At our 6PM service this Sunday our dear brother Ric Cottrell will be baptised. Ric started coming to BPCC in 2013, and since then he has become a much-loved member of our community and, more importantly, a member of God’s forever family. So, let me encourage you to come along and join with the angels in heaven (Luke 15:10) as we celebrate God’s grace and mercy to Ric through the death & resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In light of Ric’s baptism, I thought it might be timely to remind ourselves exactly what baptism is and why it is a blessing from God. The website of the Christian Reformed Churches of North America (https://www.crcna.org) tells us: “…this sacrament (baptism) 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.”
More specifically, the blessing of baptism includes:
- 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). 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 society, the body of Christ. This society 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). 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 (Matt. 28:19).
- 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). 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.