What does God expect me to do?
and What is the Baptism ceremony?...

GUIDELINES FOR BAPTISM CEREMONY

James McBride: This article won't "prepare" you for baptism, but will tell you what to expect once you've decided to be baptized. Please counsel prayerfully with the ministry. Do review the scriptures listed below as you "count the cost". Baptism is an adult-level, eternal decision about your relationship with the Almighty God, your Father, and your Savior, the Lord, Jesus Christ. It also binds you into a family relationship with all the human children of God, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Think about baptism at least as seriously as you would think about marriage.

Unless you have actually seen a baptism you may have some niggling worries about what is to happen. In fact, as practiced across the centuries by the Church of God, baptism is quite a simple ceremony.

Remember above all that this is a joyous occasion - a bit like a family feels about the birth of a baby! For many it is a very emotional time, as they realize they are about to embark on a new life - life in Christ. When you come out of the waters of baptism you are spiritually clean, with all sin washed away through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Savior. Surely something to rejoice over!

It should be pointed out that if you have any kind of dread of being immersed in water you should explain this to the minister concerned in advance of the appointment. Almost always it's possible to work out any difficulties. This applies, too, if you are disabled.

Let's look at some of the practical aspects of baptism.

First, the leadership will try to find as pleasant surroundings as possible - though some have been baptized in cold mountain streams or lakes, or crammed into a bathtub! You can help by locating a suitable place if the minister isn't familiar with your locality.

But what should you wear? Our recommendation is that you use neat "everyday" clothing - old but freshly washed and pressed. For men, a shirt and trousers is adequate. And for the ladies a swim suit under a simple loose dress which will still appear modest even when soaked through; you might consider a swim-cap if needed. Footwear is usually unnecessary. Of course, you will need a towel(s) and a change of clothes after the baptism.

The practical aim of baptism is that you be totally immersed in water - symbolic of the death and burial of "the old you". This aim is achieved by the method most comfortable in the circumstances. It means, of course, that your head will - very briefly - be under water. The person baptizing will consult with you as the best method for you. Usually this is from a standing or seated position with you holding your nose. Total immersion is achieved by gently but quickly drawing you backwards and under the water, and out again speedily.

At some time immediately before your immersion - usually while you are in the "pool" - you will be asked: What is your name? Have you repented towards God? Or similar wording. The minister will then say "[Name] I now baptize you into the Name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit, and I do this in and through the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins". He will then immerse you. You will be baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3, Gal. 3:27), not into a particular denomination. You will become part of the body of Christ along with all other true children of God (I Cor. 12:27).

That, in brief, is the baptismal ceremony.

However, it is not entirely complete, for the Bible clearly shows it is essential that baptism be followed by "the laying on of hands" (Acts 8:17) as a means of your receiving the awesome miracle of being begotten by the Holy Spirit of God. Following your baptism, those appointed by the Church as leaders will lay hands upon your head - asking God to place in you His Holy Spirit, and to endow you with the spiritual gifts He deems suitable for you.

If you have indeed truly repented, God will honor His promise and instantly beget you with His Spirit - "which He has given to those who obey Him". The Holy Spirit will no longer merely be teaching you "from the outside" but will be in your mind as Leader and Comforter and Helper, witnessing to your human spirit that you are indeed Our Father's Son or Daughter.

We can by no means limit Jesus Christ as to what gifts He places in His brethren in the Church. However, some groups almost "demand" that God gives the "gift of tongues" to all, and are expectant of a variety of physical manifestations - falling over, vain repetitions of the Name of Jesus, tongue-speaking, shaking, warm glows, etc. Sadly, they are often "rewarded" - but not from God - by a counterfeit gift of tongues and other "signs" that are far from being "holy gifts". This is mentioned here to caution against an expectancy of similar physical or falsely spiritual signs. It is the experience of the Church of God that spiritual gifts are indeed given to our brethren - but not, in recent centuries, the true Biblical gift of tongues.

Please feel free to invite any friends or relatives or Church members to accompany you on this momentous occasion.

These notes are for your guidance, and you need only remember those points about clothing, and a towel. The minister will discuss the other matters again with you when you meet for the baptism ceremony.

If you have further questions on any of the points mentioned here briefly, please be sure to write, call, or talk to the person who is counselling with you about your baptism.

CHECKLIST:
Correct date and location
Suitable clothing
Towel(s)

THE CHURCH OF GOD
P.O. Box 2525, Lincoln, England
James McBride, Pastor


Why the "laying on of hands" as part of the Baptismal ceremony?

"The laying-on of hands serves to impart the blessing in baptism and ordination (Acts 9:17-18; Heb. 6:2; Acts 13:1-3; I Tim. 4:14; II Tim 1:6), as well as for the healing of the sick." H. Conzelmann, History of Primitive Christianity. New York: Abingdon Press, 1973, p.119

The baptism ceremony is like a wedding ceremony. A lot of things happen, but are summarized in one word. We are buried in water, symbolizing our acceptance of Christ's death and burial for us, but also symbolizing the death of the "old man". We are raised out of the water symbolizing our faith in Christ's resurrection, but also symbolizing our own rising to newness of life. As part of the baptismal event, we receive the Holy Spirit.
But when?
The Holy Spirit is a gift. God can give the Spirit whenever He likes. Cornelius and Paul received the Spirit before baptism. Those baptized by John the Baptist did not receive the Spirit at all. In Acts 8, people were baptized but did not receive the Holy Spirit until the Apostles laid hands on them.
We can't command God to give the gift either by immersing or by placing hands on heads. All we can do is to make each person as receptive as humanly possible. In my own experience of baptizing many others, I have never been asked not to lay hands on them. Many people appreciate this special part of the baptism ceremony in which we specifically ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and thank Him for giving it.


Baptism and my part in the lifelong process of Salvation
What "Faith" means in practice!

Step 1) God calls me
Romans 8:16 to be His child
1 Peter 5:10 to glory & perfection
Hebr 11:35 to a better resurrection
Acts 1:8 to be a witness of Jesus

Step 2) God gives me what I need
Acts 26:18 He opens my eyes
Rom 12:3 He gives faith
Acts 5:3 He grants repentance
Eph 2:8 He gives salvation
Acts 4:12 Salvation is through Jesus

Step 3) I must get to know God
Hebr 11:6 I must believe that God exists, and rewards those who seek Him
Rom 8:28 I must love God
1 Thess 5:17 I must pray
Matt 9:15 I must fast
Acts 2:21 I must call on God for salvation
2 Tim 3:15 I must study God's written word
Rom 10:14 I must listen to God's servants

Step 4) I must accept Jesus as my sacrifice
Rev 1:5 Jesus loves me
Romans 3:23 I have sinned: I am a sinner
1 John 3:4 Sin is transgression of God's law
1 Cor 15:3 I killed Jesus Christ
Hebr 9:26 Jesus was offered for me

Step 5) I must show my repentance
Acts 17:30 God commands me to repent
2 Cor 7:8-11 I must sorrow over my old way
Matt 3:8 I must show fruits of repentance
Acts 26:20 I must show repentance by deeds
1 John 2:6 I must follow the example of Jesus
Acts 2:38 I must live God's way
Matt 5:16 I must perform good works
1 Cor 10:14 I must avoid heathen Holidays
Mark 2:28 I must keep the Saturday Sabbath
Hebr 10:25 I must attend church meetings
1 Cor 5:8 I must keep God's Feasts
Matt 6:24 Money no longer rules my life
Luke 11:42 I must tithe
1 Cor 6:9 No more immorality
Eph 4:29 No more G**! J****! language
Luke 21:34 No more drunkenness and excess
Acts 10:14 I must not eat "unclean" animals
Hebr 12:14 I must live at peace
Eph 2:9 but I can't earn salvation

Step 6) I must count the cost
Luke 14:26-33 I must give up everything for Jesus
1 Peter 5:9 I must expect afflictions
Hebr 13:3 I must expect adversity
Matt 11:28 Even so, Jesus's yoke is lighter

Step 7) I must be baptized
Matt 28:19 Jesus commands baptism
John 3:23 I must be immersed under water
Acts 22:16 My sins are washed away
Rom 6:1-4 The "old" me is "buried". The "new" me is "raised" with Jesus

Step 8) I must receive the Holy Spirit
Acts 2:38 God promises to give His Spirit
Acts 8:18 I receive it by laying on of hands
Rom 8:16 It declares me God's child
1 Cor 12:13 God adds me to the Body of Christ, the Church of God
Gal 5:22 I will show the fruits of Spirit
1 Cor 12:9 God may give me spiritual gifts

Step 9) I must be active in God's family
2 Tim 2:2 I must be a witness of Jesus
2 Cor 9:8 I must abound in good works
John 13:34 I must love my fellow Christians
James 1:27 I must visit the afflicted
Gal 6:2 I must bear others' burdens
2 Thess 3:1 I must pray for those preaching
2 Peter 3:18 I must grow in grace, knowledge
1 Tim 4:12 I must set an example of purity

Step 10) God helps me overcome all difficulties
Luke 14:16 What are my priorities?
Hebr 4:11 I must labor to enter into life
Romans 2:7 I must patiently continue
2 Cor 4:17 My light affliction works for glory
Hebr 10:26 I must never reject Jesus
Matt 24:13 I must endure to the end
Matt 19:26 With God, all things are possible
2 Thess 2:16 Jesus and Our Father love us and give us hope!

Step 11) I must expect to be glorified with my elder brother, Jesus, in the Father's family
John 6:39-54 Jesus will lose no one
1 John 3:2 I shall be like Jesus
Rev 22:5 I shall reign with Jesus for ever
John 17:3 I will be with My Father for ever


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