Coming Alive in Christ: Training for PC(USA) Ruling Elders and Deacons based on the Constitutional Questions
Introduction - Baptism, Call, and Membership
Baptism is the Reformed theological affirmation that each person is a gift from God, beloved and chosen for service. Through baptism we become a part of a priesthood of all believers, a concept developed by Martin Luther during the Reformation. A priesthood of all believers might now be best understood as an interdependent network of people of faith, each commissioned for service for the common good.
G-1.0301 The Meaning of Membership and Baptism
In Jesus Christ, God calls people to faith and to membership in the Church, the body of Christ. Baptism is the visible sign of that call and claim on a human life and of entrance into the membership of the church. The baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God’s love claims people before they are able to respond in faith. The baptism of those who enter the covenant of membership upon their own profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior witnesses to the truth that God’s gift of grace calls forth a response of faithfulness. Thus, the triune God, incarnate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, gives to the Church not only its mission but also its understanding of membership.”
Sacrament of Baptism, pp. 404–406 in the Book
of Common Worship
Obeying the word of our Lord Jesus,
And confident of his promises,
We baptize those whom God has called.
In baptism God claims us,
And deals us to show that we belong to God.
God frees us from sin and death,
Uniting us with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection.
By water and the Holy Spirit,
We are made members of the church, the body of Christ,
And joined to Christ’s ministry of love, peace, and justice.
Let us remember with joy our own baptism,
As we celebrate this sacrament.
On behalf of the session,
I present N., (son, daughter) of N. and N.,
To receive the sacrament of Baptism.
(to Parents) Do you desire that N. and N. be baptized?
Relying on God’s grace,
So you promise to live the Christian faith,
And to teach that faith to your child?
(to Congregation) Do you, as members of the church of Jesus Christ,
Promise to guide and nurture N. and N.
By word and deed,
With love and prayer,
Encouraging them to know and follow Christ
And to be faithful members of his church?
For Reflection and Discussion:
Think about your own baptism. This may be based on stories you have been told about the day or you might have been of an age to be able to recall the day.
In what ways is the Sacrament of Baptism the beginning of our call to service in Christ?
How do your baptism and church membership connect directly to the call and ordination as a ruling elder or deacon in the church?