Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in a the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20
Like most churches, North Heights practices baptism as the initiation into the Christian faith. What follows represents our understanding of what baptism means and how it should be administered. While the members of North Heights represent a convergence of different streams of Christianity reflecting various interpretations of baptism, as a church we hold to and practice a specific understanding of baptism consistent with our Lutheran/Evangelical/Charismatic roots.
And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. 1 Peter 3:21-22
Scripture makes it clear that baptism is powerful and good. Confusion arises when we attempt to explain how it works. Biblically, we can find a correlation between the benefits of salvation and baptism (Acts 2:28). Baptism, salvation, empowerment, and deliverance frequently happen in proximity. What we can't detect is a clear cause-and-effect sequence. We don't know if baptism causes salvation or if salvation leads to baptism, only that they usually appear close together.
North Heights embraces this mystery. We see baptism as a tangible blessing of grace, as salvation wrapped in water. We baptize in obedience to Jesus' directive and we expect all the benefits promised of baptism; though we don't attempt to explain how this works, we believe that God is faithful to his promises and we become recipients of those promises through baptism and faith.
Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call.' Acts 2:38-39
At North Heights we regularly baptize older children and adult converts to Christianity who were not baptized as children. Most often these individuals express their faith in their own words. We also baptize infants who can not yet express their faith in words. We believe that very small children can receive God's promise, even when they cannot yet express it verbally. Faith is a seed planted by God and not dependent on our reason. In fact, according to Jesus, only very small children can have the kind of faith it takes to become Kingdom citizens (Matthew 18:3), meaning adults have to become like children; children don't have to become like adults to receive his favor. We believe that baptism plants this seed of faith in children. When that seed is nurtured by the child's family and the church, it may grow and eventually bear fruit (1 Timothy 1:5). We therefore encourage families to bring their young children for baptism.
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:3-4
The Bible makes room for two forms of baptism historically practiced in the church- immersion and sprinkling. The word βαπτίζω signifies dipping a cloth in color dye. Paul says that in baptism we are buried with Jesus and raised with him (Romans 3:3-6). Here baptism depicts the act of going down and coming up with Jesus. Immersion reflects this imagery. Baptism is also linked with Jewish ceremonial washing, and several Scriptures indicate that baptism signifies and/or facilitates a purification of sin (1 Peter 3:21-22). Washing reflects this imagery.
At North Heights we believe that the combination of water, Word, and faith opens a doorway to salvation and blessing and the amount of water and form of baptism are secondary.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-6.
Scripture says there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all" so literally we cannot be "rebaptized." At North Heights we offer and encourage a reaffirmation of baptism if baptized believers would like to publicly reaffirm their faith.
We encourage all our families to dedicate their children to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:28) and not to consider dedication and baptism an either/or option.
We recognize, however, that some families in our fellowship will choose to not baptize their infants. To accommodate these families we do offer prayers of dedication for children at gatherings outside of regular North Heights worship services.
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. 1 Peter 2:9
At North Heights we make baptism available during or after our weekend services and at special church celebrations. We perform either immersion or sprinkling baptism. Before the baptism celebration we invite families or the adults receiving baptism to attend a teaching about North Heights' understanding of baptism.
Usually baptisms are facilitated by one of our ordained pastors, though North Heights does believe that any believer can legitimately offer baptism. Often the pastor will distribute a copy of a verbal confession of faith. Those taking part can read this confession either for themselves or for their children. Also, the one doing the baptism will ask a series of questions giving the family or candidate for baptism an opportunity to express their intent and faith. They will then pray for the person being baptized, renounce the devil, and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Following the immersion or sprinkling, the pastor (or other person doing the baptism) will pray a blessing and ask Jesus to fill the one baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Parents and sponsors play a key role in the baptism process. Their confession of faith gives voice to children not able to express their own faith and their own commitments to support and pray become a powerful covenant that forms a spiritual covering over the life of the baptized.
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.Titus 3:5-7.
God's word and God's Spirit are with the water and glorious miracles result! Baptism itself is just the beginning of a wonderful adventure. Water baptism provides the front end of a lifelong, eternity-long adventure of dying and rising with Jesus. In the ordinary words of the gospel combined with the simple element of water the wisdom and power of God are made accessible to us.
For a complete study of the Biblical and historical basis of our belief and practice of baptism we recommend Pastor Morris Vaagenes' book, Baptism, God's Activity of Grace, available at North Heights' Cornerstone Bookstore.