A Theological Understanding of Baptism
Baptism is the visible sign of the invisible reality that we belong to God. Therefore it is the sign and seal of the Holy Spirit that each person must die to what separates them from God and be raised to a newness of life in Christ. No matter at what age we recognize our need for God and the importance to proclaim Jesus as Lord, baptism powerfully proclaims that it is God who invites and God who enables us to live as children of His Kingdom.
Baptism points us back to the grace of God expressed in Jesus Christ who died for us and who was raised for us. Baptism points us forward to that same Christ who will fulfill God's purpose in God's promised future. Baptism is a witness to the promise and action of God in Jesus.
The water of baptism signifies the cleansing of the old and the birth of the new. The water of Baptism links us to the goodness of God's creation, the grace of God's covenant with His people throughout history, the deliverance God brings through our Savior Jesus (think of crossing the Red Sea imagery) and the cleansing power of being freed from that which is not of God and freed to live as God originally design us to be.
God's faithfulness signified in Baptism is constant and sure, even when human faithfulness to God is not. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to the moment when it is administered, for baptism signifies the beginning of life in Christ, not completion. God's faithfulness needs no renewal. Human faithfulness to God needs repeated renewal. Baptism calls for decision at every subsequent stage of life's way, both for those whose Baptism follows a profession of faith and for those who are nurtured from childhood within the family of faith. Whether baptized as a child or an adult, we are all invited to live in response to the love of God that is offered freely to us.
Infant/child baptism claims that the work of baptism belongs to God and not us. It is a powerful proclamation that God’s covenant promise belongs to us not because we earn it, but because God declares it. It also signifies the importance of the community of faith committing to teaching and encouraging children as they grow in knowledge and wisdom.
When young children are baptized the parents make a verbal commitment to provide a context for nurture and guidance of the Christian faith as the child grows in understanding the importance of a personal profession of faith.