Christian Baptism (1999 wording)
We believe that when people receive God’s gift of salvation, they are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of having been cleansed from sin. It is a covenant with the church to walk in the way of Christ through the power of the Spirit.
Baptism by water is a public sign that a person has repented of sins, received forgiveness of sins, died with Christ to sin, been raised to newness of life, and received the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of the believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ as expressed in the local church. Baptism is also a pledge to serve Christ according to the gifts given to each person.
Baptism is for those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and commit themselves to follow Christ in obedience as members of the local church. Baptism is for those who understand its meaning, are able to be accountable to Christ and the church, and voluntarily request it on the basis of their faith response to Jesus Christ.
We practice water baptism by immersion administered by the local church. Local congregations may receive into membership those who have been baptized by another mode on their confession of faith. Persons who claim baptism as infants and wish to become members of a Mennonite Brethren congregation are to receive baptism on their confession of faith.
Article 8: Christian Baptism (2019 DRAFT #5)
We believe that when people respond in faith to God’s invitation to repentance, new life, and discipleship, God calls each of them to receive water baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ¹
Baptism is an act of obedience which testifies that God in Christ has cleansed a person from sin, freed them from the power of sin and death, given them the Holy Spirit, and incorporated them into the body of Christ. It also testifies publicly to their own commitment to follow Jesus as Lord, as a member of the local congregation, participating in God’s Kingdom mission. Baptism is the God-given means of incorporating believers into the local expression of the body of Christ. ³
Baptism is for all those who repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, have received the Holy Spirit, and pledge to live as disciples of Jesus in all of life. Baptism is for those understand its basic meaning, are able to be accountable to Christ and the church, and request it voluntarily. ⁴
The local church baptizes by immersion those God has called and redeemed, and joyfully welcomes each of them into full participation and service as members of the congregation. ⁷ The local church also joyfully welcomes Christian disciples baptized elsewhere, regardless of mode, when they were baptized upon their own confession of faith. ⁸
The local congregation invites those baptized as infants prior to their own confession of faith to participate in immersion water baptism as a testimony to their own faith and as an affirmation of the hopes and intentions of those involved in their baptism as an infant.
¹ Water baptism is God’s command for everyone who desires to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (See Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:18-20) and is to be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Even Jesus himself at the beginning of his earthly ministry was baptized as a means of identification with us and as a fulfillment of all righteousness (Matthew 3:13-17). The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) highlights the importance of baptism by connecting it to the command to “make disciples of all nations” and to the explanatory phrase “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Baptism is connected to the central missionary assignment given by Jesus Christ to the church and is part of teaching new disciples to obey Jesus.
² Baptism is about what has happened (faith, cleansing and freedom from sin and death, receiving of the Holy Spirit), is happening (full participation and inclusion into Christ’s body and its mission), and will happen (bodily resurrection into the fullness of new life). In the early church the first two (conversion and baptism) were essentially one event and occurred in very close relation to each other. The meaning of baptism is interpreted in 11 primary texts in the New Testament (Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 6:11; 10:2; 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5; 5:26; Col. 2:12; Tit. 3:5; Heb. 10:22; 1 Pet. 3:21) that provide four key themes: incorporation/inclusion, cleansing, unity/oneness in the church, and new life in Christ.
³ Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27, 1 Corinthians 10:2 and 12:13 define baptism as incorporation or inclusion. Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 describe baptism as “into Christ.” The phrase means incorporation into the community of which Jesus is the head, not simply a mystical union with Christ, or an individual relationship with him. The meaning of incorporation in Romans 6:3 is underlined by a parallel phrase in 1 Corinthians 10:2. There baptism is spoken of as “into Moses.” This does not refer to baptism into an individual relationship with Moses, but into the people of whom he was the head or leader.
Baptism in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is “into one body,” into the church of which Christ is the head as represented in the local group of believers. Baptism means to become part of the people of whom Christ is the head, the leader. Baptism as incorporation means leaving one’s past and becoming one with the church of Jesus Christ. The Acts 2:47 reference to the Lord adding “to their number daily those who were being saved” describes the incorporation of new people into the local church.
⁴ While the New Testament is not absolutely clear, it seems that all baptisms were done to individuals after they had repented and become disciples of Jesus. This rules out infant baptism, the baptism of young children, forced baptisms, and baptisms on behalf of others. The only New Testament evidence that might support the possibility of infant baptism involves five references to “household baptisms” (Acts 11:13-14; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16) and the analogy between Old Testament circumcision done to male infants born to Israelite parents and these household baptisms. These do not seem strong enough to support the practice of infant baptism by Christian parents.
⁵ Some Christian traditions see baptism as a “sacrament” where God’s grace is specially transferred to the baptized individual because of the event. Others see it as a mere “sign” or “symbol” of what happened earlier in a person’s life. It might be best to simply acknowledge a middle ground. Baptism, while not a means of salvation, is a powerful action and testimony that effects a new reality but is not salvific or sacramental.
⁶ First Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, and Hebrews 10:22 speak of baptism as cleansing. Christians have been washed, presumably in baptism, and sanctified (1 Cor 6:11). Jesus loved the church so he cleansed her by the “washing with water through the word” (Eph 5:26) again a likely reference to baptism. Both Titus 3:5 and Hebrews 10:22 pick up the “washing” image that we assume is in reference to baptism. All of these are in continuity with the practice of baptism in Judaism and that of John the Baptist’s “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).
⁷ Colossians 2:12 associates baptism with moving from death (“buried with him in baptism”) to new life in Christ. Baptism is associated here with new life, the life of the kingdom of God, and fullness of life in Christ.
⁸ First Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-28, and Ephesians 4:4-6 link baptism with unity or oneness in the church. Baptism in 1 Corinthians 12:13 incorporates people “into one body” which brings about sociological unity in the church. Jew and Greek, slave and free are united into one community or family, and one Spirit nurtures all. Baptism has the same consequence in Galatians 3:27-28. It erases the critical distinctions between people, Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female. Different people and social classes are united through baptism into Christ.
Baptism means oneness in Ephesians 4:4-6, as does one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one God. Baptism unites diverse people into one people. Baptism signifies unity in the church, creating one body out of very different people, even former enemies.
⁹ The local church welcomes disciples of Jesus who have been baptized as believers in the context of other denominational traditions to full participation in the church. Their mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, sprinkling) is of secondary importance to their personal confession of faith in Jesus as Lord and their commitment to Jesus’ mission and his body (the church).