The Diagnosis I
Perhaps the first question we should ask is “Why must a person become a Christian?” The simple answer is that God has provided a home for Christians that, as the Book of Common Prayer describes, is a “a haven of blessing and of peace.” But the reason we need a “haven” is because of what the Church calls original sin.
The Ministration of Holy Baptism is given to us on page 273 of the Book of Common Prayer. Baptism is the threshold through which we pass as we enter the Church of God and gain the privileges of grace. In many parish churches the baptismal font is at the entrance of the nave to make this point dramatically. Thus, baptisms are administered at the very doorsill of the parish church.
Holy Baptism begins with a question: “Hath this Child (Person) been already baptized, or no?” The priest asks this question because a person can only be baptized once. To baptize a person more than once would show a misunderstanding of baptism in addition to calling into question the character of God himself. God’s word of honor is always good. Because Christian baptism is performed in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and since our Lord instituted baptism, the very honor of God is at issue. No one is more reliable than God. Once a person is baptized according to the words Jesus handed off to his Apostles he is forever baptized. Baptism remains an indelible mark upon the soul whether or not one remains a faithful servant of Christ — but in such a case of disobedience it would be a mark of judgment against the person instead of blessedness.
If the answer given to the celebrant’s question is “No,” then he continues with the service.
“DEARLY beloved, forasmuch as our Saviour Christ saith, None can enter into the Kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child (or Person) that which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ’s holy Church, and be made a living member of the same.”
This address to the gathered Church of God declares three essential points:
1. One must be born into God’s Kingdom.
2. By our natural birth we are not Children of God.
3. Through Holy Baptism we enter God’s Kingdom and become a living member of his Church.
In the next paragraph on page 274 of the BCP the minister addresses God in a prayer for the one who is about to be baptized.
“ALMIGHTY and immortal God, the aid of all who need, the helper of all who flee to thee for succour, the life of those who believe, and the resurrection of the dead; We call upon thee for this Child (or this thy Servant), that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration. Receive him, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. So give now unto us who ask; let us ‘who seek, find; open the gate unto us who knock; that this Child (or this thy Servant) may enjoy the everlasting benediction of thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The minister makes three specific petitions in the prayer:
1. That the Child would receive remission of sin by spiritual regeneration.
2. That God the Father would receive the Child.
3. That the Child may enjoy the everlasting benediction of God’s eternal Kingdom.