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"Discuss the rite of Baptism. How might its meaning be explicated in a secular society?"

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Introduction

522549 May 2004 Dr. M. Felderhof "Discuss the rite of Baptism. How might its meaning be explicated in a secular society?" The primary purpose of Christian baptism is to sign an everlasting union with Jesus Christ. Alternatively, through Christian baptism the participants sign the death and resurrection of Jesus whom they choose to pledge their allegiance and follow. Baptism is the action Jesus and the disciples chose which would best convey the atonement actions of Jesus on our behalf, that is, his death and resurrection. It is important that we should not narrow the symbolism of baptism. Baptism does not symbolise any section or part of salvation, but the whole of salvation. Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for instance, do not divide the field between them, each symbolizing one element in the broad process of salvation or one exercise in the complex enjoyment of salvation. They are two ways of symbolizing salvation as a whole. Salvation is cleansing, salvation is ransoming. Baptism represents it from the one point of view, the Lord's Supper from the other. Baptism therefore symbolizes not merely the "cleansing of our sins but our consequent walk in new obedience"1. This, let us never forget, is not only symbolized for us but sealed to us, for baptism is given to us by God as an engagement on his part to bring us safely through to the end. ...read more.

Middle

By faith in Christ, sin no longer has to dominate, because the Holy Spirit, who is imparted through our union with Christ, gives believers capacity and the resources to combat the temptations and allurements of the world. Paul wrote in Romans 6: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him...that we should no longer be slaves to sin...but alive to God...".5 Baptism allows us as Christians to live our lives for God. United with our Lord through our baptismal rite we are given strength and are blessed with the Holy Spirit. By plunging ourselves into the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are delivered from the clutches and ultimate consequences of perpetual sin. Essentially this highlights baptism, as a picture of the new life believers possess in the present, as well as a dramatization of the future resurrection. It is a picture of dying, the elimination of original sin and of rising, breathing again to a new quality of life. Baptism is a sign of new life. Baptism is also a symbol of cleansing. We often refer to the observances of baptism and Holy Communion as rites meaning ceremonies which attach spiritual significance to familiar objects and actions. In Holy Communion we use bread and wine and we eat and drink. Baptism uses water and employs the action of bathing. The most basic of images presented in baptism, therefore, is cleansing. ...read more.

Conclusion

Moreover, because the action is a public one, believers come to realise they are being identified with and are a part of a larger body of Christians, the church of Jesus Christ. Through union with Jesus, believers are united with all others who have made the same spiritual commitment, with all who are taking the same life-long journey of striving to emulate the character of Christ, and sharing with others, in word and deed, the good news of the Saviour. In conclusion one can argue that as a sign-act of faith, baptism is a sign of the atonement made by Jesus' death and resurrection; a sign of commitment and obedience; a sign of self-dedication; a sign of repentance; a sign of ethical change; a sign of new life and the promise of our resurrection; a sign of endowment with the Holy Spirit; and a sign of discipleship. Baptism is a serious commitment with the Saviour and the Holy Spirit. With the guidance of the Holy Trinity, the baptismal rite should lay the foundations for the thoroughly Christian life. All who truly repent of their sins and invite the Spirit of Jesus into their hearts are encouraged to follow through with the example of our Saviour and welcome the blessings of Christian baptism. To fully explain this to a secular society, one must experience Christianity and its teaching for oneself. Only through individual choice and resolution can one then enter into the Christian Church through the rite of baptism. ...read more.

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