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The Peculiarities And Sacrament Of Baptism

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Christian adherents may find that the straightest path to God may be challenging at times, but the end result is the greatest reward. Christians can follow the sacrament of Baptism to be led “along the best and straightest paths to Himself [God]”.

“The word baptise is said to derive from the Greek words baptizo or baptisma, which means to bath, wash, or immerse [Byer, 2019]. Baptism, in the Christian tradition, is a ceremonial act, an outward proclamation celebrated in the presence of the church body as a public expression and a witness of one’s faith, as well as “the best and straightest path to Himself [God]”. “In the Christian community it marks transition from outside the community via initiation into new life in the Christian church” [King, 2009, p. 292]. It is usually “performed by a bishop, priest/minister or deacon, and mostly, is celebrated during or after the Sunday worship” [Morrissey et al, 2009, p. 271]. The candidate in a baptismal ceremony is sealed with the oil of chrism, as a sign of being ready to serve, water is poured over them or they are immersed in water, signifying the death of the old sinful self and the rebirth into a new life as an adherent of Jesus Christ, a “path to Himself”. The Holy Trinity is called upon in the baptising of the person; “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-20). Following this, the baptismal candle is lit to represent the light of Christ burning within. Baptism is an important initiation rite in which candidates become members of Christ, becoming incorporated into the Church and sharing in the Church’s mission, living a life guided by the Holy Spirit – “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). “Not all denominations practice baptism for the same reasons or in the same manner” [Byer, 2019]. The denominations that practice infant baptism are of two minds. Some perform the rite with the belief that an individual is born into sin and baptism cleanses us from it, giving eternal salvation. Others see it as no more than an initiation into the faith tradition or Christian community. Anglicans (including Episcopalians) believe that baptism is for the cleansing of sins or original sin, rebirth, and entry into the denomination and the body of Christ through God’s grace. Baptism is performed in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity. So, infant baptism is allowed. Methods used are immersion, affusion, and aspersion. For all manner of Catholics, baptism is sacramental in the name of the Holy Trinity and grants eternal salvation and remission of sins by God’s grace. Catholic’s practice infant baptism. Latin Rite Catholics use the method of immersion or affusion, Roman Catholics use aspersion but the water must flow on the head, and Eastern Catholics use full or partial submersion. Pentecostals baptismal ideology is that it is a symbolic representation of the individual’s belief and acceptance of Jesus as savior, and thus, only adults can understand and profess. “Baptism can be seen as a rite of passage for an individual, marking their spiritual development. It can also be seen as a purity ritual that helps define them and their relation to the group” [Hartney and Noble, 2015, p. 166].

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The initiation rite of baptism heavily reflects the principal beliefs of Christianity; the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the holy trinity, salvation, revelation and the death and resurrection of Jesus. The divinity and humanity of Jesus is expressed through the practice of baptism. This is because John the Baptist baptised him; “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John” (Matthew 3:13-17). This emphasises Jesus’ human form as well as reminding adherents of his divine form when he received the divine call from God. The Holy Trinity is emphasised through the rite of baptism as candidates are baptised “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-20). This acknowledgement of the trinity can be seen through the water being poured over the candidate’s head three times in Catholic Churches or the candidate being immersed three times in Orthodox Churches. It is also “expressed through the white garments symbolising that the person baptised has put on Christ, and has risen with Christ” [Pantazis, 2014]. Salvation, the deliverance from sin and its consequences, is connected to baptism as the candidate being baptised is removed from all original sin. The pouring of water within baptism signifies this, symbolising the death of the old sinful self and rebirth into a new life as an adherent of Jesus Christ. Baptism is therefore regarded “as necessary for the salvation of the soul” [Hartney and Noble, 2015, p. 163], particularly by the early church community as depicted in Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, 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.” This is because baptism was a sign of their repentance, proclaimed their forgiveness from sin and allowed them to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “The Orthodox Christian view on baptism indicates that baptism is a necessity for salvation” [Pantazis, 2014]. Revelation, the divine or supernatural disclosure to humans, can be seen through baptism through the reading of sacred scriptures. Through these scriptures it can be understood that baptism directly adheres to God’s command and Jesus’ intentions, indicated in Matthew 28:18-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them.” The death and resurrection of Jesus is synonymous with the practices of baptism. This is indicated in “don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3-5). This ultimately shows that through baptism, Christians become dead to sin in order that they, like Jesus, may be resurrected into a new life in Jesus Christ. This is reflected in the baptismal ritual of pouring or being immersed in water, which means regardless of how applied, emerging from the water symbolises the new life that the believer has experienced as a result of becoming a Christian, and thus, led “along the best and straightest paths to Himself [God]”.

The rite of baptism is highly significant for both the individual and community of Christian adherents as it is an innate expression of Christian beliefs and values, and admits a candidate into the Christian community, guiding adherents “along the best and straightest paths to Himself [God].” For the individual, “baptism is seen as the first step on the path of grace towards salvation” [Hartney and Noble, 2015, p. 166] and a rite of passage in which they establish a relationship with Christ and are initiated into the Church as well as being “freed from original sin and receiving the Holy Spirit” [Morrissey et al, 2009, p. 273]. Individuals follow Jesus’ teachings and honour his intentions, bringing them closer to God and henceforth establishing a relationship with Christ, commiting to the Christian faith. The Christian scriptures emphasise this importance, encapsulating how baptism is necessary for salvation and forgiveness of sins. This is indicated in Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, 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.” as well as “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). For the individual, having been initiated into a Christian Church implies a commitment to the teachings, practices and life of the community. “Baptism allows us to demonstrate our connection with Jesus and with our brothers and sisters in Christ” [What is Baptism? Its Meaning & Importance in Christianity, 2010]. For the Christian community, baptisms are generally conducted at Sunday worship, members of the community are able to witness the baptism of the new adherent into their church community and appreciate their responsibility to “help the individual’s faith grow” [Morrissey et al, 2009, p. 273] and lead them on “the best and straightest paths to Himself [God]”. The appointment of godparents provides the child “a set of spiritual parents who will watch over his or her religious growth” [Hartney and Noble, 2015, p. 166]. The community are given the opportunity to renew their baptismal promises, and therefore they reaffirm their beliefs and rekindle their faith in God. This challenges them to reflect on their vocation as Christians and the significance of their own baptism. The communal significance is increased as the community comes together as sponsors, godparents and supporters are able to honour Jesus’ intentions, “the experience of baptism in the Spirit will bring power to witness into the Christian life” [Piper, 1984].

Through the sacrament of baptism, Christian adherents can reach “the best and straightest paths to Himself [God]”, through the guidance of core beliefs and a communal aspect that all help an individual’s faith grow.

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