Baptism is one of the two Sacraments universally recognized among Christians as instituted by the Lord and necessary to salvation. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This was Christ’s command to the Apostles.
The nature of Christian baptism is patterned somewhat after Christ’s own baptism by John the Baptizer. Its nature is described clearly and concisely in Jesus’ own words in his conversation with Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” In baptism, then, by the Lord’s own definition, a person is born again, is recreated, is re-generated.
By baptism, a person is made a child of God, becomes a member of Christ’s Body, is cleansed and reborn in the Spirit. Baptism is a covenant between God and the person being baptized. The person agrees to renounce the Devil and all his works, to believe in God and serve Him. For His part, God wipes out all sin – whether natural or original; He bestows grace and He accepts the person as His child. An infant, to be sure, cannot speak, nor reason, nor make promises. Therefore, sponsors or godparents speak for him. By this act, they take on the responsibility of seeing to it that in later years the infant is brought to the Bishop for confirmation and thereby comes to a realization of his part in the covenant.
Normally, a priest in the church in the presence of the congregation administers baptism. However, in case of emergency or special circumstance presenting urgent need, any baptized Christian can validly baptize any person wishing or needing it.
Baptism is solemn and joyous. It is intensely personal, and yet it is an act intimately affecting the corporate Christian community. It is essential for the Christian, but its effectiveness depends upon the free will of the individual being baptized.
Acknowledgement: Text adapted from Christ Church, Columbus OH