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Baptism meaning – Problematic in practice

Table of Contents:
a) Baptism meaning
b) Baptism meaning: What the Bible says
c) Baptism meaning: How were people baptised in the Bible?
d) Baptism meaning: Problematic in practice

a) Baptism meaning:

Baptism meaning: different ways of Baptism, river, font and baptistery..
Baptism meaning: different ways of Baptism, in the river, font and baptistery.

Christian Baptism is an act carried out with water, by sprinkling or immersion, to:

b) Baptism meaning: What the Bible says:

Firstly, Jesus wanted to be baptised. (Matthew 3:13-17) so it must be important.

Secondly, as the Bible narrative goes on we see the new converts getting baptised as the normal and proper thing to do:

…they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women.”
Acts 8:12

And there are many examples like this in the New Testament.

Thirdly, the Apostle Peter tells us:

“Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2:38

We are told to be baptised so the Lord expects us to be baptised.

c) Baptism meaning: How were people baptised in the Bible?

John the Baptist baptised Jesus in a river. (Matthew 3:13)
The eunuch was baptised in some water beside the road. (Acts 8:36)
Paul and Silas baptised their jailer in his house. (Acts 16:33)

So it was not a highly organised event, for some there were a lot of onlookers and for others just a few people were there.

Some were baptised with a lot of water around, for others there would have been only a little water in a jug.
We do not know the technique and I reckon that God wanted it that way.

d) Baptism meaning: Problematic in practice:

Different church groups have different ways of baptising people and it seems like it is written in stone!
This subject has caused a lot of conflict between different denominations and groups.
Let’s now look at this dilemma:

Baptism meaning: one way is in a river (Peter Reason on the right!)
Baptism meaning: one way is in a river (Peter Reason on the right!)

I had to learn a lesson many years ago involving water baptism and I want to pass this on to you.
Here you can see me involved in a baptism at a nearby river and I was fully committed to ‘believers baptism’.

But then I met someone who had come the Anglican route of infant baptism and then ‘Confirmation’.

Initially I saw them as not being baptised – well it wasn’t believers baptism was it?
But they truly saw themselves as being baptised, so why would they want to be baptised again?

And if they went through with this new act of baptism it would be just performing some kind of rite or ritual.
They felt baptised, but another Christian group wanted them to be baptised according to their custom.

They believed that they were baptised, so what right had I, or anybody else, to force a ceremony onto them?

Baptism meaning: one way is in a stone Font.
Baptism meaning: one way is in a stone Font.

I’ve seen this the other way round as well, where someone had been baptised as a believer and then had joined an Anglican church and they had to get baptised and confirmed their way, according to their tradition.
So no one side is to blame, both camps can push people to get re-baptised.

Yes I personally see ‘believers baptism’ as being the ideal in that someone comes to faith and then they can be baptised as an act of obedience and as an outward sign of that confession.
But for someone who believes in their heart that they are truly baptised by complying to a denominations teaching, I can see that it would be wrong to not accept them and wrong to force them to redo it.

Surely this whole baptism thing should NOT be a legalistic act – complying to law, but rather the spirit of the act.
I am sure Jesus is much more accepting of people and their baptism than many Christians are.

Read about John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3 on-line (opens in a new window).

Peter Reason

February 2012

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