We had a baptism at church this morning! And, as has happened more than once when my church has had a baptism (see, for example, my post here), I became confused about baptism!
Here are two items:
The liturgy said: "We praise You that in baptism You give us Your Holy
Spirit, who teaches us and leads us into all truth. Pour out your
Spirit upon us and upon this water from the Jordan River, that this font
may be your womb of new birth."
water baptism necessary for a person to be born again, or to receive the
Holy Spirit? The liturgy seems to suggest that, unless I'm misreading
The thing is, my pastor appeared to be
saying the opposite in his sermon. No, he did not say "Water baptism is
not what saves you," but he seemed to be sticking with a model of
salvation that I have seen so often within evangelicalism: that a person
can be saved just by calling on the name of the Lord, even if he or she
does not go on to be baptized. You hear stories about people in their
hotel rooms picking up a Gideon's Bible, asking Jesus into their heart,
and becoming born again. I remember being in a campus evangelical
group, and the evangelist was telling us that we can be saved simply by
sitting in class one day and asking Jesus into our hearts. And the
pastor this morning told us a story about a woman who saw Billy Graham
on TV, watched him because she was too lazy to change the channel, and
became saved. She placed her faith in Christ, and her life changed.
way that it was for me, I said the sinner's prayer (if you will) years
before I was actually baptized in water. I don't think I'm the only
person like this, for I know even evangelicals who have not been
baptized, or who became baptized long after their born again
But the New Testament seems
to me to associate baptism with forgiveness of sins and spiritual
rebirth. I think of Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38 and 22:16, and Romans 6. My
impression is that many New Testament Christians did not radically
separate the initial profession of faith from water baptism. Rather,
what we often see in the Book of Acts is that people decide to believe
in Jesus, and then almost immediately thereafter they are baptized.
There wasn't a long span of time because the initial profession of faith
and water baptism, in short.
2. Why was
Jesus baptized, when he was sinless? To be honest, I've not yet
encountered an answer to this question that entirely sits well with me.
The liturgy says that Jesus was anointed as the Messiah at his baptism,
and, yes, there do seem to be places in the New Testament in which
baptism was the time of Jesus' anointing for his ministry. But baptism
is also associated with forgiveness of sins. Actually, it's strongly
associated with forgiveness of sins. Did Jesus' own baptism lack that
significance? Well, I guess it had to, if you want to accept the
traditional Christian view that Jesus was sinless, but how could Jesus'
baptism mean one thing, while other people's baptism meant something