The Meaning of Baptism
The Minister says: After his resurrection from the dead, and before his ascension to the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words of command to his disciples:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
In the Old Testament Scriptures we learn that God, in his sovereign grace, called out a people for himself, and made covenant with them to be their God and the God of their children. The sign of this covenant was circumcision, which God gave first to Abraham, as a pledge that he would be their God and they would be his people.
In the New Testament Scriptures we learn that in Jesus Christ the covenant was no longer restricted to one nation, but is now for all believers. Furthermore, the sign of the covenant was changed from circumcision to baptism. Baptism is for believers and their children, and so it assures us that not only we, but our children also, belong to God in this covenant. This is why, on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter said:
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself..” Acts 2:38-39
Baptism is a sign and seal of our ingrafting into Christ; of forgiveness of sins by his blood, and of the regeneration that comes by the Holy Spirit. It is a sign and seal that God has adopts us as his children, and a promise that just as Christ was raised from death by the glory of the Father, so we shall be raised up in the likeness of his resurrection. In baptism, the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is spoken over us, reminding us that we belong not to ourselves, but to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
Baptism is a sign that God, out of his great grace, has chosen us in Christ before the foundation the world to be his own. Indeed, Jesus himself said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16). Therefore, we baptize the children of believers, because the promise of God to make covenant with us in Christ is also for them, since they, too, are children of this covenant and heirs of this promise.
(To the parents and sponsors:)
Do you present this child to be baptized, desiring that he/she may be ingrafted into the body of Jesus Christ, the Church?
Answer: I do.
Do you receive the teaching of the Christian faith which we confess in the Apostles’ Creed?
Answer: I do.
(To the congregation)
Will you please stand, and let us confess the faith.
(Here the congregation recites together the Apostle’s Creed.)
VOWS OF THE PARENTS:
Do you acknowledge ___________’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
Do you claim God’s covenant promises and benefits for ______ and by faith do you look to the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your child as you do your own?
Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and do you promise by relying on God’s power and grace through the Holy Spirit to live an exemplary life before your child?
Do you commit yourself to pray with and for your child, to teach your child the Scriptures and the great articles of our faith in Jesus Christ?
Do you promise to use every means provided by God, including faithful participation in the life of the Church, to bring your child up in the loving discipline of the Lord?
VOWS OF THE CONGREGATION:
Do you, the members of this congregation, acting for yourselves and in behalf of the whole Body of Christ, assume responsibility with these parents for the spiritual nurture of this child?
Do you commit yourself to set a godly example before this child, to provide as far as you are able, all that is necessary to the end that this child may one day confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?
Answer: We do.
The Minister continues:
Almighty, eternal God, long ago you severely punished an unbelieving and unrepentant world with a flood. But you showed your great mercy when you saved and protected the believer Noah and his family. Your judgment upon sin and your great mercy toward us were again shown when you drowned the obstinate Pharaoh and his whole army in the Red Sea, but led your people Israel through the same sea on dry ground, thus giving us a sign of baptism. We therefore pray that you will look graciously on this servant of yours, and in your infinite mercy, and bring him/her into union with your Son, Jesus Christ, through your Holy Spirit. Drown all that has been born in him/her from Adam, and may he/she be buried with Christ into his death and be raised with him to walk in newness of life, that he/she may be forever numbered among your children
We pray that he/she may follow Christ day by day, joyfully bearing his cross and clinging to him in true faith, firm hope, and fervent love. Give him/her the full assurance of your grace so that when he/she leaves this life, he/she may appear without fear or terror at the last day before the judgment seat of Christ. All this we ask through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, O Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.
Child’s name, for you Jesus Christ came into the world: for you he lived and showed God’s love; for you he suffered the darkness of the cross and cried at the last, “It is finished”; for you he triumphed over death and rose in newness of life; for you he ascended to reign at the Father’s right hand. All this he did for you, Name, though you do not know it yet. And so the word of Scripture is fulfilled: “We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19)
BAPTISM AND BLESSING
Name, I baptize you into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious unto you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen. (Numbers 6:24-26)
WELCOME OF NEWLY BAPTIZED:
Having baptized Name into Christ, he/she is now received as a member of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
CHARGE TO THE PARENTS:
Names of the Parents, remember this day, and tell _______ of this day, that he/she may know that he/she has been baptized.
Remember the vows that you have made this day, that _______ may be raised up in the nurture of the Lord, and one day come to make his/her own profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and so be received at the Table of the Lord.
Almighty and everlasting God, out of your infinite mercy and goodness you have promised that you will be not only our God, but the God and Father of our children. We give you thanks for this child now received into the fold of your Church, and we humbly ask you that your Spirit may be upon him/her, and dwell in him/her forever.
Keep him/her, we pray, under your fatherly care and protection. Guide him/her and sanctify him/her both in body and soul. Grant that he/she may grow in wisdom as in stature, and in favor with God and man. Abundantly enrich him/her with your heavenly grace; bring him/her safely through the perils of childhood, deliver him/her from the temptations of youth, and lead him/her in due time to witness a good confession, and to persevere in it to the end.
O God our Father, give to his/her parents the assurance of your unfailing providence and care. Guide them with your counsel as they teach and train their child; and help them to lead their household into an ever-increasing knowledge of Christ, and a more steadfast obedience to his will. We commend to your Fatherly care all the children and families of this congregation. Help us all in our homes to honor you, and by love to serve one another. And to your name be all blessing and glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Submitted by Dr. Walter L. Taylor of Oak Island Evangelical Presbyterian Church.