While recognizing the right for other churches to practice infant baptism if it conforms to their theology, the leadership of Green Bay Community Church understands scripture to teach that only professing believers qualify for baptism.
Scriptural teaching on baptism
- Baptism is an act of obedience to the command of Christ, fulfilled by individuals who have submitted themselves to His sovereignty. (Matthew 28:19-20)
- Baptism identifies us as belonging to Christ. It is our way of telling the world that we are living for Christ and not ourselves.
- Baptism represents the cleansing of our sin and represents all the purification rites of the Old Testament. The reality of cleansing from sin is represented by the blood (death) of Christ applied to us and symbolized by the water. (Hebrews 9:13 and Hebrews 10:22)
- Baptism signifies a person’s entrance into the visible new covenant community of believers.
Baptism recognizes and celebrates the redemptive life change that is continually occurring within our church. The elders provide both new believers and believers that have not yet participated in adult baptism the opportunity to be baptized by immersion on stage.
Although the old covenant practice of infant circumcision is sometimes given as a rationale for infant baptism, the biblical definition of the functions of circumcision and baptism shows that those two institutions fulfilled different purposes in their respective covenants. The equation is never made in the bible between the circumcision of male infants in the old covenant, and the baptism of believers, much less of infants, in the new covenant. However, Green Bay Community Church encourages Christian parents to present their children for the ceremony of dedication, whereby God’s blessing is formally invoked upon the children, and the parents publicly commit themselves to raise the children in accordance with the teachings of scripture.
Because the symbolism of baptism requires a more adult level of cognitive and developmental readiness, we strongly suggest parents evaluate the readiness of their child for baptism prior to coming forward. Parents can meet with a Community staff member to help verify the parent’s evaluation. Community also offers a class prior to baptism that will help interested individuals learn about baptism.
If the purpose of baptism is to publicly identify a believer in Jesus Christ, you might question the significance of your baptism as a baby. In the bible, we find parents bringing their children to Jesus. He held them and prayed for them and told us to welcome them. But He did not baptize them, and He did not tell anyone else to baptize them. Baptism is for those who have made a personal decision to trust Christ alone for their salvation. If you were baptized as a child, it was the intent of your parents that you would one day be a follower of Christ. Your baptism as an adult can be viewed as the fulfillment of your parents’ wishes. It in no way repudiates the baptism you received as a child.
In Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus commands his followers to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” Baptism is the means by which followers of Christ are identified.
In passages such as Acts 2:41, 8:12 and 10:47–48, it is evident that baptism follows an individual’s decision to trust Christ alone for salvation. The New Testament records the baptisms of adult believers only. Baptism was never intended to provide salvation for an individual, but rather to publicly identify a person with Christ. In Romans 6:1–11, the apostle Paul explains how the immersion mode of baptism identifies the believer with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Going under the water represents Christ’s death and coming out of the water illustrates his resurrection.
You do not have to be baptized to have Christ in your life any more than you must exchange rings to be pronounced man and wife. But if the inner commitment to trust Christ alone for salvation has been made, then the outward symbol of baptism should be as valued and as visible as the gold ring on a newlywed’s finger.
(Adapted from Willow Creek Community Church)