Baptism | Family Devotional | Constant Source Weekly
This year, starting today, we will be publishing the main section of a current issue of Constant Source Weekly to our blog each month. Each blog entry will include the main commentary for that week’s issue, questions to help you reflect and internalize the lesson, and connection points to help you engage with your family in conversations about the things you are learning about God. It is our hope that this would be a year where more families around the world prioritize seeking Christ together and would exhibit His life and love to those around them.
Read Acts 8:14-17
(Every Constant Source Weekly is inspired by four pieces of Scripture from all different parts of the Bible. One of those texts becomes the main foundation for the lesson and is interwoven throughout. Start by reading the text linked above.)
(Every Scripture reading is paired with a commentary section that explains the core themes of the passage, discusses the way the reading informs our faith, and helps interconnect all parts of the Bible. Read that next below.)
Last week we celebrated the revelation of Jesus Christ to all people and discussed Epiphany Sunday, a traditional church-calendar celebration. The week after Epiphany Sunday, the church celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ, so we are going to take this opportunity to unpack baptism. Baptism has always been a key part of Christian life, and as we can see from today’s scripture passage, baptism is often paired with the acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of those being baptized. There is a lot to say about baptism, so today we are going to briefly touch on a few key elements that are essential for understanding baptism. Three of which will be noted below, while two more will be discussed in the further reading section.
The first thing that we should explore a bit further is the word baptism in the Greek. There are two Greek words that are very closely related: bapto and baptizo. One of these words stresses a practical action, while the other describes an ontological change. Bapto simply means the action of dipping or immersing something in something else. Like when you are eating a cookie, you might need some milk in which to bapto your cookie. But that’s not the Greek word associated with the Christian practice of baptism. Instead, when we say baptism, we are referring to the word baptizo. Baptizo can similarly be defined as “to submerge,” but it is also defined as “to overwhelm” or “to permanently change." The important emphasis of baptism isn’t that we get a little wet, but rather that we become so soaked through that our life is now different.
Speaking of being soaked, a second key element to baptism is water. There is no life without water. We’ve all thirsted and know that the flourishment of all living things is tied to water. Jesus echoes this point later in his ministry when he is talking to the woman at the well in the book of John, chapter 4. In the beginning of the story, thirst is tied to a physical longing, but by the end, we know that the thirst is really tied to a spiritual longing for God. It seems appropriate that longing would be satiated in baptism. The Bible also speaks to the destruction that is inherent to water. In Genesis 1, the Bible says that there was only chaos and water in the beginning. Part of the beauty of creation was separating land and life from the water. Another picture of water’s destructive nature is found in Genesis 5, the great flood. Only Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark made it out alive. Water’s destructive nature plays an important role in baptism too; this is significant in marking the death of our old selves as we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. Finally, water is cleansing. There are some obvious ties between cleansing and baptism, such as sin, but my favorite illustration of cleansing in the Bible is the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples in the book of John, chapter 13. God, through Jesus, washed those men’s feet. In baptism, God washes us clean as well. As we see in the Lucan text found in the further readings section, confession and repentance are tied closely to baptism.
In Romans 6, Paul explains the power that Christ’s death affords us in baptism. Romans 6:6-7 reads, “We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that the body of sin might be destroyed and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin.” In baptism, we believe that our sins are washed away through the power of Christ and we are made clean. Now to be clear, that doesn’t mean that we will never sin again or that we won’t struggle with sin; rather, this gets back to the permanent change in our lives where we have committed to reorienting our lives towards freedom from sin. In baptism, we are washed by the water and can proclaim in the authority of Jesus Christ that sin no longer has power over us. Baptism is being washed by the water wherein we are cleansed and freed from sin.
The last element of baptism that we will talk about here is baptism as a sacrament. The word sacrament is often compared with words like sign or symbol, but actually these three words are all a little bit different. Signs are things that signify. For instance, those red, eight-sided shapes that are posted at intersections don’t have meaning in and of themselves, but they communicate something in their intended context. Symbols reflect or represent something else. For instance, an “s” with two lines down the center represents money, but in and of itself it can’t be used as money. A sacrament is different because it both communicates and has a powerful effect. Baptism is a sacrament because it communicates the decision that we make, to the community around us, to pursue the relationship that God initiated first. But baptism also has a profound effect on our lives and the world around us. We believe that our new life, resulting from baptism, begins a new reality in our lives wherein the hope, faith, and love extended to us by Jesus Christ and confirmed by the Holy Spirit are to be passed on through us to the world. Because we are people in close relationship with God, we are called to be a people who are in relationship with and for others! Baptism is a sacrament that has a profound impact on who we are as believers, which, in turn, transforms our lives to point towards God and the Kingdom of God.
Make sure to take a look at the further readings section where we discuss how baptism is trinitarian and helps us remember who we are as a Christian community.
(The reflection section provides prompts to help you think through what God is teaching you and how it applies to the world around you. Take 3-5 minutes to ponder and respond to each question below. We recommend keeping a journal to write in, so that you can revisit it later.)
Have you been baptized before? If so, reflect on that moment. If not, what is keeping you from being baptized?
In the same way that water sustains, destroys, and cleans, our baptismal moment signifies a life sustained by God, where sin’s hold on our lives has been destroyed and we have been washed clean of all of our past transgressions. Which of these characteristics of water and our baptism stands out to you most clearly. Why?
Even though sin’s grip on our lives has been destroyed, we are not immune to sin. Instead, we are acknowledging the fact that it no longer controls us and that Christ has afforded us a choice. What sin do you still need to be on guard against, and how are you choosing to combat that sin?
(This section provides tools and starting points to discuss what you’ve learned and processed through above with your family.)
Pray: “Lord God, help us to be people that find our identity in you, that rest in the forgiveness that Jesus provided, and long to grow into the people you created us to be. Give us the strength to combat sin in our lives and help us to lean into the love that we experience from you and our families. Go before us this day. Amen.”
Share: Take a moment to talk with your kids about baptism. Depending on where they are in their understanding, explain how it works and the important parts of it that were articulated throughout this lesson. Finally, share your baptism story with your children.
Wonder: Ask your kids about water. What are its main properties? Why is it important? Help them come up with some of the descriptors we used earlier. Then help them draw parallels to the significant role that water plays in baptism.
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