Article 27 goes on to explain how baptism is a God-given sign of the new birth that is made possible because of the saving work of the Lord Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit: 'as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.'

Just as the Lord's Supper must be received with faith and repentance if it is to be a genuine assurance of our relationship with God, so baptism is only 'an instrument' of salvation if it is rightly received. The vertical dimension of baptism is God's offer of the benefits of the gospel in symbolic form, to invite and confirm saving faith.

Consequently, in the Prayer Book services there is a great emphasis on congregational prayer for the persons being baptized.

The opening exhortation expresses the need to pray for their regeneration by the Holy Spirit and a genuine participation in Christ's Church. In the conservative revision in An Australian Prayer Book (1978), the invitation is:

Let us then pray that God will grant to this person that which by nature he cannot have, that he may be baptized with water and the Holy Spirit, and received into Christ's holy Church, and be made a living member of his body.

Various prayers then take up this challenge, adding the perspective that the candidates may be washed clean from sin and delivered from its power. Thus, the water of baptism is taken to represent the washing of forgiveness and the new life of the Spirit. The congregation is invited to give thanks to God for calling them to know his grace and have faith in him. God is asked to 'increase this knowledge and confirm this faith in us evermore', and to give his Holy Spirit to those seeking baptism, 'that they may be born again, and be made heirs of everlasting salvation'.

Just before the baptism, there is a prayer asking God to 'sanctify this water to the mystical washing away of sin', so that those baptized therein may receive the fullness of God's grace and ever remain in the number of his faithful and elect children. This can best be understood by comparison with the Prayer of Consecration in the Communion Service:

  • There, the bread and wine are set apart or consecrated for a special use with words recalling what Jesus said at the Last Supper. 
  • Here, the water is set apart to represent the washing from sin and regeneration by the Spirit that Jesus associated with the making of disciples (Matthew 28:19-20; John 3:1-8; Titus 3:5). 
A change is indicated in the use and purpose of the thing consecrated, not in the thing itself. 'Mystical' in this context means 'spiritual' or 'transcending human comprehension', not 'magical'.

 

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