God Initiates the Covenant - During the sacrament of baptism, we pray that “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Christians have understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent knows a child.
From the earliest times, children and infants were baptized and included in the church. As scriptural authority for this ancient tradition, some scholars cite Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). A more consistent argument is that baptism, as a means of grace, signifies God’s initiative in the process of salvation. John Wesley preached “Prevenient Grace,” the grace that works in our lives before we are aware of it, bringing us to faith. The baptism of children and their inclusion in the church before they can respond with their own confirmation of faith is a vivid and compelling witness to prevenient grace.
Baptism is a sacrament of God’s grace and a covenant God has initiated. It should not be repeated. However, in his continuing and patient forgiveness, God’s prevenient grace may prompt us to renew the commitment first made at our baptism. At such time, instead of rebaptism, The United Methodist Church offers a ritual for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows.
You may have heard people say, “I was baptized Methodist,” or “I was baptized Presbyterian,” which could mean that in baptism they got their identity papers and that was the end of it. But baptism is not the end. It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. It makes no difference whether you were baptized as an adult or as a child; we all start on that journey at baptism. For the child, the journey begins in the nurturing community of the church, where he or she learns what it means that God loves you. At the appropriate time, the child will make his or her first confession of faith in the ritual the church traditionally calls confirmation. Most often, this is at adolescence or at the time when the person begins to take responsibility for his or her own decisions.
The word sacrament is the Latin translation of the Greek word mysterion. From the early days of the church, baptism was associated with the mystery that surrounds God’s action in our lives. That means at best our words can only tell what happens, but not define it. We cannot rationally explain why God would love us “while we were yet sinners” and give his only begotten Son that we should not perish but have eternal life. That is the most sacred and unfathomable mystery of all. We can experience God’s grace at any time and in any place, but in the sacrament of baptism we routinely experience that amazing grace.
If you are interested in having your child baptized or if you are an adult and have never been baptized, please contact the church office for further information.
If you are interested in having your child baptized or if you are an adult and have never been baptized, please contact us at the church office for further information.
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