Notes on Baptism [ Pt.1]
Baptism emerged from immersion rites which were practised in the Syrian / Transjordanian regions in the era before Christ. Various forms of ritual bathing and washing were part of many ancient cultures. It signified cleansing, a new beginning, a farewell to the old life and some times even the destruction of one’s past. In the Christian scriptures, one comes across the baptism of John, which called for repentance and renewal. Jesus himself accepts baptism from John. Christians interpret it as Jesus’ identification with humanity’s sinfulness. The road from baptism leads to the crucifixion, resurrection and eternal glory of Christ. Thus the Christian life is a journey from birth, baptism to the road to calvary, death to the old self, and an advance appropriation of the eternal life. It carries the hope of the fulfillment of salvation on the return of Christ.
Baptism is also path that leads the baptised to share in the ministry of Christ — his preaching, teaching, healing, loving, fellowship-ing, his striving for justice, peace and togetherness as children of the Almighty Creator. In this way, the baptized share in his ministries and even his priesthood, fulfilling the promise given to Abraham to be the conduits of God’s blessing to this world.
This community of the baptised people is called the Church, which is the body of Christ. It is a living organism that makes real the presence of christ to the world around us. Baptism, then, becomes the process through which one is incorporated into the body of Christ. Notably, as Paul says, the one body has many parts and functions, and therefore the becoming of a body does not mean our differences are solved and made alike. Instead, it is a body that features many-ness, and is therefore complex and richly textured, yet held together by Christ. This incorporation takes place through the reception of Holy Spirit, at the time of baptism, which becomes the guide, the interpreter, the advocate and conscience of the human being that enables him/her to walk in conformity with Christ, who is the path to salvation, to eternal abundant life, to fulfilment, to our true destiny.
That means baptism, more than a momentary experience, is an initiation into a lifelong growth towards the stature of Christ. We cannot do it on our own, nor did we find the way to salvation on our own. God Almighty, through God’s abundant mercy and grace, took the initiative, gave us this gift although we did not deserve it. This places a responsibility on our part to acknowledge, appropriate and affirm that grace through our thought, word and deed. It implies a responsibility to live out the salvation we have received as a free gift and share it with others, which gives baptism a missional dimension, rooted in the experience of that wonderful love.