Happy Baptism to You!
To understand the significance of baptism we should recall what it did to Jesus
Last month’s column discussed the purpose of human life as a starting point in understanding the basic principles of Christian leadership. The next few articles in the series will focus on the need to understand the significance of sacraments in the life of a Christian.
We begin by reflecting on the significance of baptism.
Every year we all celebrate our birthdays and those of us who are married further celebrate their wedding anniversaries, while the religious observe the anniversaries of their ordination or profession in their respective congregations.
This is all very good and should be done, but I believe there is one more celebration that we all tend to ignore—the commemoration of our baptism.
In his theological discussion with Nicodemus Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (Jn 3:5-6).
Jesus is here talking about two kinds of birth that are of equal importance. We all derive our human or fleshly lives from our parents (“flesh gives birth to flesh”), but we get our spiritual life, the life that gives us eternal life, from water and the Spirit.
When we are born we become children of our parents. Through baptism we are born anew to a life in the Spirit. [Tweet “Through baptism we are born anew to a life in the Spirit”] We are cleansed of our original sin and become children of God, sharing in the life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are truly born again and become what Paul calls “a new creation” (2 Cor.5:17).
The day of baptism is such a momentous event that if we really understand what it means to all of us Christians, we should commemorate it every year.
To understand the significance of baptism we should recall what it did to Jesus. Although he was born without sin, the day he was baptised by John became a major landmark in his life.
First, the Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven said: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:21-22). For the first time we see God the Father and God the Holy Spirit converging upon Jesus, who is God the Son.
And it seems to me that it is on this occasion that Jesus has a clearer idea of who he is and what his mission is. He is immediately led by the Spirit to the desert where he is tested by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights.
On his return from the desert after overcoming the devil, he begins to teach in the synagogues of Galilee. He goes to a synagogue in Nazareth and reads that passage from Isaiah which begins “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor…” After reading the passage he says: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:1-21). Jesus is now fully aware of who he is, and his public mission begins.
From this we can conclude that we should not only be aware of baptism as our spiritual birth, but also that as Christians we have a duty to spread the Good News of the Gospel in obedience to Jesus’ command “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”(Mt 28:19).
The Christian life is both a privilege and an obligation. We are privileged to be called children of God, but we also have a duty to ensure that other people become children of God.