Tuesday, January 5, 2016

There's No Such Thing as Re-Baptism - Depending on Your Perspective

Lectionary Scripture for Sunday, January 10: Acts 8:14-17

Baptism of the Lord Sunday

Within The United Methodist Church, baptism is a sacrament that is only celebrated by an ordained Elder.  A licensed Local Pastor may also baptize someone but only within the bounds of their appointed charge.  We take baptism seriously as a sign of God's claim on your life.  

While a number of denominations regularly baptize congregants multiple times throughout their lives, we do not.  Once is enough.

We baptize infants because the emphasis is
on God's action rather than our action.
In fact, we believe this last statement so much that as a pastor, I would refuse to baptize someone that I knew had already been baptized.  

Some might say, "But what if they really wanted this as a spiritual commitment to God after straying from the church?"

Others might say, "This might really help them solidify their faith in Christ."

At this point, it seems kind of mean to refuse them, doesn't it?  Might my theology become a stumbling block for someone?  It could if I refuse to engage that person in conversation.

It all depends upon what we believe baptism is about.  For the Southern Baptists, the emphasis is about a person's commitment to Christ.  The baptism is the public sign of their commitment and a visible reminder that their sins are washed away. This is why you must be of an age to understand what you are doing within their tradition.  
For United Methodists, the emphasis of baptism is upon God's commitment to you.  It is a sign of God's mark upon your life - God claiming you.  It is also an entrance into the Body of Christ - the Church.  We commit to sharing in this life together.

So if it is about God's commitment to you, we don't need to baptize again - we can't baptize again - because God does not break covenant.  We might break covenant with God but God remains faithful.  Furthermore, we believe that God pursues us when we do fall away.  

So a person would not need to be baptized again because we would say that God never broke the promise made the first time!

We don't believe that someone is sinning if they have been baptized more than once.  It simply means that they were operating under a different tradition and understanding of the theology of baptism.

The scripture referenced above shows the we are baptized not only in the name of Jesus but under the authority of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is often how we experience God in community.  We see it present in the power of touch.  

This is why it is so important to physically gather with the worshiping community if at all possible.  There is something about the presence of others that we need just as they need us.  I've always said that we are stronger with you present than absent.  I believe it to be true - and it helps me keep my own vows of baptism - that I will help watch over you just as you help watch over me.

In Christ,


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