Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Symbolism of Baptism

Question 94: What is Baptism?
Answer: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s. (WSC)

Baptism is one of the two sacraments of the new covenant. It is the sacrament of initiation. Baptism ratifies one’s identity as a disciple of Christ. It is like the membership card of the church. It symbolizes and confirms the benefits you have by faith as a disciple of Jesus, and it also obligates you to live as his disciple. 

It is essential that the minister baptizes with water and that he does so in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism requires the use of water, but not a certain amount of water. Baptism is legitimate whether it done by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring, although sprinkling and pouring are especially appropriate (Is. 44:3, 52:15, Ezek. 36:25-27, 39:29, Acts 2:17-18, Heb. 9:19-22, 10:22). The essential thing is washing with water.

Jesus speaks of baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19. Earlier, in chapter 3, Matthew had recounted the baptism of Jesus himself. When Jesus was baptized, the Father reaffirmed his identity as his Son and the Spirit descended upon him. For us, baptism is a sign and seal of our ingrafting into Christ (Rom. 6:3-5), who brings us to the Father and pours out upon us the Spirit. Baptism symbolizes our union with the Son, adoption by the Father, and sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Through our union with Christ we partake of the benefits of the covenant of grace (Gal. 3:27-29). The washing of baptism thus symbolizes the washing away of sins (Acts 22:16) and the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). It makes visible the transition from the world into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). It also signifies and seals our covenant obligation to the Lord, to live as his holy people in newness of life (Rom. 6:4, 13). Baptism is thus designed to strengthen, direct, and distinguish you for the rest of your life, summoning you to faith in the promises it symbolizes.

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