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Attached is a guide for four baptism preparation classes for parents, godparents and adults. It is from an Anglican/Episcopal perspective for a Book of Common Prayer service; however, it should be helpful for anyone interested in learning more about baptism.

Class 1: First Read of Baptismal Service in the Book of Common Prayer page 299 Just a first read and then go through the classes. In the final class, we will read through the service again and answer any remaining questions about baptism and go through the logistics of the service.

 

Biblical Accounts of Baptism

Baptism comes from the following Greek word: Baptizo to dip, immerse

John’s Baptism: Luke 3.1-18

John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance of sins that one’s sins might be forgiven. It purified a person from his or her former ways in preparation for the coming kingdom of God that John preached. John demanded that Jews and Gentiles undergo this baptism rite. He exhorted a changed life as evidence of repentance.

Note the following: repentance, bearing fruit, no qualifications exempt a person or preclude a person from this baptism, John points to one mightier who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, and Luke writes that John preached GOOD news!

Alexander Schmemann, the Orthodox priest, on repentance:

“Repentance is thus the return of our love, of our life, to God, and this return is possible in Christ because He reveals to us the true Life and makes us aware of our exile and condemnation. To believe in Christ is to repent—to change radically the very “mind” of our life, to see it as sin and death. And to believe in Him is to accept the joyful revelation that in Him forgiveness and reconciliation have been given.” (Schmemann 78)

Jesus’ Baptism: Mat 3:13-17

Notes: In undergoing a baptism of repentance that was unnecessary to cleanse Jesus of sins, he identifies with sinful people in their cleansing and renewal. Jesus’ baptism shows the reception of the Holy Spirit, confirmation of sonship, mission of servanthood and bearing witness to God’s salvation and kingdom.

Jesus sees his crucifixion as his baptism into death for all people. He is undergoing the judgment of sin. As he did in his water baptism, Jesus is showing the way to life and forgiveness of sins is through death. Luke 12:50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!

Jesus’ instructions on baptism: Mat 28.16-20

Jesus commissions his followers. Baptism is instituted as a practice associated with salvation, discipleship and teaching. Jesus mandates it for those who receive the good news of the gospel.

The Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem writes, “Baptism is not necessary for salvation, but it is necessary if we are to be obedient to Christ, for he commanded baptism for all who believe in him.” (Grudem 385)

Examples of baptisms from Acts:

Acts 1:8 Jesus reaffirms the promise of John that he will baptize with the Holy Spirit. He exhorts his followers to await this baptism. The effect of this baptism is that they will receive power and become his witnesses.

Acts 2:1-42 We see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and its effect upon the disciples. Peter then preaches to the crowds and interprets what has occurred in light of Jesus’ teaching and Scripture. He then counsels the crowd what to do in order to be saved. Acts 2:38 “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.” In the first sermon of the church, Peter commands baptism in association with repentance, forgiveness of sins and reception of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.

Acts 8:1-39 Baptism is associated with repentance and believing the good news. It is done immediately upon the profession of faith. In this episode, laying on of hands follows baptism and effects the reception of what might be called the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” The outward work of baptism requires an inner work of repentance and regeneration. Following baptism, the Spirit continues to work in a person to bring about sanctification and deliverance. God provides gifts of the Spirit to the church that it might minister effectively to people according to God’s will for a person.

Acts 9:1-22 Saul (renamed Paul) is converted and is immediately baptized. The Baptism confirms his conversion and precedes his bearing witness to Jesus.

Acts 10:34-48 Peter preaches at Cornelius’ house, and after the people believe the good news about Jesus the Spirit falls upon the people who are immediately baptized in water. Water baptism accompanies faith and reception of the Holy Spirit confirming forgiveness of sins and adoption as sons.

Acts 16:25-34 The entire household of the jailer is baptized, as the family receives salvation. He and his family rejoice afterwards that they have come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Acts 19:1-7 This account illustrates how John’s baptism of repentance is a forbearer to the baptism of Jesus and incorporates John’s baptism and adds the renewal of the new birth and reception of the Holy Spirit. Again we see that the laying of hands led to the reception of the Holy Spirit. These are all combined in the baptism service we will celebrate.

Class 2: What the New Testament Says about Baptism

Romans 6:1-11 Paul shows that believers are identified with Christ in his death and resurrection through baptism. In baptism, believers die to sin and arise into new life in Jesus Christ. We become incorporate in Christ and in him we receive eternal life over death and sin.

Colossians 2:11-15 The Scripture shows that sinners are literally dead in their sins. The only solution is to allow the sinful nature to die and be buried and to allow Christ to bring new birth through the Holy Spirit. In this regeneration, our sins are completely forgiven. The record of our wrongs is nailed to the cross and buried with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 Paul identifies the church as one body, the Body of Christ. Through baptism we become a member of Christ’s body which is one.

Galatians 3:23-28 In this verse Paul identifies the individual work and the corporate work that occur in baptism. The individual is justified by faith and by that faith enters into the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:4-6 Despite what may appear to be a divided religion made up of divided sects, Christianity is essentially one Body, one communion of saints, marked by the sharing of the one faith in the one Lord. There is one baptism as the initiation into this communion. Baptism is the sacrament of entrance into the Body of Christ rather than into a denomination or religion.

How the Early Church Interpreted and Practiced Baptism

Laurie Guy, a church historian, writes in Introducing early Christianity that a sacrament such as baptism or Eucharist (Holy Communion) is commonly considered an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” (Guy 216) Guy explains that for the early church baptism “clearly and powerfully symbolizes cleansing and renewal.” (Guy 216) Baptism is included in the initiation into the faith that included repentance, faith, baptism, reception of the Holy Spirit and joining the faith community. Eventually in the early church, baptism seems to have become the tangible focal point for the salvation elements of repentance, faith, and reception of the Holy Spirit.

In his book The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, Wilken describes baptism in the early church as a ritual in which “the months, even years, leading up to it were a time of formation in the Christian life, through example and practice, and of instruction in the creed. Baptism was a moral as well as a spiritual experience.” (Wilken 37) Baptism had such a central role that the view emerged that without baptism there was no salvation.

The fourth century bishop Basil of Caesarea wrote, “Faith and baptism are two kindred and inseparable ways of salvation: faith is perfected through baptism, baptism is established through faith.” (Guy 220) Cyprian, also an early bishop, asserted that it was the act of God and the faith of the recipient that was vital in baptism. For Augustine, validity of baptism depends on the act of Christ in the sign and on the disposition of the recipient while the priest serves only as an instrument of God.

The Apostolic Tradition, composed in Rome about 215 A.D, addresses the early ritual for baptisms. It begins by the examination of those coming forward for baptism to determine their worthiness for the faith. Those who do qualify must spend three years in training and discipleship in the Word of God, “Catechumens will hear the word for three years.” (17.1) Following the three years, their lives will be reexamined. They will receive prayer and laying on of hands daily with emphasis on deliverance of evil. In immediate preparation for baptism, they shall fast and keep vigil all night in prayer and instruction. On the day of baptism, they will receive anointing and prayer and will renounce Satan and evil once more declaring belief in the Trinity in accordance with the creeds. Afterwards, they are anointed again and prayed for with laying on of hands by the bishop. Then they will be sealed on the forehead and will join the community of the faithful in Eucharist. Wilken describes early church baptism as “not a private affair but a communal celebration of the entire community. Everyone had a role, the bishop and other clergy, neighbors, friends, and family…Baptism was the great Christian spectacle.” (Wilken 39)

The Apostolic Tradition also prescribes a Christian life of frequent prayer and Bible readings for individuals, families and the Christian community. It demands several times of prayer during the day and night and attending Christian teachings at church or gatherings whenever they are offered. The goal is the strengthening of one’s faith through charismatic teachings. Hippolytus suggests that his teaching serves as a guard against heresies creeping into the Christian faith. He writes that many heresies have grown due to lack of following tradition, because people “did what they wanted according to their own pleasure, and not what was appropriate.” (43.3)

Hippolytus directs parents to baptize children and infants. He writes, “for those who cannot speak, their parents should speak, or another who belongs to their family.” (quoted in Green 51) The theologian Origen, writing in the early 3rd century, writes that baptizing children was a tradition received from the apostles. (Green 52) Other church Fathers favored baptizing children. The Anglican priest Michael Green writes that the evidence suggests that the apostolic church baptized infants born to their members, and that this practice continued universally throughout the period of the undivided church until the Anabaptist protest at the Reformation.” (Green 54)

For the early church, baptism was a battleground in the warfare between God and Satan. It represented a shift in the allegiance of the recipient from Satan to Jesus. Its increasingly ritualized experience was intended to emphasize its meaning as an once-in-a-lifetime event of passing from death to life.

The rigorous baptismal process revealed in The Apostolic Tradition was eventually lessoned to accommodate the rapid growth of the church and also by the salvific importance ascribed to baptism itself. The prebaptismal training became compressed to 40 days or disappeared altogether in the face of too many converts for the lengthy, intense process and in face of the demand for infant baptism.

 

Comments on Early Church Baptism

I have mixed feelings and thoughts about the rigorous and lengthy baptismal process prescribed in The Apostolic Tradition. On one hand, I think the seriousness of it and the intense instruction, prayer, devotion and community revealed is excellent and beneficial for the recipients, the teachers and the church. On the other hand, I do not see such a Scriptural prerequisite for baptism, and I think it could subject people (and perhaps the Holy Spirit) to an arbitrary time and place for the transmission and recognition of salvation.

I think the Scriptural examples we have discussed convey an important message of the New Testament regarding the matter and that is the work of salvation has been accomplished by Jesus. In order to receive salvation, we must believe what God has accomplished and proclaimed through Scripture and accept it by faith.

I am in favor of the intense discipleship, prayer and spiritual warfare present in The Apostolic Tradition; however, I think salvation and being filled with the Holy Spirit, represented in baptism, do not require qualification or a reformed life but are rather the catalysts and enablers of such. The post-baptismal requirements of the church can be seen in the activities of the apostles and new believers described in Acts: So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:41-42

Class 3: Anglican Views on Baptism and Walk through the Book of Common Prayer Service

From the Anglican Articles of Faith:

Article 27 Of Baptism:

Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian people are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.

The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

Richard Hooker (1554-1600): “Baptism is an action in part moral, and in part ecclesiastical, and in part mystical; moral, as begin a duty which men perform towards God; ecclesiastical, in that it belongeth to God’s church as a public duty; finally mystical, if we respect what God thereby intend to work…The grace of baptism cometh by donation of God alone.” (Qtd in Stevenson 47)

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626): “At first, we were but washed from our sins…but here, from a baptized sinner, to an adopted son, is a great ascent…A son, a beloved son, his father’s delight and joy; there is no degree higher.” (Qtd in Stevenson 63-64) Baptism indicates our adoption as children of our Heavenly Father.

Contemporary Anglican priest Michael Green summarizes the elements of baptism: 1. It embodies repentance and faith, 2. It offers the blessings of the covenant, 3. It plunges us into the death and resurrection of Jesus, 4. It initiates us into the worldwide Christian church, 5. It commissions us for work in the kingdom of heaven. (Green 35)

The conditions of baptism are repentance and faith on the human side and the gift of the Holy Spirit on the divine side. Without these, Green writes that baptism is not efficacious in bringing a person into the church and into Christ. (Green 42-43)

Green provides the following arguments in favor of infant baptism:

  1. children were admitted into the Old Testament covenant by circumcision
  2. when Gentiles converted to Judaism the entire family was baptized, “washing away Gentile impurities.”
  3. entire families were baptized in New Testament days
  4. Jesus accepted and blessed children too young to understand or respond (Mk 10:14-16)
  5. the historical church has blessed children
  6. infant baptism stresses the objectivity of the gospel
  7. infant baptism stresses the initiative of God in salvation.

The whole principle and act of infant baptism presupposes the faith and obedience of those bringing forward the child (parents & godparents). They are agreeing to raise the child to grow into the salvation we celebrate at baptism. This includes instruction and continued membership in the faith community. Baptism is not just about the family but about the community of all Christians. Parents and godparents are committing to raising the child into that community.

Confirmation: Believers who undergo baptism may, as part of their discipleship and continued growth, pursue confirmation in the Anglican Church. Discipleship is growing in the faith through study of the word, prayer, regular participation in Eucharist and taking an active role in the Body of Christ that is the church. This brings one into greater fellowship with the bishop of the diocese, the priests of the church and this church community. Confirmation simply confirms one’s membership in this denomination of Christ’s church. It also gives to Christians who were baptized as children an opportunity to publicly confess their faith and commitment to Christ and his community. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. Hebrews 6:1-2

Class 4: Book of Common Prayer Baptismal Service page 299 Leader will walk participants through the service and provide practical instructions about the service.

 

 

 

Works Consulted

Book of Common Prayer. Seabury Press, 1979.

Green, Michael. Baptism. Tyrone: Authentic Media, 2006.

Grudem, Wayne. Bible Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

Guy, Laurie. Introducing Early Christianity. Downers Grove: IVP, 2004.

Hippolytus. The Apostolic Tradition.

Ryken, Leland, James Wilhoit & Tremper Longman III Eds. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove: IVP, 1998.

Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1973.

Stevenson, Kenneth. The Mystery of Baptism in the Anglican Tradition. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publ., 1998.

Wilken, Robert Louis. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought. New Haven: Yale Univ Press, 2003.

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One Response to “–Baptism Preparation”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you for this!


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