On Monday, Prince Louis will be christened at the Chapel Royal in St James’ Palace (the picture above is from Charlotte’s christening in Sandringham a couple of years ago). It promises to be a lovely day and occasion – but do you know what christening actually means?
1. Christening = Baptism
These days ‘Christening’ has become something which only happens to children: children are Christened and adults are Baptised. But actually ‘Christening’ means the same thing as ‘Baptism’ – they aren’t two separate things. Baptism is the word which is used in modern Bible translations and that’s the word I’m going to use during this blog.
2. Baptism is an essential part of Christian initiation
Baptism has been an essential part of becoming a member of the Christian faith since the very earliest days of the church. But, according to theology tutor Tony Lane, it is only one of four things which happen in order to become a Christian. The other three are: repenting of sin, faith in Jesus, and receiving the Holy Spirit. These are things which should all happen in order to be a full member of the Christian faith. Baptism is a visible, outward sign and symbol of the other three things happening.
3. Baptism symbolises cleansing
We use water to cleanse every day – from doing the washing up to having a bath or shower every day. Water is used in baptism to remind us that we need cleansing ‘on the inside’. 1 Peter 3:21 says, “this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God.” The Bible teaches that each one of us needs to be cleansed from our sins, and the water of baptism is a symbol of the inner cleansing which God can bring.
4. Baptism symbolises death and new life
Water can be a dangerous thing as well as life-giving. The apostle Paul says in Romans 6:3, “all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death”. Baptism is a symbol of dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ. Christians believe that, just as Jesus died on the cross and rose again to new life, we too must put our sinful selves to death and life a new life with his power. Being baptised by full immersion is a powerful visual symbol of death and new life.
5. Baptism is only the beginning
In most protestant churches, such as the Church of England, baptism does not automatically make someone a Christian: this is especially true of children. We baptise children in the trust that they will come to share the same faith as their parents in due course. Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
In our church, we run a course called Essentials with parents before baptism to ensure they understand the Christian faith and are able to teach children – by their words as well as their example – what it means to follow Jesus.
I hope this has helped you to understand something more about baptism, or christening! This post originally started life as an idea for a video, but it didn’t quite happen in time – maybe one day I’ll be able to make it and I will link it here…