Remembering Your Baptism
Many worship styles exist in modern Christianity, even within conservative, Bible-believing congregations. Reformed worship, however, tends to be dialogical, meaning that our service is structured as a back-and-forth dialogue between God and his people. God speaks to us through his Word, our pastors, and the sacraments. We collectively speak to him through our songs and prayers. However, at first blush, one part of our worship service seems to stand outside of that description. During the baptism of another, we often slip into a spectator mode, essentially watching another person worship and receive grace. Is this how baptism is meant to be engaged in by us, or is there another way?
Peter, comparing baptism to the Noahic flood, tells us, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). In our Reformed theology, we refer to this aspect of baptism when we describe it as one of the means of grace, in which “Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation” (WLC 154). Martin Luther frequently employed the phrase “remember your baptism,” both to his congregation and to himself. He had it inscribed on a plaque in his bedroom. But what is the connection between God using our baptisms to change us and us remembering our baptisms, particularly if we were too young when baptized to have a memory of it?
In its summary of truths found throughout the Scripture, the Westminster Larger Catechism powerfully answers that query in response to question 167 when it instructs us to “improve” our baptism. In that answer, the Catechism calls us to many actions whenever we witness a baptism. We should consider our baptism, reflecting on what Christ does through it to us. We should be both humbled by our sin and assured of Christ’s forgiveness of that sin. We should draw strength from the Christ who has saved us so as to fight our sin and to endeavor to both live by faith and walk together in love with those who have also been baptized.
Far from being something we passively watch take place, observing another’s baptism may call us to more action than any other part of a worship service! Remembering your baptism is no mere act of recollection but includes the whole of the Christian walk. Though baptism happens once in the life of a Christian, its effects pervade the whole of the believer’s life. Why? As John Calvin so eloquently put it, “the benefit of baptism lies open to the whole course of life, because the promise which is contained in it is perpetually in force.” “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). So, brothers and sisters, remember your baptism even now and look forward to the time when we again get to participate together in this sacrament.
On behalf of the session,