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What do Anglicans Believe about Holy Baptism?

By |2018-09-05T17:56:47+00:00March 13th, 2013|Categories: Anglican Life|Tags: |7 Comments

All Christians, and not just Anglicans, should trust their baptism. That is, if they believe that Baptism is something God does in and for us, and not something we do. And that is exactly how the early Church and the Reformers saw this sacrament!

God brings people to the water of baptism. He sends his Holy Spirit into their lives through the waters of baptism.  Christ is the one who baptizes. The recipients should receive baptism as from Christ himself. The one who baptizes is baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and not in his own name.

This “baptismal formula” which invokes the name of the Holy Trinity was given to the Apostles by Christ, and makes it very clear from the beginning of the Church that baptism is no mere ceremony. It is God working in his people to add a new member to Christ’s Body.

Article 27 (XXVII)

Anglicans attempt to hold on to the teachings of the early Church and the Reformers in their views on Holy Baptism. Article 27 (XXVII) of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion explains it this way (I’ve altered the formatting with a bulleted list):

Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument,

  • they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church;
  • the promises of the 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.

The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

Baptism is, in the Church, accepted as the initiation into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  It is the actual instrument (or means) God uses to bring people into the Body of Christ.

Biblical Support

Paul writes this in his letter to the Colossians:

having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

To the Romans, Paul explained that baptism is how we are buried with Christ:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Jesus says that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven “through water and the spirit.”

St Peter expands on this, preaching a baptism for the forgiveness of sin, which gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit:

Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 2:38)

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ… (I Peter 3:21)

Because of this, our liturgy of Baptism mentions regeneration, adoption as sons of God, new birth, and the sign and seal of the Holy Spirit.

The Church was given baptism as the way in which Christ commanded us to bring in new Christians. Therefore, Anglicans accept a baptized person as a Christian and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Potential Confusion

This can be confusing, in that it sounds as if Anglicans believe that the act of Baptism gives the Church or the priest the power to save people. And yet Anglicans believe with the rest of the Christian Church that only God saves.

It can seem as if this church believes that the water of baptism is magical salvation water, which if poured, provides a kind of “fire insurance” for salvation in which the baptized now have a claim on God’s grace that he is forced to honor. That’s where the last line in Article XXVII comes into play.

In Baptism, faith is not created, it is confirmed. In baptism, grace is not created, but increased by prayer. This demonstrates that while we, the Church, are to welcome new Christians through baptism, and to treat baptized people as Christians, even to associate regeneration and forgiveness with it, we do so while at the same time leaving the origin or presence of faith and grace in God’s hands.

When we baptize, we trust in the mercy and grace of God and his promise of forgiveness of sins.

“Born Again” vs. “Conversion”

One way to understand this is to separate being “born again” and receiving the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins from “conversion.”  Conversion of heart is a highly personal experience that is real and important.  Conversion may be a one-time moment or a lifetime of conversions.

Baptism does not necessarily convert our hearts and minds to Christ. We are called to seek the Holy Spirit. Some evangelicals hear our baptismal rite, and think we are suggesting that there is no need for personal conversion, because many evangelicals associate the term “born again” with personal conversion.

However, in order to be as biblical as possible, we believe that it is at baptism that a person is born again. Yet we believe that personal conversion is also a work of God that we are to seek after and find by his grace.

The Theology behind Baptism

The theology behind baptism supports this nuanced but simple view of baptism. The Anglican view is Reformational in the assertion that the foundation of baptism is the New Covenant that God has established with his people through Christ.

Paul tells us that this is a covenant of grace, a freely given, and unmerited gift of God to man in which God assures us that he has provided for our salvation and will apply that salvation to those who have faith in Christ. He gives the gift of faith, turning hearts toward himself.

In order to provide an objective, shared, and powerfully significant assurance of this reality, God gives us a sign, which is the water of baptism. Paul tells us that this sign parallels the sign of the Old Covenant with Israel, circumcision (Colossians 2:11-13). Just as the Hebrew baby boys were circumcised, so new Christians are baptized.

This theology explains why baptism is effectual in bringing about what it signifies, but not by the power or will of the person or community, rather by the sure grace of God in Christ.

In Baptism, the believer is to trust that God has given him the sign and seal of the Holy Spirit, has forgiven him, has assured him of his love. God has stamped his name upon his life. He has marked the believer as his own, and publicly confirmed faith. We are bound by our baptism as his servants, his people, his friends. We are given this grace, we do not take it upon ourselves.

So baptism is a comfort to the people of God. It is the assurance, and objective surety, that God has expressed his love through his new covenant. We are to trust in our baptism, to believe that God gave it to us, and to renew our faith in him often.

Want to Learn More?

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Greg is the founder of Anglican Pastor. He is an Anglican Priest of the Anglican Church in North America. He served in a non-denominational church before being called into the Anglican church in 2003. He has served as an Associate Pastor, Parish Administrator, and Rector. He currently serves as the Canon to the Ordinary for the Anglican Diocese of the South.


  1. Rob October 4, 2015 at 1:15 am - Reply

    What of those who have weak faith? Is their baptism valid? I was baptized in 1988, but at the time I was in great turmoil, and was more afraid of God than trusting him. Lately though, I’ve been reading a lot of Lutheran theology, and have found great comfort in the thought that God may have really given me forgiveness and salvation and I can rest in it.

    • Greg Goebel October 6, 2015 at 9:46 am - Reply

      Hey Rob,

      Great question. I think you are on to something there. You may have had many motivations, but God was the one that claimed you, and cleansed you that day. You can re-affirm your baptism now, confessing your faith and rest in the knowledge that God foreknew and went before you. Like the man who said to Jesus, “I believe, but help me with my unbelief!” Blessings to you.

  2. Rob October 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your reply!

  3. Zach May 15, 2016 at 1:20 am - Reply

    Even in lacking understanding or being unsure about receiving baptism, efficacy isn’t hindered? I feel like I’m in the same boat as Rob lol.
    I’m glad i did but I’ve felt a bit of guilt about it because I’m not sure if my “faith” or “belief” was genuine at the time of my baptism. I was 12 and i believed in God and Jesus Christ, but I really came to faith in Jesus at 19 or 20. Later on, coming to the Anglican tradition, I feel like I’ve developed serious train of thought on the sacraments too.
    All of this has been consuming me on and off lately lol. Have I been wrong in partaking of the holy communion and being confirmed having this over me on and off?
    What does the line in Article XXVII mean by “receiving baptism rightly?”

    • Greg Goebel May 15, 2016 at 7:41 am - Reply

      Hey Zach. Yes God brought you there for a reason. He brought you to your baptism and then later to your conversion. And so both are valid and important, regardless of your awareness of that at he time. But you might want to publicly renew your baptism vows. This is a way to reaffirm your baptism now that you realize how important it was. Blessings to you

  4. Zach June 23, 2016 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Rev. Greg, I appreciate your response. Another question raises, quite recently. I remember my baptism, otherwise vividly, but I can’t remember if the trinitarian form was verbalized prior to being immersed. I was raised Baptist (SBC) and my baptism wasn’t at my home church at the time so I can’t exactly refer to it; and it was administered I’m guessing by a staff member of that church. I already asked if they had my name in their baptismal records when I was going through Confirmation. I am aware that Baptists normally do use the trinitarian formula as written in Matt. 28:18-20 for baptisms and I’m rather confident that mine was. Would you consider it a matter to concern much? I ask because of my reading in to sacramental theology. Better understanding that God’s Word with the elements make the sacraments as such. Thank you.

    *If I may, I also wanna say I appreciate the work you put in this blog as well as that of others involved. “Anglican Pastor” has been a great learning tool for me in the Anglican tradition and the Christian faith at large. God bless.

    • Greg Goebel June 23, 2016 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      Thank you Zach. Love it that this site has been of help!

      I think that since Baptists baptize in the Trinity, the intention was there surely and you can rest assured that you were truly baptized. However if your conscience is bothered you could ask for what is called a “conditional” baptism. This is where the priest says “if you were not already baptized, I baptize you in the name of…” But again, the church you were baptized in and the fact that you don’t remember anyone expressly teaching against Trinitarian baptism there is assuring. I hope that helps!

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