Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The importance of baptism. . .

From Roger E.  Olson, Water Works: Why Baptism Is Essential | Christianity Today:
The Evangelical Free Church of America provides latitude on whether baptism should be required for church membership. Based on the denomination’s autonomy, it’s a local church matter.And some congregations believe the only requirement for church membership is simply being a born-again Christian. . . .

Some Christians, such as Quakers and members of the Salvation Army, reject baptism entirely. And recently, one Texas megachurch pastor reported that nearly a third of the people who receive Christ in his church are never baptized. One response to the multiple views of baptism is to reject or neglect it entirely. Especially in large independent churches, baptism is often relegated to relative unimportance.

 If something is not essential, it is optional.  If, in the estimation of nearly all Protestant churches, baptism does not impart, do, or change anything, then why do it?  Apparently that is the conclusion of many who "receive Christ" but never follow through with baptism.  Frankly, I would probably be one of them if I were one of those Protestants.  Symbols are significant and meaningful only to those who like them, desire them, and use them.  If baptism is not your "thing" then its symbolism is optional.  Never mind the Scriptures or tradition -- since everything is oriented toward "me", if I judge baptism insignificant, I see no compelling reason to be baptized (that is the decision of many who live within the confines of evangelical and fundamentalist churches in America.  Rules do not have the bite they once did.

In some respects, we Lutherans find ourselves in a similar predicament.  Baptism has become like the wedding -- put off until all the family can attend and the celebration goes on.  I do not expect that my circumstance is all that different from the average Lutheran Pastor who can no longer count on Lutheran children moving into the parish to have been baptized.  I have to ask.  Often the sheepish reply is that the family was waiting for a great moment that never came and suddenly finds themselves with a pre-teen or teenaged child, about ready for catechism class, who hides the deep dark secret of never having been baptized.  And I am not merely speaking of families whose association with the church is tenuous. I begin my youth catechism class by asking the child to find the baptismal certificate and come back with the date, place, and sponsor information.  More than I care to admit the child has come back and admitted (often to his or her horror) "I was never baptized!" Looking back on my ancestry records I find that most of my Lutheran relatives were baptized within a week or two of birth -- many as the first real trip outside the house after birth.

Like the couple who lives together as the norm until they save up enough money and can get all the family together for a perfect wedding, families are tempted to wait for the right time but that day seems never to come.  Distance and schedules combine to make it hard to find a perfect Sunday when everyone can be there.  So the family gradually forgets about trying for the right time and the whole thing gets pushed aside in the busyness of life.  We Lutherans confess the miracle of baptism -- the water with the Word, the Spirit working through this sacrament, the old life drowned, the new life born, forgiveness given, faith imparted, the clothing of righteousness covering sin, the entrance into the community of faith (the Church)...  We have the theology right but we are slipping in our practice.  Baptism is not made effective by who is there from family or friends but the Word in and with the water.  If family cannot make it, they will have to do with pictures.  If sponsors are unable to attend, then a witness or two will have to stand in for them.  But baptism is too good to postpone for less than urgent and essential reasons.  Or... we run the risk of becoming just like the Protestants -- a church in which baptism is optional and not the highest priority.  For the record, the Scriptures and tradition cannot conceive of a church in which baptism is optional!

For those who think about postponing, read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8:26-40. After his encounter with the Word of the Lord, the first thing was baptism.  "What is there to prevent me from being baptized?"  When the Word of the Lord addresses the heart of the sinner and the Spirit opens that heart to faith, the first steps will be to the baptismal font to receive what God promises there.  If this does not happen, something is wrong.  The progression for those old enough to hear the Word is to hear it and proceed directly to baptism.  For the children born to the baptized, as soon as possible those children should be brought to the family of faith (the church) to be received into God's Kingdom through baptism.  Sure, there are some reasons why one might wait but are those reasons compelling enough to keep from the child what God has promised in baptism?  Good food for thought!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I honestly do not know why any orthodox Christian would be surprised at the current trends regarding Baptism and these Protestant gatherings seeing as how they also reject the clear Word regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. The best, perhaps, one might say is at least they're consistent -- in their opposition to the Sacraments, that is. Sad and tragic, if not downright perilous, indeed!

Unknown said...

When the Church was born, in response to the guilt-stricken people’s question about what they should do, Peter said, Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
But there is so much more to the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Here was a non-Jew reading Isaiah. It is likely that this had not been his first trip to Jerusalem, because according to Jewish tradition, a student of Torah did not read Isaiah until he had read Moses, the Pentateuch. It is obvious that he yearned to be able to become part of the people who worshipped the God of Israel, but he knew it was impossible. He had read Deuteronomy 23:1, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” Yet he continued to read God’s word and make pilgrimages to the city of God. He was reading Isaiah 53:7 when Phillip appeared. When Phillip had finished proclaiming “the good news of Jesus” (the Gospel, Acts 8:35), the Eunuch asked with trepidation, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” It never occurred to him that he might not have had enough instruction to be baptized. He was thinking, “is this again only for everybody else but not for me?” Therefore, when he “went away rejoicing” after Phillip had baptized him and left him, it was a special joy of one who had been an outcast, who had no right to claim a portion in the inheritance of the people of God, but who, unexpectedly, had been “admitted to the assembly of the Lord.”
It was a long way home. No doubt, after a while he again took up his Isaiah scroll. Did he at some point wonder whether his meeting with Phillip, what Phillip had taught him, and his baptism were just a dream? Were they legitimate? Having finished Isaiah 53, it was not long before he came to Isaiah 56:4, “… and do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” We cannot begin to imagine his joy.
Nobody is excluded from becoming a child of God. That is what this event proclaims.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Steve Finnell said...

THE BAPTISM OF JOHN VERSUS CHRISTIAN BAPTISM BY STEVE FINNELL
POINT: Those who reject the Scriptures concerning the purpose of Christian baptism, readily accepts the Biblical account as to the purpose of water baptism performed by John the Baptist.

Christian Baptism: Men are told to believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins and they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Mark 16:16 He who has believed and who has been baptized shall be saved..
Acts 2:38..."Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Christian baptism men are clothed with Christ.
Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.


John's Baptism: Men are told to repent and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins and to believe in Jesus who was to come. (The Holy Spirit had yet been given).

Luke 3:3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
Acts 19:4 Paul said, "John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus."

Christian baptism follows believing in Jesus, and repentance, (repentance means to make the commitment to turn away from sin and turn toward God).

The baptism of John followed repentance, (resolving to sin no more).

Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

If the Pharisees and lawyers rejected God's purpose by failing to be baptized by John the Baptist; what will be the consequences for those who reject the baptism commanded by Jesus?

Did you ever notice that the proponents of the "faith only" doctrine no not say that "for" in Luke 3:3 means "because of"?

John's baptism was not because their sin were already forgiven. Christian baptism preached on the Day of Pentecost was not because their sins were already forgiven. (Acts 2:38)

Luke 3:7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come.

John's baptism in water was essential to spare them of the wrath to come.

Christian baptism in water is essential to spare us all, of the wrath to come.(Mark 16:16...baptized shall be saved....)

The baptism of John became obsolete on the Day of Pentecost.

CHRISTIAN BAPTISM IS AVAILABLE UNTIL JESUS RETURNS.

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