Summary: This twelfth sermon in the series uses a question/answer format to explain what the Church of the Nazarene believes about the Sacrament of Baptism.
Article of Faith #12 - Baptism
Date: Sunday, August 29, 2004
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
So far in our study on the Articles of Faith, we have looked at the nature of God, His revelation to us through the Incarnation and through Scripture, our sin which separates us from God, God’s plan of redemption, and the steps by which God calls us by grace: repentance, justification, and sanctification. Last week we looked closely at the way in which God is at work in our world today, namely through the Body of Christ that is the Church Universal.
For the next three weeks we will look at some of the ways in which God interacts with His creation, through the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, as well as His miraculous touch through divine healing. We will then conclude our study in the following two weeks as we look at the Second Coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, final judgment, and life everlasting.
Today we look at the Nazarene doctrine of Christian Baptism, as stated in Article number 12. Simply put, Christian Baptism is a sacrament, or a means of grace, which functions as the primary sign of the new covenant for all who desire to unite themselves with the Body of Christ.
Before we look at the doctrine of Baptism, it is important to define a sacrament. You’ll want to keep this discussion in mind both this week as we talk about Baptism, and next week as we talk about Holy Communion. Some have said that a Sacrament is "an outward sign of an inward grace." Others refer to it as a "means of grace," meaning that somehow God’s grace is mediated to us through the sacrament. One pastor, Dr. Russell Metcalfe combines these ideas and defines a sacrament this way: "We use the term ’sacrament’ to signify an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us, ordained by Christ Himself as a means of receiving that grace, and as a pledge or assurance of Christ’s promise. From the earliest times, the sacraments have been understood by the church to be religious rites that carry the most solemn obligation of loyalty to Jesus Christ and His Church." Each of these definitions are valuable to us, but this word picture may help more.
We know that Jesus, God’s Son, came from heaven and put on human flesh. This is what we call the Incarnation (or enfleshment). Jesus took the natural body and infused it with His presence and it became supernatural. The ordinary became extra-ordinary, and the mundane became heavenly.
In many ways, the sacraments are like the incarnation. Simple tangible elements: bread, juice, water; which have no intrinsic value of their own are combined with God’s presence in worship and the ordinary becomes extraordinary, the natural becomes supernatural, and the mundane becomes heavenly. These "Means of Grace" become the ordinary means by which we meet the extraordinary God. Let’s make clear right now that Baptism doesn’t save you anymore than Holy Communion sustains you. It is always and only God’s grace which saves, sustains, sanctifies, and glorifies. The Sacraments are the God-ordained ordinary means by which this grace is mediated. Notice that I didn’t say "only means" as God can give grace (unmerited favor) any way He desires. Nor can we assume that we can control God through the sacraments and force His grace upon us. Rather, we understand that they are the ordinary means by which God gives us extraordinary grace.
With that in mind, let us now turn our attention to the Sacrament of Baptism. In our time this week, I intend to answer a number of questions which you might raise. We will begin by looking at the Article of Faith as it is written, and then I will pose a number of questions and set out to answer them from the grounds of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. You can find our doctrine on Baptism in the inside flap of your bulletin.
16. We believe that Christian baptism, commanded by our Lord, is a sacrament signifying acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ, to be administered to believers and declarative of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and full purpose of obedience in holiness and righteousness.
Baptism being a symbol of the new covenant, young children may be baptized, upon request of parents or guardians who shall give assurance for them of necessary Christian training.
Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, according to the choice of the applicant.
As we work through this article of faith, we will take time to ask the most common questions which are asked about baptism in the Church of the Nazarene. If your question is not answered in this format, you are welcome to ask it later, and I will try to find an answer for you. For the next several minutes, I will simply go ahead and ask those frequently asked questions, and attempt to offer an answer to them.