“Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”

(Question 94 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Allister Lane performing a baptism

What is Baptism?

Baptism is one of two sacraments in the Church; the other is Communion. Baptism is based on God’s promise expressed in the person of Jesus Christ and is a visible symbol of God’s love and grace.

The pouring of water expresses the forgiveness and transformation God gives us, reminding us of restoration, cleansing and nourishing so often associated with water. God embraces us and welcomes us into the household of faith. Baptism is our response to the person of Jesus Christ and his Church. As a response, the central meaning of Baptism comes from God, rather than in our own action and personal decision.

A summary of important understandings of Baptism:

  • Baptism expresses our participation in Christ’s death and resurrection.
  • Baptism expresses the primacy of God’s grace and initiative, which always precedes our response of faith and obedience.
  • Baptism vividly expresses cleansing and forgiveness, which apply to the whole of life, not just that which has already been done. Baptism looks forward to forgiveness in the future, not just the forgiveness of the past.
  • Baptism incorporates us into the body of Christ, the Church.
  • There is only one Baptism. It is not repeated because of change of church affiliation or a change of ‘feelings’.
  • Baptism is celebrated publically in the context of communal worship.
  • Baptism conveys an understanding of mutual esponsibility for supporting each other in faith.
  • Baptism expresses the need for our dependence upon the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Baptism points toward the fulfilment of baptism in God’s plan for us and for the whole world.

More information about baptisms