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The second birth of believers in Jesus Christ-Rev.BARAWIGIRIRA Aime F.Lecturer of Systematic Theology

Hat does the word “baptism” mean and what is its origin? What was its meaning before Jesus Christ? Why did it become the first sacrament for Christians, and what meaning did it take on?

The word baptism comes from the Greek verb “baptizein”, which means “to dive, to immerse”. The practice of being immersed as a sign of purification spread shortly before the coming of Christ among pious Jews, animated by a deep desire for conversion. Jesus himself is baptized by John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan. This baptism inaugurates his public life. And on that day he is designated as the Messiah.

After Pentecost, the first Christians will understand the meaning of baptism in a new way. Being baptized in Jesus Christ consists of making, in turn, the passage from death to life that he accomplished. We die to sin in order to move on to new life, with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is a rite of passage: with Christ we pass through death and we participate in his resurrected life. We do not sink into the countless symbolic deaths that dot our lives but, thanks to Christ, we experience a rebirth, a “rise” to life.

A. The importance of baptism

The following observations highlight the importance of baptism.

1. Christ was baptized (Matthew 3:16). Although his baptism has a radically different meaning from Christian baptism, in a certain way we follow in the footsteps of the Lord when we are baptized. Of course, we can never imitate someone who is free from sin, but we must follow in their footsteps, and baptism is one of them (1 Peter 2:21).

2. The Lord approved of his baptizing disciples (John 4:1-2).

3. Christ commanded the disciples to be baptized during this dispensation (Matthew 28:19). The command was not only addressed to the apostles who heard it, but to all the disciples of Christ of our era, since Christ promised his presence until the end of the world.

4. The early Church reserved an important place for baptism (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 36, 38; 9; 18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5). She could not imagine that the believer could go a long time without going through the waters of baptism.

5. The New Testament relies on it to illustrate or symbolize important theological truths (Romans 6:1-10; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21).

6. The author of the letter to the Hebrews considers baptism to be a fundamental truth (Hebrews 6:1-2). The doctrine of baptism is no more optional nor less important than the doctrines of repentance, resurrection, and judgment.

B. The meaning of baptism

Biblically, baptism is associated with forgiveness (Acts 2:28; 22:16), union with Christ (Romans 6:1-10, recruiting disciples (Matthew 28:19), and repentance (Acts 2 :38) This obviously does not mean that water baptism brings about forgiveness or the other virtues associated with it, but that it is closely linked to the elements which mark the beginning of the Christian life.

Theologically, we can define baptism as an action which associates or identifies the baptized person with a person, a group, a message, or an event. In the Greek mystery religions, baptism associated the initiate with the religion. In Judaism, the baptism of proselytes entered them into the Jewish religion. By accepting John the Baptist’s baptism, his disciples were conforming to his message of righteousness (there was no group for them to join).

Note in passing that John was apparently the first to baptize others, because people usually baptized themselves. For James and John, accepting Christ’s baptism meant sharing in his sufferings (Mark 10:38-39). Spirit baptism associates the baptized with the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and with new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-10). The Israelites who were baptized in Moses submitted to his authority during the exodus from Egypt (1Corinthians 10:2). To be baptized for the dead was to identify with the Christian group and take the place of a deceased believer (15:29). Through Christian baptism, the redeemed make the message of the Gospel their own, unite themselves to the person of the Savior and to the group of believers. Some of the baptisms thus reviewed do not involve water. Let us recognize that a poor or truncated understanding of baptism and its extensions would greatly impoverish us.

C. The baptized

Should only believers be baptized, or can young children of believing parents also be baptized? Defenders of infant baptism put forward the following arguments.

1. The circumcision argument. Colossians 2:11-12 establishes a close connection between circumcision and baptism. Since infants were circumcised under the old covenant, they must be baptized under the new. This reasoning is based on the theological conception of a unique alliance of grace involving a rite of initiation; in the Old Testament, this rite was circumcision, and in the New, it is baptism. The rites are then linked to participation in an alliance, not to personal faith.

2. The historical argument. The Church practiced infant baptism very early. It is therefore permitted. The Fathers of the Church were in favor of infant baptism, which they linked to circumcision. An objection can be raised: the fact that the ancient Church adopted a certain belief or a certain practice does not necessarily justify it; some Christians taught baptismal regeneration, which is heresy.

3. The household argument. In New Testament times, entire households passed through the waters of baptism. It may be assumed that some of them also included young children (see Acts 11:14; 16:15, 31,33; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16). Some further rely on the text of 1 Corinthians 7:14 which, according to them, not only authorizes the baptism of young children of whom one parent is a believer, but advocates it.

Those who are opposed to infant baptism and limit this sanctity to believers only make the following arguments.

(a) The biblical order always places faith before baptism (Matthew 3:2-6; 28:19; Acts 2:37-38; 16:14, 33-34).

(b) Baptism represents the rite of initiation which brings into the Church, the community of believers; it must therefore be reserved for believers only. Circumcision introduced men (including infants) into a theocracy that included unbelievers.

(c) None of the passages that mention the baptism of members of an entire household mention the ages of the children. On the other hand, all specify that those who were baptized believed. This condition would prevent babies from being baptized.

(d) If we understand that 1 Corinthians 7:14 permits or requires the baptism of young children of one parent who is a believer, then we must understand that it also permits or requires the baptism of the unbelieving spouse.

D. Rebaptism

Scripture records only one indisputable exemption from twice-baptized adults. The twelve men in question (Acts 19:1-5), already baptized by John the Baptist, were baptized again by Paul after believing the Christian message.

This passage therefore constitutes an example for all those who were baptized in their early childhood, in their adolescence or as adults and who only discovered faith in Christ afterwards. This is also an argument against infant baptism. Indeed, why baptize a newborn if he must be baptized again later, when he has personally accepted Christ?

E. The moment of baptism

New Testament examples indicate that believers were baptized immediately after believing. They were not subject to any probationary period; this can, however, be justified to ensure the authenticity of the faith of the candidate for baptism.

F. The manner of baptism

1. Arguments for baptism by sprinkling.

(1) Certain Old Testament rites of purification were carried out by sprinkling (Exodus 24:6-7); Leviticus 14:7; Numbers 19:4, 8), and the author of Hebrews classifies them as “baptisms” (Hebrews 9:10).

(2) Sprinkling best illustrates the purification that the Spirit works, as in Ezekiel 36:25.

(3) The Greek verb baptizô can take on the secondary meaning of “to place under the influence of”; the rite of sprinkling expresses this reality well.

(4) In some cases, immersion was improbable or even impossible (Acts 2:41, too many people; 8:38, too little water in a desert place; 16:33, too little water in a house).

(5) Most of the visible Church does not practice baptism by immersion.

2. Arguments for baptism by bestowal.

(1) The outpouring better illustrates the ministry of the Spirit who descends on the believer and in his life (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18).

(2) The expressions enter “into the water” and exit “from the water” can also be translated as “towards the water” and “into the water” can also be heading towards the water, entering perhaps be in the water, but not necessarily underwater.

(3) Drawings in the catacombs show the candidate for baptism standing waist-deep in water, while the one baptizing him pours water over his head using a container.

3. Arguments for baptism by immersion. (1) The verb baptizô basically means “to immerse”. For sprinkling or bestowal, the Greek language uses words which are never used in connection with baptism. (2) Immersion best illustrates the meaning of baptism: death to the old life and resurrection to the new life (Romans 6:1-4). (3) Immersion has always been possible. There were enough reservoirs and pools in Jerusalem to accommodate the baptism of the three thousand Pentecostal converts. The Gaza road was deserted, but not entirely deprived of water. Houses often had water tanks outside, so the jailer of Philippi may have been immersed in them with his family. (4) The baptism that the proselytes (converts to Judaism) administered themselves was practiced in a tank of water. This form naturally had to impose itself in the case of Christian baptism. (5) It was shedding, not sprinkling, which replaced immersion in cases of illness. This is what we called clinical baptism. Cyprian (in 200-258) was the first to approve of sprinkling. Even those who do not practice unanimously recognize that immersion was the common practice in the Apostolic Church.

A remark is in order. It seems to me that those who try to justify baptism by sprinkling reason as follows: if we can demonstrate that a form of baptism other than immersion (e.g. effusion) was in use very early on, we can legitimately adopt the sprinkling even though it was obviously not practiced in apostolic times. This amounts to saying that, if the effusion has made a breach in the dam of the universal practice of immersion, the aspersion can also rush in. But the evidence shows that only effusion (if it was practiced) was considered on the same level as immersion. Sprinkling was not considered a valid form of baptism.

G. Triple immersion

In triple immersion, the candidate is dipped three times (usually forward) into the water to symbolize his union with the Triune God. The Didache recommends, when it is not possible to baptize in water, to pour “water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (VII.3). Note that this ancient writing does not recommend immersing three times, but only practicing a triple effusion. Proponents of triple immersion justify their practice by saying that, according to certain lexicons, baptizô means “to dive repeatedly.” Let us point out that this is not the opinion of all lexicons. The arguments in favor of this practice are very thin.



1. Jesus put an end to all bloodshed for sins

Christian baptism was instituted by Jesus Christ just before his ascension, continuing with the baptism of John and the baptism administered by Jesus’ disciples under the direction of the Lord from the beginning of his public ministry (Jn 1:33; 3:22-23). ; 4.1-2). This was not, however, the first time that God’s people had received signs and seals of the covenant of grace. The Old Testament contains several rituals with water symbolizing the cleansing of sins.

Article 34, however, focuses on comparing Christian baptism with circumcision. We thus affirm the unity of the covenant and the continuity between the Old and New Testaments, while contrasting the two signs of circumcision and baptism. The missionary command to go and make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19) fulfills God’s great promise to Abraham that he would become a source blessings for all nations. “All the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (Gen 12:3; see Rom 4:11-16; Gal 3:8-9). The great plan of redemption that God promised Abraham and developed throughout history has come to fruition in Jesus Christ.

It was the apostle Paul who said: “For Christ is the end of the law, for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10:4). The end of the law does not mean that there is no more law or that Jesus came to abolish the commandments of God. The end (“telos”) means the goal or destination. The law was given with the goal of one day coming to Jesus Christ who freely gives us his righteousness through his complete obedience to all the law. Within this law, ceremonial laws prescribing animal sacrifices and other rituals were repealed (see Article 25). Now that the Lord Jesus has shed his blood for our sins, these ancient sacrifices which announced his death in advance no longer have their reason for being. “And while every priest daily ministers and often offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins, he, having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down at the right hand of God forever, now waiting until his enemies have become his footstool. For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified. Now where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no more offering for sin” (Heb 10:11-14,18).

2. Jesus replaced circumcision with baptism

This allows us to better understand why the Lord Jesus, when ordering us to go to the nations, did not ask to circumcise them, but to baptize them. “He abolished circumcision, which involved the shedding of blood, and he instituted in its place the sacrament of baptism” (art. 34). Although circumcision was not itself a sacrifice, the blood shed through the incision in the flesh foreshadowed the blood of Christ that would be shed on the cross. Now that Christ has shed his blood to reconcile us to God, we no longer need to shed blood.

This is why circumcision is now abolished and replaced by the new sign of baptism. The apostles did not impose on converts coming from paganism the rule of being circumcised (Acts 15; Gal 2.3). “For in Christ Jesus it is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision that is of value, but faith working through love” (Ga 5:6).

Even if the sign has changed, the thing signified has not changed. Circumcision and baptism play the same role and attest to the same promises.

Circumcision was the sign and seal of forgiveness of sins and free justification obtained by faith. “Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of righteousness through faith while he was uncircumcised” (Rom 4:9,11). Baptism illustrates and confirms the same promise. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Circumcision represented the putting away of the old sinful nature and confirmed the promise of the changing of the heart by the power of the Spirit.

 “The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live. » (Dt 30.6).

Baptism represents and confirms the same promise.

 “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also might walk in newness of life. » (Rom 6.3-4).

Jesus not only abolished circumcision, he fulfilled its meaning.

 “And in him you were circumcised with a circumcision not made by hands, but with the circumcision of Christ, which is in the putting off of the body of the flesh: having been buried with him by the baptism, you also have been raised in him and with him, through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. » (Col 2.11-12).

This text clearly shows that, through the work of Christ on the cross and through the action of his Spirit in our hearts, we have the full richness of what circumcision meant. All this wealth that we receive from Jesus Christ is now represented and confirmed to us by our baptism. Thus, the sacraments of the New Testament communicate to us a greater and richer comfort than the sacraments of the Old Testament. When a baptism is celebrated in Church, we can rejoice in that all has been accomplished on the cross and in all that the Lord promises to accomplish in our hearts through his Spirit.

3. Jesus receives us into his Church through baptism

When God made a covenant with Abraham, he required that circumcision be practiced as a sign of membership in the covenant people.

This is my covenant, which you shall keep between me and you, and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. You will circumcise yourself; and it will be a sign of alliance between me and you. An uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be destroyed from among his people: he will have violated my covenant. » (Gen 17.10-11,14).

“A foreigner who wanted to be part of God’s people also had to be circumcised to enter (Ex 12:48).

Baptism is the new mark of belonging to the Lord and his people. “Through baptism we are received into the Church of God” (art. 34). In his goodness, the Lord was kind enough to welcome us officially into his Church by means of this visible sign. Hence the Lord’s command to make disciples of all nations and baptize them. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16). God now requires that baptism be practiced as a sign of membership in the new covenant people.

4. Baptism calls us to consecrate ourselves to God

At the same time, through baptism, we are “separated from all other peoples and false religions, so that we may be entirely consecrated to God, bearing his mark and emblem” (art. 34). We should rejoice that the beautiful name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has been placed upon us, with the promises that go with it. At the same time, serious obligations arise from this. Through baptism, the Lord sets us apart so that we live differently from all other peoples and all false religions, so that our lives are consecrated to God and that we are truly seen to be his people at his service. , he who promised to be our God. “Baptism serves as our testimony, attesting that he will be our God and our benevolent Father forever” (art. 34).

Let us understand that baptism does not serve as a testimony of our personal faith, as many think, but serves as a testimony of God’s commitment to his people. He made a firm commitment to be our God. “I will walk among you, to be your God and that you may be my people” (Lev 26:12). It follows that God calls us to be holy and to devote ourselves entirely to him. He who promised to be our Father who will provide for our needs, to forgive our sins through the blood of his Son and to lead us into new life through his Holy Spirit, he calls us to live for him, in faith and daily repentance and in a life of new obedience. We who bear the emblem of belonging to our God, we are called to experience all the richness of it.


May 22, 337, Constantine receives baptism and dies

Ill, exhausted by a turbulent reign, the Roman Emperor Constantine I expired on Sunday May 22, 337, the day of Christian Pentecost. He is about sixty years old.

He died at Ancyrona, in the suburbs of Nicomedia (today Izmit, south of the Sea of ​​Marmara), while he tried to hastily return to his capital, Constantinople.

Before breathing his last, Constantine had time to receive baptism from the hands of Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.

His conversion and his action in favor of the Church earned him veneration as a saint by Orthodox Christians… although he did not exhibit the most virtuous behavior throughout his life. His mother Hélène, a sincere Christian who prayed for her son’s conversion, is also among the saints.

A sincere devotion but limited by politics

From his young years, Constantine was torn between the new religion inherited from his mother and the cult, very fashionable at his time, of Sol invictus (the unconquered Sun), which initiated an evolution from pagan polytheism towards monotheism in the Hebrew or Christian way.

Constantine is not, however, a model of evangelical goodness. He distinguishes between private conscience and public action. Thus he undoubtedly had his father-in-law, the ex-emperor Maximian Hercules, executed, but also his own son, his wife Fausta, his brother-in-law Licinius…

In power, he surrounded himself with Christians, including his hagiographer Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, a city in Palestine, who delivered his panegyric (public eulogy) on the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of his accession to power, July 25, 306.

He also meddled very actively in Church affairs and convened an ecumenical (universal) council at Nicaea to overcome differences between supporters of Arius and supporters of Athanasius of Alexandria on the subtle question of the divinity of Christ.

Curiously, forgetting his previous decisions in favor of the doctrinal unity of Christianity, the emperor gave in at the end of his life to the arguments of an Arian bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia, the same one who baptized him on his deathbed. . He puts Arianism back in the saddle, condemned by the Council of Nicaea. Heresy was not definitively eliminated until the following century, in 451, during the Council of Chalcedon.

Following the custom then in vogue among Christians, he waited until his death was imminent to receive baptism, which ensured the remission of his (many) previous sins. › 22_mai_337-evenement-337…


Water baptism is perhaps the most well-known type of baptism. It is the physical act of immersion or sprinkling with water, symbolizing a person’s decision to follow Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that water baptism is the outward expression of an inner change that has taken place in a person’s heart. When we are baptized in water, we publicly declare that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and have turned from our old ways.

One of the most notable examples of water baptism in the Bible is the baptism of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 3:13-17 we read that Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized. Although John initially refused to baptize Jesus, Jesus insisted, saying it was necessary to “fulfill all righteousness.” After Jesus’ baptism, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. The voice of God also spoke from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Water baptism is a crucial step in a Christian’s life because it symbolizes his or her commitment to following Jesus Christ. This is not a requirement for salvation, but it is a commandment from Jesus Christ that we must follow.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus told his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This commandment still applies to Christians today, and we are encouraged to obey it as an act of faith and obedience to God.

What is baptism by immersion?

Religious baptism follows a precise ritual. Like that of Jesus and the first Christians, this first sacrament was carried out by immersion: according to Matthew, chapter 3, verses 13 to 17, John probably immersed the entire body of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, before to get it out of the water.

Today, baptism by immersion refers to the conversion of the person: after having confessed their faith, they are baptized as a sign of God’s forgiveness in order to get rid of their faults and sins and begin a new life. Since this gesture of immersion is the only one mentioned in the Bible, many churches consider it to be the only valid practice.

What is a baptism by sprinkling?

Baptism by sprinkling involves pouring a little water over the head of the person being baptized. A gesture which further symbolizes the grace of God, assimilating it to a blessing intended to give life, open one’s heart and arouse faith. A gesture which is no less inscribed in the teachings of Christian practice: the Didachè, written at the end of the 1st and the beginning of the 2nd century already evokes the possibility of having several forms (immersion, but also sprinkling).

These words appear in chapter VI, verses 1-2: “baptize thus: after having proclaimed all the above, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit with living (running) water.” But if you do not have living water, baptize in other water; if you cannot (baptize) in cold water, let it be in hot water. If you have neither (in sufficient quantity [for total immersion]), pour water on your head three times in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. »

 Today, the meaning of this event ​​whether by immersion or not is the same whether the baptized person is immersed in water (complete immersion) or whether he only receives a little water on his head.


Holy Spirit baptism is a type of baptism that is often less understood than water baptism. It is not a physical act like water baptism, but rather a spiritual experience. In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift which my Father has promised, of which you have heard me speak. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 2:1-4 we read that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles in tongues of fire. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. This event marked the beginning of the Church and gave the apostles the power to spread the message of the Gospel throughout the world.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a spiritual experience that enables believers to live a life pleasing to God. It is a gift from God that helps believers grow in their relationship with Him and be effective witnesses for Christ. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing experience that can be renewed and strengthened as we seek God.


In conclusion, baptism is an important event in the life of a Christian. The Bible describes three types of baptism: baptism in water, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and baptism into the body of Christ. Each type of baptism has its own unique meaning and plays an important role in a believer’s spiritual journey.

Water baptism is a public declaration of faith and a symbol of a person’s decision to follow Jesus Christ. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a spiritual experience that enables believers to live a life pleasing to God. Baptism into the body of Christ represents our union with Christ and our inclusion in His body, the Church. All three types of baptism are essential for believers to fulfill their calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we are called to obey God’s command to be baptized in water, to seek baptism in the Holy Spirit, and to recognize and embrace our baptism into the body of Christ. May we continue to grow in our understanding of these different types of baptism and may we be encouraged to live lives that reflect the love and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


K Barth (2006), The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism

E Ferguson (2009) Baptism in the early church: history, theology, and liturgy in the first five centuries

A Schmemann (1974) Of water and the spirit: A liturgical study of baptism

V. Manning (2023) Baptism, THE VARIATIONS OF BAPTISM. Baptism is a ritualistic ceremony that is performed for the sake of signifying an open expression of whom it is that one …

SJ Wellum (2006), Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant

  1. F. BARAWIGIRIRA (2023) An Introduction to Systematic Theology: systematic theology in light of Christian faith.

Rev.BARAWIGIRIRA Aime F.Lecturer of Systemic Theology

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