What is Baptism?
Baptism is a physical, ritual action, mandated by Jesus, through which God acts to nourish, sustain, comfort, challenge, teach, and assure us. A richly symbolic action, the celebration of baptism stirs our imaginations to perceive the work of God and the contours of the gospel more clearly.
As the New Testament unfolds the meaning of baptism, it teaches us that baptism is a single celebration that conveys several layers of meaning. It is at once a sign of the washing away of sin, a sign of our union with Jesus’ death and resurrection, a sign of the promise of new birth in Christ, a sign of incorporation in the church, a sign of the promise of the Holy Spirit, and a sign of the covenant and kingdom of God. The celebration of baptism can highlight each of these aspects of the gospel.
Consider the following Scripture passages:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
Baptism is a celebration of God’s grace, not of human achievement. It is a means of grace through which God acts to seal the promises of the gospel. Baptism is not an end in itself. It always points beyond itself to celebrate God’s grace and covenant faithfulness. At the same time, baptism is not incidental or unimportant to God’s people. It should be a celebration fitting to the abundant grace of God offered in Christ. Baptism is a sign of a covenant relationship where together we celebrate God’s YES to us and to our children. This relationship with God in Christ is rooted in promises that the baptism clearly presents to us.
Baptism is deeply personal but never private. It is a communal action of the gathered congregation, which represents the church in all times and places. When parents present their child[ren] for baptism they, along with the entire congregation, are claiming the promises of God for their child[ren]. Baptism is God’s Word to us. It is a reminder of God’s graciousness to us in God’s covenant promises.
Baptism is not for infants remission of inherited sin at the moment of administration. Baptism doesn’t “save” your child. Your child already belongs to the kingdom of God and as a result is an heir to the kingdom (Mt. 19:13-15). As a parent, you are claiming the promises of God for your child. It is a continuing proclamation of God’s saving love and an assurance of God’s incorporation of us into the covenant of grace.
Here at Marble Collegiate Church the Sacrament of Baptism is the act of God that enjoins your child or children to this community of faith and the greater faith community. Marble, unlike other churches, does not require parents to be members or be baptized persons in order to present their child[ren] for baptism. However, we do expect you to have faith in God and that you remain open to the leadership of Jesus Christ in your life.
We also encourage the following:
We encourage you to be actively involved in a faith community. We believe that it is critical for a family to be actively involved in a faith community in order for them to share in accountability and grow in spiritual maturity. We welcome Godparents who are active in a faith community to be present during this sacrament. As long as they understand the promises that they will be making, they may also stand with or in place of the biological parents.
Our purview is that Parents/Godparents should be able to affirm before God and God’s people the following:
- Their faith in God;
- Their willingness to strive to live this faith before their child[ren];
Their desire to instruct their child[ren] in the truth of God’s word:
- In the way of salvation through Jesus Christ;
- To pray for them, to teach them to pray;
- And to train them in Christ’s way by your example, through worship, and in the nurture of the church.
Baptism is a celebrative occasion but it is also one that is solemn. At Marble we believe God takes very seriously this obligation that Parents/Godparents are to embark upon. But rest assured, you are not making this obligation alone. The entire congregation promises to love, encourage, and support your child[ren] as well. Like you, the congregation is expected to be a good example of faith and character in order to serve as a support to you and your entire family. God’s blessings will rest upon the entire faith community as everyone strives to fulfill the obligations of the covenant.
For more information, please contact Kate Troy, (212) 686-2770.