We believe in adult, youth and infant Baptism. Along with nearly all Christians we believe in baptizing older people whenever the occasion requires it. That occasion though is not a private one. We believe that Baptism is a Sacrament and as such should be done as part of the worship service before the Body of Christ. There are many ways of performing the Sacrament and we are quite willing to immerse people or pour if they so desire it. But since we hold that the amount of water used is not important, we commend the practice of Baptism by laying on of hands or “sprinkling.” (Sprinkling means to lay a hand on your head by the minister; the hand having been dipped into a bowl of Holy Water so that the cup of the hand contains the water and is poured out on the head.)
All through the ages Christians have believed that infants were unutterably precious to God. God did not want them to be lost. But infant Baptism goes deeper than any supposed cleansing from the pollution of original sin. In the Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 2, verse 22, after Jesus’ birth his mother takes him to the temple for the time of purification, which was a ceremony in which the child is laid in a basin where water is poured over the child as a symbolic washing. Remember that in Genesis the result of Eve’s sin is that she will give childbirth in pain and disgrace. The Jews practiced washing the mother and child after the birth to demonstrate the cleansing and purification of that act of Sin . The child was then claimed as a child of God in the Jewish faith.
To see the point of infant Baptism we need to understand the sacrament of Baptism itself in the light of this history, whether for infants, children, or adults. It is the sacrament of incorporation into the community of faith. It means that those baptized are in a true sense in Christ, claimed by him for training and nurture within the community of faith. It means the beginning of the new life in Christ. To be sure, a person may begin this before their baptism. But Baptism is the church’s way of recognizing the profound reality of incorporation into Christ and his community. It means also the public recognition of this identification with Christ. In and through it all, Baptism means incorporation into the new life of the Spirit.
At the baptism of Jesus the new era of grace was begun and announced by the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist saw that the Jewish people had fallen away from God’s ways and should no longer be able to see themselves as the children of God. He tells them just because you were born a Jew does not mean you are God’s children. It is how you act because of that birth. He saw the ceremony that they had gone through as only White Washing of the fence if no action was behind it. That is why he was re-baptizing them at the river Jordan when Jesus came. So in Baptism today the Holy Spirit works mysteriously in the heart of the believer and in the community of faith to bring home to people the benefits of the new age. It is now a new purification which calls for a change in life.
But why do we join the vast majority of Christians in recognizing the importance of infant Baptism? Because by birth, as previously practice by the Jewish faith, God has set his mark and seal on each little child and claimed him for himself and his people, and God’s mighty redemptive work in Jesus Christ has already been done in behalf of each infant. The Church celebrates that fact in Baptizing its infants. Again, we believe in infant Baptism because the whole community of faith, along with the family, needs to lift up each little child and claim him for Christ and his Church in advance of the age of accountability, whatever age that might be for that child. In all things, including religion, the infant goes with the family.
Posted in: Baptism