At the Junction Church, we believe in the importance of water baptism. This is something which every follower of Jesus is privileged to experience. It was widely practised by the early church. Even before then, it was taught by John the Baptist, a man who truly lived up to his name and baptised thousands of people in the river Jordon.
The vast majority of churches today maintain the practice of baptism, believing it to be both biblically compelling as well as an important profession of faith. But what is baptism? Why is water used? And what is the significance of total immersion? Lets think about these questions.
WHAT IS BAPTISM AND WHY DO IT?
Mark records in his gospel that John preached ‘a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins‘ (Mark 1:4). Here, we learn that baptism is an outward sign of a life that is freed from sin. To ‘repent’ simply means to turn around, to change direction, to walk away from selfish living and to journey instead on the path of faith.
The connection between repentance and baptism is highlighted yet again in Acts 2. Here, as Peter was preaching to a large crowd, he told them to ‘repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins‘ (Acts 2:38). Of course, the act of being baptised in itself cannot forgive sins. Baptism in the New Testament is always preceded by repentance. Therefore, it is a testimony to what has happened in our lives.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WATER? AND WHY TOTAL IMMERSION?
When a person is baptised in water, this symbolises the washing away of sin, hence the involvement of water. Baptism portrays an analogy between the physical cleansing of our bodies and the spiritual healing of our hearts.
There is nothing mystical about the water in which people are baptised. It is purely symbolical. The Greek word for Baptism is ‘baptizo’ – which literally means ‘to fully immerse’. Interestingly, it was a word used by sailers to describe a ship being drenched by waves during a storm.
This picture of baptism by total immersion is clearly portrayed in the book of Acts where we’re told that Philip ‘went down into the water’ in order to baptise a government official (Acts 8:37). It is also highlighted in Jesus ministry too. Mark 1:10 says that after Jesus was baptised in the river, he ‘cameup out of the water’. This strongly indicates that the proper practice of baptism involves full immersion in water, rather than mere sprinkling. Incidentally, what is fascinating about Jesus is that he didn’t need to be baptised, yet he was fully immersed anyway in order to demonstrate it’s importance for us. (Matthew 3:15 & 2 Cor 5:22).
WHAT DOES BAPTISM MEAN?
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he explains that ‘having been buried with him (Jesus) in baptism, you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead‘. (Colossians 2:12). This verse points out that baptism is symbolic of death and resurrection, the very reason why we can experience God’s forgiveness today. Therefore, being immersed in water is an identification with the death & burial of Jesus Christ.
When a person is baptised in water, they are, in a sense, publicly declaring that they are dead to the old way of life. As Colossians 2:12 states, it means we are ‘buried with him (Jesus) in baptism.’ Thankfully though, the person being baptised is not left under the water for very long (only a fraction of a second!!). When they rise up again, this symbolises the birth of a new life in Jesus, the one who rose from the dead. This means we can live in hope, and water baptism powerfully illustrates this.
DOES WATER BAPTISM ONLY HAPPEN ONCE?
Yes, water baptism is something that a Christian only ever does once. Ephesians 4:5 tells us that there is just ‘one baptism’. Of course, baptism doesn’t lead to a sinless life. We still make mistakes and get things wrong. However, this does not mean that the bible provides us with an excuse to live sinfully. No, it actually encourages us to lean in to God’s grace where forgiveness and healing are always found. That’s why Paul says ‘we should no longer be slaves to sin‘ (Romans 6:6).
WHY IS BAPTISM AN ACT OF OBEDIENCE?
Baptism is an act of obedience because Jesus commanded us to do it. Just read what he said in Matthew 28:19. In the same verse, he also views baptism as an important part of our journey of discipleship (i.e. following him). It is always a sign of spiritual health when a Christian is willing to be baptised in water. Yes, it may require some courage, but it is the right thing to do and our lives are blessed for it.
YOU DON’T BAPTISE INFANTS. WHY?
We do dedicate babies at the Junction Church. However, we do not baptise very young children. The reason for this is that there is simply no scriptural precedent for it. While we don’t set an age restriction for baptism candidates, we do insist that each person clearly understands what they are doing. Ultimately, being baptised is a decision that those of the age of understanding must make for themselves. Unfortunately, infants are afforded no choice in this, and the idea of ‘confirmation’ is really not found anywhere in scripture.
Of course, we would never wish to dishonour those who have had their newly born children baptised (or who themselves have been baptised as infants). However, we do strongly encourage everyone to search the bible for themselves, and choose to have their own experience of baptism. Even if you were baptised as an infant, if you have subsequently decided to follow Jesus as an adult, then by all means get baptised by full immersion in water. This is totally appropriate.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A BAPTISM CELEBRATION?
We host baptism celebrations throughout the year at the Junction Church. Last year, dozens of people were baptised at these events. Our friends at Leicester Baptist Church have very kindly invited us to use their building for our baptism services. These tend to happen on a mid-week (usually a Thursday). This is a very simple event which includes some upbeat worship songs, a short 10 minute message, stories from those who are being baptised and then the actual baptisms.
Before each person is baptised, I (or a member of the team) will say these words: ‘According to the confession our your faith, we now baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. After this, the baptism takes place. It only lasts a couple of seconds but it is always accompanied by lot of cheers afterwards as people celebrate this important step of faith.
WANT TO BE BAPTISED?
If you would like to be baptised, get in touch with us ASAP. We’ll then give you some details on when the next Baptism celebration is going to be. Baptism is an amazing experience and it is totally worth doing. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org