why do we baptise at all?
The church is a community of everyday people who cherish the commands and promises of God. The ritual of water baptism signifies the formal entrance of a person into this visible community of faith, over which Jesus is Lord. Jesus told his first followers:
“All authority in heaven and on 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.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
In other words, Jesus authorized his church to baptize people whom it considers to be followers of Jesus. But followers of Jesus don’t grow on trees. They grow as they are baptized and taught to live under the rule of Jesus Christ. Baptism signifies the first step in a lifelong journey of submitting to Jesus in every area of life.
In the first sermon of the church, the Apostle Peter confirmed the Lordship of Jesus. He said,
". . . be assured of this: God has made this Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36)
In light of Jesus’ complete authority, those listening to Peter ask “what shall we do?”. Peter’s response is:
"Repent and be baptized, 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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)
God’s promises extend not only to believing parents but also to their children. Thus, Wavell Heights Presbyterian Church baptizes those who consciously live under the Lordship of Jesus, as well as their children—God’s promises are ‘for them’ too.
why do we baptise children?
Some people object to the baptizing of children because there is no explicit example of it being done in the New Testament. However, there is plenty of biblical support for including children as part of the people of God. In support of infant baptism, we find:
- In the New Testament book “Acts”, there are whole households being baptized together
- Paul addresses his letters to churches that contain whole family units (i.e. mums, dads, kids; Col. 3:18-21)
- Paul teaches that children are to be raised “in the instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20)
- Children are clearly involved in believing families and churches (Acts 21:5)
- Jesus loved children of believers, blessing them and praying for them (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16)
- Both Old and New Testaments suggest that God makes promises to believing adults and their households (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:38-39)
As the good news about Jesus spreads, God gathers together people at all stages of life to follow Jesus in dynamic communities—single people, married people, parents, and widows. God promises to be their God and the God of their children—the question is: do we believe the promises of God?
what does infant baptism do?
Infant baptism doesn’t automatically make a child a born-again Christian. It signifies that they belong to the visible community of faith (the ‘church’). What makes a person truly right with God is an personal faith in Jesus Christ. A born-again Christian is a person who turns away from living autonomously without Jesus, and resolves to live under his loving rule, trusting that only his death on their behalf can make them right with God.
Being baptized simply shows you belong to the community that that cherishes the promises of God and follows Jesus together. The reality of where a person stands with God will be revealed as time passes - it will become evident in the person’s words, attitudes, priorities and actions.
so, can we proceed to the baptism?
Every Presbyterian church is overseen by a small group of servant-leaders called 'elders.' In the Presbyterian church, the decision to proceed with a baptism is not made by the ordained Minister, but by the consensus of the whole group of elders. The elders require that:
1. The child to be baptized must have at least one practicing Christian parent. By "practicing," we mean that the Christian parent is an active member of the church, and seeks to follow Jesus in their everyday life. If baptism shows a child is part of God’s visible community of faith, then we require that the child is involved in that community, along with the believing parent/s! If the parents co-habitate (that is, are not separated or divorced but are not married either), we require that they be married before we can proceed further.
2. The parent/s must be able to said “I do” to these promises:
a. Do you believe in the one true God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
b. Do you believe that salvation is found only through faith in Jesus Christ?
c. Do you promise to teach <name> about Jesus, to pray for him/her and to set before him/her a godly example of life?
3. The congregation must also say “we do” to the following:
Do you as a church family and friends promise to play your part in teaching <name> to love the Lord Jesus by your word and example; to encourage <name> to put his/her trust in Jesus as he/she grows in faith and maturity?
the bottom line: our expectations
1. The parent/s need to understand that baptism is a sign that the child is part of God’s visible community of faith (the church).
2. As such, we require the parent/s to meet for times of worship and fellowship, and along with the rest of the church community, to seek to
follow Jesus Christ through all of life.
3. The parent/s will naturally be prepared to teach the child about Jesus, to pray for him/her and to set a godly example of life.
4. The elders of this church must give consent for the ordained Minister to proceed with the baptism.
Because we want to honour God and nurture the faith of our little ones, we take infant baptism very seriously at Wavell Heights Presbyterian Church. Please pray and think about what you’ve read and let us know what you think (firstname.lastname@example.org). May God bless you and your family! :)