Often we don’t think much about baptism until we’re asked to be a godparent, or our own child is baptised. I know I didn’t.
If you were baptised as a baby or child chances are you don’t remember much about your own baptism. The most I knew about my own were from the photos. So even though it may be something you’ve done it’s kinda all new because you were so young at the time.
So – What Is Baptism?
In short baptism is 2 things happening together:
1. What We Can’t See – God’s Spirit Coming to Live in the Child
This is the part that we can’t see but it is by far the most important part. In baptism God’s Spirit comes to live inside the child and make the child His own.
In a way it reminds me of the part in Aladdin where the genie says that he goes from having “phenomenal cosmic power to living in an itty bitty living space”. Of course God is not confined inside us and doesn’t have to obey anyone’s wishes – but he does have power way beyond anything we can understand and he amazingly chooses to come and live inside a small human child.
God’s great power amazed Job:
“God hung the stars in the sky – the Dipper, Orion, the Pleiades, and the stars of the south. We cannot understand the great things he does, and to his miracles there is no end.” Job 9:9-10
“When I look at the sky, which you have made, at the moon and the stars, which you set in their places – what are human beings, that you think of them; mere mortals, that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4
But the amazing thing is that God, who hung stars in space, chooses to come and live inside us, inside a small child!
If only we could see what’s really happening like when Jesus was baptised in Luke 3:21-22:
“After all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized. As he was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.””
But as Job couldn’t see him earlier in history, neither can we – “God passes by, but I cannot see him.” Job 9:11
Although we can’t see Him – we can feel God’s Spirit deep in our hearts. Feelings of love, joy and peace.
2. What We Can See and Hear – Water and Words
What we see at baptism is a sprinkling of water on the child’s head over a font (a basin of water) at the front of the church. Some churches may fully immerse the child in water.
The Pastor will say (using the child’s full name) “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
Then he will make the sign of the cross with his finger on the child’s forehead and say “Receive the mark of the holy cross + as a sign that Christ the crucified has redeemed you”. This means that out of His great love for your godchild Jesus died and took God’s punishment for their sin so that they may be accepted into heaven to live forever.
The pastor may then give a blessing: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given you new birth by water and the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with his Spirit, so that you receive eternal life.”
Why Get Baptised?
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”.Mark 16:16
So, salvation and eternal life in heaven has been given through baptism – but the child must believe in Jesus (in what he’s done and who he is) to receive it. As a baby can’t make this decision the parents and godparents make this belief statement for the baby at the baptism.
So it seems simple and easy – believe and be baptised and you’ll be saved and go to heaven when you die to live forever.
And it is simple… but not easy.
It’s hard for us to stay believing when so many things in life try to pull us away from God and that’s why we need God’s Spirit to strengthen us and help us to stay close and believing.
And your child/godchild needs you to help them to stay close and believing too.
This passage from Titus 3:5-7 (TLB) sums up baptism perfectly:
“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient; we were misled by others and became slaves to many evil pleasures and wicked desires. Our lives were full of resentment and envy. We hated others and they hated us.
But when the time came for the kindness and love of God our Savior to appear, then he saved us—not because we were good enough to be saved but because of his kindness and pity—by washing away our sins and giving us the new joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit, whom he poured out upon us with wonderful fullness—and all because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did so that he could declare us good in God’s eyes—all because of his great kindness; and now we can share in the wealth of the eternal life he gives us, and we are eagerly looking forward to receiving it.”
Baptism is the start of a life lived close to God, in which the parent & godparent plays an important part.