its participants with love and support, even when there is a breakdown of the natural family relationship, and to offer to the world a vision of what genuine community looks like.It is for this reason and more that in our tradition the entire congregation makes a vow to strengthen a child's family ties to the household of God. In a sense, the whole congregation pledges to be "godparents" to a child, wrapping arms of love and the words of the gospel around each family. At one point in the baptismal ceremony, we actually ask the congregation: Do you the people of this congregation, in receiving this child, promise with God's help to be his/her spiritual encouragers, to the end that he/she may one day confess Christ as his/her Lord and Savior and come at last to His eternal kingdom?

If you would like to invite particular friends or loved ones to play a special role as godparents to your child, that is wonderful, and we will be happy to make a place for them in the first pew during the service itself. However, we generally do not have these chosen godparents stand during the actual ceremony, except as participants in the larger affirmation of the entire family of faith.

How do I arrange for a baptism to be performed?

All baptisms must be scheduled through the worship department of the church. Please don't pick a date, invite family in from out of town, and then come to talk to us!! It is important that you understand that three things must happen in order for a baptism to take place through our church.

  • First, the individual to be baptized -- or at least one of the parents of the individual in the case of a proposed infant baptism -- must be a member of Christ Church. Since baptism is into the community of faith, it normally ought to be done in the church which will be the individual's weekly spiritual home from that point forward.
  • Second, the individual to be baptized - or the parents of the individual in the case of a proposed infant baptism - gathers ahead of time on a Sunday morning, together with others interested in baptism, with staff from our Christian formation ministry. In addition to answering your questions, this gathering is intended to assure that the individual or parents understand the meaning of baptism, are comfortable with the flow of the proposed ceremony, and can answer the baptismal questions in good conscience.
  • Third, provided all of the above lines up, our worship coordinator will contact you and schedule a specific baptismal date and time. It should be noted that it is likely that more than one individual will be baptized during the same service.

We hope this helps to answer many of your questions. Please feel free to contact Susan Mech at 630.321.3926 or smech@christchurch.us if we can be helpful to you and/or your family in any way.