John 1:19–28, John 3:22–28, Acts 19:1–7 (read online ⧉)
Baptism holds a central place in the Christian church from its very beginning. The only other act that is of equal or perhaps greater importance is the Eucharist (i.e., Communion). Today, it is the ceremony/event by which people are welcomed into the church universal. Over the generations, when and how it is performed changes. The underlying truth of it, however, has not changed.
John’s “Baptism of Repentance” was in the spirit of what was already occurring. Baptism (in different forms) was performed after a vow was completed or could be seen in ritual cleansing that the Jews practiced. The general practice and theology of the larger Christian church (of which Generations Community Church, and its denomination the Church of the Nazarene, is a part) is that we baptize once. This baptism is a sign of a repentant heart and that the person seeks to join (and does so by being baptized) the Body of Christ. The transformation from cleansing and repentance (John the Baptist’s baptism and Jewish practice) to re-birth and a new family was probably unexpected. We cannot forget we know “the end of the story,” meaning we cannot put our understanding on those that came before.
The interesting thing is that what John’s baptism meant was even in question when he was alive. Apparently, there was an argument over John’s baptism and purification (probably related to the vows and ritual cleansing already mentioned). John wasn’t worried about any of that. His concern was making way for the Messiah. His disciples were the ones having a (perhaps pointless) argument with a fellow Jew. Even as we look at this part of the story in wonder, how baptism works (and doesn’t) and changes people (and doesn’t) is still a point of contention for some. Like many things of God, we wonder (and develop complicated theology) about how it works. The point is that it works because God said so.
It does make it more curious as we get to Paul and the people of Ephesus. Somehow the story and redemption of Christ made it to them, but not then entirety. How the baptism that Paul performed (granted, in the name of Jesus) differed from the so-called “John’s baptism” is another mystery. Many great answers could be given. However, it is the result of this baptism that can cause a little heartburn in many of today’s Christians, and that is the gifts of the Holy Spirit that manifested (tongues and prophesying). There are certain traditions that state that a baptism is only valid if some sort of manifestation occurs. If so, that means there are many baptisms that are invalid (which is their point).
The true evidence of baptism is the act itself. If a person is willing to publicly confess that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, saving them from their sin and that Jesus is the Son of God, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit as God, then the church confesses that this baptism is true.
The one thing that perhaps the church at large has lost is the remembrance of baptism. Something that is pivotal in the life of a believer (even if, perhaps especially, it happened as an infant). While a person may only be baptized once, we are all called to remember ours.
1) Who “created” baptism? Why is that important?
2) Do you do anything to remember your baptism? Why or why not?
3) When you have witnessed a baptism of another, which one was the most powerful to you? Why?