The Baptismal Service

The Baptismal Service--Tips for Added Dignity

THE spiritual significance of baptism is clearly stated in Gal. 3:27: "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." We further learn that baptism is a symbol of death to our old way of life. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

-Youth Director, Trans-Commonwealth Union Conference, at the time this article was written

THE spiritual significance of baptism is clearly stated in Gal. 3:27: "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." We further learn that baptism is a symbol of death to our old way of life. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3, 4).

As Christians submit to the solemn rite of baptism, He registers the vow that they make to be true to Him. This vow is their oath of allegiance. They are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus they are united with the three great powers of heaven. They pledge themselves to renounce the world and to observe the laws of the kingdom of God. Henceforth they are to walk in newness of life. No longer are they to follow the traditions of men. No longer are they to follow dishonest methods. They are to obey the statutes of the kingdom of heaven. They are to seek God's honor. If they will be true to their vow, they will be furnished with grace and power that will enable them to fulfill all righteousness. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name."—Evangelism, p. 307.

How Not to Do It

Detailed preparation for the baptismal service is essential. Far too often we witness slipshod last-minute arrangements that are an insult to God, the candidates, and the congregation. How often we have observed something like the following: The congregation assembles; at the last minute an individual is asked to conduct a ten-minute song service. The ten minutes then drag on for twenty to thirty minutes. With inadequate seating and insufficient ushers, last-minute seating arrangements intrude upon the song service. The plat form personnel appear ten minutes late.

At this stage the program may move along quite smoothly until the candidates retire behind the curtain prior to the actual baptismal service. Here we often witness another unfortunate delay while the preacher changes his suit.

The song service recommences, and between baptisms of the candidates some times a verse and chorus are sung, some times two verses and two choruses, and sometimes the congregation is brought to a calamitous stop midway through a hymn. An uncoordinated organ grinds to a pathetic halt seconds later.

In certain instances congregations have been horrified as they witness the violent manner in which the candidate is thrown back into the water. On other occasions, following the baptism the congregation awaits the return of the candidates for acceptance into church fellowship.

In vivid contrast to the above pattern, Ellen G. White states: "Everything connected with this holy ordinance should reveal as perfect a preparation as possible." —Evangelism, p. 315. Commenting on a baptism in Oakland, she reports: "The entire service was impressive. There was no confusion."—Ibid.

A Suggestive Arrangement

The following is a suggested format for the baptismal service:

1. All decorations and seating arrangements in readiness prior to the arrival of the congregation.

2. A five- to ten-minute organ prelude, followed by a welcome and a fifteen-minute (maximum) song service, commencing strictly at the announced time.

3. At the conclusion of the song service announcement by the song leader the imminent entry of the ministers, which should bring the congregation to silence and allow the organist to give dignity to the occasion by playing softly an appropriate invitation to worship.

4. Standing hymn, prayer, special item, address (15 minutes).

5. Immediately after the address the officiating minister takes up his position in the font with the first candidate (a long break here is unfortunate and unnecessary).

If the pastor who conducted the ad dress is to act as the official minister, he moves immediately into the font without retiring to a change room.

My personal preference is that the baptism continue without congregational singing. A soft organ background be tween the baptism of candidates maintains a worshipful atmosphere. When a large group is being baptized, this plan saves considerable time. A benediction is all that is necessary to conclude this important service.


A baptismal service can be successful only if adequate planning and preparation are made. All church officers participating in the service should be briefed on their individual responsibilities.


Expert architectural advice should be sought for design of any fonts in future Seventh-day Adventist churches. We could learn much from our Baptist friends. If the church is large enough, make the font an integral part of the church plan. It is not necessary to conceal it under the plat form. However, it should be at a level designed to permit the congregation to ob serve the service without difficulty. Although a moving curtain enables candidates to enter and leave the font unobserved, the continual movement can be come most annoying. A very successful method is to have a fixed curtain at the rear of the font and just to the front of the steps. This screening enables the candidate to come down the steps unobserved and return likewise, also with this arrangement the second candidate can be waiting be hind the curtain.

Physical Procedures of Baptism

1. The pastor stands close to the side of the candidate.

2. The candidate stands at the front of the font.

3. On pronouncing the blessing of the Trinity the minister should have his up raised hand above the candidate's head, and the candidate's hand should be holding the minister's other hand or arm. This arrangement gives confidence to the candidate.

4. The minister unhurriedly lowers the candidate into the water, making sure that the candidate is completely submerged momentarily.

5. A small towel conveniently placed can be used by the minister, deacon, or candidate to dry the candidate's face. This plan is most convenient in the case of two or more members of a family participating in the ordinance.

The above procedures should be made known to the participating group before the service.

Accepting Candidates

Acceptance of candidates by vote of the church should immediately precede the service. (See Church Manual, p. 61.)

There should be nothing shabby or unseemly, for this is an offense to God. Everything connected with this holy ordinance should reveal as perfect a preparation as possible.— Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 98.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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-Youth Director, Trans-Commonwealth Union Conference, at the time this article was written

June 1972

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