Luke 3.15–17, 21–22
Baptism is Christ’s gift.
It is the sign by which the Spirit of God
joins people to Jesus Christ
and incorporates them into his body, the Church.
In his own baptism in the Jordan by John,
Jesus identified himself with humanity
in its brokenness and sin;
that baptism was completed in his death and resurrection.
By God’s grace,
baptism plunges us into the faith of Jesus Christ,
so that whatever is his may be called ours.
By water and the Spirit we are claimed as God’s own
and set free from the power of sin and death.
Thus, claimed by God
we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit
that we may live as witnesses to Jesus Christ,
share his ministry in the world and grow to maturity,
awaiting with hope the day of our Lord Jesus. — from Uniting in Worship 2
Some of you know that I used to be part of an Open Brethren congregation as a young man. When the Brethren talk about baptism, they seem to be describing quite a different thing to baptism in churches like the Uniting Church.
Briefly, the Brethren only baptise adults. And they say that a person should only be baptised once they have been converted, once they are someone who ‘has’ the Holy Spirit inside them.
We baptise people of any age. I’ve baptised old people, children, babies—including babies that were about to die.
What can a baby who is about to die bring to the life of the church? We don’t baptise people for what they can bring to us, although a dying baby brings so very much. We baptise people to declare and demonstrate the infinite grace of the triune God.
Why did John baptise people? Luke tells us that John the Baptiser
went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…
‘A baptism of repentance.’ What on earth was that?
Well, to repent is to change your mind, it is to turn around and move in another direction. John’s baptism signified a change of life.
According to Luke (3.15),
the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah…
But John was preparing the way for the Messiah, Jesus. And repentance, changing your life, was the way to prepare.
And when the Messiah came, John said,
He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
What on earth?