We welcome your interest and trust this information will help you to understand the meaning of baptism. At Christ Church—as our name indicates—we are committed to bringing people to know and trust Jesus Christ. Baptism is the way Jesus has given us of coming to belong to him.
'A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.' This definition is from the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer.
A sacrament is a sign in that it points to something other than itself. But a sacrament is more than a sign. It gives something – an inward and spiritual grace – to the person who receives it.
The outward and visible sign of the sacrament is the water in which the person is baptised and the precise form of words, ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’. The inward and the spiritual grace towards which the sign points is death to sin and a new birth into a new way of life.
The Anglican Church has always distinguished between the two 'Gospel Sacraments' which are necessary for salvation, and the five others which are 'commonly called sacraments'. The Gospel Sacraments are those directly commanded by Jesus: the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The five 'commonly called sacraments' - Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony and Unction – were not commanded by Jesus but they have been part of the Church's life from the earliest times.
The Sacrament of Baptism
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. (The Nicene Creed)
We baptise because Jesus commanded us to baptise. He said, " ... unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
and "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". (Matthew 28:19)
The Meaning of Baptism
Jesus’ teaching about baptism is clearly stated in his discussion with Nicodemus. (John 3:1-8)
Jesus says that at our natural birth we are born into the present world. But if we would be citizens of God's Kingdom, the new age of God's rule, we must be born again and receive a new life.
Saint Paul expresses the same idea when he says that we are born 'in Adam' by our natural birth while at our new birth we are born 'in Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:22): He speaks of dying to the old way and rising to the new way: (Romans 6:3-11) and of being made part of Christ's body. (1 Corinthians 12:12f)
There are those who point out, quite rightly, that there is no direct reference to the baptism of children in the New Testament. They then go on to affirm that the Church should not therefore baptise children. But the Anglican Church would want to disagree. We argue that while the New Testament contains no direct reference to the baptism of children, it is there by inference.
Jesus says "... unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
He also says "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God." (Mark 10:14)
So if children are to belong to the Kingdom of God, and if admission to the Kingdom of God is only by baptism, then surely Jesus untended that children should be baptised.
Finally – and perhaps most important of all – we believe that the baptism of children witnesses to an important spiritual truth: our faith begins not with what we do for God, but with what God does for us. In baptising children we remind ourselves of that important fact over and over again.
At Christ Church we reflect this in holding to traditional Anglican forms of worship that are stable and stately, homely and warm, to sustain us together in our journey of faith. We trust that your experience of baptism will be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with us in this journey.
extracts from Genesis Publications Limited NZ are acknowledged