Baptisms in Brazil
John Dyer, a BMS worker in Brazil along with his wife, Maria, tells the story of a baptism, and how it reflects attitudes to the practice in Brazil.
“All of us have been baptised into the one body by the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12: 13).
We had all gathered beside the pool. It was the height of the Brazilian summer, in the last days of December. Eight young people had been prepared for baptism.
Our local church was in a period of interregnum. In the absence of a settled pastor, I was asked to conduct the baptisms, together with a former pastor of the church.
He also happened to be the father of the young man who presided over the church whilst it was without a pastor.
As a family we were also there in strength. In addition to myself, also present were my wife Maria, her mother and our son, João Marcos. Also, the whole church family had come to bear witness to the faith of these young people. First of all, the officiating pastors, then the candidates together, entered the crystal-clear water.
There are differences of opinion in Brazil concerning the celebration of the ordinances, but generally only a pastor can conduct baptisms, or preside at the communion service. This baptism took place at the home of one of the church members, where they have a swimming pool in the front garden. Not all Brazilian pastors agree to baptisms outside the church building, but many do.
In Brazil, the act of baptism and the reception of candidates as church members are the responsibility of the church as a whole. As far as possible, candidates are received into membership of the church at the same service, or at least the same day, with communion.
Believers’ baptism is a distinctive feature of the Baptist way of life, and an important part of its legacy to the world Church. It is one of our founding principles, along with belief in the authority of Scripture and the supremacy of Christ.
Candidates for baptism are also taught about the significance of the rite. The picture which accompanies this piece reflects the symbolism of baptism in terms of death, burial and resurrection to new life with Christ. Brazilian Baptists rule out anything that would appropriate any kind of spiritual benefit as a result of baptism. However, even if the act of baptism is merely symbolic, the fact that it represents obedience to the command of Christ brings blessing to the life of the believer. We shouldn’t throw out the baby with the baptismal water! As a result of the testimony of those eight young people, several others also came to faith in him on that hot summer’s day.
It was important for Jesus to be baptised and it’s important for those who follow him through the waters of baptism. It would be wrong, though, to think of baptism as the final step in obedience to Christ. In fact, it is only the first. But a good start along the road of discipleship will help greatly, as we seek to follow in his steps through the rest of our lives.