Why is Baptism a Sacrament?
Baptism was instituted by Jesus Christ after his victorious resurrection. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). In this command, Christ himself makes baptism the universal entrance into his church, and the mark of our discipleship.
How is Baptism done at Alameda CRC?
An ordained minister of the Word or commissioned pastor performs baptism. The usual method of baptism is by the sprinkling of water on the forehead of the person to be baptized, but other methods (such as immersion) may also be used.
Alameda CRC employs infant & young children baptism (children of believing parents) as well as adult baptism (for adults who join but have not previously been baptized in a Christian church); an adult who is baptized is also called upon to make a public profession of his or her faith in Christ.
- We strongly encourage baptism at any age in our church.
- Confessing members may present their children for baptism.
- Having your children baptized is not a pre-requisite for becoming a member.
What Does the Sacrament of Baptism Mean?
As with the Lord’s Supper, this sacrament is much more than a mere symbol of being united with Christ, or a testimony of one’s personal faith, or the dedication of a child to God. The sacrament of baptism is a sign and seal of God’s promise to claim us as his own, unite us to his Son, wash away our sins, and give us the gift of the Holy Spirit as we embrace these promises by faith.
While we make some distinction between the baptism of infants and young children, and the baptism of older children and adults, there is but one baptism, which offers the same blessing and assurance. God’s action in baptism is highlighted in our confessions, as the following selections from the Belgic Confession (Art. 34) demonstrate:
- By it we are received into God’s church and set apart from all other people and alien religions, that we may wholly belong to him whose mark and sign we bear. Baptism also witnesses to us that God, being our gracious Father, will be our God forever. . .
- In this way God signifies to us that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the bodies of those who are baptized when it is sprinkled on them, so too the blood of Christ does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit.
- It washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the children of wrath into the children of God.
- Our Lord gives what the sacrament signifies—namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of his fatherly goodness; clothing us with the ‘new self’ and stripping off the ‘old self with its practices.
- We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children.
- And truly, Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little children of believers than he did for adults.
- Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ has done for them.
Baptism unites us to Christ in his death and resurrection. In Romans 6:1-11, Paul identifies baptism as our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (vv. 3-4, NRSV). Baptism symbolizes a deluge of God’s grace through which the old self dies and a new self in Christ comes to life.
Baptism brings us into the new community, the body of Christ. This community lives by the norms of the kingdom of God. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek . . . slave or free . . . male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28, NRSV). We become members of Christ and members of each other in the one body.
Baptism signifies the washing away of our sins. Peter announced at Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul argued that the Corinthians were to abandon their pagan ways of life because in baptism they were “washed” and “sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11).
In baptism we are adopted into God’s covenant family through Christ. Being baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” declares that we have a new name because we have been adopted through the Son into the family of the triune God.
In baptism we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. After Peter calls people to repentance and baptism on Pentecost, he adds this promise: “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)
Our children should also be baptized, for all the promises of baptism are for them as well as for us (Acts 2:39). We are to teach our children that they have been baptized and prayerfully encourage them to affirm the promises of their baptism by professing their faith in Jesus Christ.
All these blessings of baptism become ours through faith. “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27, NRSV). While our faith is in Christ alone, the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 69) teaches that baptism assures us that Christ’s salvation is personally ours.
Additional References from the CRCNA web page
Introduction to the Holy Sacrament of Baptism: https://www.crcna.org/resources/church-resources/liturgical-forms-resources/baptism-children/introduction-sacrament-holy-baptism-2016
Christian Reformed Church Position Statement on Baptism: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/position-statements/baptism
Introduction to the Public Profession of Faith: https://www.crcna.org/resources/church-resources/liturgical-forms-resources/profession-faith/introduction-public-profession-faith-baptized-youth-2016
Form for the Holy Baptism and Profession of Faith for adults and older Children: https://www.crcna.org/resources/church-resources/liturgical-forms-resources/profession-faith/form-holy-baptism-and-profession-faith-older-children-and-adults-2016