Questions From Readers
What attitude should be displayed at Christian baptisms?
That is an interesting question, for even though many of our readers are already baptized, they are involved, as are those who undergo baptism. Let us first comment on those who get baptized, undergoing complete immersion. What should their attitude be?
At Matthew 28:19, 20, Jesus told his followers to go and make disciples of people, teaching and baptizing them. He did not present baptism as a highly emotional experience, an act springing out of momentary excitement. It is a serious step, as we see from Jesus’ example. Luke 3:21 says: “Jesus also was baptized and, as he was praying, the heaven was opened up.” Yes, our Exemplar took baptism seriously, prayerfully. We cannot imagine him, after coming up out of the water, making a victory sign, letting out a whoop, or pumping his arms in the air, though recently some have done things like that. No, with only John the Baptist present, Jesus turned to his Father in prayer.
The Bible does not, though, suggest that baptism must be a somber or grim event, calling for special postures or recitation, as some churches in Christendom require today. Why, think of the day of Pentecost, when thousands of Jews and proselytes underwent Christian baptism. They had already studied God’s Law and come into a relationship with him. So they simply needed to learn of and accept the Messiah, Jesus. Once they did so, they could be baptized.
Acts 2:41 reports: “Those who embraced his word heartily were baptized.” The Bible version by Weymouth reads: “Those, therefore, who joyfully welcomed his word were baptized.” They found joy in the exciting news about the Messiah, and certainly that heartfelt joy spread to the baptism itself, a baptism in front of hundreds upon hundreds of happy observers. Even angels in heaven were observing and rejoicing. Recall Jesus’ words: “I tell you, joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner that repents.”—Luke 15:10.
There are various ways in which each of us can reflect both the seriousness and the joy of a baptism. In some churches those getting baptized wear white robes or black ones. There is simply no Scriptural support for such a requirement. Still, very skimpy or revealing bathing outfits would be inappropriate, whether for men or for women. And as noted, upon coming out of the water, the new Christian should not make special gestures or carry on as if he had won a great victory. The rest of the Christian brotherhood are happy that the new one got baptized. He should sense that this demonstration of faith is but an early step in the long course of integrity to gain God’s approval.—Matthew 16:24.
We, as observers at a public baptism, share in the joy of the occasion, especially if the one getting baptized is a relative or someone with whom we studied the Bible. To share fully, however, we ought to listen to the entire discourse with the candidates, hear them publicly answer the questions presented to them, and join in the prayer. Doing so will help us to keep the actual baptism in perspective; we will have God’s view of it. After the act of baptism, our joy does not require a victory parade, a bouquet of flowers, or a party honoring the one baptized. But we could approach our new brother or sister to express pleasure over the wonderful step taken and to extend a very warm welcome into our Christian brotherhood.
In summary, then, all of us, including those who submit to water immersion, ought to treat baptism with appropriate seriousness. It is not a time for outbursts, for partying, or for hilarity. But neither is it a somber or grim time. We can rightly be glad that new ones have joined us on the way to everlasting life. And we can joyfully welcome our new brothers and sisters.
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