I had the privilege last week of baptizing my daughter surrounded by friends and coworkers at our Europe Area conference in Slovenia. It was a wonderful event, and one of the highlights of my life.
Some may wonder what baptism is all about. If someone knew nothing about Christianity it would seem strange. What does dunking someone in the water have to do with anything spiritual? For those of you wondering about baptism, here is a very brief theology on the subject.
Baptism existed long before the time of Christ. It was used as an initiation rite in religious communities such as the Qumarn community that wrote the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls. Later John the Baptist adopted the practice as a means of signifying repentance in preparation for the coming messiah. After Jesus’ ascension it was used to demonstrate faith in Jesus and a formal entry into the Church community. Since then, it has been an initiation rite for the Church.
Baptizing represents a connection with Jesus in His death and resurrection. This is why many practice baptism by immersing the baptized person in water and then bringing him out again. Burial and resurrection is symbolized through this action. It also demonstrates repentance of sins. As water cleans physically, baptism by water symbolizes a spiritual cleansing.
Baptism is not an activity that earns us favor with God. It is not a means of salvation. It is a symbol and one that is commanded in the Bible, but it is not how we are saved. Jesus saves people. We do not save ourselves through our actions. This is well demonstrated in baptism. One cannot baptize oneself. Someone must do it for him. In the same way, we cannot save ourselves from our sins. Jesus had to do it for us.
Baptism is a personal choice based on a personal faith in Jesus.
Some ask me how I feel about children and infants being baptized. The Bible gives no age restriction on baptism. If a person confesses faith in Jesus as the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again; and if such a person trusts Jesus alone for his salvation and repents of his sin, I see no reason he cannot be baptized. However, though I believe children can profess such faith I have serious doubts that an infant can do so.
Some of you may be wondering if you should be baptized. If you believe in Jesus and trust Him alone for your salvation, as described above, then I recommend being baptized if you have not already been.
Who can baptize you? I would argue that anyone who has been baptized themselves can baptize you. I know of no Biblical restriction that tells us that you must be baptized by someone in professional ministry. The message of the Bible is one that empowers people to do ministry. I am blessed to work for an organization that encourages us to “Develop, Empower, and Release” others. Those who believe and have been baptized are empowered to baptize others, and I would be remiss if I placed restrictions on my brothers and sisters that remove freedoms given to them by Jesus Himself.