The Meaning of Baptism
Today is a baptismal Sunday for us at Cities. We will be baptizing 11 people at the conclusion of today’s service. If you’re a guest who has come because of one of those baptisms, we want to welcome you. We’re glad you could be with us. Here in the Exhortation, I wanted to take a few moments and explain what baptism means.
Baptism is three-way speech-act. It’s an act that speaks. And there are three speakers. In baptism, God is saying something, the person baptized is saying something, and the church is saying something. God is making promises. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). If you are baptized into Jesus, you have put on Christ and you are adopted into God’s family. Baptism is a visible promise from the living God that all who trust in Jesus are sons and daughters of God.
Not only does God make promises, but in baptism, we believe those promises. That’s why you’ll hear Pastor Jonathan ask three important questions of those being baptized.
First, are you now trusting in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of all your sins and the fulfillment of all God’s promises to you?
The good news of Jesus calls us to look away from all other ways of getting right with God. We must trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of our sins. In baptism, we say, “There is no other name under heaven by which we may be saved.” The person being baptized says, “I belong to Jesus.”
Second, do you forsake Satan and all his works and all his ways?
Baptism is a public change of allegiance. Every human being is born sinful. We were all dead in our trespasses and sins in which we once walked, following the dark powers that are at war with God. We are born wearing the jersey of rebellion. In baptism, we publicly put on the jersey of Team Jesus. Because we trust in him alone, we publicly turn our backs on all of the devil’s lies.
Third, do you intend, with God’s help, to obey the teachings of Jesus and follow him as your Lord, Savior, and Treasure?
Just as God makes promises to us, we make promises to him. When we’re baptized, we personally bow the knee to King Jesus. We acknowledge that he has the right to tell us how to live. We agree to follow him and to obey all that he commanded, knowing that we can only do so with his help.
Finally, in baptism, the church also speaks. We formally and publicly receive the baptized members into the household of God. We acknowledge the work of God’s grace in their lives and we welcome them into God’s family, committing ourselves to helping them to fulfill their baptismal vows.
And so here at Cities, we want to magnify the meaning of baptism. We feel the weight of it. It’s a happy weight. But it’s a real weight. And it reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s seek God together now.
Prayer of Confession
Our Father and God, we confess that you are unfailingly faithful to your promises. You make good on every one of them. We remember this especially on Easter, when we remember how you made good on your promise to rescue us from sin and death through a son of Abraham who would bear our curse. The resurrection of Jesus is the great Amen to all of your promises.
Father, we confess that we are faithless. We break promises. We don’t follow through. Promises to our families, promises to our friends, promises to you—we know that we do not keep them. We bear your name; we identify ourselves with you, and then we bring reproach upon that name by our words and our actions. We do not remember the meaning of our baptism. We do not live up to our vows, but instead fall back into the sin and uncleanness that you called us out of. And we confess that this is a great evil. Forgive us, O God, for our faithlessness.
Father, we know that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual. So we confess our individual sins to you now.
Father, we thank you that even when we are unfaithful, you remain faithful. You have bound yourself to us by the Spirit, and that new covenant bond is unbreakable. Grant us the grace to remember our baptisms and to live up to the meaning of our confession. We pray that you would renew our hearts so that our thoughts, desires, and loves align with your own. Through Christ we pray, Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
If we have died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him.
Church, you have confessed your sins. Now, hear the good news!
When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, to all who humbly seek the mercy of God I say, in Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven.