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Baptism – the union of good conscience

in English 16.11.2016 10:56 | Siionin Lähetyslehti
Baptism is one of our church’s holy sacraments. It is officiated according to Christ’s command: “Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” The command of baptism is part of the mission command given by Jesus: “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:18-20). A person who has become Jesus’ disciple must be baptized and recognized as belonging to the triune God. He must also be taught according to the doctrinal command.
Child and adult baptism

The New Testament tells us of baptism in which whole families were baptized. Some examples are the baptisms of Lydia and her household (Acts 16:14-15) and the Philippine prison guard and his entire family (Acts 16:30-34). Families included the father, mother, children, relatives living in the home and servants. It is important to note that already at the beginning of Christianity very small children were baptized. The church father Origenes said in his time (Kristinoppi 1948, 60): The apostles have given the church the practice of baptizing children.

A child’s faith

Our creator blesses us with children. According to the Bible, they are “gifts of the Lord”. Already in the Old Testament, the believers experienced how the child was blessed already in the mother’s womb (Ps. 22:10-11). A child receives the gift of faith through grace and is saved through Christ’s redemption work. The message of the Bible is that “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Even a child does not become righteous without faith. When a child or adult believes, God sees him as being righteous. In the baptism celebration, we can admire the child’s faith which God lifts up for us as an example.

What does a child have that allows him to enter God’s kingdom? According to God’s word, there is nothing good in the child himself. He has the effects of inherited sin. So we can not base the child’s worthiness on his human qualities. The Bible also does not give permission to think that a child is spiritually dead before baptism. If this was so, Jesus would not have placed a child as the example of faith. A child is acceptable in the face of God because of righteous faith. According to the Bible, and also Luther’s confession, faith is the affect of the Holy Spirit. Each person who owns Christ’s Spirit is his own, in other words a believer.

A child is the example of faith already at birth: He is a partaker of the Savior’s grace. His sins were redeemed on Golgotha.

Baptism is a union

Baptism is called the union of grace and the union of good conscience. Baptism teaches and reminds God’s children that they are joined with Christ in death and that they will also rise from the dead as he did. A baptized one’s life is traveling in a new life unto God (Rom. 6:4-5). God’s children strive through faith in the grace union of baptism. In the baptism celebration, parents, godparentst, grandparents and near ones ask that the baptized one would be protected in the union of baptism and would one day reach their home in heaven.

The responsibility of baptism

When baptism is the union of the good conscience, it teaches us to keep faith and a good conscience. Striving with a good conscience always means fighting against sin and repenting of sin. Luther paraphrases the sixth chapter of the letters to the Romans: What does this type of baptism with water then signify? It signifies that the old portion found in each of us is remorseful every day and must be immersed in repentance. It must die with all its sins and evil temptations. Instead, every day a person must come forth and rise anew as one who lives in righteousness and cleanliness forever in the face of God. (Kristinoppi 1948, 59.)

As a baptized one in the care of God’s kingdom

God’s kingdom carries the child and cares for him in the grace union. It is important for the baptized one to become rooted in the escort of God’s kingdom for his whole life. Many have lost faith and good conscience when they have strayed into the world. Then, only through repentance can one come into the escort of God’s kingdom and the redemption flock. With faith one can own righteousness which is acceptable to God. When the lamp of faith remains flickering in our hearts, we will one day reach glory.

Text: Matti Kinnunen
Source: Vuosikirja 2006, Oikea ja väärä (Yearbook 2006, Right and wrong)
Translation: A. H.

Julkaistu englanninkielisessä numerossa 16.11.2016

Toim. Toivo Määttä

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