I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more excited I get at the time of a baptism in the church. Doesn’t matter if it’s a baby, a young person or an adult, I get pumped. Why? Because I’m convinced that in the act of faith that takes place, whether on the part of the individual or the parents, God shows up.
The God of Scripture is a covenant-making God. He shows himself to be that from Genesis to Revelation. From the creation, flood and rainbow to the cross, empty tomb and new heavens and new earth, God reaches out in love to his people. Trouble is, if you read the Bible carefully, too often these covenants God makes end up being one-sided.
This is particularly clear in the Old Testament, where God constantly says, “I’ll be your God, you be my people. Shake?” And the people agree, but then go wandering after other gods in other cultures. Yet God kept welcoming back his people when they discovered that the ‘greener pastures’ weren’t really greener at all.
In the New Testament, the greatest covenant of all came in the Lord Jesus, who died and rose again to make us right with God and bring eternal life to all who believe. And that covenant continues to this day: through the one, final, perfect sacrifice of Jesus, humanity’s relationship with God is restored.
In the tradition in which I serve, that relationship begins with baptism. I recognize that not everybody who reads Encouragement From The Word shares that tradition, but where I come from, baptism is the first step on the path that leads toward a public profession of Jesus as Lord and Saviour – the culmination of ‘our side’ of the covenant.
We live in a world where Christian faith is no longer normative; if anything, mainstream society sees it as the reverse! So when parents present their child in faith, and promise to do everything in their power to raise their child to be a follower of Jesus, this is as counter-cultural as life gets! Or, when an individual who has had an experience of conversion from one way of life to the Way, the Truth and the Life, it’s the beginning of a radical life-change. And that’s the business the church is in.
The Bible says, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9, NIV). It’s that simple. Baptism itself doesn’t create the faith within one’s heart, but, with the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, it can begin that walk.
And that walk needs to be shared with and supported by the church.
Despite its many and oft-publicized flaws, the church of Jesus Christ – his bride – is God’s means of strengthening families. The church is the messenger of the covenant of grace, and the body responsible for supporting baptismal vows. That’s why, when we make a confession of Jesus as Lord, it’s important to do so in the community of faith. It becomes the built-in support network for making that faith grow stronger – whether in a child, a teen, or an adult – at whatever stage of life. The church must support and equip her families. The future depends on it.
As my wife says (and I agree), that’s worth fighting for.
See you around the font!