Monday 3 January 2022


 The Epistle for Sunday contains just four verses from the 8th Chapter of Acts (14-17). 

 The Collect for Sunday prays that we who are born again by water AND the Spirit may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children.  Children obey their father’s teaching. Only Jesus however is a son of God, who has no grandchildren; God has graciously called us as his adopted sons and daughters

 Philip had been telling the people of Samaria of the gospel and had caused a spiritual awakening as men and women were becoming believers and seeking baptism.  The news had reached Jerusalem where the church leaders met and they decided to send Peter and John to find out what was happening. 

 When the two Apostles arrived in Samaria they discovered that whilst the people had been baptised, they had not then received the Holy Spirit, so they laid hands on them for the Holy Spirit to be received.

 Some people maintain this as the justification for the service of Confirmation, children (or others) who have been baptised as infants come to confirm the vows made on their behalf and have hands laid on them by the Bishop.

 If we study what took place at that place we can realise how far the Church has drifted away from the biblical pattern of baptism.  The people heard the gospel preached, they accepted the message and came to become believers, then sought to be baptised.

 I have been asked (1)if I believe in infant baptism

                                       (2)have I baptised infants and if so why.
                                       (3)what kind of baptism do I believe in.

I do not believe in infant baptism as I think it un-biblical.

Yes, I have because as an Anglican priest I was morally obliged to do so.  Fortunately this was not in great numbers as my parish did not require it.  But I tried to limit this to parents who were prepared to come to Church before the service, which meant I had very few baptisms.

I believe in the baptism for believers

 I do however respect the views of those who take a different attitude to me, and trust they will respect my understanding.

 Following on from the events recorded in Acts, we find a confession of faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit happen together. Nowhere in the Bible is there a separation.   I believe this means that within Churches we need to have a deeper understanding of baptism and confirmation.  Whilst I have often preached on baptism, I have never been at a service when this has been preached upon by others.

 I think this is very regrettable, especially when people come to a baptism service who do not normally attend Church. It seems to be so essential that they should know exactly what baptism was meant to be. I have been at a baptism service when the name of Jesus and the word ‘Cross’ have not been mentioned once in the sermon. On other occasions there has been a good sermon in the normal course of things, but totally beyond the understanding of the non -Church attender.

 Looking at the events recorded in Acts, the normal pattern to becoming a Christian is that someone ‘repents, believes, is baptized, and then receives the Holy Spirit’.  This, however, is not a chronological order.  These are the essential components to becoming a Christian, but God can change the order in which they happen as was the case with Cornelius and the Ephesian believers.

Within Scriptural terms a person is baptised when he/she realises their life can be different and better if Jesus Christ is part of it; they therefore repent of past failures; believe that by His death on the Cross, Jesus Christ became their Saviour, and they promise to follow His teaching for their future life.

 At the beginning of the Church baptism, as recorded in Scripture, was for adults.

In the 2nd century the Church adopted the practice of baptising the children of worshipping parents.  This can be deduced by the fact that the Canon relating to the subject states, ‘parents and godparents must fulfil their responsibility to bring up the child within the Church, and by their own example’. 

Even however in the case of parents who are Church members, I feel it is stretching Scripture’s teaching. I cannot trace any instance in the Bible where the baptising of infants can be proved, but at least it shows some respect for the service. 

Whilst it may have been the intention that infants being brought for baptism should be of Christian parents, it is now common practice to accept the infant of any parents, irrespective of belief (or none), who requests, without any requirement other than being told to attend on the relevant date. 

 I know it is often said to be a means of outreach, but apart from it being wishful thinking, it hardly justifies departing from the true purpose. If all who have made the promises of the Baptism service and adopted the words used, we would need to build more Churches as they all joined us on Sundays. 

Baptism is a most sacred act. There is a joint action between God and man. Man repents, God washes sins away and there is then forgiveness and a person can really say they are ‘born again’. Can a baby have sins to be washed away?

 Paul writing to the Colossian Church stated, ‘you were buried with Christ in baptism in which you were also raised with him in faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from death

 This a metaphor drawn from Christ’s working on the Cross. Paul is meaning the Christian rite of baptism represents an identification with Christ and his death on the Cross, along with Christ in his resurrection,  Dying and rising with Christ signifies death to sin, we reject ways of life which offend against the teaching of Jesus, plus we have the power to live new life that Jesus calls all believers to live,in imitation of him. All our past sinning is wiped clean, having been washed with the blood of Christ which was shed on that Cross,.

. The Church of England liturgy in Baptismal services asks the parents and godparents if they turn to Christ as Saviour and submit to Christ as Lord, and are allowed to affirm without question. Similarly they vow to bring up the child in the life and worship of the Church, but the falsity of this is shown by the fact that Church congregations do not reflect these promises. Further, to state ‘this child who has been born again’ is theological nonsense.  What sins could a new born baby or young child had time to commit?

I cannot find any reference in Scripture to babies being baptised. They were welcomed and treasured, but not baptised. I accept it has become tradition to do so in our Churches, but there is the question do we put tradition before Scripture.? There is ample provision for parents to attend Church for a service of thanksgiving for a safe birth of mother and child.

Baptism has always been a problem for me. I have read, listened and pondered hard, but cannot bring myself to accept the case for baptising infants indiscriminately. I find myself compelled to sympathise with those who believe baptism should be for those who can make a decision for themselves. 

  It still distresses me when I see people coming to a Baptism service showing no respect for the place they are entering, and only being concerned to have their cameras and camcorders ready, without taking an interest in the whole service. Fortunately for me all that is now over, I can choose which services I take.

 Whatever the practice was in past years, it is now the common practice to accept anyone who requests, without any requirement other than being told to attend on the relevant date. 

 Within Scriptural terms a person is baptised when he/she realises their life can be different and better if Jesus Christ is part of it; they therefore repent of past failures; believe that by His death on the Cross, Jesus Christ became their Saviour, and they promise to follow His teaching for their future life.  How such can be fulfilled by people who never have any intention to attend worship, never read a Bible, never contribute anything in effort or finance to the Church, or really seek to know the Lord, I have yet to understand. 

 Where we can agree, I think, is that we ALL should have repented of our sins, believed in Jesus, been baptized AND received the Holy Spirit.

 Most of us, I think, can agree on the first three components of the Acts formula, but how many of us feel comfortable in saying that we, personally, have received the Spirit?  Received, that is, in a way that we know it to be true.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is stated to have said, ‘unless someone is born of water AND the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God’.  And also, ‘whoever does not believe (in Jesus) is condemned because he has not believed in the Son of God.’

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