Baptism Not Just a Ritual

A story by CBS News about baptism caught my attention recently. The piece, written by Natacha Larnaud , tells of a Catholic priest who made a verbal mistake while performing baptisms.

It states, “A Catholic priest in Phoenix has resigned from his position after a church investigation found he had been incorrectly performing baptisms over his 20-year career — rendering the rite invalid for thousands of people, according to Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix.” It seems he said “We baptize you…” instead of “I baptize you…”

Jesus was baptized

So what’s the big deal? This is an example of legalism run a muck. According to the Bible, baptism has nothing to do with salvation and does not wash away sin. People who follow Christ are baptized out of obedience.

Jesus, Himself, was baptized by His cousin John. He had no sin to wash away, but He did it to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus did not expect His followers to do anything He would not do. Baptism is a public pronouncement of faith.

For the vast majority of Catholics, baptisms are for infants. The parents present their child for baptism. But it’s more about the parents and their willingness to raise a child in the faith. As for a baptism being invalid, the Bible shows us that believers are baptized. That can be performed at most any age, but the individual makes the decision to be baptized. It is a public declaration of faith.

Verbal mistakes don’t matter

Non-baptized people can go to heaven and if a priest makes a verbal mistake, that is not going to undo the will of God.

The thief on the cross is an example. He turned to Jesus and said “Remember me when you enter your Kingdom.” In that statement, the thief acknowledged who Jesus was. He understood that He had authority to “put in a good word” for the condemned criminal.

The thief never went to synagogue, was never baptized and never gave any money to a congregation. He merely expressed his faith. Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you this day you will be with Me in paradise.”

Religion can distract from the truth

Religion takes a simple thing like wanting to declare faith through baptism and turns it into a ritual that distracts from the truth.

Baptism is a wonderful observance. Unfortunately, an infant has nothing to do with it, other than being used as a prop.

Now if parents want to present their child and ask for the blessing of the faith community, this is something different. It is the parents who ask for the blessing. As for baptism, if there is any argument about a baptism being invalid, it should be noted that no infant has ever made the decision to go through with it.

How can man invalidate baptism?

One more small point…how can man invalidate an ordinance of God by making a verbal mistake? Does God not have something to say about this? God is present, is he not? I truly believe God would not be offended by a wrong word. Especially if that word choice was just a force of habit and not intended to subvert the occasion.

As for thousands of baptisms being invalid, remember that at the end of the day there are only two kinds of people. Those who follow Christ and those who do not. Millions of people who were baptized as an infant, have been baptized as adults. They choose to be baptized once they have made their choice to be a Christ follower.

God is in control. Man’s mistakes will not change God’s will.