Take the plunge!
Adult Baptism & Confirmation
Baptism is fundamental to the Christian path.
It contains the gift and promise of a higher life, conveyed by the divine spirit, through the elements of water and light.
Even if you were baptised as a baby, that gift is still there, waiting to unfold within you, to grow like a tree of life and bear rich fruit in the Spirit.
Traditional icons of the Baptism of Jesus paint a picture of humanity restored, embodied in the world of water and connected by a ray of spiritual light to the unseen depths of God.
Take a moment to imagine yourself in the centre, where Jesus stands, surrounded by water, filled with light.
Jesus himself was baptised, by John in the River Jordan. As Jesus came up from the water the Spirit descended upon him and filled him and he heard a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, the Beloved. In you I am delighted”. After forty days being tested in the wilderness, Jesus reappears with the message: “The Kingdom of God has come near! Repent and believe in the good news!”
Our baptism is modelled on Jesus’ baptism, whether as infants or adults. In baptism:
- we repent and turn to God
- we receive the Spirit
- we are restored as children of God and members of the mystical body of Christ, which is the new community of the Kingdom of God.
The spiritual reality of baptism is something we need to plunge into every day and it is also a lifelong journey that does not end with this life. All the same the outward act of baptism marks a decisive step in that journey, which is why we only perform it once.
The journey of baptism is death and rebirth, moving from an old way of life to a new way of life: from darkness to light; from slavery to freedom; from fear to love; from being alienated from God to hearing his voice declare to us: you are my beloved child, in you I am delighted. I am your Father.
But, no-one is going to set out on this journey unless they feel the need. Unless I see, for myself, that I am asleep, dead within, living in ignorance, slavery and fear, why would I set out on a journey of death and rebirth? To recognise my state and that of all humanity is itself the first step, it marks a moment of awakening, of turning to face reality. It is what we call ‘repentance’.
A Baptism of Repentance
In the baptism service we say out loud that we turn away from evil and towards Christ. Sometimes this is acted out like this:
Facing west, towards sunset and darkness, I am asked.
Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
I reject them.
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them.
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.
Turning to face east – towards the rising sun as a symbol of Christ.
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
I turn to Christ.
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
I submit to Christ.
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
I come to Christ.
- Repentance means ‘turning around’ or ‘returning’. I turn away from the things that destroy my life and that of other people and turn towards God as the source of life.
- ‘Sin’ is any way of living in which I am separated from God and from my fellow human beings.
- The ‘Devil’ is the force or power in me and in the world around us that tempts me to do what is wrong or harmful and which tells me that I am no good (and that there is no point trying). I have to face this temptation every day and every day turn again to God. But God’s door of mercy is always open. Even if I have broken my promises a thousand times God, as a loving Father, still calls me to return.
- To turn to Christ means that I recognise I need help, that I cannot make the journey on my own and that I want Jesus as my guide and teacher and as the real centre of my life.
You are my Beloved Child
In the baptism service, after we declare that we turn to Christ, the priest says a prayer over us and makes the sign of the cross on our foreheads:
“May almighty God deliver you from the powers of darkness, restore in you the image of his glory, and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ”
This prayer for deliverance sums up the whole of baptism. In these words three separate actions are described:
- We are delivered
- We are restored
- We are led
DELIVERED: After Jesus was baptised by John he began his work in Palestine. He healed people and delivered them from evil. This was in response to their faith. When we say that we renounce evil and turn to Christ, our deliverance begins.
Baptism is also described as a form of dying to the old self or the ‘old human nature’. The old person is drowned in baptism but the water of baptism is also the gift of new life.
“…we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6.4)
RESTORED: The Bible and Christian tradition teach us that human beings are created in the image of God and that we are meant to grow into the likeness of God. But we have lost sight of this, as you can tell by looking around the world and our own society. Another way of describing the image of God is to say that we are meant to be sons and daughters of God. Baptism restores us as children of God and restores the lost possibility of the image of God in us.
As Christians we believe that if you want to know what it means to be a child of God or to be the image of God then look at the life and teaching of Jesus. He lived it out but also, through his baptism and through his death and resurrection he created a way that we could be restored.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8.13-17)
LED: To be a child of God is to seek to know, love and obey God. Jesus taught his followers to pray to God as Father and to pray for the coming of the Kingdom
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name;
Thy Kingdom come!
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom,
the Power and the Glory,
for ever and ever, Amen.
Baptism is the start of a journey in which we walk “in the light and obedience of Christ”. To obey means to follow Jesus’ example and teaching. We can do this because he is a light shining in the darkness, shining in our hearts, to show us the way but also to fill our innermost being with light and joy and peace. It is not an easy path. After his baptism Jesus is tempted in the desert for 40 days and nights. To be on the path means making hard choices but it is the path to real life.
But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven: for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust … Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5.45f]
How can Jesus be present in our hearts when he died nearly 2000 years ago? That is a great mystery. But it is made possible by the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit which descended upon Jesus at his baptism and the same Spirit which is called down upon us at our baptism. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into all light and truth.
An ancient name for baptism is ‘photismos’, which means ‘illumination’. As well as water, baptism is a mystery expressed in terms of light. We are washed and illuminated, emptied and filled. In baptism illumination is represented by the pouring of oil upon our heads, a practice known as anointing or Christening. This is because Christ and Messiah both mean ‘one anointed with oil’. Ponder for a moment – why does oil represent light?
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4.6)
What do I need to do to be baptised?
In the Bible (at Acts 8.26-39) we read about an Ethiopian official who is baptised by Philip the apostle, after a very short explanation of the ‘good news’ (gospel) about Jesus. What is most important is that he wants to be baptised in response to that news. Nothing else is asked of him.
Later on it became traditional to prepare for baptism during the forty days of Lent [link to Lent] and then to be baptised on Easter Sunday or at Pentecost (50 days after Easter). During the weeks leading up to baptism people would be taught the faith and practice of the followers of Jesus.
So baptism can be a thing of the moment or the result of careful preparation. What matters is the decision to respond to the voice of God calling to you throughout your life. Do you want to be reborn as a child of God?