Baptism is among the oldest Christian sacraments, as it has been introduced in the Bible and is likely older than the writing. It is usually considered necessary to perform the rite to join the religion. The procedure usually involves immersion into a body of water, preferably a river, but other variants of both contact with water and the container are permissible depending on the situation. Some schools of Christian thought identify different kinds of baptism, which are mostly used to explain the salvation of unbaptized believers and saints. Overall, understanding of the history and meaning of the rite is vital to a believer.
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History of Baptism
Baptism has been practiced for the entire existence of Christianity, being associated with the prominent Biblical figure of John the Baptist. Spinks (2017) notes that the practice was already well established by the time of Paul’s ministry, to a point where he did not need to explain the ritual in his correspondence. Furthermore, Jesus Christ himself had undergone the rite and may have commanded that those who want to be saved receive the sacrament, according to Spinks (2017). This description has given the ceremony a robust theological foundation that has kept it a central practice to the Christian religion for the entirety of the latter’s existence.
Meaning of Baptism
Baptism has been the subject of investigations for a long time. Despite the rite’s seemingly symbolic nature, it has persisted for the entire history of Christianity. The primary reason is the nature of the act that makes exact similar repetition necessary. According to The King James study Bible (2017), baptism is identified as the separation of the believer from his or her former life and his or her joining to Christ. As a result of this union, all of Jesus’s deeds are also attributed to the person, and the Savior’s death breaks sin’s control over him or her. Without baptism, there can be no salvation for a person.
Baptism and Salvation
Although baptism is necessary for a person to become free of his or her sin, the performance of the rite does not directly lead to eternal life. According to Jamieson (2015), the primary purpose of the act is to express one’s faith in public, and the sacrament is synonymous with the conversion. The new believer still has to complete additional steps to attain salvation, the nature of which depends mostly on his or her specific denomination. Jamieson (2015) notes that for this reason, the rite’s significance is disputed among theologists, some of whom see it as purely symbolic. Nevertheless, few people oppose the sacrament’s performance in most cases, except for a specific tradition that will be described below.
Variants of Baptism
Baptism by water is the most commonly accepted variant of the ceremony, but it is not the only kind recognized by theologians. Zatalava (2015) notes that God is not bound by His sacraments and may save people as He wishes and describes two additional variations of the rite: baptism of blood and baptism of desire. The first tradition concerns people who believed in Christ but died before they could be baptized, most of whom date back to the days of Roman persecution.
The church considers them martyrs and states they have been saved based on several passages from the Bible (Zatalava, 2015). The baptism of desire, on the other hand, concerns the salvation of people who may never have learned about Jesus Christ or the Bible. It proposes that such people may still have been affected by the Savior’s sacrifice and attained eternal life.
Baptism and Infants
Baptism for children is a matter of significant debate among Christian theologians. One side claims that baptism by water is vital to a non-martyr’s salvation, rejecting the notion of baptism by desire, and that therefore babies of believers should receive the sacrament. The other side approaches the rite as a conscious declaration of faith, something an infant would be incapable of doing. According to Williams (2017), both schools of thought can find support for their arguments in the Bible, although there is no clearly stated precedent of a baby being baptized. There are also ethical objections to the practice, as the initiation of a child into Christianity potentially deprives him or her of the right to make that decision for himself or herself once he or she reaches an appropriate age.
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Baptism is among Christianity’s oldest practices and is central to most variants of the religion. Jesus Christ himself may have promoted it, and the tradition was already established during the writing of the Gospels. It associates the believer with Jesus Christ, allowing the former to have his or her sins forgiven due to the latter’s sacrifice. However, the performance of the procedure does not bring salvation in and of itself, as that is the role of faith. Furthermore, other variants of baptism are recognized for people who could not be baptized or did not know about Christianity before their deaths. The only significant point of contention for Christians is the performance of baptism for infants, with both supporters and opponents of the practice presenting valid arguments.
Jamieson, B. (2015). Going public: Why baptism is required for church membership. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.
The King James study Bible. (2017). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Spinks, B. D. (2017). Early and medieval rituals and theologies of baptism: From the New Testament to the Council of Trent. Abingdon-on-Thames, United Kingdom: Routledge.
Williams, V. (2016). Celebrating life customs around the world: From baby showers to funerals. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Zatalava, J. D. (2015). Baptized in Christ: A Catholic study of the sacrament of baptism for godparents & parents. Raleigh, NC: Lulu Inc.