Christ's Baptism

Let us pray (in silence) [that we may grow into the calling of Christ]


Almighty God,
you anointed Jesus at his baptism
with the Holy Spirit,
and revealed him as your beloved Son;
grant that we who are baptised into his name
may give up our lives to your service,
and be found worthy of our calling;

through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

NZPB The Baptism of the Lord p. 561

A Roman Catholic bishop asked an Anglican bishop if the rumour was true that some Anglican clergy were baptising "in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Giver of life" - and if so, they would not be able to accept such a baptism as valid.

Whilst in the chaos (diversity?) of contemporary Anglican practice I do not believe anyone could assure the bishop that this has never happened, and while, when my advice has been sought (as it has) I have (for the very reason of not wanting to put at risk painfully-achieved ecumenical agreement) always advocated staying with a baptismal formula of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". Nonetheless, if this is the requirement for validity, then many early church baptisms were invalid.

Our early liturgies ask the candidate, "Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?" and upon the candidate saying, "I do", immersing them once. Then the next question of what we now refer to as the Apostles' Creed, again "I do" again immersed. And finally the question of belief in the Holy Spirit and immersion upon the affirmation.

When we do something "in the name of someone" we do it on his or her behalf. We baptise on behalf of God - in God's name.

Selectively biblically literal communities seeking a verbal formula for baptism in the scriptures find baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19), in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5) and in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Failing to see my above point, and seeking to be faithful to their understanding of the scriptures (which note, never mentions baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ") they baptise "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; even in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." They then go on to a complex theologisation relating "Lord" to "Father", "Jesus" to "Son", and "Christ" to "Holy Spirit".

The collect reminds us of another understanding of "in the name of". As well as being on behalf of, "name" in the scriptural world is often associated with "nature". We are baptised, immersed, into the nature of Christ.

No little sprinkling and quick wiping, however valid, adequately symbolically expresses this profound reality. Generous pouring, immersion (in), or submersion (under) is needed.

As in all sacraments, what is true in Christ, and true for all, is now a reality for this one. The vocation and revelation true for Jesus this day at the Jordan, is through our baptism true for me and you. May we give up our lives to God's service and be found worthy of our calling.


The Church of South India in its The Book of Common Worship for the fourth Sunday after Christmas with its theme the baptism of Jesus produced this new collect:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst humble thyself to take the baptism of sinful men, and wast forthwith declared to be the Son of God: Grant that we who have been baptized into thee may rejoice to be the sons of God and servants of all; for thy name's sake, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Church of England Liturgical Commission revised it , adding the reference to the Holy Spirit and addressing it to God the Father. It was revised again by the Revision Committee of CofE's General Synod and again by the NZ Prayer Book Commission which also provided two alternatives addressed to the Holy Spirit. This site holds as much as possible to the great Christian liturgical tradition of addressing central prayers such as the collect and the eucharistic prayer to God, through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
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