We noticed the small crowd of people in waters about waist high. They were just off the shores of our local beach. My curiosity was raised as I craned my neck to get a look at what was going on. Ah….as I thought…a baptism. The hugs of joy from those on the sand encircled the man, dripping wet from going under these waters made holy.
I was 12 the first time I saw someone baptized. I don’t know what brought my family to this church that wasn’t ours. I remember it being quite large and every pew filled and there she was, in front of friends and strangers, being dunked into this pool of water. Interesting.
My husband and I are from a church that doesn’t practice baptism. This isn’t to be confused with not believing in or accepting of baptism or the sacraments.
Ours is not a sacramental church. That is to say, we don’t baptize or have communion in our denomination.
‘Life (ie eternal) does not come by a sacrament, nor is it maintained by a “sacramental substance” but by a Divine Person consciously revealed in us as a present redeeming, life-giving Saviour.’ – Bramwell Booth, son of Salvation Army founder
There are documented reasons for this choice that was made by William Booth, our church founder. He was from the Methodist tradition, a church that regularly practiced communion.
The Oxford Dictionary defines sacrament as “a religious ceremony or act of the Christian Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace, in particular”. (Emphasis mine)
A summary of the reasons for this can be found here.
The explanation I was taught was that for many, the outward act became their salvation. We’ve probably heard people talk about their baptism as if it ensures their place in heaven. As if act of baptism is their salvation. Actions and works don’t save us. Jesus through his gracious forgiveness saves us.
Rather, our denomination suggests we live a sacramental life daily.
Communion is shared around the lunch table with coworkers. Baptism of the soul is evidenced in our character. Our words and deeds are offered as visible signs of inward and spiritual divine grace. Shouldn’t this be the real sign of our salvation?
However, we’ve created our own ceremonial sacraments.
We dedicate our babies and enroll our church members. The church flag is is prominent at each ceremony, emblazoned with the words Blood & Fire.
Our ministers are ordained and commissioned in a sacred ceremony, signing covenants, again under this flag. The outward signs ever present in our traditions, our sacraments.
Is it arguable that we’ve chosen not to practice water baptism and communion? There is always argument in the church.
Will the omission of these two outward acts keep one from salvation?
“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 15:11 NLT
Grace abounds for all. For the baptized by water and the baptized soul. For the tangible sacraments of cup and bread and the daily sacramental living. Grace flowing in a figurative daily baptism for all who believe on the name of Jesus.
The tide is now flowing, I’m touching the wave,
I hear the loud call of the mighty to save;
My faith’s growing bolder, delivered I’ll be;
I plunge ‘neath the waters, they roll over me.
verse 6 of O Boundless Salvation
written by William Booth, founder, Salvation Army