Baptism at Hempfield United Methodist Church
Baptism is the sign chosen by Jesus Christ to symbolize the new life he offers to all those who turn to him. The Service of Baptism is an act of worship instituted by Jesus Christ and administered by the church from its beginning. Through Baptism, we express our desire to God to receive the grace he freely offers; we repent of our sins, confess our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, and are initiated into the membership of Christ’s global church.
Children of believing parents who receive the sign of baptism are welcomed into the full life of the church. The parents and members of the congregation together hold the responsibility to teach and train children in the Christian life. This responsibility continues until children grow to maturity and are given the opportunity to accept God’s grace personally, profess faith in Christ openly, and live a Christian life.
The Meaning of Baptism
In the most comprehensive way, baptism symbolizes our salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Believing is the inward condition of our salvation. Baptism is the external sign. The two must go hand-in-hand because our inward decisions are meaningless until they are expressed in our outward actions. So, to be saved, we must not only believe inwardly but express our faith outwardly. Baptism is the external sign Jesus chose to symbolize our first step into the life of salvation he offers.
Beyond this, baptism is a symbol heavy-laden with many deep meanings.
Purification from Sin
Baptism symbolizes the washing away of sin. All around the temple of Jerusalem there were many baptismal pools. Worshippers would bath in these pools to make themselves physically clean before worshipping in the temple. The physical washing represented their spiritual desire to be made clean from the contamination of the world. Repentance from sin is the spiritual act that corresponds to physical washing. Jesus chose the symbol of baptism to signify our repentance, the cleansing of our minds, and our readiness to be made new by God’s activity in our lives.
Union with Christ in His Death and Resurrection
Baptism is a sign of our spiritual union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Jesus did not die for himself; he died for us. His death ended the legal consequence of our sin. Once a person dies, there is no longer any punishment to be enacted against him. When we are united with Christ in his death, sin no longer has any dominion over us. The power of sin is broken in the death of Jesus Christ. Likewise, in his resurrection, Jesus is now able to grant eternal life to all who turn to him. Saint Paul explained it this way:
Are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3-11)
New Birth by the Holy Spirit
Baptism symbolizes the new life that is offered to us by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of God who took up residence in Jesus Christ and who will also reside within us. The Holy Spirit awakens our soul to God, enabling us to understand God’s truth and walk in God’s ways. Jesus likened the gift of the Holy Spirit to a new birth when he said, “Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6). Before we were born physically, our bodies were encased in the water of our mother’s womb. When the time came for us to be born, the water broke. This is what Jesus meant when he referred to our physical birth as being “born of water.” But this is a second birth we must undergo, by which we are brought out into new, spiritual life. Baptism symbolizes this second, spiritual birth.
These Promises are Also For Children
All adults who undergo baptism should understand its meaning and fully agree to its terms. But what about children who cannot understand? These, too, are offered the gift of baptism and new life by the Holy Spirit–not by their own profession (for infants can neither accept nor reject God’s grace)– but by the decisions of their parents or guardians to whom God has entrusted them. Jesus welcomed little children saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Likewise, when the Holy Spirit was first poured out upon the believers in on the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the church, Saint Peter called out to the people gathered there, “Repent and be baptized, each 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, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). From that time onward, entire households were baptized because of the faith of believing parents. Our church and denomination continue to faithfully hold to this practice.
Times and Dates
A service of baptism can be held at any time. Most times, we offer baptism as part of a Sunday morning worship service. We do this because we recognize professing adults or children who receive baptism as members of Christ’s global church and welcome them into the life of our local congregation. As a community of faith, together we make promises to support the adult or child in their spiritual journey. But sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that allow baptism to be performed within a special context.
The Form of Baptism
Every adult has the choice of which form of baptism they prefer, whether the pouring of water over the head or immersion in a pool. Children, for obvious reasons, are baptized by sprinkling water on their heads while being held by a pastor or parent.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, we are able to offer baptism both in our worship services and in smaller services for the family either after Sunday worship services or on another day. Pouring or sprinkling are currently the only available options.
The Promises of Adult Candidates for Baptism:
It is important for adults to fully understand the promises they make as part of the baptismal service. Humility and sincerity are essential for each promise. We also understand that we cannot fulfill any promise we make unless God enables us. These promises are made first before God, who initiates our faith and brings us to the moment of our baptism. They are also made before the congregation, the gathering of believers
On behalf of the whole church, I ask you:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
Do you receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?
According to the grace given you, will you remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world?
Additional Promise for Parents or Guardians of Children:
Will you nurture your child in Christ’s holy church, that by your teaching and example (he, she) may be guided to accept God’s grace for (himself, herself), to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian Life?
If you are interested in baptism for yourself or your child, please fill out the form below and you will be contacted shortly.