How do you think about water baptism? Do you think about it as an act of worship? Baptism, along with the Lord’s Supper, is one of two actions that our Savior himself ordained that the church practice permanently until his return. That’s pretty significant.
For the past two years our pastoral team has been studying the importance of these two sacraments in the life of the church. We’ve realized that we haven’t been explaining or practicing them in a way that sufficiently communicates their rich biblical meaning and importance. We share communion once a month as a church and offer baptism at least quarterly, but usually on a Sunday afternoon or at a retreat.
So this past Sunday, Josh Harris, our senior pastor, taught on baptism. He explained that a sacrament is both a symbol and a seal. As a symbol, it stands for something else, just as a wedding band symbolizes the life long commitment a husband and wife make before God and others. But baptism is also a seal, physically reinforcing the reality it represents, similar to the way a handshake reinforces a sentiment of good will and encouragement. Baptism seals our union by faith with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
Water baptism doesn’t save anyone, but it is the biblical sign that a person’s sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, and that we’ve been united with Christ in his death and resurrection ( 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Rom. 6:3-4 ). It also seals that fact that we’ve begun a new life in Christ ( 2 Cor. 5:17 ). In view of its significance, we’ll be making changes in our practice of baptism that strengthen these biblical convictions. One of the most evident is starting to include water baptisms regularly in our Sunday meetings, potentially even twice a month.
We’ll be building a baptismal into the floor of the stage in the near future. But since that wasn’t ready yet, we used this large inflatable blue pool. Unsightly, but functional.
In both of our two meetings we baptized ten individuals, for a total of twenty. Before they were baptized, each person expressed, at times through tears, their trust in Christ’s atoning work and a desire to obey him. Two people in each meeting shared a lengthier version on video. Here’s the order of the morning:
Song: Jesus, Thank You (Pat Sczebel)
Song: Knowing You (All I Once Held Dear) (Graham Kendrick)
Song: As Long as I Have Breath (Mark Altrogge)
As we watched baptisms right in the middle of the Sunday meeting, I was struck by several things. First, you couldn’t miss the connection between a person being baptized into Christ and being baptized into his Body. This wasn’t a bunch friends baptizing each other in a pool. This was a serious commitment, made possible by the grace of God, to live life together with the church of Jesus Christ. Second, it reinforced the importance of water baptism to everyone present. Third, it was a biblical way to preach the Gospel. Fourth, there was an almost palpable joy that filled the room as we were reminded that Jesus Christ continues to reconcile men and women to God through his substitutionary death and triumphant resurrection.
The highlight of the morning (and there were many), came as the last man stepped up to be baptized. It was Josh’s father-in-law, Milt. Josh and his wife, Shannon, have been praying for his salvation for ten years. Milt shared that he had managed to make it through sixty years without believing in God. But this past April, God led him to the foot of the cross. He shared that although his life has been filled with regret, he is now filled with the joy of knowing his sins have been completely forgiven through the sacrifice of his Savior. Here’s Josh (along with Robin Boisvert), baptizing his father-in-law.
How do I thank You, oh Lord
For taking my place on the cross
And how do I thank You, oh Lord
For all of Your mercy and kindness
For calling me to You
For letting me hear You
For opening my heart to the Gospel.
There’s nothing “magical” about dunking someone in water. But when done in faith and in obedience to God’s Word, it helps us remember that we worship the matchless Savior who really does change lives.