• Unit 4:Repentance and Baptism

    Key unit competency:
    By the end of the unit, you will be able to explain the importance of repentance and baptism in spiritual growth.

    4.1 Meaning and importance of baptism and its celebration

    Dramatise how baptism is done in your local church.

    4.1.1 Meaning of baptism


    The term baptism comes from a Greek word ‘baptizein’ which means to dip or to immerse. The act of immersion into water during baptism symbolises burial into Christ’s death. After which the person being baptised symbolically then rises from the dead with him as a new creature (2nd Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15, Romans 6:3-4).

    Baptism was universally administered to Christian converts joining the Early Church. This was in accordance with Jesus’ command that unless a human being is born of water and Spirit, he or she cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Baptism is a condition of entering the Kingdom of God (John 3:5). Baptism is a ceremony accepted by christians.

    4.1.2 Importance of baptism and its celebration
    We have noted that baptism was a requirement for new converts who joined the Early Church. They were immersed in water to show they had become members of the community of believers. This sacrament continues to be important to Christian churches today. So what is the importance of baptism?


    1. It is an external sign to show a change in one’s heart. This is through repentance and readiness to be united with Jesus Christ.
    2. Baptism demonstrates that one has accepted to die and resurrect with Jesus Christ. When one is dipped in water, he or she resurrect with christ.
    3. Baptism is a symbol of cleansing of the soul. Being dipped in water is a sign of purification or cleansing.
    4. Baptism acts as an outward symbol of rebirth. It is a sign of death of the old self. From then on, one is born again. This makes a new beginning n faith.
    5. Baptism make Christians members of the new covenant. It is a symbol of a new relationship between the believer and God. It comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
    6. Baptism is a starting point in searching for God and entering into the community of believers. It is a basic requirement for new believers to join the church.
    7. Baptism bring believers in union with Christ (Romans 6:3). All those who are baptised become one body with Christ.
    8. Baptism is one way of demonstrating submission to Jesus. It makes us his disciples and contributes to the expansion of the Kingdom of God. Jesus commanded his disciples to go to all people and make them his disciples. ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19).

    9. Through baptism one receives the Holy Spirit that guides him or her in Christian life. Baptism opens the believer’s life to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables him or her to get the various gifts of the Holy Spirit.


    10. Baptism is also important because it reflects the reality of the Trinity.
    11. Baptism is important to Christians because it qualifies one to receive other sacraments.

    For example, the sacrament of Holy Communion. Without baptism one cannot receive the above sacrament.


    Fig. 4.4: Jesus sharing the Holy Communion with his disciples

    12. Baptism is important because it makes us accept the suffering of Jesus Christ.
    13. Baptism assures the believers of resurrection when Christ comes again.

    All those who are baptised believe they will resurrect and enter the heavenly Kingdom.

    However, the baptised are challenged to lead a morally right life, that is, by following God’s Commandments to the end in order to be blessed.
    Baptism is equated to circumcision in the Old Testament. Paul refers to Baptism of the spirit. He states that we no longer need physical circumcision but rather circumcision of the heart. Circumcision of the heart was commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Basic requirements before Baptism
    The practice of baptism varies from one church to another. However, there are some common aspects in its celebration of the sacrament. In all churches there are basic requirements for one to meet before they can be baptized.

    These are the requirements that qualify an individual for baptism:

    • One must have received instructions on the nature of Christ and the church.
    • One must have faith and a believing heart.

    This must be based upon one’s sincere determination to do the will of God. Without this determination, the unbeliever cannot obtain true baptism.

    • One must repent as a means of reformation of life. This is because God does not compromise with sinners.

    An individual has to undergo the preparation stage and meet the requirements. Then he or she is ready for baptism. There are different forms of baptismal rite depending on the particular church involved.

    4.2 Different forms of baptismal rite


              Fig. 4.5: Baptism by immersing in water


    There are two forms of baptismal rite. These are:
    1. Immersion in water: This is where one is completely submerged in water. This type of baptism is common among Pentecostal churches and the Seventh Day Adventist.

    2. Pouring of water: This is also called infusion. The one administering baptism pours water on the face or forehead. He or she makes a symbol of the cross as they pour water. This is mainly practised in the Roman Catholic Church.

    These forms of types of baptism use water and the invocation of the Holy Trinity. Only water can be used and no other substance. There are also churches which allow baptism of children. Others insist on baptism of adults only.

    4.2.1 Forms of Baptism in the Bible

    The Bible makes reference to two forms of baptism. One is for repentance (done by John the Baptist) and the other for the Holy Spirit (done in Jesus’ name).
    However, both baptisms are important. Many churches accept these forms of baptism. At the same time they baptise in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    Despite these differences, we should emphasise that baptism is an important rite for Christians as we have already learnt.

    4.3 Effect of Baptism and Penance

    Activity 4.2
    Discuss the effects of baptism.

    The different effects of baptism are signified by physical elements of sacramental rite. Immersion in water signifies death of sinful past and purification. It also signifies change and renewal. Therefore, the two main effects of baptism are purification and new birth in the Holy Spirit.

    Through baptism with water, God accepts us as His own children. After baptism onwards, we are part of the Church of Christ.
    Those who have been baptised promise to do their best to live a good Christian life. They should reject evil.

    The sacrament symbolically washes our original sin, the evil that we inherited from our ancestors.
    The sins that were committed before the person was baptised are washed away.

    From that moment of baptism the Holy Spirit helps us to live as believers.
    Baptism makes the baptised to participate in the divine life of the Holy Trinity. They participate through sanctifying grace and the grace of purification. This brings one to Christ.

    It gives one a share in the priesthood of Christ . It also provides the basis for communion with all Christians.
    A baptised person belongs forever to Christ. He or she is marked with the indelible mark. They should therefore strive to overcome challenges in life that may weaken their faith in God.

    The other effects of baptism are:
    Forgiveness of sins: Baptism symbolises that all sins, original and other personal sins, are forgiven.

    A new creature: Baptism makes the one who is baptised an adopted child of God. The new creature has become a partaker of divine nature. Their bodies become temple of the Holy Spirit (1st Corinthians 6:19).

    Sacramental bond of unity of Christians: Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians. They are incorporated into Christ.

    A permanent spiritual mark
    Baptism seals a Christian with a mark that he or she belongs to Christ. No sin can erase this mark. Baptism is only done once to an individual.
    For Catholics, baptism can be given to children on the basis of the faith of their parents. To other Christians, it is for those who have attained the age of independent reasoning. It is also given to adults who are fully prepared for this sacrament.

    Who baptizes?
    Christ himself chose the apostles and gave them a share in his mission and authority.
    In modern Christianity, pastors and priests administer the sacrament of baptism. In case of approching death, anyone can baptise (for Catholics).

    4.4 Sins and their spiritual consequences

    What do you understand by the word sin? Can you give examples of sins that people commit?

    Sin is violation of God’s or religious laws like commandments. It is caused by human weakness and failure to understand and obey God’s will. Adam and Eve sinned against God when they disobeyed His instructions.

    The consequences of sin are bad. Do you remember the consequences of sin after the sin of Adam and Eve? They were punished. The Israelites were also punished by God many times when they disobeyed God’s commandments. They were attacked by their enemies. They suffered from disasters such as drought and famine.

    The following is an outline of the consequences of sin:

    • When one commits sin the relationship between him or her and others is damaged.
    • Sin takes away joy from human beings as well as happiness, peace, freedom and harmony.
    • Sin brings about physical, psychological, mental and spiritual suffering.
    • When one sins he or she loses the love and trust of God.
    • Sin leads to guilt and shame even though it may have been committed in secrecy.
    • Sin brings lack of confidence in oneself.
    • Sin makes people defenceless and helpless. More often than not when one commits sin he or she shifts their mistakes onto other secondary causes. They blame other people or other factors.
    • As a result of the original sin, humankind was sent away from the Garden of Eden.
    • This means loss of favours from God (Genesis 3: 23-24). Normally after sin, selfishness follows.
    • Sin is a sign of disobedience to God. It is also a desire to act independently or refusal to follow God’s commandments. It breaks one’s relationship with God.
    • Sin leads to jealousy, hatred, envy, greed, coveting and enmity. These are common with sinful humankind today.
    • It is also indicated in Genesis 3, that after sin the punishment was death. This has not changed upto today.
    We can see that sin leads to suffering. We suffer mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We also suffer physically. But through repentance we can receive salvation. We can be forgiven by our Lord Jesus Christ.

    4.4.1 Meaning and importance of repentance and its celebration Meaning of repentance

    Repentance is the action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for doing wrong. It is a change of heart. Repentance involves public confession of sins. Penitence is a sacrament of the new law that instituted was by Christ. In this law, forgiveness of sins after baptism is granted through a priest’s absolution. It is given to those who with true sorrow confess their sins.

    It is called a sacrament not simply a function or a ceremony. This is because it is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impact grace to the soul.

    The sacrament of penance
    Penance is an act which shows that you regret about something that you have done.
    This sacrament has many names:

    Sacrament of conversion: It makes present Jesus’ call to conversion. It is the first step in returning to the Father (Mark 1:15, Luke 15:18).
    Sacrament of penance: It constitutes the Christian sinner’s step of conversion, penance and satisfaction.

    Sacrament of forgiveness: Here disclosure and confession are important elements. The penitent gains pardon or peace.

    Sacrament of reconciliation: It imparts on the sinner the love of God with whom he or she is reconciled (be reconciled to God).

    True penance is the penance of the heart which is the interior conversion.
    The internal repentance is the complete life, a conversion to God with all our hearts. It is turning away from evil and feeling sorry towards the sins we have already committed. It is also the desire to change one’s life with hope and trust in God’s mercy and trust.

    Forms of repentance
    The three main forms of repentance are fasting, prayer and thanksgiving. Matthew 6:1-18. This expresses conversion within ourselves, to God and to other people.

    Different Christians have adopted a way of penance according to their doctrine.
    Catholics: The individual goes to the priest and recites his or her sins. This involves invocation of God’s mercy and laying hands on the penitent by the priest.
    Other Christians: The other Christians are protestants such as Pentecostal Churches. They confess sins by publicly speaking about their sins.

    4.4.2 Importance of repentance
    Activity 4.3
    Habimana giving a testimony in church

    ‘I greet you all in Jesus name? I greet you once again... My name is Habimana, I got saved last year and later I was baptised. At first, I felt an inner voice forcing me to come forward and repent my sins. In the process, I also felt that it was very wrong to lose my long time friends. Later, a force stronger in me told me, ‘come to me I will give you a lasting peace’. I decided to share with our church elder about that experience that kept on coming to me.

    After a long conversation with the elder, I concluded that it was God’s voice. Then the elder led me into declaring the words of repentance. My fellow believers, from that time I have had a peaceful and forgiving heart.

    I have had a good experience with my friends whom I thought I could lose. When I shared my story with them, they also decided to repent and get baptised. Then we formed a group of believers called, ‘a friend’s keeper’. In this group we have the youth, the old men and old women with various disabilities. We aim at making our dreams a reality and to grow together.

    I have learnt that there is nobody who is perfect in life.
    I have learnt that we all have both strengths and weaknesses.
    I have learnt to forgive those who do wrong to me.
    I have learnt, I have learnt…………
    Learn too.

    God bless you all, God bless our beautiful country’.

    1. What can you learn from Habimana?
    2. Explain your answer in 1 above.

    The whole power of the sacrament of repentance is to restore God’s grace in us. It ensures that we join God in an intimate relationship.

    This has the following effects:
    Reconciliation with God: This is the purpose and the effect of penance. Penance is followed by peace with a strong spiritual consolation.
    Reconciliation with the church: Sins breach and damage fraternal communion. Therefore, penance establishes these bonds of believers.
    It is the road to the Kingdom of God: Sins prevent us from continuing in the way of salvation. However, penance makes us strong on our road to the Kingdom of God.

    Those who support repentance argue that, the Lord instituted the sacrament of repentance. When being raised from the dead he breathed upon his disciples. He said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven’ (John 20:22-23).

    God’s servants on earth also have the power to lead you in repenting. For instance, whatever they bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. ‘And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loose in heaven (Matthew 16:19).

    Repentance is a necessary condition for salvation. Nobody can be forgiven of his or her sins unless he or she repents.
    Repentance begins with God’s calling. God opens our mind to correctly understand His word and to experience His love and mercy. Then we must pray for His help and study the Scriptures to find out what we need to change.
    We should compare our beliefs, behaviour, customs, traditions and thoughts to the holy Bible. God’s word is the only trustworthy standard by which we can measure our attitude and behavior.

    Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5: 32).
    After John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the Good News from God. He told people, ‘the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:14 -15).
    Jesus taught that our most important priority should be to enter the Kingdom of God. In his public ministry Jesus stressed that repentance is important in entering the Kingdom.


    The Scripture show God is consistent from the beginning. He has sent His servant with the message, “repent and turn from all your transgressions so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgression which you have committed and get yourselves a new heart and a new Spirit (Ezekiel 18:30-31).

    Eternal life in the Kingdom of God is available only to those who repent of their sins. There are no exceptions because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

    Prophet Jeremiah also talks of repentance. He says that, the Lord has sent to you all his servants the prophets. Rising early and sending them, but you have not listened

    nor inclined your ear to hear. They said repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever (Jeremiah 25:4-5).

    Activity 4.4
    Dramatise how repetence is done in your church.


    4.4.3 Repentance as an act of change of the heart

    Activity 4.6

    Recite the following verse:
    Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being, the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also
    (2nd Corinthians 5:17-18).

    Repentance is not only for reforming the person but also an act of change of the heart. It is a change of the mind that leads to a change of actions and behaviour.
    When one repents, he or she is expected to totally change his or her actions. These changes include:

       • Becoming humble.
       • Abandoning some personal desires.
       • Stopping to resist God.
       • Learning to forgive and reconcile.
       • Loving other people and becoming selfless.
       • Changing of the mind and a change of direction.

    It is changing one’s point of mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ. A person who has truly repented gives a testimony of a changed life.
    It is also a change from desire to sin, turning away from sinful life. This makes us obey God and depend on Him.
    One cannot get salvation unless he or she has fully repented. This requires change of the heart.

    Repentance is when we love others more than we love ourselves. We also turn away from sinning against our brothers and sisters in our daily lives. When one fully repents, he or she becomes new in spirit.

    4.4.4 Different steps in the celebration of repentance and baptism

    Activity 4.5
    Mention the steps that are followed for one to repent and get baptised in your church.

    There are different steps followed in celebrating the sacrament of penitence. It differs from church to church.
    In the Roman Catholic Church, the priests lead the function. They pray with the sign of the cross and may read the word of God. Believers confess their sins and the priest counsels them.

    The priest asks believers to express their sorrow usually by confession of sin and then gives them a penance.
    Believers receive absolution. The priest says, ‘I absolve your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’.

    The priest dismisses believers by saying ‘go in peace’. The believers go to perform the act of penance.
    It is important that before celebrating the sacrament of repentance one must prepare himself or herself. Christians prepare by examining their own conscience.

    In Pentecostal and Anglican churches, the confession of sins is in public. It is followed by a prayer from a priest or a pastor.
    As we have noted earlier, the sacrament of baptism is also celebrated differently by different churches.


    The Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches emphasise the baptism of the young who are brought to church. The Pentecostal Churches emphasise the baptism of people when they are old enough to present themselves for baptism. This is so, because it is believed before baptism one must be ready and prepared to confess his or her sins and meet other requirements that we have already learnt about.

    Parents who ask their children to be baptised accept the responsibility of training them. They train them on the Christian faith. They make efforts to bring them up well by encouraging or teaching them to keep God’s commandments.

    Baptism is about being made a part of the Christian community. It is not a private family occasion. Therefore, baptism is normally celebrated in the presence of several other families or members of the church.

    4.5 Relationship between baptism and repentance

    Activity 4.6

    In groups, share the similarities and differences between the sacrament of baptism and repentance.

    Baptism is the outward washing away of sins. Repentance is the inward change of heart away from sin. Unless one fully repents, he or she cannot be baptised or cleansed of sins.
    Another relationship between baptism and repentance is that both prepare us for salvation.

    Except a man be born of water and of spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God, (John 3:5).
    Arise and be baptised and wash away your sins calling upon the name of the Lord, (Acts 22:16).

    Holy baptism is an appointed sacrament of salvation where all human sins are washed away. Without this holy baptism, there is no promise of salvation.

    He that believeth shall be saved and when one believes and get baptised he or she gets saved, (Mark 16:16).

    God does not make us commit sin; all sins are as a result of human weakness and desires. It is important that to receive God’s salvation, one has to accept his or her sins and repent. For repentance saves our lives from eternal hell. Sin is the cause of suffering and many problems on earth.

                                                        Unit summary

    Meaning and importance of baptism and its celebration. Baptism is one of the sacraments in the Christian Church. Baptism helps in making us members of the new covenant. It makes us the disciples of Jesus Christ and share with him in God’s Kingdom.

    Different forms of baptismal rite are: immersion, sprinkling and pouring of water.
    Forms of baptism in the Bible are repentance and the Holy Spirit. Repentance was done by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit was done by Jesus.

    The effects of the sacrament of baptism are the belief in purification and new birth. They also believe in the forgiveness of sins and sacramental mark of unity.

    Sins and their spiritual consequences. Sin is a violation of God’s religious laws like commandments. Sin damages our relationship with God and with other people.

    Meaning and importance of the sacrament of repentance and its celebration. Repentance is the action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for doing wrong. It helps in restoring us to God’s grace in His Kingdom.

    Different steps in the celebration of the sacrament of repentance and baptism. The steps differ from church to church. In some churches confession of sins is done in public and followed by a prayer.

    Repentance as an act of change of the heart. A change of heart requires a change of mind. This makes somebody a new creature in God’s Kingdom.

    Relationships between the sacrament of baptism and repentance. Baptism is the outward washing away of sins while repentance is the change of heart.

    Unit Assessment

    1. List two forms of repentance.
    2. Outline the importance of repentance in a Christians’ life.
    3. Describe one form of baptism in a named church.
    4. Mention three different steps in the celebration of the sacraments of repentance and baptism.
    5. What is the importance of baptism?


    Absolution - Describes unlimited power or declaration of forgiveness of sins.
    Beatitudes - These are the blessings that Jesus taught his disciples during the Sermon on the Mountain.
    Blasphemy - It consists of uttering words against God (attributes).
    Bondage - Being another person’s slave.
    Brainstorm - To suggest many ideas very quickly before considering them very carefully.
    Catechism - Established questions and answers about Christian set of beliefs.
    Contrition - It is an act of prayer that expresses sorrow for sins.
    Decalogue - These are laws which were passed on from God to the liberated people of Israel.
    Entrants - A person who takes part in a competition.
    Euthanasia - Killing someone who is so ill or old to prevent him or her from suffering, that is, mercy killing.
    Eucharist - This is the Christian ceremony based on Jesus Christ’s last meal with his disciples.
    Eschatology - This is part of theology concerned about the ultimate destiny of humanity.
    Gacaca courts - This is a system of community justice inspired by Rwandan tradition.

                              Gacaca can be loosely translated to mean ‘justice in the grass’.
    Hospitality - It is a way of entertaining those who really need our care.
    Incarnation - The appearance of God in the form of a human being.

                         Jesus the son of God was born in the form of flesh. (Human being).
    Liturgy - This is a set of words or actions used in ceremonies in some religions.

    Repentance - Is a public show of regret for something you have done and you feel it was wrong.
    Sacraments - This is a ceremony which is important in the Christian church.
    Salvation - The state of being saved from evil and its effects by the death of Jesus Christ.
    Supernatural - Forces that cannot be explained by science.
    The Nativity - The birth of Jesus Christ which is celebrated by Christians during Christmas.
    Omuganda - Can be translated as coming together in a common purpose or community work.
    Week of passion - It is a week that began with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

    Unit 3:Peace in the society