The Sacraments: Baptism


Remember our definition of a Sacrament: outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.

Outward sign

What is the sign of baptism?

  • Well, what happens?
    • Water is poured over someone’s head or a person is dunked in water. 
  • A sign points to the deeper reality and matches up with that deeper reality.
    • The sign here is the water being poured over a person or the person being dunked. There are a couple of deeper realities we could point toward:
      • What happens, for example, when a person takes a bath?
        • Their body gets cleaned. Or even just a simple washing of the hands, the water cleans the hands.
        • So, the cleaning of the body is an outward sign that points to something beneath the surface being cleansed. That something is the human soul.
          • A person doesn’t typically bathe if s/he isn’t dirty. Rather, it is because of the filth that a bath is necessary.
          • So, too, when we are born, our souls have on them an invisible stain – what we call the stain of original sin. We are filthy and need to be cleansed of this sin.
            • The waters of baptism are an outward sign of the Holy Spirit washing our souls clean.
      • What else does water do for a person?
        • It gives life. People can’t live without water.
          • At baptism, no one typically drinks any water, yet the water being used is a sign of new life being given to the one being baptized.
          • Because of original sin, we are born separated from God’s family. At baptism, we are adopted into his family, given a new life that wasn’t possible without the waters of baptism.
            • The waters of baptism are an outward sign of the new life God gives us in Jesus.

Instituted by Christ

Matthew 28:18-20 – “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”

John 3:5 – “Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”

Acts 2:38… – “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

1 Peter 3:21-22 – “Baptism now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subjected to him.

To give grace

Two kinds of grace: Sanctifying Grace and Sacramental Grace. We can look at those two kinds of grace that this Sacrament gives us.

  • Sanctifying Grace: This is the kind of grace that allows us to share in the divine life. It makes us members of the Body of Christ.
    • Unbaptized people have not received this grace. Baptism initiates someone into the Christian life.
    • Every Sacrament either gives Sanctifying Grace or restores the Sanctifying Grace lost by sin.
  • Sacramental Grace: This is the kind of grace that aids us to excel in living out the divine life.
    • In many ways, a person could simply think about the Sacrament they are receiving to see what that Sacrament can do for them:
      • With Baptism, we are initiated into the life of Jesus. An entirely new way of life is opened up to us that wasn’t open before.
      • Baptism gives us the grace to pursue virtue and maintain our dignity as children of God. It gives us the grace to live like Jesus and share in his life.
        • With Baptism, the Sacramental Grace sounds a lot like Sanctifying Grace.
        • The Book of Revelation tells us, “Nothing unclean shall enter heaven.” Yet we are born with the stain of original sin. We are born unclean. Baptism cleanses our souls, thus making it possible to enter heaven.

How is it validly given?

Matter: Water and an unbaptized, living person

Form: Water poured/person dunked, reciting the trinitarian formula: I baptize you in the name of…

Minister: ANYONE! (Ordinarily, it’s done by a bishop, priest, or deacon.)

Intention: To give new life by water and the Holy Spirit.

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