For centuries controversy has raged between different parts of the Body of Christ concerning baptism in water, in particular over -
A. The Meaning Of Water Baptism
Baptism is a religious ritual practised in several religions, including Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity. The controversy surrounding Christian water baptism revolves around three main theological interpretations of its significance.
1. Baptism Of Infants (paedobaptism) As Initiation Into The Family Of God
Those Orthodox and Protestant denominations of the Christian Church that practise INFANT BAPTISM (or PAEDOBAPTISM) argue that it is a sign of the child's being brought into the Family of God by believing parents until s/he is old enough to profess faith in Jesus Christ for himself/herself in a ceremony of Confirmation, similar to the Barmitzvah for Jewish boys, about the age of twelve or thirteen.
2. Water Baptism As A Sacrament Conferring Salvation On An Infant
The Roman Catholic Church, and some sections of the Anglican Church, see water baptism AS A SACRAMENT OF GRACE CONFERRING SALVATION ON A CHILD. This act, taken on behalf of the child by believing parents, is then confirmed at the age of twelve or thirteen by the young person himself/ herself at the service of Confirmation, as in the Protestant and Orthodox denominations.
3. Water Baptism Of Believers Only As A Sign of Repentance & Forgiveness of Sins & Profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour & LORD.
This is the view of many evangelical churches and fellowships who practise WATER BAPTISM OF BELIEVERS ONLY.
Many of these fellowships also hold a SERVICE OF DEDICATION OF INFANTS as a sign of thanksgiving to God for the gift of a child, and as a way of inviting the fellowship to join with the parents in taking responsibility to bring the child up in a Christian family until s/he is old enough to make up his/her own mind whether or not to become a follower of Jesus Christ.
B. The Method Of Water Baptism
Three different methods of water baptism are practised by different denominations within the Body of Christ.
is practised most commonly, but not exclusively, as part of a service of INFANT or PAEDO-BAPTISM. The child, or occasionally an adult, is sprinkled with water from a baptismal font by the priest or minister and marked with the sign of the cross as s/he is baptised in the Name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit/Ghost.
is practised in some churches as an alternative to sprinkling. This method is sometimes used in fellowships which practise Believer's Baptism in the case of individuals who are unable to undergo baptism by full immersion for medical or personal reasons.
3. BAPTISM BY FULL IMMERSION
is practised mainly by those churches and denominations that practise BELIEVER'S BAPTISM because it most closely resembles the practice of John the Baptist and Jesus' followers in the early church.