June 18, 2008

Baptism Into the Body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:1-20

The body is a unit … For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body …
1 Corinthians 12:12-13


If you want to know the true nature of an organization, look at how it welcomes new members. University fraternities and sororities subject prospective members to elaborate initiation rites. A sports club may require the payment of dues. A nation may require prospective citizens to pass a knowledge test.

Baptism is part of the way the church welcomes its members into the body of Christ. And both baptism and body are thought-provoking scriptural poetic images.

Baptism is a stunning image because it shows that God has called new members to be part of his family and that they have come to faith in Christ. To be baptized into the church, we don’t have to pass a test or pay money. When we join the church through baptism, the focus is not first on us but on the Lord.

The body is a stunning image for the church because the focus isn’t primarily on the church as an institution. The focus, instead, is the on the living, breathing organism that the people of the church form.

Baptism acknowledges that, in Christ, you have become like a cell in the church’s eyes, helping the body to perceive the world clearly; or like a cell in the liver, helping the body to get rid of toxins; or like a cell in the body’s hands, helping the church to serve people in the world who desperately need a meal or an embrace.

Lord, help us to take profound joy in what your body, the church, can do through the work of your Spirit. And may we take up our roles in your body with joy and grace. Amen.

About the author — John D. Witvliet

Dr. John D. Witvliet has served as a professor at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary for the past 11 years, as well as serving as Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He and his wife, Charlotte, have four children.

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