Summary: The 12th and 13th Articles of the Church of the Nazarene covers the two sacraments recognized by the COTN.
This morning, we will look at the next two of our Articles of Faith. First, we will look at the twelfth Article of Faith, which is:
Here is the description of this 12th tenet of our faith:
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.
The reason that I have combined two of our Articles of Faith is because they should not cause any kind of concern with anyone that has been affiliated with most denominations of Christianity. However, I do want to help some of you understand the difference between the protestant sacrament of Baptism and the Catholic practice of baptism. They are very different and are done for very different reasons.
If you come from a Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, or even the older version of the Methodist background, you are familiar with baby baptism. First of all, there is absolutely NO biblical foundation or example for baby baptism. Nowhere in the Bible do you find an example of a baby being baptized. In fact, major Lutheran and Church of England theologians, who practice baby baptism, agree that there is no biblical basis for infant baptism. It was a practice that really took hold in the 4th century as a way of connecting each person born in that particular nation as being of that nation not only civilly, but religiously.
Now, let me explain the reasoning for infant baptism. For those faiths that practice it, it is taught that the infant baptism washes away original sin, so that the baby can start fresh without the sin that it was born with. You’ll remember that we have already talked about original sin. It is the sin that all of us are born with because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. We believe that this original sin is taken care of with our complete surrender to Christ, which we call Entire Sanctification. It is a nice romantic idea that original sin can be washed away with water so that we can start fresh, but it isn’t biblical.
The Nazarene church will ‘baptize’ infants, but for a completely different reason. In fact, like Baptists, we prefer to call it baby dedications. When we do agree to baptize an infant, we try to explain that this is really just our way of telling everyone that we will bring the child up in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior and teach them the way that they should go. Babies are already covered by God. They will go to heaven if something happens to them because they do not understand the difference between right and wrong. I hope that we will soon have a few baby dedications. We want to see our families affirm that they are going to raise their children in a godly manner and in the church, and the church, in return, wants to be able to say that they will help the family in this process.
Now let’s look at true Baptism, or what is sometimes called believer’s baptism. Baptism is a command from our Lord and Savior (Matthew 28:19-20):
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
This is the Great Commission that Jesus gave to the church. We are to make disciples of all nations and then baptize them. Notice that baptism comes only after they have become followers of Christ. Baptism is not something you do to show that you are a follower of the Nazarene denomination. It is something that you should do to show that you have accepted Christ as your Savior and will follow Him. When you are baptized, you are not a follower of Pastor John Stackhouse or Pastor Greg Laurie, or any local pastor. You are a follower of Christ.
In Acts 2:38, Peter preached to the crowd and they were convicted by the Holy Spirit. They asked Peter what they should do:
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Notice again that baptism comes after repentance. Without the knowledge that you are a sinner and the repentance to show that you no longer want to walk in the flesh, baptism is meaningless. You see, Baptism is a picture of the spiritual connection to Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection. When we are baptized, we are saying that our flesh, the carnal old life that we lived prior to Jesus entering our hearts, has died with Christ. We are then raised to new life in Christ. That is baptism. The Apostle Paul tells us this exact thing in Colossians 2:11-12