Baptism

FAQ, Liturgies, and Certificates

Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s covenant of grace with us and our children; it is a welcome into the family of God. It reminds us that God forgives our sins, adopts us as sons and daughters, and gives us the Holy Spirit. The journey of faith that begins in individual baptism continues in the church community.

A deeper dive into the theology behind baptism can be found in the introduction to the sacraments. Provided here is an overview of what baptism in the Reformed Church in America looks like.

How does the RCA practice baptism?

Recognizing the symbolic cleansing and refreshing characteristics of water, the RCA affirms sprinkling, immersion, and pouring as methods of baptism. In the Reformed Church, baptism is always performed in the context of a congregation of God’s people. The congregation commits itself to the spiritual nurture of the infant, child, or adult being baptized. Baptism is the mark of corporate faith as well as individual faith.

The RCA baptizes infants as well as older children and adults. Baptism is primarily an act of God, showing grace toward us, and only secondarily an expression of our commitment to God. The Reformed tradition believes that Scripture teaches that baptism has replaced circumcision, a Hebrew rite that marked the covenant between God and God’s people. Both infants and Hebrew converts were circumcised.

Does the RCA recognize baptism from other churches?

Since baptism is a sign of union with Christ and a welcome into his covenant family, the RCA recognizes baptism from other churches. The focus, then, is on the covenant of God’s faithfulness rather than on the act itself of baptism.

As the Rev. James Brownson, a General Synod professor, writes in The Promise of Baptism:

“This is [a] vital thing to remember in our practice of baptism: Baptism is not a private event; baptism unites us to the one body of Christ, the church. There is only ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5). … The power and efficacy of baptism does not finally depend on the person or community doing the baptism, but only on God’s faithfulness. … The church should recognize any sincere Christian baptism done in faith, and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism does not belong to us; it belongs to God, and Scripture is full of the mysterious ways in which God sometimes works outside of normal systems and structures to accomplish the divine purposes.”

The World Council of Churches, an inter-church body of which the RCA is a member, considers the mutual recognition of baptism to be an expression and sign of the baptismal unity we receive from Christ.

Baptism resources

Liturgies for baptism

For the sacraments, there is a fixed Liturgy, or order of worship, yet the Liturgy also provides flexibility for local consistories to guide the worship of their congregations using orders of worship that have been generated for occasional or local use. The Liturgy for baptism declares what the church has agreed to say in the same way as it gathers for worship.

Baptism certificates

As baptism begins the journey of faith, it is a momentous occasion. To commemorate this special day, the RCA provides printable certificates for baptism.

Biblical covenants

Baptism is a covenant of grace from God. In preparing for baptism or preparing to perform a baptism, it may be meaningful to review the following Scripture passages that record stories of God’s covenant.

  • God’s covenant with Noah to never again destroy all living things with a flood: Genesis 6:18; Genesis 9:8-17
  • God’s covenant with Abraham to give him a multitude of descendants: Genesis 15 and 17
  • God’s covenant with Moses, declaring the Israelites as God’s chosen people: Exodus 19:5; Exodus 20; Exodus 21–23; Exodus 24
  • God’s covenant with David, full of promises for David, his children, and all of Israel: 2 Samuel 7
  • A new covenant in Christ, celebrated with the Lord’s Supper: Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14–20; I Corinthians 11:23–32
  • Covenant reminder at Pentecost, reminding believers of the promises of baptism and the forgiveness of sins: Acts 2:37-39