This is the fourth installment of my “What Does Your Church Believe?” series. So far I have looked at the importance of open communion to DOC theology (post link), the notion of freedom of belief (post link) and the belief in the oneness of the church (post link). Today we will look at Disciples of Christ’s belief in baptism by immersion. This does not mean however that if someone has been baptized as a infant that their baptism is invalid. The Disciples of Christ recognized and affirm all baptisms.
Baptism for many is a seen as an act that symbolizes one’s commitment to the teachings of Christ and by making a physical, public act; they are stepping out in faith to make an outward sign of what a deep spiritual commitment. In the Disciples of Christ Church our practice is to do this when a person believes that she/he is ready to join God on the journey of faith– there is no specific age requirement.
The Disciples of Christ believe that “Baptism, as a gift of grace, received by faith, expresses its meaning in a variety of images: new birth; a washing with water; a cleansing from sin; a sign of God’s forgiving grace; the power of new life now and the pledge of life in the age to come. The meaning of baptism is grounded in God’s redemptive action in Christ, it incorporates the believer in the community in the body of Christ, and it anticipates life in the coming age when the powers of the old world will be overcome, and the purposes of God will triumph.” (via disciples.org)
The practice of immersion is one that is full of symbolism. The general belief is threefold. First, when one enters the waters of Baptism they are coming as they are, ready to receive the cleansing and grace found in God. Next, when they are immersed they are symbolically dying to their old ways and past sins and when they arise out of the water they are rising with Christ to be God’s servant in the world.
Baptism is a beautiful act that the church does. It is full of symbolism and faith. For centuries the faithful of God have traveled to churches, rivers and fonts to enter into the covenant with God and to start their life as a follower of Christ.
Some believe that one must be baptized to be “saved” or inherit the goodness of God. The Disciples of Christ do not believe that baptism is absolutely necessary, rather an outward sign of an inward reflection. Many theological and church debates have happened over the concept of baptism. Whether sprinkled as a child or immersed as an adult, all signify the faithfulness of followers of Christ throughout the centuries.