Among the thousands of Christian denominations, there are several different views of the meaning of baptism; and in some denominations, the understanding of baptism is open-ended enough that there can be multiple understandings of it within the same congregation!
Nevertheless, most Christians agree that since Jesus commanded baptism in the Scriptures (most notably in Matthew 28:19), it should have a place in the Christian life. Catholics and some other groups of Christians believe that it confers actual grace, and should be applied even to infants. Other Christians believe it’s just a symbol of one’s belief in Jesus, and some even believe a Christian can be baptized multiple times as adults.
We’re asking our members and readers from various Christian backgrounds to weigh in: if you’ve spent part of your Christian life in a worshipping community that wasn’t Catholic, how did they understand baptism? Was it a symbol? A sacrament? When and how was it offered? Who could be baptized?
Here’s what some of our members and readers had to say:
“My background is Anabaptist. We were not allowed to be baptized unless we had made a profession of faith in Christ. After that, when the pastor was SURE we understood that baptism DID NOTHING, but was only a public testimony, were we allowed to be baptized, by immersion, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
Kristine Franklin, kristinefranklin.net
“I was raised Quaker. They do not believe in the efficacy of any sacrament, relying in total on spiritual communion with the Holy Spirit as the sole means of grace and sanctification.”
Kevin H., via Facebook
“As a non-denominational Christian, we looked at baptism as the next step after making a decision to follow Christ. We didn’t view it as necessary for salvation.”
Angela S., via Twitter
“I was baptized at age 9 as a Baptist, by total immersion. I remember being mostly nervous about the whole thing. I don’t recall it being a very momentous event. The most memorable thing about it (aside from being dunked backwards by a large, imposing preacher) is that it took place the day after JFK was assasinated. Pretty hard to forget that date! It wasn’t until 50 years later while going through RCIA classes that I came to understand the real significance of my baptism…. (it) has come to mean a great deal to me in the context of my life as a Christian, thanks to my ongoing Catholic education.”
Karen H., via Facebook
“I accepted Jesus into my heart in the 2nd grade while my family attended a Baptist church. The pastor told me about how to become a Christian so I could go up for communion, but no one mentioned that I needed to be baptized. It wasn’t until I was in the 8th grade when my youth pastor asked if I had been baptized and I said no. He shared with me how it was important to be baptized as a public statement of your faith, so 6 years after I accepted Christ, I was baptized.”
Seth Paine, Developer of Web and New Media, The Coming Home Network
“Baptism was meant to be an outward sign of an inward grace. It was not believed to be efficacious in any way. It was done because Jesus said we were to be baptized – an act of obedience.”
Kandice Longstreth (watch her Journey Home episode)
“I was taught it was an outward expression of your faith, contrary to Jesus own words. It was an essential part of my conversion as an adult. I was baptized Catholic in 2015!”
Corina J., via Facebook
What about you? If you have a background in a Christian tradition other than Catholicism, how did you view baptism? What led you to think about it differently? Please share your own experiences in the comments below!