Biblical Christianity is surprisingly simple. When distilled to its essence, the teachings of Jesus involve virtually none of the ceremonies, rituals or other features usually associated with religions. Yet Jesus did leave us with ordinances, concrete ways of connecting with His person and with other believers. Water baptism and Communion are the two ordinances practiced by 970 Church. Neither are salvific or make us a Christian, but both are part of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
While Jesus himself did not baptize anyone, He himself was baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus delegated the responsibility of baptizing to his disciples (John 4:2) who continued the practice under his direction (Matthew 28:19) as a way of initiating new believers into the faith (Acts 2:41). Water baptism is an ordinance that we practice as an outward expression of our inward, personal decision to follow Jesus. Every follower of Jesus is commanded to follow his example and be baptized. Water baptism and training in the teachings of Jesus were the two acts Jesus mentioned in the Great Commission.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt 28:18–20)
Water baptism is a symbolic act of one’s desire to follow Jesus by identifying with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection through water baptism. Christ’s death and resurrection are the great universals of the Christian faith, accessible to anyone who believes.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:3–4)
This is the attitude that baptism represents: a desire to announce that I have chosen to follow Christ. 970 Church endorses water baptism of those believers who are old enough to understand the experience. Understanding is needed in order to fulfill the biblical emphasis on voluntary choice and saving faith and therefore we do not baptise infants or young children.
Scripture records baptisms taking place in public settings. Since church buildings were not used until the third century A.D., the public nature of the ordinance most likely persisted for generations. Thus, to be baptized as a Christian in a largely pagan culture was to make a very public statement of total commitment to Christ, and to face the consequences of that commitment.
Public baptism makes it impossible for Christians to practice a “secret” faith concealed from a possibly hostile world. A baptismal service, especially when accompanied by the new believer’s retelling of his or her spiritual journey, is a powerful witness to the risen Christ and a statement of commitment to the Savior that cannot be retracted. It is a way of saying that I have counted the cost and decided to serve God with all my heart (Luke 14:25-33).