Venturing into understanding of baptism, this paper will define baptism, look briefly at the foundation of baptism in the Scriptures, Church’s teaching on baptism, and then the relevance of the sacrament of baptism in the Christian lives. Finally, a brief conclusion about baptism will be given.
Understanding of Baptism
The English verb to baptize comes from Greek βαπτίζω (baptizo) which means to immerse or to plunge in water. This meaning was also echoed in John the Baptist’s words to his followers that he has baptized them with water. But the term apparently became a technical one to describe the ceremony of Christian initiation.
Foundation of Baptism in the Scriptures
Old Testament. The Old Testament presents some rituals that can be seen in a way as the remote background of Christian baptism. One of these was the rite of purification that involved the use of water for washing the body in order to make people clean, and fit for worship. These rites of purification were observed especially by the priests who had to wash themselves before carrying out their priestly service either in the tent of meeting or later on in the temple of Jerusalem as indicated in the book of Exodus 40:12. 30-32.
New Testament. The baptism administered by John the Baptist along the River Jordan can be seen as the Jewish rite that has most influenced Christian baptism. John carried out his activity not far from Qumran and most probably he was not the only one baptizing. He however, carried out the task with such conviction because he felt he was a chosen instrument. As a prophet he lived his life with integrity, and preached a baptism of repentance and conversion as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 3:1-12.
The Relevance of the Sacrament of Baptism in the Christian Lives
Baptism as a sacrament of initiation, is very much relevant to our Christian and human life because it opens us to the opportunity of receiving other sacraments. Moreover in baptism the symbolisms used such as water, oil, white cloth; all these things are of great significance in our cultures as human beings. Therefore the symbolism of water used in baptism is very much at the heart of every human culture and all other symbolisms are easy to understand hence rendering the sacrament much relevance in our human life both as Christians and as human beings with cultures that share these symbolisms.
Beginning with the way how the Scriptures have contributed to our today’s understanding of baptism and the teaching of the Church on baptism, it is reasonable to conclude that no one becomes a member of Christ except it is either by baptism in Christ, or death for Christ.