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Homepage > Training Course > Ceremonies

Description and comparative analysis of the ceremonies of different religions and confessions


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6.2.1. Baptism
Being baptised is in some ways is like a special welcome into a local church. But it is much more than this. Baptism is a sign that someone has turned from (‘repented of’) living to please themselves and instead has chosen to live God’s way. Some Christian churches baptise infants. Others wait un-til a person is old enough to decide for themselves, showing this in “believer’s baptism.

One reason why Christians choose to get baptised is because Jesus himself was baptised. He also asked his disciples to baptise others as a sign of their commitment to living life differently. In the Bi-ble, the Gospel of Matthew records these words as the last thing Jesus said before he returned to heaven:

I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)

Jesus asked it, so Christians do it! When an infant is baptised, the parents and Godparents make promises on their behalf. When the child is old enough, they may make their own promise to live as a Christian in a confirmation service. Churches that do not baptise infants may have a service of “dedication” or “thanksgiving”, to say “thank you” to God for the child and to pray for the fami-ly.What does Baptism mean?

For many Christians, baptism is an outward symbol of something happening on the inside. The word for this is a sacrament: something ordinary in itself, but that has a sacred (special) meaning. In this case, the meaning is that someone has turned to Jesus and wants to follow him and his ways.

There are two big things that baptism in water symbolises:
  • Getting clean. When people do things that displease God, it’s almost like getting dirt on your soul. Water is used for washing. Through baptism, Christians show that they have been made clean by receiving God’s forgiveness for the things they have done wrong.
  • Moving from death to life. If you saw somebody lying still on the floor, you might think that they were asleep, or perhaps worse. If they were to sit up, you would think they had wok-en up. When Christians are baptised by immersion – pushed backwards under the water and then brought up again – they show that an old way of living has gone. The old person is dead and a new person is alive, ready to start living in a way that pleases God.

The Baptist Churches ideas on baptism are slightly different as baptism occurs in adulthood.

To members of the Baptist church baptism is a very special moment on the journey of faith. It is a moment when God's presence and blessing meets us, and when we make our personal commit-ment of faith in Jesus as Lord.

It signifies the end of our old life and of being born again to new life in Christ. Normally taking place by full immersion in water, 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.

Baptism is also about receiving God's Spirit for service in the church and in the world.

The vast majority of Christian churches affirm baptism as a moment when we receive God's gift and respond in faith, but not all practise believer's baptism. Many baptise those who are too young to make their own response of commitment to Christian discipleship, and so parents make promises on their behalf that are later 'confirmed' by the person themselves when they are of an age to do so.

Many Baptists will want to welcome and affirm those who have a different story to tell of how they have been baptised and come to faith, while still declaring our conviction that believer’s baptism is the pattern that is set out for us in scripture:
  • Jesus set an example: Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).
  • Jesus commands us: In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus says, “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”.
  • 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 2:37-38).

There are other examples of baptism throughout the book of Acts which suggests believer's bap-tism was an integral part of early church life.

The Baptism pool in a Baptist Church being blessed before the ceremony.

Adult baptism often involved full emersion in water to symbolises the Baptism of Jesus.


Baptism – A video explaining and showing the meaning of Adult Baptism

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.