Baptism celebrates the intangible experience of the grace of God through Jesus with a tangible expression of faith. Through it, we experience a beautiful illustration and reminder of the gospel.
Baptism has been practiced by followers of Christ ever since the first century. At Mosaic, we celebrate baptism as a significant part of following Jesus.
We recognize that there are many different ways that baptism has been administered throughout the centuries and that a range of perspectives exist on it within the global Church. While we respect a variety of differing opinions, we affirm and hold to these essentials about baptism.
Baptism is not just some random or flippant church tradition, but it was established and ordained by Jesus to be a sacred sign of the covenant relationship between him and his followers. Jesus set the example for us by being baptized by his cousin John the Baptist and he commands the church to baptize new disciples (Matthew 3:16-18; 28:19-20). After Jesus’ ascension, the Apostles continued preaching about the expectation of baptism for those coming into the faith (Acts 2:38-39, 10:47-48).
In the beginning, God created humanity with the ability to have an intimate friendship with God. As the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, His rightful place in our lives is to be seated on the throne of our hearts. In this, we find great delight. However, humanity chose to do things our own way. We sinned against God. Rather than acknowledge Him as the king, we decided to separate ourselves from God. Because of sin, we faced an eternity condemned without Him.
The story could have ended with our separation from God, destined for an eternity of darkness. But God didn’t allow the story to end there. Motivated by His great love for us, He orchestrated a plan by which humanity could be rescued and reunited with Him. Through genuine faith in His son, Jesus, we can be restored back to our original purpose of having an intimate friendship with God.
Within baptism, there is an illustration of this wondrous story.
First and foremost, it symbolizes the death of several things: the death of our will to do things our own way, the death of our old life of unbelief, and the death of our desire to be our own king. In the imagery of baptism, the believer is brought to death.
Baptism is also a symbol of life. It signifies the resurrection of Christ in our lives and the birth of the new life that we now have in him. In the imagery of baptism, the believer is brought back from the dead with Christ. This is explicitly taught in Romans.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
As we evaluate the wider context of Romans, it quickly becomes clear that water baptism is not the means of our being united to Christ, but rather a symbol of that union. We are fully justified and united with Christ through genuine faith (Romans 4:1-5, 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9).
The best contemporary example of this sort of union is marriage. When someone pledges love and commitment, they do so with a wedding ring. The ring itself doesn’t cause the individuals to be married, it’s their inward love for each other and their willingness to publicly profess a commitment to one another that unites them, giving the officiant the opportunity to declare their union as complete. Upon their declaration being made official, what remains is the outward symbol of the covenant that has been made. Baptism serves as the symbol for the covenant between believers and Christ.
The final piece of symbolism that is essential is the symbolism of washing or cleansing. Just as outward use of water can remove dirt and impurities, baptism is the symbol of the work of the Holy Spirit that takes place inside of us; a washing and restoration of our souls (1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5-7).
Baptism is the picture of a rescue that has already occurred. Our restoration is the result of the work of Christ at the cross and in our lives, not the result of our own efforts. We can be rescued and come back into friendship with God without ever being baptized. It is only by genuine belief that we are saved (Acts 10:44-48; 16:25-34; 18:8; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10). After having accepted our rescue through Jesus and professing our faith in him, it is our joy to obey his call to be baptized and share our faith with others.
Baptism is an outward expression of an inward identity, the identity we have as members of God’s Kingdom of Christ-followers. It is a unique action whereby believers express their full trust in Jesus and publicly acknowledge union with him. Baptism also serves as a way for new believers to earnestly communicate, to other believers and to unbelievers, the intention of their heart to be a disciple of Jesus, to be committed to the community of his church, and to live their life on-mission for the glory of God. With this understanding in mind, we choose to only baptize those individuals who are old enough to make that sort of profession of faith, which is why we choose not to baptize infants (Colossians 2:11-12; Acts 8:12, 38-39). However, we do invite our families with infants and young children to participate in child dedications.
As a covenant partner, the elders of Mosaic Church seek to intentionally shepherd you, to help you live and love more like Jesus. This is for your benefit and for the glory of God in your life. How then would it be possible that we would be seeking to shepherd God’s people, in hopes of helping them to be more like Jesus, but allow God’s people to deliberately ignore one of his clear commands?
At Mosaic Church, we certainly allow all people to attend gatherings and participate in various church elements without being baptized because there is no Biblical expectation of baptism for those who only attend church gatherings. However, baptism is woven closely together to membership in the family of God. Since local church congregations, like Mosaic Church, are an expression of the greater family of God, baptism should therefore be closely woven together with our connection to our local church expressions as well.
Overall, the New Testament’s semantics seem to clearly point to water immersion as the preferred form of baptism. The word baptism in the original Greek means “dip” or “immerse.” In Romans 6:3-4, the Apostle Paul describes baptism as symbolism for burial and rising from the dead. This is most naturally understood to mean that you are buried underwater (signifying your death) and then you come out from under the water (signify rising from the grave). We have died, but we are resurrected from death with Christ (Colossians 2:12). In light of that, much of the beauty of the symbolism of baptism is lost when we abandon full water immersion baptisms.
There are a few other items in scripture that point to water immersion. In Acts 8:37-38, the Ethiopian eunuch comes to faith while riding with Philip in his chariot and Philip baptizes the eunuch. The Bible says that they “went down into the water.” Similarly, the Apostle John records that John the Baptist was “baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was plentiful there” (John 3:23).
Another reason we embrace this form of baptism is that church history points to this form of baptism. The majority of contemporary scholars agree that immersion in water was how the early church practiced baptism. It was not until the later portions of the 2nd century and early portions of the 3rd century that we begin to see substantial evidence of the emergence of the practice of sprinkling or pouring. The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians was for believers to be immersed, either totally (submerged completely under the water) or partially (standing or kneeling in the water while it was poured on him or her).
We baptize believers in public settings. Any baptism not done publicly seems to fall short of fulfilling the overarching goal of baptism. Many churches baptize believers in many different places. Beaches, pools, rivers, and all sorts of similar settings may be used for baptisms, so long as it is done as the outward expression of the inward reality. At Mosaic, we often baptize believers as a part of our Sunday gatherings.