BAPTISM: What it's about
Let’s start at the beginning
We believe that God has spoken to us, that he means what he says, and therefore we must take notice of him.
As the “Basis of Union” of our Uniting Church declares, it is through the Bible that we “hear the Word of God” and it is by the Bible that our “faith and obedience is nourished and regulated”. Which means, that contrary to some traditions that have developed over the years in the Church, we are unable to “christen” children, but we are more than happy to baptise children, in accordance with the teachings of the Bible.
Why we don’t “christen” children?
“Christening” has been described as a nice, but somewhat quaint old religious custom of naming a child by having a minister dab water on the child’s forehead and mumble some prayers, as a prelude to that much more memorable event known as the “Christening Party”.
This description of christening may be a bit exaggerated but it does make an important point. The death of our Lord Jesus on the Cross for us is far too serious a matter for us to allow Baptism, as the initiation rite into faith in him, to degenerate into a “nice, but somewhat quaint old religious custom”.
There is much more to Baptism than the old “christening” tradition.
Baptism is joining a familyNo one is born a Christian nor do we inherit it from our family. We become Christians or members of God’s family only when we personally recognize that:-
- Such is God’s holiness and purity that we are not and never will be good enough get ourselves into his heaven. (Romans 3.23)
- That such is God’s love for us and his determination not to lose us, he sent his Son Jesus to die on the Cross to take the penalty of our sin for us. (John 3.16)
- We need to do something about this ourselves, by accepting the love and forgiveness God is able to offer us through Jesus, and by allowing him to adopt us into his family as his children. (1 John 5.10-12)
Our Baptism is an outward and public sign of this and that we are now members of God’s family.
Why do we baptise children?
While little children are of course unable to do anything about their relationship with God, we as the church and their parents baptise children as a declaration of our faith and confidence in Jesus Christ who died for all even though they were unaware. He calls everyone into a relationship with him. We do this in anticipation of the children one day making their own decision for Jesus.
The baptism of children is a public declaration of God's action in the world through Jesus Christ. Baptism does not make them Christians, as this is a decision that we all must each make for ourselves.
The Baptism Service
If you are seeking to have your child baptised the parents/guardians need to consider these questions:
- Can I confess my own faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord?
Which means in other words, if you were to die tonight, would God let you into his heaven, and if so, why?
- Can I provide a Christian home for my child, and set before him/her an example of Christian living?This means, that in your life together as a family, where your child will see the real you, that he/she will see the example of Jesus in the way you live and in your attitudes towards God and other people.Will you show your child a friendship with Jesus that is precious to you, which you’re careful to nourish and really enjoy?
- Will you give your child opportunity to grow up in the life of the Church so that he/she may accept the Lordship of Christ and be received nto the full fellowship of the Church?This means as a family going to church and worshipping God together. It is not enough to take the passive attitude of “We’ll let them make up their own minds about religion when they get older.”Baptism of children is a commitment by both the parents and the congregation to actively work and pray that they will come to “accept the Lordship of Christ for themselves.”In a baptism service a commitment is made by the parents and congregation to actively share the responsibility of providing the child with a Christian upbringing.
Commonly asked questions
1. What about godparents?
The Bible does not require us to have godparents and so they’re not part of official Uniting Church belief and practice. Nor do they have any legal status.
We believe the child’s real godparents are the members of the Church family who received the child in Baptism and promised to share with the parents in giving the child a Christian upbringing.
2. What if the parents can’t truthfully make these promises at this stage?
It’s always better to be honest with God than make promises we’re uncertain about keeping.There is no law of God or of the Church that says a child must be baptised. It is quite in order to allow children to wait until they’re old enough to make up their own mind whether or not they want to be baptised. In the meantime they can still call themselves “Uniting Church” and will always be welcome at the Uniting Church.
3. Is there an alternative to Baptism?
Yes, there is the “Service of Thanksgiving” that is also conducted in a normal church service like Baptism. In this service we give thanks to God for the gift of this child and ask his blessing, protection and guidance through his/her life.