Here are some thoughts I had about Baptism at the start of my seminary existence. I don't think that I say anything wrong here, but I don't fully agree with it either. I am currently struggling with my view of baptism, except that I remain passionately a credobaptist. But I wouldn't be able to express this level of certainty as to the nature of baptism today. Anyway, this was originally posted March 8th 2005:
Baptism is one of the fundamental aspects of Christian life. We are dealing with it at the moment in school, so I thought i would write some thoughts on it.
There are some common errors that are attached to it: 1) that it is necessary for salvation, 2) that it is a mere ritual with no substance to it, 3) that it is always attached to the anointing of the Spirit (or Baptism of the Holy Spirit if you are Pentecostal). All of these are incorrect.
Simply put, baptism is the admission or adoption of someone into the family of God. Anyone who is not baptized is not part of the family. This tends to imply the first mistake to most people, but I assure you that it isn't. Salvation is something that happens before you join the church. Salvation is that moment in which your final destination after death becomes Heaven (or the new earth, depending upon your meaning of final) instead of Hell. This happens before baptism. Baptism only affects your life here on earth.
The rite of baptism incorporates two things. First, it is the confession to being saved, for all those in the family must be saved, so this is the validation for your adoption. Second, it is the acquisition of the family obligations. These obligations are not akin to duty, but I recognition that as a family, you must behave as a family. Obey the parent (God), respect the one who the parent puts in charge (the pastor), and support and love each other.
All of this is embedded in the symbolism. The confession is shown with the idea of your death to sin, and the birth of your righteousness (which is still being worked out). The adoption is shown with the concept that one is born into a family, thus one must be born of spirit to be a member of the spiritual family.
To refuse baptism is to say one of two things. Either you are saying that you are, in fact, not saved, or you are refusing to be a member of the body.
The importance of baptism is twofold. First, an actual event happens. Since you have promised something to God, the Spirit then enables you to succeed. At salvation, it is attributed to you to be righteous. But the actualization of that righteousness is a process that starts at that point. Likewise at baptism, one is declared a member of the family, but the actualization of it is a process.
Secondly, after baptism, everyone now has a obligation towards you. You are now an official brother/sister. Therefore, you are treated as such. In the early church, one was not allowed to commune with the church unless one was baptized. One could attend the service. But right after the service, they had communion followed by a full meal (which would be really cool if we got back to that ). If you were not baptized, you had to leave before this, since you weren't part of the family yet.
From this one can see where infant baptism came from. The idea was that they are making the kid part of the family, not saying that the kid was saved (though the Catholics did eventually start saying that). Once they reached a certain age, they had to confirm that they were, in fact saved. If they refused, they are kicked out of the family, and if they are confirmed, the original baptism is "realised". I, being Baptist, think that this is crap. Already being saved is inherit to entry into the family. A baby is neither saved, nor condemned, therefore baptism in inappropriate. I fully support dedication though, where the family, being obligated to the parents of the child, do their utmost to raise the child in the family, thus dedicating themselves to the child.