Before making any serious commitment—to marry, to accept a responsible office, to practice healthier living—a person considers the meaning and consequences of that choice. Often, he or she undergoes a public ceremony to acknowledge the momentous personal decision. For Brethren, the ordinance of “believers baptism” marks just such a deliberate, thoughtful commitment.
Choosing to follow the example of Jesus begins with repenting, or humbly re-examining one’s relationship with God. Jesus himself showed us the way: He asked to be baptized by John, and he instructed his disciples to baptize others who wanted to be symbolically “reborn” through God’s grace, into a new life of mature belief and service.
Three hundred years ago, the first Brethren chose adult baptism as their ceremonial response to God’s saving act—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today, in the presence of the congregation, a newly committed person kneels in the water of the baptistry, publicly acknowledges his or her decision, and is immersed three times forward, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Through this symbolic cleansing and rebirth, the person becomes a full member of the Brethren congregation and of the larger body of Christ. The decision to be baptized indicates a willingness to take on both the joy and the responsibility of living Jesus’ teachings.