The Meaning of Your Baptism

A note to an infant baptized this morning.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dear Patterson,

Today was an incredibly important day in your life!

Many people who were baptized as infants say their baptism doesn’t have any meaning for them because they don’t remember it. I hope your testimony will be different. I hope the baptism you received today will only become more significant as you grow older, even though you won’t be able to remember the event itself.

English: Infant baptism in the Metropolitan Co...
Infant baptism in the Metropolitan Community Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In short, your baptism today was a sign of God’s saving grace in your life, and a means for you to receive that grace from God. It’s actually fitting that you were baptized before you could choose it for yourself. In your baptism, we remember that God’s grace comes to us first, before we can even consider it or act on it. We call that prevenient (before we are aware of it) grace.

Here are three Scriptures to share a bit more about what your baptism means.

Acts 2:38

In Acts 2, Peter gives a great sermon declaring that the Jesus whom they crucified is both Lord and Messiah. When the people ask what they can do, Peter replies, “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” (2:38).

Peter is clear about the meaning of these people’s baptism; it’s for the forgiveness of their sins! At your baptism today, we celebrated freedom for you — freedom from the guilt and penalty of sin. The water you were sprinkled with represents a cleansing from sin.

Along with their baptism, the people in the story were also told to repent. As you remember your baptism throughout your life, remember that your baptism expects and requires you to be a person of confession and repentance.

There’s another important meaning of your baptism in this verse: the gift of the Holy Spirit! At your baptism, you were marked as God’s own by the Holy Spirit. We believe the Holy Spirit has been at work in your life from the beginning and will be the constant presence of God with you throughout life.

Romans 6:3-4

Listen to these great words about your baptism from Romans 6: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (vv. 3-4).

Your baptism means you have been united with Christ in both his death and his resurrection. You’ll see some people get fully immersed in water at baptism. That descent into the water shows that you died with Christ. It’s like going down into a tomb – or a ship sinking. Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Your baptism expects and requires that kind of denial of your own life. Through our baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit, God empowers us to say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

When people are raised up out of the waters, it’s a sign of new life in Christ! By the gift of God’s Spirit, he has enabled you to live a new life, a holy life, before him. So you can say with Paul, “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

1 Corinthians 12:13

Look at how Paul described baptism to the Corinthian believers: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Cor 12:13).

Your baptism means that you have been incorporated into the whole Church of God. We all form one body! At your baptism, our whole congregation made covenant to surround you with a community of love and forgiveness, and your parents made covenant to nurture you in Christ’s holy church. Your baptism brought you into the great body that is the Church, so your union is with Christ, the head, and also with all the members of the body of Christ.

When you remember your baptism, I hope you’ll continue to reflect on what it means that you’ve been incorporated into this body. It means you share in the mission Christ has given the Church, and you’re called to use your gifts to serve as a part of that mission. It means you’ve been brought into a community that celebrates together and mourns together. It means you’re joined with a group of people who must not discriminate based on ethnic or socio-economic statuses. What a great blessing, and a high calling!

So when you remember your baptism, I hope you’ll remember all of these meanings. At God’s initiative, and by his saving grace, your baptism is a sign and a means of (1) the forgiveness of your sin, (2) your reception of the Holy Spirit, (3) your union to Christ, (4) your new birth, and (5) your incorporation into the Church.

I hope this day will only become more significant to you as you get older and see how God’s grace has gone before you to provide these things.

2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Your Baptism

  1. Really enjoyed this. Do you mind if I use this as a basis for future letters? I may also add a paragraph about “one day making the baptismal promises your parents made on your behalf your own.”

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