The word baptism comes from a word that means ‘to immerse.’ One of the earliest practices of the Christian community in obedience to Jesus is that someone would be immersed under water, what we call baptism. Literally a person would go underneath the water as an act of repentance, symbolizing the death of their old nature. As they were under the water it symbolized the burial of their old nature and their sins. As they would come out of the water it would symbolize the resurrection and the new life that exists in the believer. This is something that Jesus himself did with John the Baptist but then Jesus changed it and commanded that we go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19. So this is one of the most central practices of the Christian faith and is an outward demonstration of what has already happened on the inside. You can read a very detailed explanation of the symbolism and imagery of baptism in Romans, chapter 6.
Here is some important information about baptism. We don’t believe that baptism saves us. Take the thief on the cross for example; we believe that with your last breath you can acknowledge Jesus and you will be with him. We do believe in being obedient to Jesus and because it is a benefit to the community and to the world that is watching, we ask everybody who has become a follower of Jesus to be baptized. We recognize that baptism is a picture, and so we do it publicly. At The Pursuit Church we want to make this a big deal, we want to celebrate it, but we want to be very clear of what it is and what it isn’t:
- It does not save us
- It does not earn God’s favor
- We don’t want to get hung up on all the forms it takes. Churches have actually divided over whether you dunk somebody once or you dunk them three times, etc. At The Pursuit Church we think that entirely misses the purpose of the command.
What we want to do is capture the symbolism as best we can. So when you are ready to take this next step and be baptized, we bring in a portable pool and fill it with water. What we do is put you in that pool and immerse you in the water, and that is the symbolism of the death and burial of your old self. As you come out of the water it is the symbolism that you now possess new life. And then we celebrate this with lots of cheering, worship and joy!
We recognize that there are moments in our lives that seal for us an experience. For example, you may be engaged for a long time to your spouse, but there is something about that moment when you say “I do” in front of a crowd of people and you get to celebrate that with your friends and family, there is something about that moment that carries forward into the future. We think that same thing is true with baptism. We believe that you are sealed, saved, rescued and redeemed the moment you trust in Jesus. But baptism presents a moment in time that you can point back to, a moment that you can recall and celebrate with friends and family. Here at The Pursuit Church we pray that God would seal in your memory what it’s like to come out of that water to the praise and to the celebration of the community that’s witnessing this event.
We believe that baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality – the same way you’d wear a wedding ring. And we also believe it’s centrally important for believers to understand their new identity in Christ, meaning, that they are no longer sinners. Yes we still screw up and make mistakes …we sin, but fundamentally there is a transfer of allegiance and identity that takes place that baptism captures. Literally the scriptures say that we are new in Christ, we are saints, we are loved, we are adopted, we are children and those things are the most important things about us.
We encourage everyone to be baptized. People will sometime ask, “Well what if I was baptized as a baby” And our response is this, we want to honor the faith of your parents or the faith of the community that baptized you, but we recognize that the practice in the New Testament was a conscious choice of a follower of Jesus. So we invite you to be baptized without guilt or shame and ultimately leave this choice up to you. At The Pursuit Church, we want to give our community every opportunity to celebrate with you as you publicly declare your faith and trust is Jesus Christ.