I baptise you with water for repentance, but after me will come one more powerful than I, whose sandals I'm not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Matthew 3:11
Why is it important to be baptised?
From the days of the early New Testament Church, people have been drawn by Almighty God, to come with their children, to be baptised. Ever since the day of Pentecost: when the crowds of people asked St. Peter what they needed to do to be saved, and he responded and said: (Acts 2. 38,39) “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him”. Therefore by coming yourself for baptism, or by bringing your child for baptism: you too are responding to the call of Almighty God upon your life today and will be blessed mightily as a consequence.
You see, instinctively each of us knows within our spirit, that without baptism we are incomplete as a person. Only through being baptised can we truly become the person that God has created us to be, and so experience wholeness of life. In Jesus’ encounter with a man called Nicodemus, he explained it this way: (John 3.3) “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. (John 3.5) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Clearly here Jesus is referring to baptism, and I will explain this further later on. But he is also stating the fact that Baptism is necessary for our Salvation! St Peter clearly understood the importance of baptism and its connection with salvation, when he referred to the fact that Almighty God had saved Noah and his family when they passed through the waters of the great flood, and then said: (1 Peter 3:21) “Baptism, which corresponds to this now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for the clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, …”. It’s through Jesus that we are saved, and the fact that we are “born again” to become one with Christ in his death and in his resurrection as we pass through the waters of baptism, that St Peter is wanting to emphasise for us in this passage.
Baptism is a sacrament of the Church
But what does that mean? What is a sacrament, and why should we care? Well the Church defines a sacrament like this. A sacrament is - “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given to us by Christ himself, as a means by which we receive that grace, and a pledge to assure us of this”. There are four important points for us to note in this definition, especially with regards to baptism.
Firstly, at our baptism something will happen physically that we can see. Like the pouring of water upon our head. But this is not what is important: what is important is that this outward sign: symbolises something far more important that is being done by God within us (this is known as spiritual grace). Because we can’t see what God is doing in our life, we actually do something physically to enable us to understand more clearly what God is doing spiritually.
Secondly, it’s not what we do: or what the Priest does that is important. At baptism, it’s what God does, through Jesus (Christ) that is important!
Thirdly, baptism is the means by which we each receive the spiritual promises (grace) that God has made us. More about this in a minute.
Fourthly, baptism is not only the means by which God’s promises are received: but it is also the pledge to assure us of this: it’s the guarantee that we have received it, even though we can’t see it.
So, when we come for baptism, what happens’
In the bible we can clearly see that Almighty God has made four promises to everyone who comes to be baptised. Each of these promises are symbolised by the three physical actions of baptism. That is, the outward signs that are done by the Priest in baptising the person. They are: pouring of water over their head, making the sign of the cross upon their forehead and presenting them with a lighted candle. But again I should remind you that it is not important really what the Priest does, because the importance of baptism is the spiritual grace that we receive from God through baptism. And as I have said previously, God has promised to bless each of us in this way, if we but come and ask him in faith.
The first two promises that God has made to all who are baptised are symbolised by the pouring of water upon our head.
Water as we know is very important to us, as it has two specific qualities that we need in life. Firstly it’s a cleansing agent, in that we wash things in water to make them clean. Secondly water gives new life – we drink water in order to live, we put water on our plants to enable them to grow, we pray for rain to generate new life from the soil and give life to our crops. Water also has spiritual benefits though, as we see in the sacrament of baptism. The first promise that God makes to us in baptism, is that he will forgive our sins. All sin which is present in our lives at the time of baptism is forgiven and we are washed clean – our sins of the past, no longer have control over our lives: so that now, God might fulfil his second promise. Which is to enable us to be spiritually “born again”: to become one of his children. Therefore in the sacrament of baptism he enables us to be born again into a very special and precious relationship with him. We become children of God. Now once this happens, God is able to love each of us in a way that he wasn’t able to prior to our baptism! Our whole relationship with God changes significantly as we pass through the waters of baptism. Now this of course does not mean that God did not love us prior to our baptism, because he did. He just loved us differently. Let me explain.
Through Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus we see that when a person is first born into the world, they become a child of the world, and as such, their relationship with Almighty God is seriously affected by the values and standards of the world. (John 3.6) “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”. Therefore if we then choose, or our parents make the decision on our behalf, that we should become a child of Gods the only way that this can happen says Jesus, is that we must be born again. (John 3.3) “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. (John 3.5) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Clearly here Jesus is referring to baptism. But back to the point I was making. If when we are physically born into the world, we become a child of the world, and are not at that time a child of God, then of course God’s love for us will be different from the way that he loves us once we are born again to become one of his precious children. For example, I love children, all children. I have five of my own and ten Grandchildren. But even I recognise the fact that the way that I love my own children is really different from the way I love other people’s children. There is definitely something very special and precious in the relationship that I have with my children – a real bond, which is not present in the way that I love other people’s children. The same is true of our relationship with God, in that while we are a child of the world there is no doubt that he loves us. But once we are born again to become a child of his, the whole nature of our relationship with him is transformed to become more intimate and unique – special. Hence through the pouring of the water at baptism, we are assured that the first two of God’s promises to us in baptism are fulfilled: our sins are forgiven, and we are “born again” to become a child of God.
But as if that in itself is not enough, there’s more, the third promise God makes to us in baptism is then fulfilled in the action of the signing of the cross on the forehead of the person being baptised. Now when we are at a baptism service and someone makes the sign of the cross, hopefully this draws our focus to Jesus who died on the cross for the sins of the world. Because the next promise to be fulfilled in baptism has to do with Jesus, in that we become one with Christ in his death and in his resurrection. Again let me explain. If as we pass through the waters of baptism, we are born again to become a child of God, and if, as we know from the scriptures that Jesus is the Son of God, then clearly, as we pass through the waters of baptism, we are also born again into a very special and precious relationship with Jesus. He becomes our brother, and we become brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Clearly the whole nature of our relationship with Jesus is also transformed through baptism, and because of this there are many promises contained in the Gospels which apply to us as part of this new relationship we share with him. Notably his promise to his disciples who also shared this relationship with him: (Matt 28.20) “and lo, I am with you always, even to the close of the age”. Once we have entered into this relationship with Jesus through baptism, his promise to us is that he will be with us always, not only throughout our life time, but also as we pass through death and enter into the fullness of his loving presence, in the Kingdom of Heaven.
But again there’s more. The third action of baptism is the presentation of a lighted candle to the person being baptised. Now throughout the Old Testament, there are two symbols used to represent the presence of God in the form of his Holy Spirit. They are wind and fire: remember the burning bush where Moses encountered God: and the rushing of a mighty wind, where Elijah encountered God. There are of course others. So at baptism, when the lighted candle is presented and then blown out, this symbolises the special gift that is given by God to each of his children. The gift of the Holy Spirit! In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, when the people pleaded with the disciples to have that same experience of God, which the disciples had just shared on the day of Pentecost: Peter said to them: (Acts 2.38,39) “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is to you and to your children and to all who are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him”. God gives to each of his children the gift of his Spirit as we pass through the waters of baptism, to enable us to become the people he created us to be: and as we know, our God is a God who keeps his promises.
QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT BAPTISM
How many Godparents do I need? Traditionally a boy would have two Godfathers and a Godmother, while a girl would have two Godmothers and a Godfather. Now while we are a traditional church, we believe that it is more important to get the right people to be Godparents than it is to get the right number of people. Therefore if you can only find one person who would be a good Godparent then that is acceptable. If you have two couples that would be good, then that too is acceptable.
Can anyone be a Godparent? The only rule that the church has about Godparents is that they must be baptised themselves. It is unreal to expect someone to make promises and a commitment for someone else, if they have not made those promises and commitment for themselves.
What is the role of the Godparents? Their role is simply to love them and encourage their Godchild in their Christian journey, while helping them to understand their faith. They should also pray for them as they grow to maturity.
Is there a fee for baptism? The church does not charge a fee for baptism, but a donation to assist us in our ministry to the Community would be most appreciated.
Can we choose a date and time for the baptism? Yes you can and we will try to work with you to make sure that the baptism happens at the most convenient time for all. We would normally hold a baptism service on a Sunday (sometimes during our morning services) but we do understand that this is not always convenient for families for different reasons, so we are happy to work in with your needs wherever possible.
Is baptism the same as a christening? Yes! Baptism is the title used in the bible for this important process as we have explained above. The term christening has come into use more recently, and tends to reflect the fact that through baptism we are made like Christ: we are made more Christ like. We are changed to become more the person that God has created us to be. But in essence, both christening and baptism are referring to the same thing in which our heavenly father fulfils four important promises for us which will change our lives significantly forever.
Do I become an Anglican when I am baptised? When we are baptised we become members of the universal Christian Church. Baptism does not make us Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic or a member of any other denomination of the Christian Church. St Paul when writing to the Ephesians said: (Eph 4. 4-6) “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all, and through all and in all”. Through baptism we become part of the universal Christian Church. It is later on, perhaps even at our Confirmation, that we choose which part of the family of God we will share fellowship with. However in saying that, we do become a member of the Anglican Church family.
Ok! What’s next? Well, as you can see from the above, baptism will completely transform your life and the lives of your children. It will greatly enhance your relationship with Almighty God who will then become your loving heavenly father. It will enable God to watch over and protect you, and shower you with his many blessings, none of which he was able to do effectively prior to your being baptised, even though he might desperately want to, because he still loves you, and wants what is best for your life. If then you are wanting to respond to God’s calling upon your life and be baptised, then I would encourage you to fill out the On-line Application Form and have a chat to one of our Priests. We will be more than happy to work with you wherever possible to ensure your baptism experience is a real blessing to you and your family.