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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Introduction to Baptism

This post probably should have happened first. 

I'm planning to dig in a little deeper, regarding baptism, for Sacramental Saturday.  For today, let's take a quick look at Article of Faith #12 and what the Church of the Nazarene has to say:

XII. Baptism

12. We believe that Christian baptism, commanded by our Lord, is a sacrament signifying acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ, to be administered to believers and declarative of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and full purpose of obedience in holiness and righteousness.

Baptism being a symbol of the new covenant, young children may be baptized, upon request of parents or guardians who shall give assurance for them of necessary Christian training.

Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, according to the choice of the applicant.

(Matthew 3:1-7; 28:16-20; Acts 2:37-41; 8:35-39; 10:44-48; 16:29-34; 19:1- 6; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-28; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:18-22)

Let's quickly review the qualifications we have for sacraments in the Protestant Church.

#1 Sacraments must be instituted by Jesus.  According to Scripture, and this definition, baptism meets this criteria.

#2 There must be an outward sign or symbol.  This is definitely the case with baptism, however we do it, which is flexible in the Church of the Nazarene (see paragraph 3).

#3 God imparts grace to us through the sacraments.  I'm going to go with, "Yes, that definitely happens in baptism," but I think our definition above is lacking when it comes to what God does in this sacrament.  It feels as if the general idea here is that baptism is only an outward sign, something that we do.

The line that troubled me a little bit is the one about us, "signifying acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ".  I think the intent here was good, and I think this statement was made in an attempt to define what I feel is largely missing in my third point, above.  However, I still think it misses the mark a little bit.  If baptism is simply about us signifying and declaring our faith; I'm not sure how it differs from any other testimony we might give.  And yet, we have chosen to declare baptism a sacrament, which is pretty serious in the Protestant Church, if you think about it, since we only have two, and even the most sacramental among us don't often want to budge from that viewpoint.

Our stance on the baptism of infants and young children is also interesting.  I feel as if it states, rather plainly, that this is a symbol and not much (if anything) more.

I grew up in a different Protestant denomination that definitely viewed baptism as symbolic only.  I have often struggled with my own baptism because of that, but that is probably a story better told as this exploration of baptism progresses over the next few days.  In the Church of the Nazarene, I really do believe that, at least in theory, we believe that God extends grace to us, through baptism, but I don't think we've articulated this well in the articles.  I wonder what we might do to make baptism less about us and more about God.



  1. you might appreciate reading through this older thread of discussion on communion and baptism...

    1. This was a really interesting comment thread. As I continue to ponder what we really mean by "sacrament" in the Wesleyan, Protestant way of defining such, it is good to explore what others are saying.