Immersion in or sprinkling with water as a religious rite of initiation. It was practised long before the beginning of Christianity. In Christian infant baptism, the ceremony welcomes the child into the church community. Sponsors or godparents make vows on behalf of the child, which are renewed by the child at confirmation; some denominations only practise baptism of believers, performed in adulthood when its significance may be understood. Baptism is one of the seven sacraments. The Amrit Sanskar ceremony in Sikhism is sometimes referred to as baptism.
Baptism was universal in the Christian church from the first days, being administered to adults by immersion. The baptism of infants was not practised until the 2nd century, but became general in the 6th. Some Christians believe that baptism also cleanses the child of original sin. Baptism by sprinkling (christening) when the child is named is now widely used among Christians. The Eastern Orthodox Church practises immersion, and both Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics also make the sign of the cross on the child's forehead with oil.
Some Protestant denominations, including the Baptist and United Reformed churches, baptize believers by complete immersion, usually in a baptistery. They argue that baptism involves a personal commitment to the church, and so infant baptism is meaningless. Baptism is preceded by instruction in the beliefs of Christianity.
Baptism is the second sacrament. Baptism represents the visible sign of the beginning of a new life, and is the rite of initiation by which people enter the church. The water used symbolizes the removal of sin, the death of the old life, and the beginning of a new life with God.
Jesus was baptized as a symbol of the spiritual acceptance of God's will for him. He instructed his disciples to baptize in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19–20).
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