God's Gracious Gift
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38)
As United Methodists, we believe baptism is our entry into the Church and it is God’s gracious gift to us! The use of the biblical term covenant links baptism and its related services to the work of God on behalf of God’s people. A covenant is a two-sided agreement involving promises and responsibilities of both parties – what God will do and what we’ll do. In the Hebrew Bible, the Old Covenant, we see the story of God’s covenant relationship with the chosen, Hebrew people. The sign sealing that old covenant is circumcision. In the New Testament, meaning New Covenant, Jesus Christ enters our story and a new covenant is established between God and the Christian Church through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. . In baptism, we are initiated into the community of God’s covenant people – the body of Christ. Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant, the divine promise applied to the life of each of us.
1. It is “through water and the Holy Spirit” that we enter into new spiritual life in relationship to God in Christ. In The Articles of Religion, John Wesley asserted that, “Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth. The baptism of young children is to be retained in the church.”
2. Baptism of an infant powerfully portrays the utter dependence that all of us have on God. The sacrament is the sign of God’s promise of ongoing grace, offering continual forgiveness and transformation throughout our lives. We do not receive all of the benefits of baptism at once; this is particularly obvious when infants are baptized. At whatever age it is received, baptism demonstrates our inclusion in the covenant with God and our access to the divine grace that claims, sustains, and saves us.
Without God having acted first, we would be unable to move toward God. The good news is that in Jesus Christ, God has acted to make salvation possible. What God offers us must be accepted in repentance and faith. Baptism, confirmation and reaffirmation are our responses of commitment, profession of faith, and rededication to living a life in Jesus Christ. When a child is baptized, the parents are acting out of faith on behalf of their child. In confirmation and reaffirmation are steps taken by an older child, teen or adult that can answer for themselves. All responses are because God acted first to prompt our faith.
Thank you God for making salvation possible for us through Jesus Christ. Amen.
For further reading, download the free booklet from www.gbod.org, “This is Your Baptismal Liturgy: A Resource for Understanding The United Methodist Ritual of Holy Baptism”
About Paula Renfro
Paula is a Lay Leader and the Facilitator of the 9:30 am Sunday School Class.