An understanding of Baptism

Feelings get in the way sometimes.  When we don’t “feel” that same emotion, then we try to repeat the same scenario.  I think this happens when we get baptized.  We love God, at least as far as it is an emotion.  Then, later on, we don’t “feel” that same emotion, or feeling.  So, we ask the pastor/minister to re-baptize us.  And this happens to people who have been baptized as adults!

For those who were baptized as infants, some people say, “Why don’t you baptize them again, so they can experience being baptized.”  Many times when I hear statements like this, I hear, “They need the feeling, so go ahead and baptize them.”  Of course for me, as a United Methodist Elder, I have to tell them no.

Am I being mean?  Am I not being understanding towards the individual(s)?  I am not being mean or nor do I lack understanding.  We United Methodists Elders can baptize an infant or we can baptize the person as an adult.  We just cannot do both for the same person!

Why? Our doctrine won’t allow re-baptism.  Article 17 of our Articles of Religion (2012 Book of Discipline, Paragraph 104), says baptism is “a sign of profession and mark of difference,” and also “it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth.”  And the end of Article 17 says that we retain the baptism of young children.  This doctrine came from the Anglican Church, which got it from the Roman Catholic Church, which joined the Orthodox Church in baptizing infants.

Some understanding of baptism comes before you are baptized, for adults.  It is the job of the church and the parents/sponsors to raise baptized infants such that they gain an understanding of their having been baptized.  It is also the church that helps adults who get baptized to understand what has happened to them and to gain an understanding of how to live as a baptized person.

I was baptized as an infant.  I went to Sunday School as a child.  I went through a confirmation class, in which I gained some understanding of my baptism.  I joined the church after that class. Later on, I had the sense that I was forgiven by Jesus Christ.  Even later still, I have had a variety of times of confirmation and affirmation that my being baptized means that I belong to God.  The sense is one of joy, of awe, of fear, of being loved.  It is the repeated encounters with God that have done this, even though the times were emotional.  

As I live as a baptized person, there will other encounters with God.  My baptism means that I belong to God.  Living God’s ways, and repeatedly returning to God, allows me to continue to publicly and privately admit that I am baptized.  God is still working on me.  His grace is helping me to be regenerated, and that repeatedly.  That regeneration is not done by repeating the act of being baptized.

As we start Lent, what is keeping you from being baptized?  If you have been baptized already, then what is keeping you from acknowledging your having been baptized? Turn to God, whether for the first or hundredth time.  You will understand more about baptism as you live as a baptized person, one who belongs to God.

3 thoughts on “An understanding of Baptism

  1. Thank you for a clear and faithful defense of our baptismal understanding. This is an emotionally packed subject. People of faith and integrity stand on every side of this issue and understand it differently. As long as we hold the United Methodist banner, we are honor bound to keep faith with the doctrines entrusted to us. On this subject, and on many others, some folk need to reexamine their connection to the denomination rather than push the walls and clamor for change.


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