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Significance of Baptism: Individual and Community

Baptism is significant and extremely important for both the individual and for the community. Historically, it has
been the main determining factor of who is a Christian. Unlike Judaism with its surgical statements of
circumcision, Christianity presented a cleansing and rebirth approach to the new covenant of Jesus.
Significance for the Individual
Baptism is significant and extremely important for the individual because it shows that the individual (or the
parents of the individual for infant baptism), desire to follow the example set by Jesus in his own baptism by
John. It follows the command or directive of Jesus, as shown in Matthew 28:18-19 and it is a public message
of faith to the rest of the community.
Having been initiated into a Christian Church implies a commitment to the teachings, practices and life of the
community. It initiates them into the whole Christian life, introduces them to life guided by the Holy Spirit, and
gives them access to any other sacraments or rites offered by the particular denomination. In addition, it frees
them from sin and allows them to be reborn as a child of God. They also become members of Christ and are
incorporated into the church and therefore share in its mission.
While some churches determine that salvation can only follow baptism, certainly baptism cannot make an
individual a believer. Particularly, Protestant churches believe it is an external symbol of an internal or spiritual
commitment. While most churches practice infant baptism the significance of adults who decide on their own
baptism, cannot be underestimated.
Significance for the Christian Community
The Christian community as a whole also benefits from the baptism process. Within any group, there is the
positive concept of an individual submitting to the concepts and will of the particular group, in this case
community of Christians. According to Paul in his letter to the church at Galatia, all differences disappeared
after baptism. The idea here is not that all people lost any sense of identity because an importance concept of
Christianity is the salvation of the individual soul. It is the idea that the emphasis should be on that individual
becoming one with Christ. Within the group of baptised people is the establishment of a common concept of
identity, to the community of faith who are baptised.
Baptism unites all individuals with Jesus death and resurrection. The belief is that, through baptism, Christians
are born to a new life with Jesus. The visual image used by Paul, in his letter to the Romans 12:4-6, of the
individual as a part of a complex body is often presented. Christians believe that as individuals they are
separate and are unique but by being baptised they are part of a community of believers that extends to the
past and into the future and also to all others who are also baptised.
The idea is that baptism transforms people. Many Christians believe that it is necessary and believe that
heaven is restricted to only those who are baptised. Many think that social and earthly transformation takes
place within the community because of the miracle of baptism. This is because it is an entry point to the
oneness of the church of Jesus. In baptism a person is welcomed and initiated into sharing the mission of
Jesus in the world. According to the Uniting Church the baptised is united in one fellowship of love, service,
suffering and joy. All baptised people are appointed by their baptism to serve Jesus and by extension, the
world for which Christ died. Baptised people are the Christian community of faith.
When the Christian community witnesses the baptism of the new adherent into their church community, it
reaffirms the communitys commitment to their own baptismal promises. That is why many Christian Churches
insist that announcements of impending baptisms, and the actual rite of baptism, take place during their official
Sunday worship, when the whole Christian community is gathered. The Christian community is aware that
baptism is a sacrament of faith and helps the individuals faith to grow.
Baptism finds added communal significance through the role of the sponsors or godparents firm believers
and witnesses who assist the newly baptised whether child or adult, on the winding road of the Christian life.
Indeed the entire Christian community bears some responsibility for the faith life of the baptised Christian.
Baptism allows the community to define its membership it is a ritual which allows new members to be
welcomed.