The Christian ritual of Baptism Many forms of Christianity unite in their belief of performing the ritual of Baptism. But it is seen that these Christian denominations differ widely in their teachings about Baptism. While some consider it a rite of passage into the family of God, others strongly believe that without Baptism one cannot truly attain heaven, as it accomplishes the “washing away of sin”. There are others that teach it as an important step in the believer’s life without it having the power to cleanse or save from sin.
The word itself is of Greek origin and means ‘to immerse or to dip’ and hence following from here, the purpose of the ritual is “religious purification” or “repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. Baptism was originally performed by Jewish priests at the temple in order to make someone who was deemed to be impure back into being clean and presentable in the eyes of God. This “impurity” could come upon a person by having touched an unclean person, having dealt with diseased people, having been with a woman during menstruation or any other such thing that was determined to be “unclean” by the Torah.
The person who was being cleansed at the temple would have to make offerings of doves, lambs or sometimes just grains, to the priest while he chanted words to God and washed this “unclean” person in the holy waters, oils and perfumes at the temple. This would symbolize the impurity going away from the “unclean” person into water, and thus allowing the person being baptized to enter Temple on holy days. In the beginning, Christianity was a small cult that branched out from Judaism.
The Christians continued with this practice of the washing away of sins but they did not ask for offerings to the priest. For the Christians, this practice of baptizing was just a vow and an oath of belief in the Christian religion and all that it stood for. The practice of baptism underwent important changes in the next several centuries. It became a required sacrament of the Church, a stated rite, given to infants. Elaborate rituals were used to baptize infants and with the consent of the parents, the child’s Christian name was proclaimed.
Thus, baptism evolved as a ritual of both theological and social importance. There came a point in time when radical reformers insisted on the “rebaptism” of adults as believers. This was in context with the New Testament in the Bible. The process of Baptism—– As stated earlier, different denominations of Christianity differ slightly in their belief and practice of Baptism. In the Catholic Churches, Most Baptists like to think of baptism as a “rich symbol” which in itself does not convey salvation or transformation but is of spiritual guidance to the new believer.
They believe that only complete immersion portrays the transformation in the fullest sense where as in the Episcopal Church, both full immersion and sprinkling of water are considered acceptable. The Methodists contend that Baptism has a spiritual value for the infant and helps in the removal of the guilt of Original Sin along with providing entry into the Church. Thus, in spite of the minor differences, the ritual of Baptism seemingly holds equal importance to all these forms of Christianity.
The significant aspects of this ritual include the removal of the guilt of the Original Sin and personal sin, lessening of all the punishment one owes due to sin, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the three theological virtues, becoming a part of Christ and becoming a part of the Church. Thus, Baptism is historically and theologically a very important ritual for all of Christianity. It is significant in that it represents the forgiveness and cleansing from sin that comes through Lord Jesus Christ.
According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples presents faith and baptism together as the only way to salvation: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. ” Thus proving its importance. . Bibliography: 1) The history of Baptism: From Jewish Ritual to the Christian Doctrine (May 6, 2008 Mark L. Porter) – Journal 2) http://www. baptisthistory. org/pamphlets/baptism. htm