Christian Baptism in the Presbyterian Church
Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs”, expressly gives little children a place among the people of God. (Luke 18:16)
Baptism is one of two sacraments practiced by Presbyterians; Communion is the other. The act of baptism is quite simple; but in a handful of water, there is a deep well of mystery and meaning. In baptism, we are called to a new way of life as Christ’s disciples, sharing the good news of the gospel with all the world. Presbyterians describe baptism as a sign and seal of the covenant of grace made by God through Jesus and extended to us. In baptism, God claims us as beloved children and members of Christ’s body, the church; washing us clean from sin as we renounce the power of evil and seek the will and way of God.
We Always Baptize in a Service of Worship, Not In a Private Ceremony
Presbyterian baptism is always accompanied by the proclamation of the Word in the context of public worship. Presbyterians practice both adult and infant baptism. Infant baptism expresses that it is God who chooses us for faith, discipleship, and salvation; without God, we have no power to claim these things for ourselves. However, we affirm that people come to faith at different stages in life, and recognize the baptism of older believers as an equally valid expression of the sacrament.
We Sprinkle and We Immerse
While pouring or sprinkling water upon the head is most common, Presbyterians also allow for baptism by immersion. At Church of the Covenant, we practice the generous sprinkling of water upon the head. Whatever the method, the deep significance of baptism demands a visible and generous use of water, conveying the lavish outpouring of God’s grace; filling believers with the gifts of the Spirit, and overflowing in lives of faithfulness, service, and love.
A pastor always presides at the baptism, but it is a congregation’s session that authorizes baptisms and provides for the spiritual growth and nurture of members. At baptism, a ruling elder of the church presents the candidate. In turn, both the family and the congregation promise to contribute to the baptized person’s Christian formation.
Can Anyone Be Baptized?
Yes! Christ’s gracious invitation is open to all. However, baptism is but the beginning of a lifelong process of formation in the faith. Do non-Presbyterians need to be baptized when joining the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Not if they were previously baptized. The PC (USA) recognizes all baptisms with water in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit administered by other Christian churches.
So remember your baptism and be thankful! In the sacrament of baptism. This seals our inclusion in the covenant of grace, incorporation into the life of Christ, and anointing with the gifts of the Spirit. We have countless reasons to give God thanks and praise. As Jesus said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Filled with the never-failing grace of Jesus Christ poured out for us, our hearts overflow with gratitude and joy, spilling out into the world in lives of service and love for God and neighbor.