What is baptism?
The church is a group of people who identify themselves with the mission and purpose of Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection, and baptism is the initiation into this group of people. Therefore, to be baptised is to identify yourself with the mission and purpose of Jesus Christ. This is a sacred and beautiful opportunity to declare, “I believe the best possible way to live is the way of Jesus, and I am committed to following Christ—daily dying to myself and allowing the resurrected Christ to live in and through me.”
Baptism is not a means of salvation; rather it is a beautiful picture of our union with Christ and our declaring that we join him as the New Exodus people who are living New Creation now. It is an outward sign of something that is going on inside the person being baptised. It is a physical sign of something that is happening spiritually.
Baptism literally means ‘to plunge’ and is a very dramatic experience of being washed in water, symbolising the cleansing that comes from the forgiveness of sins freely available through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is not for God, but for us, and is not passive but is an active experience – and the point of an experience is that we are to remember it for the rest of our lives.
Because of the water being a symbol of cleansing from sin, it is impossible to accept the free gift of forgiveness without first acknowledging that we are in need of forgiveness, and in baptism the person who has chosen to follow Jesus will, if they are able, affirm their faith in Jesus.
Because baptism is a celebration of God’s grace and mercy to us, and symbolises such an important decision – perhaps the most important decision a person will ever make – it is essential that the person being baptised, as far as they are able, acts with honesty and integrity. Like marriage, baptism is not to be taken lightly but responsibly in the sight of God.
So, to summarise:
- to be baptised is to publicly identify yourself with the mission and purpose of Jesus Christ
- baptism is an outward sign in our body of something that is going on inside our hearts
- baptism symbolises the cleansing that comes from the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ
- baptism is an active experience that we are to remember for the rest of our lives
Baby Baptism and Thanksgiving
When a baby is baptised, the parents make a solemn commitment to raising their child in the faith: in knowing Jesus as the only hope for bringing reconciliation between God and humanity. In the Uplyme and Axmouth Communities, we baptise babies of parents who have a living faith in Jesus Christ – although some prefer to have a service of thanksgiving. Typically, for people who are not followers of Jesus we offer a Service of Thanksgiving.
If you are thinking about getting your baby or toddler baptised then read our Baby Baptism FAQ.