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Come to the water

Examining four distinctive beliefs the BIC Church holds baptism

by R. Donald Shafer

Experiencing God’s Love and Grace: We value the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Nearly all Christians agree that water baptisms should be performed. But when it comes to what the practice should look like, that’s when the questions begin to surface. Should baptism occur at infancy or after one has decided to believe? Should the water be sprinkled or poured, or should the person be fully immersed? If immersed, should that be backwards or forwards? One time or three?

Drawing from Anabaptist thought and theology, the BIC Church has adopted the following distinctive practices when it comes to baptism:

Immersion
The accepted mode for the Brethren in Christ Church is a forward-kneeling immersion, to demonstrate humble obedience. As Christ bowed His head in death, so a believer kneels or bows in submission to God. The three immersions are done in honor of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Believers’ baptism
The Brethren in Christ believes that the New Testament teaches baptism for believers. Not until someone comes to saving faith in Christ does the BIC Church believe he or she should be baptized. Thus, rather than baptizing infants, the Brethren in Christ provide a ceremony of dedication for children.

Symbolic
The Brethren in Christ understand that baptism in and of itself has no power. In other words, choosing to be baptized doesn’t automatically guarantee eternal life. Rather, it is a symbol of the believer’s repentance, of Christ’s sacrifice, of God’s forgiveness, and of belonging to the new Kingdom.

Community
Baptism is a sign of new life that is personal but is not in isolation. It is the outward sign that a person not only believes in Jesus but is also entering into a covenant relationship with the body of Christ. Therefore, baptisms usually involve a whole community of faith, and baptism is required for membership in a church.

For the Brethren in Christ, baptism is the sign that a believer is publicly beginning the new life and is becoming a responsible member of a congregation and denomination. Believers’ baptism is indeed a significant event, a deliberate act based on personal belief in Jesus as Lord. It is also the symbol of a new life and belonging to a new family. It is a commitment to a lifelong journey with fellow believers, an act of obedience to follow the Lord and love His people.

This article originally appeared in the winter 2011 issue of In Part magazine.
Donald Shafer

Don Shafer is general secretary emeritus of the BIC Church, having served as an ordained minister in pastorates and church administration for over 42 years. He and his wife, Marlene (Engle), have been married for 55 years and have two children and four grandchildren. They live in Pinon Hills, Calif., and are members of the Upland (Calif.) BIC Church.

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Comments

Carol Posted on February 22, 2012

I agree completely with Don Shafer's s article
on Baptism according to the Brethren In Christ
denomination.

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