Baptism is a Christian ordinance that symbolizes the washing away of sin. Some believe that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins, while others believe it is symbolic of a forgiveness already received. Some Christian churches reserve baptism for those old enough to consciously decide to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. Most Christian denominations offer baptism to adult converts. There are many varieties of Christian adult baptismal ceremonies, but they generally follow a basic pattern.
Most baptismal ceremonies begin with reading passages from the Bible that deal with the subject of baptism. Commonly used passages include the Gospels' accounts of Jesus' baptism (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-33), Jesus' command to baptize new disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) and Peter's sermon encouraging repentance and baptism (Acts 2:37-39). Some common passages about baptism from the Epistles include 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27 and 1 Peter 3:21.
Following the reading of Scripture (or alternately, before it), it is customary for the minister or appointed layperson to pray. This prayer is often in the form of an invocation, asking for God's presence to be with both the baptismal candidate and the congregation. In Christian denominations that use liturgies in worship, this prayer will generally be prescribed in the baptismal liturgy. Christians who don't utilize liturgies in worship generally pray in their own words, asking the Holy Spirit to bless the baptismal candidate.
Profession of Faith
Before actually baptizing the candidate, it is customary to ask him for a profession of faith. Some denominations have a series of questions to be asked of the baptismal candidate, to ascertain whether he has renounced evil and accepted Jesus Christ as savior. Other denominations allow for the baptismal candidate to repeat a statement of faith or to make one in his own words. A profession of faith includes an acknowledgment of sinfulness and a recognition of Jesus Christ as the Savior who paid the price for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead.
Application of Water
Christian baptismal ceremonies may be by full immersion, affusion (pouring) or sprinkling of water, depending on the denomination. The minister either immerses the candidate in water or applies water to the candidate (by sprinkling or pouring). While applying the water, the minister makes a baptismal pronouncement. Most Christian baptisms use the pronouncement "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Others use "I baptize you in Jesus' name."
Thanksgiving and Introduction
After baptizing the candidate, the minister will generally pray a prayer of thanksgiving, offering thanks to God for his grace and the forgiveness of sin that is symbolized by baptism. After this prayer, most baptismal ceremonies involve introducing the newly baptized person to the congregation. Often, the minister will also read a Scripture passage about newness of life in Christ, such as Colossians 2:12 or Romans 6:4.
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