In BCC we practice adult baptism, an act of confession described in the Bible as the answer of a good conscience toward God. Many local churches have baptism ceremonies after the summer, and in Grenland, Norway, as many as 33 young people wanted to be baptized last weekend.
By Johanne Reiersrud – Photo by BKM Grenland
Baptism is a personal choice, where the one who is baptized has a desire to follow Jesus as His disciple. Baptism is often described as the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21). For BCC members, this is a voluntary act that requires you to be an adult and conscious of your life choices. Because of this, infant baptism is not practiced, but the children are welcomed into the congregation with what is called a blessing of the children.
The founder of the church, Johan Oscar Smith, puts it this way: “We believe in adult baptism, because God cannot enter into a covenant with small beings who do not have a conscious life.” He points out that young children have neither sinned nor can make conscious choices; they are innocent, and belong to the kingdom of heaven.
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A simple but significant act
“I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
The words form the gospel of Matthew are always part of the act of baptism. In the space of a few short seconds, the person being baptized is lowered completely beneath the water and raised up again.
It is a simple but significant act, both for the one being baptized and those who are present. The newly baptized person then receives a short blessing with a word of exhortation from the Bible, as an inspiration and help for the life ahead of them.
The physical circumstances of a baptism can vary; it can take place outside in the open air, or indoors in a pool. The significance lies not in the circumstances, but in the meaning of baptism.
Baptism marks the start of a new life with Jesus
The apostles in the New Testament use various metaphors when they write about baptism. One of the Bible verses that can be read in this context is what Paul writes in Colossians 2:12:
“… buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
When the body is covered by water in baptism, it is a symbol that the “old man,” who has sinned, is buried with Christ. When one is then raised again, it is a sign that one now wants to live for Him who died and rose for us. By faith we are enabled to live a new life with Christ.
Paul uses the same picture in his letter to the Romans:
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:3-6).
Johan O. Smith sums it up like this: “We put off the body of the sins of the flesh; we are raised up (by the ark which is Christ) to walk in newness of life. We have entered into a personal covenant with God, according to our conscience, to walk in newness of life.” (What We Believe, 1932)
“It’s moving to see young people enter the covenant of baptism”
Robert Nilsen, who in recent years has performed baptisms in Grenland, tells us of the deep impression it makes on him to see young people be baptized.
“When somebody decides to follow Jesus, it usually takes place in that person’s own heart and mind. The act of baptism, on the other hand, is a strong personal testimony without words, both for the one being baptized and for the whole church. To testify like that for yourself, your family and your friends, is very effective.”
Last weekend, the local church organized a baptism on a local island. A total of 33 young people wanted to be baptized. This was a larger number than usual, as the corona pandemic meant that the baptism last year had to be postponed. 200 people could be present at the gathering this time, primarily family and friends of those who were baptized.
A special day for the whole church
“The certainty about how Jesus’ power of resurrection can have a pervasive, positive meaning for an ordinary youth in their prime is deeply touching and encouraging, also for all of us who once entered the covenant of baptism ourselves,” says Robert Nilsen.
The baptism in Grenland was a time of celebration in a setting of song, messages and prayer. With nature as a backdrop, it was a dignified and edifying gathering for those present.
The day continued with an outdoor service. Young people and adults contributed to the edification, and the young people were given encouragements and blessings from the church. The day was an especially good start to the autumn.