December 3-9: The institution
A very special day
Can you remember the day of your baptism? Those who were baptized as infants may remember seeing pictures and hearing stories about that day. Those who were baptized when they were older may clearly recall the sensation of water and the sound of the powerful words.
The day of a person’s baptism is a very special day. God’s Word will show us what baptism is and why our baptisms are important.
301. When we speak of the institution of Baptism, we are pointing to the time when Jesus established Baptism as a sacred act to be followed by the church. When did God institute the Sacrament of Baptism?
Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
After his resurrection, Jesus met with the apostles on a mountain in Galilee where he commanded them to make disciples by baptizing people of all nations and teaching them God’s Word.
302. What does the word baptize mean?
Mark 7:3,4 The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash [“baptize” in Greek]. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.
The word baptize, as used in New Testament times, means “to apply water in various ways: immerse, wash, pour, or sprinkle.”
A closer look
Special water is not required for Baptism. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. As Philip was teaching an Ethiopian the gospel of Jesus, they happened on a source of water and the Ethiopian asked to be baptized.
When the prison doors were miraculously opened for Paul and Silas (Acts 16:16-34), they had a chance to teach the jailer and his family about Jesus. In the middle of the night, Paul and Silas baptized the jailer’s family. They all simply used the water that was available to them.
303. Why do we say that the Sacrament of Baptism is not just plain water?
Matthew 28:19 [Jesus commanded,] “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:25,26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.
Baptism is not simply plain water but water used by God’s command and connected with God’s Word.
306. Why is it important that little children also are baptized?
Matthew 28:19 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38,39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Little children are a part of “all nations” and, therefore, are included among those Jesus commands to be baptized.
Psalm 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Ephesians 2:3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
John 3:5,6 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
Little children are by nature sinful and deserve God’s punishment. They must be born again by the Holy Spirit working through the gospel.
Mark 10:13-16 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Matthew 18:6 If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Luke 18:15-17 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Jesus invites little children to be brought to him and points to their faith. The Holy Spirit is able to work faith in the hearts of children.
307. Why are adults instructed before being baptized?
Acts 2:38,39,41 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 16:29-34 (The jailer at Philippi was taught about Jesus and then was baptized.)
Acts 8:26-39 (Philip taught the Ethiopian about Jesus and about Baptism. Then the Ethiopian was baptized.)
Before baptizing adults, we teach them about Jesus and about Baptism, following the model given in the Scriptures.