We often get questions asking what we believe about baptism, why we practice it and what it means.
Who is a Candidate for Baptism?
Baptism is for anyone old enough to understand who Jesus is and who is able to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. It is for anyone who is ready to follow Jesus with all their heart for all their life to the best of their ability. You don’t have to be perfect and have all your proverbial ducks in a row in order to be baptized. You don’t have to go through classes and be approved. As broken and messed up folks, we simply have to know enough about Jesus to be ready to say “yes” to Jesus and genuinely trust him to guide and influence you.
The Believer’s Wedding Ceremony
We like to describe baptism as the believer’s wedding ceremony. In 1 Peter 3:21 we find these words: “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”
Baptism is a “pledge” or a response or intense desire to say “yes” to Jesus. It is in fact a “vow” like we make in a marriage ceremony. Even if you’ve known Jesus and loved him for a long time, in baptism you are formally entering into a lifelong commitment like a marriage. You are promising to follow Jesus, to obey him and to allow him to influence you as best you can. You are choosing to enter into a lifelong committed relationship with Jesus.
It is interesting that the Bible often uses the metaphor of marriage or husband and wife to describe God’s desire for a committed and faithful relationship with us (Matthew. 25:1-13; Luke 5:34, 35; John 3:28-30; Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17, etc.). Jesus wants to be our spiritual bridegroom. In the metaphor we are the bride. In baptism we make our vow to forsake our rights of self management and any other allegiances and commit to put Jesus first and turn over the “deed” of our lives to him.
Jesus invites us (and commands us) to join him in baptism. What an amazing invitation. He’s waiting.
Why Baptism by Immersion
We practice baptism by being immersed in the water (rather than just sprinkling or pouring water) because this is the very meaning of the original word for baptism. Further, Jesus modeled this. But even more, immersion is a powerful symbol. In Romans 6:1-10 the Apostle Paul shows us that when we go down into the water we are making a spiritual declaration – we are dying to our old way of life. We are burying that life and all its sin and wrong doing in the watery grave. We come out of the water and symbolize our resurrection with Jesus. We are alive, but this time we come alive with Jesus whom we love and follow. This “new life” marks a new beginning.
What Happens After Baptism?
When couples are wed they usually understand the basic commitment of marriage. Yet, at the onset, few know how to really be a good spouse. We learn that over time and through experiences and challenges. During the difficult times and during the times we are not a good spouse; our vows keep us faithful and keep us in the relationship as we learn. That is also true in our relationship with Jesus. Hopefully, we learn how to follow Jesus better and better as we live life with him. There are ups and downs. Jesus will always be a faithful and committed partner. We strive to be a faithful and committed partner to the best of our ability.
Notice in 1 Peter 3:21 that it says two things – “baptism now saves you” and “It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That sounds a bit confusing and people have taken different views of this. No physical act we do saves us. Only Jesus saves. We are saved from the punishment of our sins by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection. We are saved by his grace, mercy and forgiveness (Ephesians 2:8, 9). But we enter into salvation by choosing to commit to following Jesus. If we choose not to follow Jesus, we can’t and won’t know and experience salvation from the power and the consequence of our sins. Salvation is a partnership. Jesus offers salvation and we must accept it.
Some parents are concerned that their child is not spiritually safe and want their baby baptized. We do not believe that an infant has consciously chosen to sin and reject God their Father. In fact, Jesus often used small children as the model of how we adults should live (see Matthew 18:3, 4; 19:13-15). So small children are innocent before God. There is no concern over their eternal destiny. Further, a baby or very small child can’t grasp the meaning described above of commitment to Jesus. Once a child has grown to the point where they see their need for God’s forgiveness through Jesus and can understand the basic meaning of a lifelong commitment to Jesus, then they are ready. There is no magic age as it can come in early elementary school or sometimes not until middle school or later. We have a children’s baptism class that can help you and your child determine when they are ready.
We do baby dedications at Pantano Christian Church. This is a special time where the parents commitment themselves to raising a child to know and love God and bring them to a point when the child can make his or her own decision to follow Jesus. Contact the children’s department to find out when the next baby dedication will occur.
Baptism of Children
Once a child has grown to the point where they see their need for God’s forgiveness through Jesus and can understand the basic meaning of a lifelong commitment to Jesus, then they are ready. There is no magic age as it can come in early elementary school or sometimes not until middle school or later. We do offer a children’s baptism class that can help you and your child determine when they are ready. This 1 hour class is offered 4 times per year and, while not mandatory, we do suggest that all children go thru the class prior to (or even after if need be) their baptism. In addition, if we offer a complementary work book entitled, Joining God’s Family, for parents that cannot make the class and/or would like help in discussing baptism with their child. Please contact the Children’s Ministry office to find out the next class dates and/or to receive a copy of this workbook.
A Final Word
Because baptism is a vow to God, it is a very significant and important event that should not be viewed in a casual way. Just like marriage, baptism is a declaration of a lifelong commitment and it should be considered carefully. Also like in marriage, we are making a vow or a promise to God. Such promises or vows must be taken with careful consideration. We do not want to break a promise to God.
And because baptism is such a meaningful ceremony, don’t forget to invite your family and friends, just like you would to your wedding ceremony.
Help or Next Steps
If you are ready to be baptized, please contact Mindy Blevins at 520.298.5395 x201 to arrange your baptism. You can be baptized on the church property and during a service or arrange other times and locations as well. Any follower of Jesus can be the person who performs the baptism.
We have all that is needed for your baptism on the church property – private male and female changing rooms, towels, mirrors and blow dryers. We provide T-shirts; men should wear swim trunks and women should wear dark shorts to accompany the shirts.
If you have questions, would like more teaching or would like to talk to someone about baptism we would love talk or meet with you. Contact Mindy and she will set up an appointment with one of our pastors.
Parents, if you have children that you think are ready to be baptized, we strongly encourage both you and your children attend our children’s baptism class. It is a one time class that we find very helpful for both you and your child to clearly understand the meaning of baptism appropriate for a child’s understanding. Again, contact Mindy and she’ll provide you with information on our children’s baptism class.