Every year, usually in the summer, I like to preach a sermon on baptism. Often, simply mentioning the word ‘baptism,’ evokes a lot of emotion. For those who grew up in church, whatever kind of church that was, baptism was probably a part of your church experience. Whether you were sprinkled as a baby or you got baptized at a camp because the girl you liked got baptized, or whatever your experience has been, that experience has shaped your view of baptism. And so, even now, if you hear the word “baptism,” it conjures up certain memories and emotions. And then, on top of all that, for those who didn’t grow up in church, this whole baptism deal sounds just plain weird! I mean, think about it, you’re dunking someone in water!
My hope in preaching, talking or just sharing my thoughts on baptism is not to twist arms, point fingers or pass judgment, but rather discover truth with humility and grace. Regardless of your background, my prayer is that all of us will be open to simply ask, “What does the Bible teach us?” It sounds simple, but sometimes I think we can let our traditions, pride, “what will my parents think,” or whatever other obstacles there are, keep us from the simple truth and just following it.
The issue of baptism has been controversial for centuries and has divided churches and Christians, but it need not be that way. Yes, there are some polarizing perspectives concerning baptism, but when we approach this topic with a willingness simply to study what the New Testament teaches, we begin to discover some common ground. We discover that baptism is not just a ritual act of spiritual cleansing; it is identification with the One who makes us spiritually clean. Baptism does not cause us to be born again; it connects us to the One who gives us rebirth. Testimonies I hear again and again are from people who were baptized as a baby; a decision made by their parents. But now, they have an opportunity to decide for themselves to express their faith in Jesus Christ through baptism.
Rather than arguing with people who may see things differently, we can serve faithfully, humbly, and lovingly to point people back to the Scriptures more than church tradition. One of the sayings used in the Christian Church/Church of Christ movement is, "The Bible is the norm of our faith and practice, and church history is our guide." We learn from theologians, church councils, and church leaders from the past, and they can be a guide to our faith, but the Bible, God's Holy Word, has the final say in what we believe and how we practice those beliefs. I always encourage people not to believe something just because I say it or write it. Go to the Scripture and study for yourself. Pray and seek God's direction. Grow in a Christ-centered community for mutual edification and accountability. Experience the joy of worship and praise of the One who gives us life, meaning, hope and love. And may your baptism, your immersion, be more than just in a pool of water, may it be in the life of our Lord and Savior who sets us free from sin and death.