A fountain of connection and commonality among Christians or a source of controversy and difference?
Some claim they baptize the way it was done in the Bible: adults, believers, dunking, running water. A Christian in the Pentecostal tradition put forth that argument in a recent conversation; no babies, no sprinkling, no way!
These lessons may shock my recent visitor who held that the Bible presents THE (read ‘one, true, right and only’) way re baptism.
In Luke John baptizes Jesus just with water. No special words nor ‘in the name of…..’, apparently After all are baptized, the Holy Spirit shows up, kind of a gift to the whole group, not individualized. Hmmm? Model #1.
The lesson from Acts 8 relates that the people in Samaria were baptized just ‘in the name of Jesus’. Then Peter and John went to pray with them and lay hands on them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Hmmm. Model #2.
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel story that verse known as the Great Commission advises those so charged with the mission to go and make disciple first by baptizing ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Hmmm. Model #3.
All this – plus more for which we have not space here – leads me to consider that there was no ONE way re baptism . . . even in the Bible. As the early Christian community was emerging it was formed by some different how’s. The ‘who’ forming the Body was the same, but the process changed and evolved with time, context, and circumstance.
We continue in that evolving Body of Christ in 2016. Let us center on the commonality of God’s loving reach and let us be gracious with the differences.
For further reflection
Where and when were you baptized? By what method?
Has your status as a baptized Christian ever been questioned because of the method by which you were baptized?
How do you see the church being called to continually evolve?
SERMON: “An Evolving Church”
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."