Why is There Such a Thing as Baptism?
The ordinance of Christian baptism began with John the Baptist, was accepted by Jesus, was practiced by his disciples, was commanded by the Lord after his resurrection and was offered to the early church to all who would repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Through Christian Baptism we give glory to God for his covenant of grace, and his saving works in history for our salvation. We proclaim the washing ways of sins and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. We identify ourselves as a people set apart out of the world for the ownership and lordship of Jesus Christ. It is our duty, therefore, to endeavor with God’s mighty help to see the effects of our baptism displayed in our daily lives through faith in Christ and obedience to the Word of God.
Baptism is the first of two sacraments that Jesus commanded His church to perform (the second being the Lord’s Supper). John the Baptist is the first person we see baptizing in the New Testament. He called people to repent, turn to God in faith and obedience and be baptized. John proclaimed that through the act of baptism it was faith that marked the people of God, not their physical descent. Jesus, when he had John baptize him, identified him-self with John’s teaching and with these new people of faith. Later, Jesus’ disciples picked up the practice of baptizing as part of Jesus ministry (John 3:26; 4:2) and Jesus commanded it at the end of his earthly ministry (Mt. 28:19) in one of his resurrection appearances.
What Baptism Signifies
It is a sign of the new covenant, (Matthew 28:19) instituted by Christ for the church at the great commission. In this light, it is comparable to the practice of circumcision in the OT. Circumcision was the sign of the old covenant given to Abraham and his descendants. Baptism is the sign of the new covenant signifying that it is not who your parents are, but that we have been identified with Jesus. It incorporates you as part of the body of Christ.
It is a sign of our sanctification and being set apart for God to walk in newness of life. It is a sign that signifies us as belonging to Christ. Acts 2:38-47 – A new community created at Pentecost and set apart from the "corrupt generation".
It is a symbol of our cleansing and salvation. Mark 16:16 – "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…"; Acts 22:16 – "…Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name". We are not the same people we once were. The old self has died. Additionally, our future physical death will not have the same meaning for us that it would if Christ had not died our death in our place. Baptism does not save, but it does symbolize our salvation. Baptism does not makes us the Lord’s but His sacrificial death in our place does.
It is a sign of our union with Christ. 1Cor. 12:13 – "For we were all baptized by one spirit into one body…"; Romans 6:4 – "We were, therefore, buried with him through baptism into death…"; Col. 2:12 – "…having been buried with him in baptism…" This brings a newness of life in Christ that is a life of daily living by faith in the glory and the working of God.
Baptism is also a seal; it is God’s mark of ownership upon us. By means of baptism, we receive God’s promise to be our God, to forgive our sins through faith in Christ, to graft us into Christ, and to give us life eternal through him.
Baptism does not point to what the recipient has done (such as believing or giving a testimony), but points to our relationship with God not on the basis of our works but on the basis of Christ’s work on our behalf and our faith in Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. We do not stand before God on the basis of our works as judged by the law, but God promises deliverance to sinners.
Grace's View of Baptism
We need to recognize that there has been and is today, a strong difference of viewpoint among evangelical Christians regarding the mode of baptism. The position of Grace Covenant Church is that the mode of baptism is not a "major" doctrine that should cause division among genuine Christians. Generally, the various sides in this discussion hold their position with integrity and a real desire to obey God’s Word.
We do not believe that baptism, or the mode of baptism is an essential act for salvation.
There are two positions on baptism that Grace acknowledges from evangelical Christians, that of believer’s baptism or that of infant baptism (paedobaptism) practiced by believing parents. Although we practice believer’s baptism at Grace, we acknowledge and welcome those who practice infant baptism into our church.
At Grace Covenant Church, the Scriptures are the source of our beliefs. In Matt. 28:19-20 Jesus commands his followers to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . ." Baptism is the means by which followers of Christ are identified.
GCC primarily practices the immersion mode of believer’s baptism based on a Sacramentarian view of the ordinances whereby their value lies in the symbol-ism they convey and in the faith of the participants.
In Romans 6:1-11, the apostle Paul explains how the immersion mode of baptism identifies the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Going underwater pictures Christ’s death and coming out of the water illustrates His resurrection.
While we adhere to the immersion mode of baptism believing that it best illustrates the work of Christ, we do not find any passage of Scripture that mandates how much water should be used.
The value of the sacrament of baptism is in the life and heart of the believer, not in the amount of water used. Because of this, we will accommodate those who have particular concerns about immersion.
You do not have to be baptized to have Christ, any more than you must ex-change rings to be pronounced man and wife. But if the inner commitment to trust Christ alone for Salvation has been made, then the outward symbol of baptism should be as valued and as visible as the gold ring on a newlywed’s finger.
Am I Ready to Be Baptized?
At Grace, baptism is for believers. A believer is someone who has realized that their sin has separated them from God. They have given up all efforts to reach God through good works or religious activity. They have concluded that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for their sins is the only thing that can bridge the gap between them and God. A believer is someone who has decided to trust Christ, alone, for his or her Salvation.
If you have come to that point in your spiritual journey, then the answer is yes, you are ready to be baptized. Just as the bride and groom tell of their love for one another through the symbol of rings, you should also want to show the world through baptism of your union with Christ. Let in the invisible miracle that has happened in you show through the sacrament He ordained for you.
We will baptize children, but it is the request of the Elders that children have the consent of their parents before they are baptized.
When and if you desire to become a covenant member of Grace Covenant Church you are required simply to affirm your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, your desire to enter into a covenant relationship with others in the Body of Christ and your willingness to accept the authority of the church. You are not required to assent to our particular teachings regarding baptism.
General Order of the Baptism Service
1. Come in a prayerful attitude and rest in the Lord. The baptism candidates will meet 30 minutes prior to the service for prayer and to answer any questions.
2. Please bring dry clothes, a plastic bag for the wet clothes, a large towel, a handkerchief and any personal items needed for after the baptism. We recommend that you wear dark colored, baggy cloth-ing.
3. Remove watches and wallets before the service.
4. At the appropriate time, you will be asked to come to the micro-phone. You may share an oral or written testimony. If you prefer, someone may read it for you.
5. You will then enter the pool to be baptized.
6. The person baptizing you will then say, "Based on your confession of faith in Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
7. He will then put his right hand behind your head and you should clasp his left wrist with both of your hands. He will guide you firmly into the water as you bend your knees (please do not lift your feet off the floor of the baptism pool), and will hold you se-curely and bring you up from the water quickly and confidently.
As you know from reading the information in this booklet, baptism at Grace is for believers: those who have clearly decided to trust Christ, alone, for their salvation. If this is true of you, please complete this form and your Baptism testimony.
Suggestions for your writing your testimony...
1. Be sure to explain your story in such a way that if someone heard your story, they would know what it is to be a Christian.
2. What was your life like before you trusted Christ?
3. Describe how and when you trusted Christ alone for your salvation.
4. How does your faith make a difference in your life?
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Grace Covenant Church
Worship Services: W. Urner Street | Pottstown, PA 19465
Office: 851 East Third Street | Birdsboro, PA 19508