“Why is the pastor having a pool party on stage before the service?” “What is the purpose of baptism?” “Why are they drinking grape juice and eating stale bread?” We will share with you the two church ordinances we practice – baptism and the Lord’s Supper – and what they mean. As you study this section, talk with your disciple-maker about scriptural answers to your questions.
Remember, our foundation of belief is the Holy Scriptures.
Baptism is a fundamental practice in the Christian faith. It is an outward symbol of an inward change and an act of obedience to Jesus Christ. In Matthew 3:15-17, we see how important baptism was to Jesus Himself, as He was baptized by John the Baptist.
Although baptism is not necessary for salvation, it is essential for believers to demonstrate their commitment to Christ publicly. When we are baptized, we are affirming our union with Christ and committing ourselves to His people. It is a celebration of our faithfulness to the Great Commission given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20.
As Bobby Jamieson writes in his book, Understanding Baptism, “Baptism is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.” When I was in 7th grade, I accepted Christ. I wasn’t baptized until my 10th grade year. I went to a church summer camp, because the girl I liked invited me. I was the kid in the youth ministry that you didn’t want your Christian kids to be around.
I was always in trouble at school, with the law, and didn’t care much about church outside of the games. Ashley invited me to her youth group. After game time was over, I went to the back of the gym and sat against the wall. Everyone else walked to chairs set up next to a stage. A band began to play, and I took out my phone and played Snake (only the old people will know what that is). Some guy came up to me and handed me a brochure for “church camp.” I spit in his face and told him to go away. If I did that today, I would be put in handcuffs by the church’s security team and asked to leave. He just walked away, put his hand out in the air, and started singing with the band. When the band was done, this man went on stage and started to talk about Jesus. I don’t remember anything he said.
But I do remember the brochure he handed me: paintball, water slides, ziplines. No joke, I went home that night and asked my parents if I could go on vacation with my “girlfriend” and the church. The church would even pay for it! Little did I know at the time, but the way that this believer acted towards my sinful actions helped me understand the mercy of God. About two weeks later, we got to camp. Walked into the cabin, and the teacher named Matthew went over some rules, one of which was that we couldn’t have phones. I had just upgraded from a Nokia Brick to a bright silver Motorola Razr! Plus, how was I going to text my “girlfriend” on where to meet up? Regardless, he took our phones and put them in his pillow case. That night, I came up with a plan with a couple of my friends to steal back our phones. I was going to ask Matthew in the hallway to talk about Jesus, and while we were out there, they would steal the phones back for us. After talking with Matthew for a few minutes, I told him, “I think they got out our phones by now. So I don’t want to talk anymore.” As a 13-year-old boy, I cared more about my phone than Jesus.
I would look at these same friends at the end of our camp pastor Craig’s sermon and tell them that I needed to talk to Matthew again about Jesus. If I recall correctly, Matthew was a little bit hesitant to talk this time, but it had clicked for me: I knew my sins were great and I needed the forgiveness God offers through Jesus dying on the cross. Our youth pastor was baptizing people in the river the next morning, and Matthew asked me if I wanted to go. I was 100% sincere about my faith, but I was still growing. After all the years of pain I caused my family, I wanted them to be there when I got baptized. Three years later, I got baptized. I invited my parents and family to attend, but they couldn’t make it in time. I was at a new church, attending by myself and didn’t know anyone but the janitor I did court-mandated community service with. Right before I was baptized, Pastor Paul asked my family, Sunday school teachers, and friends to stand. He and I both realized that I knew no one in the church, and my family was running late to church. It was then that I realized that I was getting baptized for other people, not for God. With time, I continued to grow in my faith, and I now realize that my baptism (when I went under the water) was a representation of the funeral for my old life that took place when God saved me and a public commitment and celebration of my new life in Christ (when I came up out of the water).