Baptism... Christening... Dedication... What’s the Difference?
What's the difference between a Baptism, Christening or Baby Dedication? If you've ever been invited to such an event it can be easy to confuse what is actually meant by each of these terms. If you are a parent planning one of these ceremonies, or an adult considering baptism, I would encourage you to read what the Bible says about baptism, it’s purpose and how and when baptism should be performed . Too often we are guilty of following traditions and rituals without really understanding them and therefore losing the meaning and true experience of the occasion.
Let’s begin by looking at the definitions of these three terms from www.dictionary.reference.com:
Bap·tism –noun 1. Ecclesiastical . a ceremonial immersion in water, or application of water, as an initiatory rite or sacrament of the Christian church. 2. any similar ceremony or action of initiation, dedication, etc. 3. a trying or purifying experience or initiation.
Chris·ten·ing –noun 1. the ceremony of baptism, especially as accompanied by the giving of a name to a child. 2. a public ceremony in which a new ship is formally named and launched. 3. an act or instance of naming or dedicating something new.
Ded·i·ca·tion –noun 1. the act of dedicating. 2. the state of being dedicated 3. a formal, printed inscription in a book, piece of music, etc., dedicating it to a person, cause, or the like. 4. a personal, handwritten inscription in or on a work, as by an author to a friend. 5. a ceremony marking the official completion or opening of a public building, institution, monument, etc.
While today, the words Christening and Baptism are often used to mean the same thing, historically speaking Christening and Baptism were once two different things. A Christening referred to the child being given a Christian name while a baptism was usually held for older children or adults and involved fully submersing the body in water. Today both terms are used interchangeably and of course variations exist across different faiths.
A Baby Dedication is a ceremony in which parents, family members, as well as the church body, make a commitment before the Lord to submit a child to God's will and to raise that child according to and in God's Word. Once the child/adult is old enough to make this decision for him or herself, he or she would then be baptised (making a public declaration through the ceremony of baptism of his or her decision to follow Christ).
Below you can find further explanation and scripture taken from www.wordoftruthradio.com explaining the purpose of baptism.
In Romans, Chapter 6, we are given a good explanation of baptism. In order to get the context, let's begin in verse 1, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus 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 should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection" (Romans 6:1-5).
In other words, baptism is an outward symbol of an inner change and transformation that is supposed to take place beforehand. It's very important to emphasize the fact that this can only be accomplished through the power and strength of Jesus! It's not that we have to completely overcome sin before we can be baptized, but we need to repent of our past sins (Acts 2:38).
How Important is Baptism?
It's essential to understand that baptism does not guarantee anyone a trip to heaven. Salvation comes only through the death and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and there's nothing we can do to earn it.
Now let's look at what Jesus said about this subject:
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16)
From this statement, we see that Baptism is very important to Jesus, which means that it should be just as important for all of His followers today. If we believe in Jesus, then we should take part in baptism. Jesus is our example (1 John 2:6) and He was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17), which means that we should follow His leading in this matter.
We know that baptism means a lot to Christ, especially since He emphasized it's importance in His closing words here on earth: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:19-20)
In Acts 2:37-38, the people who wanted to be right with God asked this question "What shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." So we see that everyone who wants to give their heart to Jesus and please Him will follow through with God's plan of baptism.
In Acts 8:12 and Acts 16:30-33, we find again that baptism follows conversion and acceptance of Jesus. (See also Acts 8:35-38 and Acts 22:10-16)
Necessary for Salvation?
But do you have to be baptized to be saved? The Bible is clear: Christians should be baptized. It's not something we do in order to be saved, but it's something we do because we are saved. We can't earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:21), but if someone knows what the Bible says about baptism and how important it is to God, then they certainly will want to be baptized. Otherwise, if they deliberately disobey the Lord in a major matter such as baptism, then are they really a "born again" Christian? (Remember that those that have accepted Jesus and love Him will want to obey Him; see Hebrews 5:9, John 14:15, Ephesians 2:10, 1 John 3:18)
This is a very difficult question because of the simple fact that we are not God and we don't decide who gets into heaven and who doesn't. God is the great Judge and He knows everyone's heart and intentions.
But we need to keep in mind that there will probably be people in heaven that were never baptized because they didn't have the opportunity or they didn't know any better. The Bible never mentions the thief on the cross getting baptized, yet Jesus promised Him eternal life (Luke 23:39-43).
Oftentimes, the outward act of baptism is emphasized, but it's the inward change that we truly need to focus on. The Bible clearly states that we are saved "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which is shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 5:6) This "washing" is what baptism represents, but it's only Jesus who can wash us. Our own actions simply cannot bring us salvation. But if we are walking with God and seeking to do His will, then why wouldn't we want to be baptized? 1 Peter 3:21 tells us that baptism is "an answer of a good conscience towards God" which means that it's what God wants us to do since it's one of the important steps we take in the Christian walk.