September 27, 2014

Christians are baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit (Baptism)

 “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit (John 3.5) 

 The Gospel Reading (John 3.1-6) teaches us that Christian Baptism is like being born again - in two distinct experiences. The visible physical part is the water baptism in which there is a washing away or death to the past, self-centred and sin controlled life. Since the Holy Spirit cannot live in an unholy person, water baptism prepares the way for new birth when a person receives and experiences the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
1)     Ezekiel teaches us that God will “Gather” us and “bring us back” into right relationship in His Kingdom
Ezekiel (36.24-28) describes the ‘re-covenanting’ of the Hebrews who had broken the Covenant of Moses, rebelled against God and suffered for the 40 years known as the Babylonian Captivity. The root cause of this loss of faith was a failure of parents and synagogue leaders to pass on and nurture their children in the Hebrew Faith. Ezekiel, writing 400 years before Jesus prophesied a new Covenant of washing and cleansing sin away and infilling with the Holy Spirit:

a. Promise of “your own land’ a homeland / protection

b.    Promise of cleansing
·   Water Baptism, forgiveness, new life, born again
c.    Promise of a “new heart”
·         New love of God, love of neighbor
d.     Promise of “new spirit”, “put my Spirit on you”
·         New spiritual life, “born again”
·         Gifts of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, wisdom

2)     Paul (Romans 6.3-11) teaches us how God accomplishes this through Baptism into the death and Resurrection Life of Jesus Christ
a)    Connects us spiritually to the Covenant of Jesus
·         Enables forgiveness of past and future sins when we repent and ask in faith
·         We can renew and strengthen our spiritual life by participating in the Eucharist  Holy Communion
·         Holy Spirit comes and lives in us, new life after death
Christian Baptism begins a lifelong experience where an individual, often through Godparents and Sponsors, enters a covenant agreement with God. This covenant is more serious than a contract. It is like a marriage where two people make a covenant of personal loyalty until death. The penalty for breaking the baptismal covenant can be spiritual death. The Baptismal Examination Questions are designed to ensure the person making this commitment understands and is ready and able to enter this Covenant. In the case of infants and children we need to be sure the parents, godparents and sponsors who take responsibility for raising the child in a Christian environment can in fact do this. I require people making these promises to attend a Preparation Workshop (see to ensure they understand and are able to answer these Questions honestly.
3)     The Candidate or Parents and Sponsors Examination Questions
a)    Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is nurtured in the faith and life of the Christian community?

The root cause of this loss of loss of Faith in Ezekiel’s time was a failure of parents to pass on and nurture their children in the Hebrew Faith. This question is for Godparents and Sponsors who are sharing responsibility with parents for ‘seeing that’ the child attends and is a regular part of a Christian community.


b. Will you by your prayers and witness help this child grow into the full stature of Christ?
      Parents, Godparents and Sponsors are covenanting to pray for the child and model a Christian lifestyle u    ntil Confirmation.

c. Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
·         Biblical worldview includes conflict with spiritual forces of evil

d. Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God? - Natural evil of selfishness / rebellion

e. Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
·       Take spiritual authority over self-centered, human nature
f. Do you turn to Jesus and accept Him your Saviour?
·       Realize you cannot earn salvation
g.  Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
·       Believe in the forgiveness of sin
h. Do you promise to obey Him as Lord?
·       No other gods, idols

The Examining Questions are in preparation for the Baptism Covenant itself which includes the Apostles Creed and promises to:
·   Continue in Christian teaching and fellowship,
·   Resist evil, repent and return if necessary
·   Live and proclaim the Good News of God in Christ.

This is only possible through the grace of God to those who are re-born of both water and the Spirit.

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