“Therefore go 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 I have commanded you.” –Matthew 28:19-20a
Baptisms are indeed happy and blessed occasions, and we at Mighty Fortress find it a privilege to be able to offer you this sacrament. If you would like to organize a Baptism, please consult with the Pastor, and he will assist you with all the necessary arrangements.
The following is a list of commonly asked questions and answers regarding Baptism. You may also refer to Dr. Schroeder’s “Baptism and the Bible” study, or his dissertation on Holy Baptism for further information on this topic, both of which are located under the “Doctrine and Theology” tab on this website.
WHO CAN BE BAPTIZED?
In accordance with what the Bible teaches, we make no discrimination as to the age of the person to be baptized; so everyone from the smallest infant to the oldest adult can receive the blessings God gives through Baptism.
WHEN DOES BAPTISM TAKE PLACE?
Under normal circumstances, Baptisms take place as an added part of a normal worship service; therefore a Baptism can take place at any time. The Baptismal service consists of a Baptismal hymn, an exhortation, several questions to be answered by the parents and sponsors (in the case of an infant) or questions to be answered by the Baptismal candidate themselves (in the case of an older child or adult), the Baptism itself (consisting of applying water according to Christ’s command), and prayer.
There may be special or dire circumstances where a Baptism cannot take place during a regular worship service, and we can accommodate this as well. Examples of such situations are: in hospital where a new-born baby’s life is tenuous, at a person’s death bed, or other situations where expediency is the prime concern. Private Baptisms are also possible in normal situations, and can be organized as need dictates; however, we strongly encourage that Baptisms take place during a normal church service, since Baptism is a part of the corporate life amongst Christ’s Church and the family of believers.
HOW SOON SHOULD I HAVE MY CHILD BAPTIZED AFTER BIRTH?
The best rule of thumb is that it should take place as soon after birth as possible. We certainly encourage the attendance of family members and friends at a Baptismal service; however we discourage an extended lapse of time because a family is “trying to get everyone together.” Even though it’s great to have everyone in attendance, the blessings of Baptism far outweigh who can or cannot attend this event.
WHAT ABOUT SPONSORS, GODPARENTS OR WITNESSES? DO WE HAVE TO HAVE THEM? ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS AS TO WHOM WE CHOOSE?
Indeed this is a nice touch, and we welcome their presence; however it is NOT a requirement. Many Baptisms take place with only the parents in attendance (in the case of a child or infant); or in the case of an adult, just the candidate themselves.
Even though the presence of such individuals is optional, the naming of sponsors or godparents is a high honor, and should not be taken lightly by either the parents or those whom they have chosen.
Within the body of the Baptismal service, there are portions that are directed to both the parents and sponsors. According to the directive Jesus sets forth in Matthew 28:19-20, those who are baptized must be brought up in the Christian faith; or as Jesus puts it: “…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you….” The Baptismal service in our hymnal phrases it this way:
“Since in Christian love you present this child for Holy Baptism, I charge you that you diligently and faithfully teach him/her the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer; and that, as he/she grows in years, you place in his/her hands the Holy Scriptures, bring him/her to the services of God’s House, and provide for his/her instruction in the Christian Faith; that, abiding in the covenant of his/her Baptism and in communion with the Church, he/she may be brought up to lead a godly life until the day of Jesus Christ.” (SBH p. 243)
This is a statement to which the parents of a child being baptized must agree; therefore the parents will want to select sponsors or godparents who will also whole-heartedly agree with this. If something were to happen, God forbid, to the parents during a child’s formative years where they could no longer attend to this duty, then it becomes the sponsors’ or godparents’ duty to do so in their place. It would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible for someone who is not one in faith with the parents to agree to this. It would also be extremely unfair to these individuals to ask them to do something to which they, in good conscience, could not agree.
There may be occasions where a couple desires one or more individuals to “stand up with them” at the Baptism of a child who would otherwise not agree to fulfill the Biblical responsibilities of a sponsor or godparent. In this instance, they would serve as “witnesses,” where they would attest to a child being baptized according to Scripture, and also bear witness to the vows made by the parents (similar to a witness at a wedding). This is often the best way to avoid causing an offense, or otherwise giving people the impression that they “aren’t good enough” to be a sponsor or a godparent.
Regardless of whether you have sponsors, godparents, or witnesses, your pastor will ensure that you have a beautiful and meaningful Baptismal service for all individuals involved.
WHAT METHOD OF BAPTISM DO YOU USE?
By choice, we employ a method of Baptism called “pouring.” There is a small bowl of water inserted into a large stand in front of the church called a “Baptismal Font.” In the case of an infant for example, the head of the individual to be baptized is held over the font. The pastor then dips his hand in the water and pours a small amount over the head three times while saying the words: “(name), I Baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” This is in accordance with Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19.
Apart from the verse cited above, Scripture makes no specific directive as to how the water is to be applied, or how much water must be used. Therefore, we have several options available. Variations of the pouring method as previously described are called “sprinkling” or “dipping.”
Baptism by total immersion is also a legitimate and valid form of Baptism. Should an individual wish to be baptized by total immersion, it must always be with the understanding that it is no more valid or better than any other form of Baptism, and therefore carries the same blessings. It should be noted however that Mighty Fortress does not have the facilities for Baptism by immersion. Therefore, if an individual has a personal preference for this method of Baptism, a venue must be located that either has a baptistery installed, or otherwise has enough water to allow for this. Please contact the pastor for consultation and assistance in this matter.
IF WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY BAPTISM FOR OUR BABY IN HOSPITAL, CAN WE ALSO HAVE A BAPTISMAL SERVICE IN CHURCH LATER?
Absolutely; in fact we encourage it. The service is called a “Ratification of Baptism,” and it involves pretty much all of the aspects of a regular Baptismal service. However, we do not “rebaptize” a person; rather, we ratify the Baptism that took place earlier.
DON’T PEOPLE HAVE TO BE INSTRUCTED BEFORE THEY ARE BAPTIZED?
According to Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20, the command to Baptize and instruct are inseparably connected. In the case of an infant or small child, the instruction takes place after Baptism; in the case of an older child or adult, a person is instructed first and then Baptized.
IF I JOIN YOUR CHURCH, WILL I HAVE TO BE REBAPTIZED?
This question usually stems from an incorrect perception that a person is “Baptized Lutheran,” or “Baptized Methodist,” or “Baptized Catholic,” etc. Correctly understood, a person is baptized into the Christian faith, irrespective of denominational affiliation. As long as a person was baptized with water according to Christ’s command, then a person has a legitimate Baptism and rebaptizing would be redundant and unnecessary. With this in mind, we recognize a Baptism from most of the various Christian denominations as being legitimate.
If, on the other hand, there is any question as to whether or not a person has been baptized, or has been baptized by any other formula than what Christ commanded, or has been baptized by a non-Christian group or sect, then we would strongly encourage such a person receive the Sacrament of Baptism from us. In these instances, it is better to risk being redundant than it is to leave any doubt in anyone’s mind.
THERE SEEMS TO BE SUCH DIFFERING OPINIONS AMONGST CHRISTIANS ABOUT BAPTISM; HOW DO I KNOW WHAT’S RIGHT?
As it is with any teaching of the Church, the Word of God in the Holy Bible must be the final authority. As it was mentioned at the beginning, you may go to the “Doctrine and Theology” section on this website, where you will find Dr. Schroeder’s Bible study on Baptism entitled “Baptism and the Bible” or his more exhaustive dissertation on Holy Baptism, which he prepared in order to receive his doctorate. Both of these documents will allow you to study this doctrine in detail. We also invite you to consult with the Pastor, who will be more than willing to help study this matter with you.