Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, as we are born of the water and the Spirit. Baptism is necessary for salvation (John 3: 5), and conveys a permanent sign that the new Christian is a child of God. Jesus Himself was baptised in the Jordan River by John, the Baptist (Mark 1: 9-11). The martyr St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his Letter to the Ephesians written about 100 A. D., stated that Jesus ‘Christ was baptized, that by Himself submitting He might purify the water.’ Baptism is prefigured in the Old Testament through the saving of Noah and his family during the Flood (Genesis 7: 12-23; 1 Peter 3: 20-21), and Moses crossing of the Red Sea during the Exodus, leaving captivity for the Promised Land (Exodus 14: 1-22).
The Greek word baptizein means to ‘immerse, plunge, or dip.’ The infant or candidate is anointed with the oil of catechumens, followed by the parents, godparents, or candidate making the profession of faith. The essential rite of Baptism consists of the minister immersing the baby or person in water or pouring water (affusing) on his head, while pronouncing ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ The infant or candidate is then anointed with sacred chrism.
What has taken place in Baptism is indicated by the rites that follow it, the clothing in the white garment and giving of the lighted candle: the baptised person has ‘put on Christ’ and has now become light. Here are three Scriptural sources in the New Testament (See also Matthew 3: 13-17; Luke 3: 21-22; Acts 1: 21-22; Romans 6: 3-4; Ephesians 4: 5; Colossians 2: 11-13; 1 Peter 3: 21):
‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ The Gospel according to St. Matthew 28: 19-20
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘Thou art My Beloved Son; with Thee I am well pleased.’ The Gospel according to St. Mark 1: 9-11
Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ The Gospel according to St. John 3: 5