Friday, August 23, 2013
Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism
Probably, the majority of people who read this will have been baptized. It would be interesting to ask all of them what actually happened when they were baptized! Some would say that they became a Christian at that moment. Others would comment about it as an entrance ritual for church membership.
In the few lines that follow let me see if I can describe the event. First, Baptism is a sacrament. That means that something takes place during the ceremony besides an individual getting wet. An earlier question of the catechism says by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.
Represented: The visible events show us what takes place “behind the scenes.” We use water as a symbol of cleansing. Some denominations use immersion (the person being baptized is put under the water rather than a pouring or sprinkling of water over the individual’s head) to represent a burial and resurrection. The use of water represents a new and righteous life being given to the believer.
Sealed: Something becomes ours that cannot be taken away. In Biblical culture a seal was the consummation of an agreement. In this sense, we give ourselves, or our child to God, and God seals that child as His very own.
Applied: This new life and its benefits mentioned above are applied to us. In a rather irreverent way, compare this to updating your computer. The updates are there. They have been downloaded and installed, but you get little benefit from their presence until they have been applied, until they have been put into practice in the individual’s life.
Most of us understand the part that is represented; we get it. We are assured in our faith when we hear about being sealed. It is a tremendous comfort against our doubtful selves. However, it may be the greatest blessing when these benefits are applied, when we start living as children of our Heavenly Father, knowing that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God.