This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for March 15 2020, and has been slightly expanded in this post.
Last weekend four of our young men were baptised at our church camp. As the former youth pastor of our church (Lincoln Road Bible Chapel) I took great pleasure in seeing them take this public pledge of commitment, as my successor, Jake Moir, officiated the ceremony. As each of these young people stepped forward, they were asked a series of questions which laid out the nature of the commitment they were making. The church members present likewise made a promise before each of them was immersed and formally admitted into the faith.
What follows are the questions that were asked, with some comments the significance they carry. These questions were formulated by Jake and myself. They follow the threefold response required by the gospel of faith, repentance, and obedience. We also included some pointed words about the responsibilities of Christian community.
1. Faith: “Do you believe that Jesus is the Saviour and King, and died for your sins and on the third day rose from the dead?”
The baptisee confirms that they believe basic Christian teaching, and affirms their personal connection to it.
2. Repentance: “Do you turn from and leave behind the lifestyle choices of your past life, and the worldview of our Christless culture?”
Christian commitment entails not only a new kind of life, but also a departure. Old habits and attitudes are forsaken, as well as the habits and ideas of society that are out of sync with God and the gospel. The second part was included to highlight the fact that God wants to work deep change in us (a la Romans 12:2) and we cannot assume that Christianity and our culture’s assumptions fit together. In a culture that has Christian roots but humanist fruits, this is particularly important to recognise.
3. Obedience: “Do you commit to following Jesus Christ for all of your life and fellowshipping with his people wherever you may live?”
Christianity is not merely about what we believe; it is also a commitment to follow and obey Jesus, whom we acknowledge as King. Note also the commitment to being part of a church – this is important, but easily slips out of Christian practice. In a culture adverse to Christian faith and formation, community is vital. In a social context where both community and commitment are at a low ebb, we need to underscore that this is part of what it means to follow Jesus, even if at times one must move on from their church community.
4. Community: (To the church)“Do you, Lincoln Road church family, accept X into our community and commit to supporting, encouraging and discipling him/her in the faith and holding them to the commitment they are making today?”
Commitment to Christ is the true entry to a Christian community. The church that accepts the baptisee has the responsibility to care for them, perhaps similarly to a family that adopts a child. We cannot leave new members to the care of the subgroup of the church they have joined through (e.g. the youth group). All parts of the church should help each other to grow, and keep each other accountable to the promises we have made, especially those new to the faith. As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.
5. Admission: “Based on your profession of faith I now baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit [immersed].”
Now they are initiated formally into Christian community. The Triune God is who we belong to, and who has sent and authorised us to make disciples of all peoples (Matthew 28:18-20).
When we baptise, we formally welcome a new member into Christ’s family of brothers and sisters, and we celebrate another life that has been redeemed to sing the praises of Him who calls people ‘out of darkness and into his marvellous light.’ Those whom God calls are expected to believe, repent, and follow, and by being baptised publically pledge that allegiance.
These are the commitments of baptism.