Wait a minute! Before you pass over this article because it looks a little too doctrinal and dry, think about that question. Are you really baptized? Dumb question, right? Of course I am. My parents took me to church when I was very young and my minister baptized me—what’s the point?
Baptism. It seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? I mean, either you are or you aren’t. Why put such a simple topic in a young people’s magazine? This isn’t nearly as appropriate to a young person’s life as smoking or alcohol or T.V. watching. What difference does baptism make to me? I don’t care if you’re a young person or not, if these are some of your thoughts, pay attention. Baptism makes a difference!
Let’s think about that for a minute. Does baptism really make a difference? If you know any Roman Catholics, you know that baptism makes a big difference. Ask a Roman Catholic how old he was when he was baptized. Chances are he wasn’t more than twenty-four hours old. You see, to a Roman Catholic, baptism makes an eternal difference. Baptism makes the difference between one child going to heaven and another going to a place called “limbus infantum.” In our language, that’s a place which is neither heaven nor hell, but where infants (infantum) are held in a kind of “limbo” (limbus). They don’t go to heaven or hell, but must stay in this middle place for eternity with no hope of escape. Pretty scary.
For us, baptism isn’t that powerful. It doesn’t matter to a Reformed believer if his child dies the day before baptism or the day after. We trust that the child will still go to heaven. This brings up the real question then. What difference does it make whether or not we have baptism? Well, let’s take a look now at what we believe about baptism. I’m going to make this very brief, so pay attention. Even though you’ve heard this a million times, baptism is simply a sign. That’s it. It has no practical value for making you a better person or even for making you a child of God. You don’t enter God’s kingdom when you are baptized. That’s already taken care of. It’s a sign.
Now before you get the idea that I’m trying to say baptism isn’t important, listen to what this sign means. When your parents baptized you, they were really saying, in effect: “We recognize that we have been given a child from God. We realize that we have a responsibility to this child, to train him to be an active citizen in the Kingdom of God.” Think about that for a minute. Baptism doesn’t give a baby salvation, but it acknowledges that salvation has already been given. Of course, not every baby born to Reformed Christians is a child of God, but most of them are God’s children.
Why are you a child of God? If you are like most of us, you are a child of God because you were born to members of God’s kingdom. Now you had better be catching on, young people. I’m sure you remember nothing of your own baptism. So you had better be paying attention when you see other babies being baptized. Every time you see a baptism, remember that your parents were up there holding you about sixteen or seventeen years ago. If you still think that this isn’t as important as dating or school or whatever else, think about this. First, try to imagine all the people in the world right now. Then think about all the people that have ever lived on this world since its creation. That’s a lot of people. Now, out of all those people, think about those that have been misled by the Devil to believe in a god other than the one true God. Finally, think that out of all these billions and billions of people, God decided to choose you to be His child. Why weren’t you born to Hindu parents, or Muslim parents and left in that Paganism? Just because God wanted to love you. Think of all the public high schools in Grand Rapids. Most of those high school students are just like you except they have this world to enjoy for eighty years or so and then it’s an eternity of misery and suffering which is beyond our ability to imagine. On the other hand, because God gave you Christian parents, you have eighty years or so to enjoy with a loving family and then you still have an eternity of unimaginable joy to look forward to.
Are you beginning to get it? Do you see now why this is so much more appropriate for you than dating or school or alcohol? Think about this incredible fact: God, for some unknown reason, chose you to be His child to live with Him forever and therefore gave you Christian parents who promised at baptism to make you a thankful child of God so that Satan would not get his hands on you. Wow! Okay, now think of that history test you just failed, or the girlfriend who just dumped you, or the “friend” who just called you a geek at school. It just seems to help, doesn’t it, knowing this world isn’t even your real home, as the hymn says, “I’m just passing through (this world).” Your treasures are in heaven.
Recently in our church, we had the privilege of seeing an adult baptism and profession of faith. If you’ve never seen an adult baptism, I hope you have the opportunity soon. It’s quite an experience. This young lady had been going to our church for about one year and when the moment of her baptism arrived, she went up to the pulpit and knelt down and bowed her head. Then the minister baptized her! I talked to this young woman after the service and I told her that this baptism was the first one to bring tears to my eyes. She had just told everyone that she belonged to God. I could almost imagine God coming to this lady, giving the Devil a crushing blow on the head and pushing him far away from her, taking her by the hand and saying, “You are Mine!” God does that every single time a baby, who is one of His, is baptized. He did that at your baptism and at mine. Since you don’t remember your own baptism, think about it every time you see a baby being baptized in your church. Think about it and thank your ministers and teachers for helping your parents in this eternal effort. Think about and thank God for adopting you for His own, and then thank Him again and again and again.
Dan Van Dyke is a member of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church and is a teacher at Heritage Christian School.