High Street Baptist Church - Tring
Baptism, a mark of beginning
Peter explained to the crowd, that they should ‘be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ’ (Acts 2:38).
Baptism is a mark that we have begun the Christian life, that we are now part of the family of God. If you look at the teaching in Peter’s sermon you will see that baptism follows faith: believe and be baptised. It is the same elsewhere in the New Testament. The great commission of Jesus is to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19).
Why get baptised?
There are many reasons why people choose to be baptised:
Jesus set an example: Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). Therefore, to be baptised is to be obedient to the path set out by Jesus.
Jesus commands us: In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus says, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’
The early church practised it: On the Day of Pentecost Peter tells the people to ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:38).
There are other examples of baptism throughout the book of Acts which suggests that believer’s baptism was an integral part of early church life. To be baptised is a way of opening ourselves to God’s blessing and of expressing our commitment to lives as disciples of Christ.
What is baptism?
Baptism is a very special step on the journey of faith. It is a moment when God’s presence and blessing meet us, and when we make our personal commitment of faith in Christ.
In Baptist churches baptism normally takes place by full immersion in water as part of a public act of worship. It signifies that our lives are now focused on new life in Christ. It speaks of repentance and cleansing, of being united with Christ in his death and resurrection, and of witnessing to the call of God upon our lives. As the Apostle Paul says, ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life’ (Romans 6:4).
Baptism is also about receiving God’s Spirit for service in the church and in the wider community. It is often accompanied by the laying on of hands as a sign of commissioning. The vast majority of Christian churches affirm baptism as a moment when we receive God’s gift and respond to his offer of grace by faith. We all have different stories to tell, many ways of responding to the message of God and different paths to faith. We want to welcome, affirm and celebrate all of these different stories of people’s faith journeys that have led them to be baptised as followers of Jesus Christ.
How does baptism happen?
When a person decides to be baptised they will normally have a period of preparation, during which the church (usually in the person of the minister) will help them understand more about the significance of baptism as a believer.
A baptism in a Baptist church is nearly always by full immersion. At High Street we have a baptismal pool at the front of the church that is usually hidden under the platform, with steps going down into it. Before the baptismal service, the pool is uncovered and is filled with warm water.
At the service itself, those being baptised will have the opportunity to give testimony to the congregation on how they became a Christian and why they have chosen to be baptised. Then, immediately before baptism, they will be asked basic questions of commitment, including an acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Baptism is an act of spiritual obedience for the follower of Christ. It is a celebration of life and faith, an opportunity to confirm publicly the steps of faith that have already taken place. It is another opportunity to draw near to God and be open to the Holy Spirit as he equips us for life and service.