Reflections From the Pastor
The Sacrament of Baptism
There are many different understandings of Baptism. It is seen by some as a
means to salvation, to others as an outward act of an inward change, and even as a sign of
God’s initiative in our salvation. Depending on how you understand Baptism you will
either affirm or reject infant Baptism. This is an argument that has taken place now for
over 400 years. I am not going to resolve the issue for you. All I can do in this article is
to give you the position of the Reformed Faith.
The place to begin is with the definition of Baptism. It is derived from the
Greek word “baptizein,” which means, “to be dipped” and is the initiatory rite and Sacrament
of the Christian Church. For Presbyterians, it is a sign of the covenant promises
that we find in Jesus Christ. By this, we mean that nothing magical takes place in the
Sacrament. It has no intrinsic power of its own. It is a sign that points to God’s action in
According to the New Testament (Acts 8:12, 13, 16, 36, and 38), whenever
someone accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior they were Baptized. The thing to remember
is that during the period covered by the New Testament, the Christian community
was just beginning, and there is no record of infants born to new converts. The writers
of the New Testament were more concerned with the spread of the Gospel. However,
we are told that whole families were Baptized (Acts 16:15), now what this actually is
saying can be debated on both sides of the issue.
Through the history of the church, Baptism has been understood in connection
with circumcision. It was only at the Reformation of the 1500’s that a split developed
over this issue. Some strands held fast to infant Baptism and others called for “Believers
In Gen. 17:9-14, God gave circumcision to Abraham as a sign of the Covenant
between God and Abraham. Faith came before the sign, and the sign pointed to the
promise. God commanded Abraham to have every male in his household circumcised.
Moses (Deut. 10:16) explained that circumcision was a sign that Israel was God’s
The difference between circumcision and Baptism is in the external action only.
They are similar in meaning. God gave us Baptism as a sign of his love for us and to the
promise of salvation in Jesus Christ. Circumcision was for the Jews their first entry into
the community of faith. Likewise, through Baptism we are consecrated to God. We believe
children of Christians to be heirs to the covenant as were Jewish children. In I Corinthians
7:13-14, we find that even the unbelieving spouse and the children were consecrated
because of the believing spouse/parent. Therefore, children of these parents are as
children of the Israelites, heirs to the promise.
In Col. 2:11-13, Paul says that we were circumcised in Christ by a circumcision
not made with hands. This he calls the “circumcision of Christ.” He goes on to say that
in Baptism, we were “buried with Christ.” The way Paul is discussing circumcision and
Baptism, one may interpret that the two serve the same purpose, that is, they are signs
pointing to the grace of God.
ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL SPECIAL PROGRAM FOR LENT 2015
A COMPLETE TOUR OF THE ART IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL
During five Sundays, starting February 22
Bob Tracinski has been asked to expand the abbreviated tour of Sistine art he presented at last summer’s Vacation Bible School to include every piece of art in the chapel. Over five Sundays starting on February 22, he will show the artwork and explain its significance in the Adult Sunday School classroom to the left of the Library. Starting at 9:45am, he will speak for about 25 minutes and lead an open discussion for about 20 minutes. These are the topics he will cover.
February 22 - Introduction and Ceiling, Part One
March 1 - Ceiling, Part Two
March 8 - Ceiling, Part Three and South Wall
March 15 - North Wall, Tapestries, and End Walls
March 22 - High-wall portraits and Chapel elections
The Sistine Chapel attracts 25,000 tourists a day who each pay $22 to be rushed through a jam-packed chapel while straining to see the ceiling art 68 feet above them. You can see the art in comfort for free, so plan to attend.
Library Report by Bob Tracinski
Thanks to all those who contribute their books.
Recent Donations to the Library:
GOD’S SECRETARIES: The making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson.
THE MIGHTY ACTS OF GOD by Arnold Rhodes.
LAYMAN BIBLE BOOK COMMENTARY: VOL. 3 – Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
THE WILLIAM BARCLAY DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES (10 books covering Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians).
In addition, several magazines are being donated. They include PT (PRESBYTERIANS TODAY), PO (THE PRESBYTERIAN OUTLOOK), and BAR (BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL REVIEW). I’m told that GOD’S SECRETARIES is a good read, so you’ll have to wait until I finish it. The William Barclay Bible Study Series gets 4.5 out of 5 stars by Christianbook.com. It’s a highly respected series. I found many interesting articles in PO. The Dec. 8, 2014, issue (page 22) talks about why Christians should go out into the community to do good works. The Nov. 10 issue (page 15) reviews a new book titled PREACHING IN HITLER’S SHADOW: Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich. The Sept. 29 issue (page 27) talks about the perception non-churchgoers have about Christian bigotry and narrow-mindedness. The Nov. 2014 PT (page 55) has a good article on evangelism and church growth.
The July/Aug BAR has a rather gruesome article about infant sacrifice at ancient Carthage. Scholars debate whether it’s true or not. This author studied buried teeth in tophets (infant graves) to prove that it is true. The Carthaginians really did it as a religious ritual. The Nov/Dec issue has an article on “Women’s Lives in Ancient Israel.”
You can find these publications and more than 350 books … in the Church Library. ##
Presbyterian Women at South Plains
In February we will be studying Lesson 6 of Reconciling Paul: A Contemporary Study of 2 Corinthians.
Join us to study and consider how we can prepare the way for God’s presence to be made visible in our world.
PW meetings in February:
• PW meeting and Bible study - Monday, February 9, 9:30-11:30am - Kirk Hall
• PW Circle meeting and Bible study - Monday, February 9 , 7-8:30pm - Barbara Shaffer’s home (25 West Lake Forest Drive in Lake Monticello). If you are not a regular attendee and need to be called into the Lake Monticello gate, please let Barbara know (207-4355)
Please note that you do not need to attend each month in order to participate in PW gatherings - we would love for you to join us any month that you can.
May our lives be guided by God’s presence and love,
Barbara Shaffer, Moderator
BITS ‘N PIECES
• Add to your telephone directory member Frances Barnett: 3231 Scottsville Road, Charlottesville 22902 434-295-2778
• Also add friends: Melinda Channell, 2247 Commonwealth Drive, #F, Charlottesville 22901; Ashley Channell, 6001 University Blvd, Box 1440, Moon Township, PA 15108; Brenda Ellyson, 12 Lafayette, Palmyra 22963 589-0766.
• CORRECTION: Henry and Mary Alice Frazier’s home address is 1520 Bremerton Lane.
• Please bring donations of non-perishable food on February 1 to benefit our local food pantries. Monetary donations cheerfully accepted.
New Program for South Plains
Currently sermons are available on the website, www.southplainspc.org, in both printed and audio form. We realize that everyone does not have access to a computer and that the sermon is only part of the service. Beginning September 7, the entire service will be recorded and then transferred to individual CDs. When we have the technology, we will include video using DVDs. The CDs will be made in the office and distributed to those unable to attend services. If you would like to be included on the list of people to receive the CDs, of if you know someone who would like to receive them, please contact the Church office.