Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

Is Baptism any use? 12Jan14

Is Baptism any use?

If you can only do it once, can you be sure it worked? And how would you know if it worked? What are the signs that it worked?

It depends on what we think we are doing in baptism. Is the church doing something? Is the minister doing something? Is the person being baptised doing something? Is God doing something?  Yes to all the above. But what?

The person being baptised is asking God for something. They are asking for what the baptism represents: cleansing from sin, and new life after burial. The washing with water represents clearly enough the request that God will wash away our sin. If we did the baptism properly we would put the person under the water - representing the death and burial of the old life- and raise them out of it representing new life with God. In this way they are asking God for a spiritual rebirth.

The minister is asking the person whether they really want to live for Christ: do they turn away from  their sin, turn to Christ to serve him as his disciple, reject their old way of life. The person being baptised publicly declares their faith and intention to follow Christ.

The minister also prays on behalf of the church that God will answer the person’s requests.

The church welcomes the baptised person as a fellow member of the body of Christ.

And God? We trust God to answer the prayers of his people. By giving new birth, by forgiving sins, by giving his Spirit, by bringing the person to a new life in Christ.

When might this happen? For an adult, it has often happened already before the baptism. In that case the service becomes a public declaration of faith and of prayer for the new disciple. In the case of a child, it may have already begun from birth. It may begin later. Everyone is different.

But what our service assumes is that whether it is a child or an adult, the person will be helped and encouraged to grow in Christ. They will take their place among the believers who gather week by week. They will serve Christ and his body. They will grow in the Holy Spirit.

How do we know if it works? By the fruit of godly living. Do we know how it works? By the grace of God.
Dale

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