Baptism is a very important part of the Christian faith, in the Roman Catholic Church it is the initial sacrament of initiation, the other two being Holy Communion and Confirmation. It is the start of the religious journey through Christianity. By being baptized it is showing a commitment to the Christian faith it is both public as well as personal commitment and declaration to show your dedication to your faith. Baptism signifies a lifelong covenant between God and the candidate. As Christians we share a private relationship with God and baptism is a commitment to that relationship. Baptism is also special as it is a tradition of the Christian church. It has been a significant part of the church for a very long time; even before Christianity, the Jews were performing a ritualistic cleansing to rid themselves of sin. Jesus said to the people “turn away from your sins and be baptized.”
God also showed he believed baptism was the way to begin the faith as at Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, the skies opened and a voice said “you are my own dear son, I am pleased with you.” This moment signified the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and for us too as Christians it signifies that before we may begin to do God’s work we are baptized. Jesus expressed his thoughts on baptism, saying “go, then to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Peter also reinforced this by telling people to turn away from their sins and be baptized. Most Christian denominations believe in the importance of baptism, with exception of Quakers and the Salvation Army who do not believe in its significance.
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Infant baptism cleanses us of original sin. We are all born with original sin due to Adam and Eve. By being baptized as an infant we are brought into the Christian faith and given the opportunity to develop our faith from a very young age. Believers’ baptisms take place when the candidate is an adult; this allows them to make their own choices to do with their religious life. Jesus was baptized as an adult, he stands as an example for all those who wish to receive the believer’s baptism that they can begin their new spiritual journey in Christ. Baptism gives us strength from the Holy Spirit as Jesus received at his baptism, to resist the temptation to sin. Baptism may offer cleansing of sin and protection from evil, however, each individual also has the ability to make decisions for themselves, this free will may assist them to decide whether to live in accordance with Jesus’ teachings or live a life of sin.
Through baptism, we should be able to make good and moral decisions. This is because we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us through our journey of faith. It enables Christians to share in the death and resurrection of Jesus and to look forward to eternal life. The Holy Spirit can also be received through prayer and going to church which may become a part of a baptized person’s life. The impact of baptism on a person’s life can vary, for example going to a Christian school, going to church, praying and studying scripture or in the case of Catholics continuing to receive the remaining sacraments. Baptism marks the beginning of a Christian’s life where we dedicate ourselves to God and become closer to Jesus and try to follow in his example.
Baptism offers a sense of hope to those who may be lost; this is both the case in the past as well as in the present day. Baptism initiates our relationship with the church, God and the parish. Baptism unites Christians with each other through prayer, faith and a special relationship with God. Through Jesus’ teachings and those found in the bible, baptism has remained a unique and special sacrament that welcomes us into the church. Baptism has been and always will be a tradition that cleanses us of sin and offers us the opportunity to begin a new life in compliance with the teachings of the church.
The Central Features of Baptism. Baptism is the cleansing of sin and welcoming into the Christian faith as a member of God’s family. Not are we welcomed, but in being baptized we too welcome God into our lives. The central features of baptism follow a certain order, which includes many significant signs and symbols. There are two main types of baptism, baptism for infants and baptism for believers. The two baptisms differ slightly, however, both have the same purpose of welcoming people into the Christian faith and initiating their religion. At both baptisms, the candidate wears a white or light coloured garment as a sign of purity. This is similar to the dazzling white Jesus’ clothes turned at the Transfiguration. The principles of infant baptism are that the infant will develop their faith and relationship with God from a very young age.
Within the Roman Catholic Church, the infant is usually baptized with water on their forehead, however, this practice differs within different Christian denominations, for example in the Orthodox Church the infant is fully immersed like Jesus was at his baptism in the River Jordan. At the entrance of the church in infant baptism, the godparents, parents and infant are welcomed by the priest who represents the Christian community and the priest makes a sign of the cross on the child’s forehead. This is the first symbol showing the child has become God’s. An appropriate piece of scripture is then read, usually to do with either Jesus’ baptism or a conversation about eternal life. The homily expresses the importance of baptism to the congregation. The bidding prayers are said for the parents, godparents as well as in the hope of new life through baptism for the infant. There is a prayer to saints for their intercession for the infant being baptized. The godparents are there to pledge their support for the parents in the upbringing of the child and primarily in the development of the child’s spiritual growth.
Exorcism, the getting rid of evil spirits and anointing is where all possible evil that may have control over the child has driven away. Despite the fact that evil had been rid, the child still possesses free will and can deliberately make the choice to sin, however, once they are baptized, they can ask for God’s forgiveness and have their sins absolved. The oil of catechumens is anointed on the chest of the infant. The oil is a sign of strength and healing. It gives the infant the inner strength to resist the temptation of sin. When the infant is brought to the font, the water; a sign of cleansing and washing away of sins and original sin, is blessed. The parents and godparents renew their baptismal promises to show they too believe in the faith they have selected to raise their child in. This is done as the infant cannot make these promises themselves. The blessed water is poured three times on the forehead of the infant; this is signifying the Holt Trinity.
The priest then says “NAME, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This is the moment where the actual sacrament of baptism occurs. The child is anointed with Chrism oil, to assist the child in the challenges they will receive during their journey of faith. It represents how special the child is and that every child is unique. The oil of Chrism is a sign of dignity and being the child of God. It has a beautiful fragrant smell which emphasizes the beauty and innocence of a child. The baptismal candle is then lit from the Pascal candle and reminds us of Jesus’ resurrection and new life with God, just as baptism is. The Our Father is then said and a blessing is said by the priest. This final prayer shows the relationship with God through prayer and shows that Jesus too communicated with God through prayer as he taught us the Our Father.
At a believer’s baptism, the candidate is at an age where they understand the concept of baptism and its significance. They make a competent and informed decision on initiating their Christian faith. Before the baptism occurs, a period of instruction usually takes place. A believer’s baptism is very similar to that of an infant, however, this time as Minister asks the baptismal promises it is the candidates themselves who reply. They are asked if they repent their sins and have faith in Christ. There is an opportunity for the candidates to read passages from the bible or to give a testimony explaining how they became Christians and why they wish to receive the sacrament of baptism.
In a believer’s baptism, a pool instead of a font is used to cleanse the candidate of their sin and to start a clean, fresh new beginning within the Christian community. The candidate and minister step into the pool, while the minister baptizes them, the candidate is totally immersed underwater. This is similar to Jesus’ baptism. As the newly baptized candidate emerges from the water, their sponsor or friend who has been a significant part of their spiritual journey greets them on the other side. Emerging from the water and beginning a new life with Christ just as Jesus resurrected. Candidates tend to enter the pool and leave via different steps to signify leaving behind their old sinful life and being initiated into the Christian faith.
Baptism for believers however is not for them to be born again, but because they have been born again. It is an outward sign of an inward change. They have accepted God into their life already and now wish to be accepted by God and the rest of the Christian community. In both believers’ baptism and infant baptism water is a very significant symbol. It represents new life and cleansing of sin, which is what happens in both types of baptism and we accept God into our lives as he has accepted us into his. “Baptising babies is pointless”‘. Baptism is the first sacrament of initiation in the Roman Catholic Church. Different Christian Churches carry out baptism at different times, most however do so as infants. Baptism is a decision made by the parents to show God and the Christian community the infant is part of the Christian family.
Many people believe baptism is pointless as young babies do not understand what becoming part of God’s family or being baptized means. They are unable to take an active part as a member of the parish. As the child gets older they may also feel the pressure of baptism into their religion, they may find it difficult to choose a religion they wish to follow. Baptism is a decision in which parents have sole control over the infant’s spiritual growth therefore the infant has little or no input. This may affect the child later on in life when they are discovering new aspects of their religion as well as other religions. As baptism is a sacrament that cleanses us of sin, many people beg to question this as babies do not sin. They do not know or have control over their actions therefore they have no free will and this is needed to sin against God.
Early Christians also baptized only adults so today we should follow this as Jesus’ set an example of this. Also, baptism centres around faith, trust and acceptance with God, a child does not possess this at such as young age so baptism should be later in life. Many also argue that if God is a truly loving God then he will accept and love the child whether the child is baptized or not. However, there are reasons as to why baptism as a baby is important. Although as babies we may not sin, we are born with original sin and through baptism, we are cleansed of this and able to begin a new life free of sins. It also offers protection for the baby to resist sin. Baptism gives the infant a sense of belonging; a community of people who share similar beliefs and can help the child understand his or her identity.
A special covenant between God and the infant is formed from the very beginning of the child’s life which means that in hard times God will always be there to turn to. By being baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, the other six sacraments can be received, allowing the infant to continue their journey of faith throughout their life. Jesus loved children, so he would want them to share in baptism as well. Although a child may not fully understand baptism, they have the choice to continue their faith at Confirmation so their parents make another one of the numerous decisions they must make while their child is still young. As well as religious benefits for the baby, practical benefits include being accepted more easily into a Christian school.
In my personal opinion, I think the advantages of being baptized as a baby outweigh the disadvantages. I do however understand that a baby has no credible understanding of the concept of baptism; this is why I believe it is important to have confirmation at a much later age, where a young person can make the decision on whether to continue their faith. As a young person who was baptized as a baby, I feel it helped me to develop my individual identity, also by being part of a church community I have been able to expand my knowledge on different faiths but as well as have the opportunity to believe that God has control over certain things in life.