As promised, here is my post on baptism. Christ makes it pretty clear that baptism is essential for salvation. In the concluding verses of Matthew he directs his apostles to: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…” (Matt 28:19). In John chapter 3 Jesus has a thorough discussion with the pharisee Nicodemus about the necessity of baptism, the Lord says to him: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). The concluding words of Christ to his apostles in the the gospel of Mark include this warning: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
There are, of course, other scriptures that reinforce the necessity of this ordinance. Unfortunately, the bible is scarce on the exact details of how a baptism is to be performed, who may perform it and when it should be done. As a result baptism is one of the most contested doctrines of Christ. Entire denominations of Christianity developed around interpretations of how, when, to and by whom and why this ordinance should be performed. Indeed it is probably quite safe to say that the majority of evangelical christianity would deny that baptism is an essential christian ordinance. A simple Google search reveals the diversity of belief about baptism.
I do not wish this post to be a list of beliefs about baptism or even a list of what I believe about the mechanics of the ordinance. Instead I’d like to focus on how I feel about the ordinance. I have had the privilege of baptising both my daughters and in a few days, when my son turns 8, it will be my privilege to baptise him. I am deeply humbled to have the opportunity to share this experience with my children, I suspect they will not remember the ordinance but in some ways their baptisms are as essential for me and our family as it is for them. The baptism of an 8 year old child is different from that of an adult. Children are alive in Christ and innocent. For them the ordinance is a right of passage and the beginning of what they hope to become, like Christ. It is the planting of the seed of faith in fresh unspoiled ground. As my children grow I will water that seed and nourish it and give it as much sun as I can but in the end it is God that gives the increase.
While baptism is an essential saving ordinance it is not what does the saving. I think the idea is illustrated well by the story of Naaman in the Old Testament. Naaman was a captain in the Syrian army who was also a leper. His maid, an Israelite, convinced him to travel to Israel to meet with the prophet Elisha. When he reaches the home of Elisha the prophet sends him a message through his servant that Naaman should go and bath in the Jordan river 7 times and he would be healed of his leprosy. Naaman didn’t take it too well:
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Ababa and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
1 Kings 5: 11-14.
Naaman is healed of his leprosy because of his faith, though grudging at first, in the prophet of God. The waters of the Jordan did not have special healing powers. There is not some special significance to the number 7 that cleansed the disease. It simply and purely was his faith and the promise of God through his servant Elisha. And so it is with baptism. Jaron will be baptised in a rough made box full of water in front of a nondescript villa in an obscure city on the Arabian Peninsula (okay that part is kinda cool). The ordinance will be done in moments. There is nothing special about the water or the box. Though we wear white and the ordinance is replete with symbolism none of these things are what save us. It will be Jaron’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the promise of God that make the difference. The Lord said:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
So we will carry out his commandments and hope for a friend in Jesus.