WHAT IS BAPTISM?
THE WEDDING ILLUSTRATION
Imagine a wedding. The bride and groom stand side-by-side in the front of the church. They take turns promising “till death do us part.” These two young lovers don’t look any different on the outside, but in just a few moments they will be married—united for life by invisible cords. Signifying that unseen union, the bride and groom exchange rings. These bands of gold tell the world they are now married. They identify the couple as husband and wife.
Baptism is like a wedding in this respect. It is a public declaration of unconditional devotion to a person—Jesus Christ. Like the wedding rings, baptism signifies our union with another. It is not a promise to be good for the rest of our lives. It is not a religious version of the Boy Scout pledge. Like marriage, it is a relational promise—a promise to give ourselves, body and soul, to Jesus. In baptism we’re not saying to Jesus, “I’ll be good!”, but we’re saying “I’ll be yours!”
BIBLICAL PASSAGES CONCERNING BAPTISM
Of course, the real significance of baptism cannot be defined merely with the analogy of a wedding. Let’s look at the Scriptures:
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” (Matthew 28:19-20). Baptism is the means by which disciples (followers) of Christ are publicly identified. In the New Testament, it is evident that baptism follows an individual’s decision to trust Christ alone for salvation (Acts 2:41, 8:12, and 10:47-48). Baptism was never intended to provide salvation for an individual (faith is possible without it and salvation does not depend on it), but rather to publicly identify a person with Christ.
Most importantly, baptism identifies the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A New Testament writer named Paul explains it this way: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-4). Going under water during baptism signifies Christ’s death, and coming out of the water signifies his resurrection. It’s a powerful statement.
When a person is baptized, he or she is saying, “My old life is over—dead and buried like Jesus in the tomb.” Secondly, when a person is baptized, he or she is saying, “From this point on, my life and my future are in the hands of the Risen Lord. As he lives, I live.” Even more powerful, it is something that God is saying, “Your old life is over. From this point on your life is in my hands.” It’s not just something we do, it’s something that God does.
A WORD CONCERNING INFANT BAPTISM
We believe the New Testament teaches that baptism is reserved for those who have made a mature choice to follow Jesus. This is commonly called “believer’s baptism” as contrasted with “infant baptism.” The age at which a child is mature enough to make this choice will vary, but at the Vineyard we ask that children wait until the 5th grade to be baptized. For students 5th grade and older interested in baptism, the Youth Ministry offers a class called Faith Basics a few times a year.
Within the church, we dedicate the children of believers as a reflection of the fact that the children of a believing parent belongs to the Lord (see 1 Cor. 7:14). However, we recognize that many Christians view the baptism of infants as a valid practice, noting that the New Testament refers to the baptism of whole households, and, as early as the fourth century, it was the common practice of the church to baptize infants. While we do not practice infant baptism, we respect those who consider their baptism as infants as valid when followed by repentance and faith in Jesus. We don’t insist that those baptized as infants be baptized as adults, but we do offer to baptize any who wish to be baptized as adults.
AM I READY TO BE BAPTIZED?
Baptism is for believers. A believer is someone who has realized that their sin separates them form God. They have given up all efforts to reach God through good works or religious activity. They have concluded that only Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for their sins can bridge the gap between them and God. A believer is someone who has decided to trust Christ alone for their salvation. If you have come to that point in your spiritual journey, then the answer is yes, you are ready to be baptized. Just as the bride and groom tell of their love for one another through the symbol of rings, you can tell the world through baptism of your union with Christ.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
REGISTER FOR THE NEXT BAPTISM
We have baptisms throughout the year at both celebrations. Usually, we’ll announce them several weeks in advance. You can register for the next baptism by mail, fax, or email. Please register at least one week in advance of the baptism. You can register by sending an email to the church office, or faxing your information to (734) 468-0119. Also, you can mail it to:
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor
Attn: Baptism Registration
2275 Platt Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Please include the following information: your name, age, date, address, home phone #, cell phone #, email, and which celebration you’d like to be baptized at (9:30am, or 11:00am). We also ask that you include a few paragraphs regarding your personal story (see next section). Please indicate if we may read your story aloud at the baptism celebration.
YOUR PERSONAL STORY
As you know from reading the information in this booklet, baptism is for believers, those who have clearly decided to trust Christ alone for their salvation. If this is true of you, please write a paragraph or two describing how and when you decided to trust Christ. Here are a few things that you can include:
1. What was your contact with Christianity as a young person?
2. What was your life like before you decided to trust Jesus?
3. When and why did you decide to trust and follow Jesus?
4. How has this decision made a difference in your life?
If you’re comfortable with your story, we’d like to read it aloud to the church at your baptism. It’s been our experience that believers find these stories encouraging and an opportunity for celebration, and seekers are often challenged by the spiritual journey of others. Otherwise, we will simply introduce you. Thanks for taking this time to tell us your story!
After we receive your registration form and story, someone from our pastoral staff will call you to discuss the subject of baptism, give you some helpful information regarding the baptism service itself, and answer any question you may have. Also, you can call our office at (734) 477-9135 to speak with a pastor about baptism.
On the weekend you get baptized, bring an extra change of clothes and a couple of towels. Wear the clothes to church that you want to get baptized in. Be sure to wear something you can get wet it (women especially). The baptisms will happen after the sermon, before closing worship. After the baptism and the prayer ministry time, you can change in the restrooms.