Sacraments: Baptism

Olivet and the Presbyterian Church (USA) recognize two sacraments which are understood to be outward visible signs of God's inward, invisible presence and grace. They are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is the sign and seal of incorporation into Christ. Jesus the risen Lord assured his followers of his continuing presence and power and commissioned them

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember. I am with you always to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19).

In Baptism, we participate in Jesus' death and resurrection. We die to what separates us from God and are raised to newness of life in Christ. Baptism points us back to the grace of God expressed in Jesus Christ, who died for us and who was raised for us. Baptism points us forward to that same Christ who will fulfill God's purpose in God's promised future.

As circumcision was the sign and symbol of inclusion in God's grace and covenant with Israel, so Baptism is the sign and symbol of inclusion in God's grace and covenant with the Church. As an identifying mark, Baptism signifies:

  • the faithfulness of God
  • the washing away of sin
  • rebirth
  • putting on the fresh garment of Christ
  • being sealed by God's Spirit
  • adoption into the covenant family of the Church
  • resurrection and illumination in Christ

The body of Christ is one, and Baptism is the bond of unity in Christ. As they are united with Christ through faith, Baptism unites the people of God with each other and with the church of every time and place. Barriers of race, gender, status, and age are to be transcended. Barriers of nationality, history and practice are to be overcome. God's faithfulness, signified in Baptism, is constant and sure even when human faithfulness to God is not. Baptism is received only once. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to the moment when it is administered, for Baptism signifies the beginning of life in Christ, not its completion. God's grace works steadily, calling to repentance and newness of life, God's faithfulness needs no renewal. Human faithfulness to God needs repeated renewal. Baptism calls for decision at every subsequent stage of life's way, both for those whose Baptism attends their profession of faith and for those who are nurtured from childhood within the family of faith. We believe that both believers and their children are included in God's covenant love. Children of believers are to be baptized without undue delay, but without undue haste. Baptism, whether administered to those who profess their faith or to those presented for Baptism as children, is one and the same Sacrament. The Baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God's love claims people before they are able to respond in faith. The Baptism of those who enter the covenant upon their own profession of faith witnesses to the truth that God's gift of grace calls for fulfillment in a response of faithfulness. As there is one body, there is one Baptism (Eph. 4:4-6). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes all Baptisms with water in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit administered by other Christian churches. Baptism is authorized by the Session, administered by a minister of the Word and Sacrament, and accompanied by the reading and proclaiming of the Word in a service of public worship.