Over lunch recently, I brought up the baptisms that had taken place in our worship service that morning and prompted discussion with our family around the table about what we were able to accomplish during that aspect of the worship service. It provided an opportunity to disciple my children and make them think about the purpose of baptism.
Have you paused to consider the purpose why we include baptism as a part of our corporate worship service rather than something that’s performed privately? When we consider the various elements of the worship service, each one has a specific role and purpose as designed by God. It is God’s good design to use each element of the worship service for his glory. Since God is the designer of our worship service, what exactly should we be doing while new converts are being baptized? The obvious answer is worship.
Rejoicing in the Salvation of Sinners
One of the most intimate times of church membership will come at the entrance of it, through baptism. As a church, we need to be present and demonstrating support for those who have been saved by God’s grace and are following the Lord in obedience of faith through baptism. Yet, there’s more to baptism than showing support for the new Christian.
According to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, in Chapter 29: Of Baptism, we read the following in the first paragraph:
Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4)
Notice the language in the Confession that points to the “fellowship with Christ” that’s based on Jesus’ death and resurrection for the remission of sins. One obvious way we worship God during the baptism of new brothers and sisters in Christ is by praising God for his great mercy. God knew that we were sinners and planned for his Son to die in our place (Rom. 5:8). He saves sinners and when new members are making a public profession of their faith in the waters of the baptistry, the gathered church should be prompted to praise God.
Following the baptism of new believers in the context of our church, we sing the Doxology. The natural response of a church to the baptism of new Christians should be to praise God from whom all blessings flow. Notice the way Peter begins his first letter by launching off into praise for the salvation that’s ours through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3–5).
On a more personal note, not only should we be praising God for saving the new convert in the baptistry, but we should have time to reflect upon our own soul. Every baptism should be a reminder of God’s sovereign grace in our lives as individual followers of Christ. Apart from the mercy of God, we would still be dead in our trespasses and sin and in desperate need to be raised from the spiritual grave (Eph. 2:1-10). Our soul should rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation (Ps. 35:9).
Finally, it is the new Christian who likewise worships in the baptistry while being baptized. One of the great errors of modern evangelicalism was replacing baptism with an invitation system and altar call as the means of a profession of faith in Christ. God has designed baptism to serve as the purest form of a public profession of faith in Jesus. The new convert recognizes the new transformation that has occurred in his or her life by the mercy of God and it creates a moment of worship and praise to God.
Unlike the false teaching of the Roman Catholic Church or those heretical doctrines of baptismal regeneration, the new Christian who is being baptized is moved to remember that without the work of God’s sovereign grace, salvation would be impossible. But, thanks be to God that all things are possible with God. Charles Spurgeon observes:
A man who knows that he is saved by believing in Christ does not, when he is baptized, lift his baptism into a saving ordinance. In fact, he is the very best protester against that mistake, because he holds that he has no right to be baptized until he is saved. 1Charles Spurgeon, “Baptismal Regeneration,” sermon 10.326.
Remembering the Resurrection of Jesus
At the heart of Christianity stands the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. As we survey the religious leaders of history, none of them provide assurance as does Jesus. Each false teacher and religious figure of history including Muhammad, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Mary Baker Eddy all died—and their bones remain in the grave to this very day. At the heart of Christianity is the doctrine of resurrection (1 Cor. 15). The reason we have hope and assurance of our salvation through Christ is based on his victorious resurrection.
As we gather in a corporate worship service where new believers are being baptized as followers of Christ, the mode of baptism is a reminder of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Our Lord suffered in our place and was raised to life by the sovereign power of God on the third day. Every baptism should intentionally point to the resurrection of Christ and how we are identified with the giver of life—the Savior of sinners.
In Colossians, Paul connects baptism to our mark of identity with Christ. He writes:
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:11-12).
Paul makes two extremely important points. First, he points to the fact that we are identified with Jesus’ death and resurrection through baptism. Yet, he also points to the fact that we are exercising active faith in Christ at that point as well, which underscores the case for credobaptism rather than pedobaptism.
Each time we gather in our corporate worship service as witnesses of new believers who are making a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through baptism, we should be grateful for God’s amazing grace. Through the means of grace in a worship service that includes baptism, our faith should be strengthened by the doctrine of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
|1||Charles Spurgeon, “Baptismal Regeneration,” sermon 10.326.|