Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Baptism—simple, yet profound

Midweek in Lent3
March 2, 2016
We have been using our time in our midweek Lenten worship to contemplate the Gospel. We have been seeing that it is simple even as it is profound. We have seen that it is a direct proclamation of God’s love for us in His Son. We have seen, at the same time, that this love is profound; God giving His eternal blessings to sinners who deserve nothing from Him.

We saw that the Gospel is nothing without the Law. The Law simply and yet profoundly calls us sinners to repentance. And so as not to leave us in our sin God has given us His blessed Gospel, full and free forgiveness through what Christ has accomplished in His suffering and death and resurrection. And as if it were not enough to bless us with all the vaults of heaven, He has given us new life in which we live not to ourselves but to Him and so do not always have to be wondering if He still loves us even though we falter and doubt and succumb to temptation. For in a simple and yet profound way He has given us prayer, in which we may come to Him with all our needs and know that He forgives us and loves us and sustains us.

Now we come to the part of the Catechism that shows us that there’s even more. God doesn’t just bless us, He blesses us abundantly. The Gospel Jesus saves us with is not relegated to Calvary two thousand years ago. It is alive today and delivered to you in your life.

That is why He has given you Baptism. In Baptism you are receiving pure Gospel. There is no Law, no demand, no rules to follow. Baptism is simple. It is Christ coming to you in your life and forgiving you all your sins, saving you from eternal damnation. He makes you a child of God. You have new life.

What could be more simple than the love of God poured out upon you in ordinary water? If you ever wonder what God thinks of you or if He will stick with you, look no further than your Baptism. In simple water He has given you everything you need to know about His love for you. For in Baptism He has given you Christ. You were crucified with Christ and raised to new life in His resurrection. All through the water applied to you in your Baptism.

To be sure, the water didn’t accomplish any of this work. It was rather the Word of Christ that did it. It was ordinary water that was used in your Baptism but the effective thing in the Baptism was anything but ordinary. It was the Word of God. You were Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is the beauty of God’s blessings to you in Baptism. If you are in doubt about God’s love for you just look at how He has saved you. It was simple, water and Word.

Of course, as we have seen with the Gospel, that it is both simple and profound, so it is with Baptism. Baptism is simple, but that doesn’t mean there is not much to it. There is more to Baptism, in fact, than could ever be exhausted in a lifetime. Just as you were born and in that birth were given life and therefore live that life and grow, so in Baptism you were born anew and given life and therefore live that life and grow. When Jesus gave His great commission to make disciples of all nations, the first thing given the Church to do is Baptize.

This is how people are brought into the Church. This is how they are given new life. This is how they become disciples. Once someone is Baptized then they grow, they learn. The life of a Baptized child of God is one of constantly living in repentance and forgiveness. It is a daily dying and rising. Baptism is a one-time event in your life and yet you live in your Baptism throughout your whole life.

How profound is Baptism, and what does it mean for you as you live in this new life in Christ? Consider all the many ways the Scriptures speak of this event in your life and how it impacts you. When Jesus Himself was Baptized John the Baptist was puzzled, knowing that he was the sinner and Christ was the sinless one. Jesus was Baptized nonetheless, but not for His sake, for ours. He did it as He did everything else, for us and for our salvation. He described His own death, in fact, as a Baptism He must undergo.

When He told Nicodemus how one enters eternal salvation He said that you must be born anew. It is birth that is of water and the Spirit. Just as you had no part in bringing about your birth from your mother, so you had no part in your birth from above. You were born of the Holy Spirit and given new life because God brought it about.

This is why Peter says in the first of his Epistles, “Baptism now saves you.” It is why Paul says in Titus that God saved us not by works we have done but by the washing of renewal and regeneration of the Holy Spirit. God’s saving of you is exactly that, it is His saving of you. That’s why you were Baptized, because He did the work. He saved you in Baptism.

Little children do not understand the concept of profoundness. And yet, if we are to believe Baptism for what it is, simple yet profound, then we must believe it as a child. When parents were bringing their little children and babies to Jesus for Him to bless them they were hindered by those good old disciples of His. Don’t bother Jesus, He needs time to rest. He can’t be bothered with little kids.

But what He couldn’t be bothered with was those who would prevent little children from being brought to Him. He let the disciples have it. Don’t hinder the children, let them come to Me. The reason He said they should be brought to Him was that it was to such as these who belong to the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t that it belonged to children but to those who are as children are.

The first way you are as a child is that you are one who must be brought. You do not come to Baptism on your own. You are brought. The Holy Spirit works on your heart and mind through the Gospel so that you see your need for repentance and forgiveness. In the case of an infant or a child you are brought by your parents to the Baptismal font. It is not your action that sparks the work of God in Baptism but His.

The second way you are as a child is that you are one who receives. Mom and Dad take care of the children. They provide for the children. They feed them, clothe them, give them a bed to sleep in, love them. Children do not ensure that the household is being taken care of. Children receive. They are given to and therefore are the recipients of what they are given. And so it is with Baptism. When Jesus told the parents to bring the children to Him, despite the efforts of the disciples, He blessed them. These children needed to be blessed, and so He gave them what they needed. This is what He does in Baptism. He blesses you, He gives you what you need.

This is why you need to live in your Baptism. Just as to live you don’t need to be born again every day, you do need to live out the life you were given in your birth. So with Baptism, you don’t need to be Baptized over and over again, but you do need to live out your Baptism. You daily need to die and rise again to new life. In Baptism you were given faith. Jesus said that whoever believes and is Baptized will be saved. Since faith is required for salvation, the Lord in His grace gives the very faith He demands. And the faith He gives rejoices in the blessings of Baptism, which is nothing other than rejoicing in the gift of eternal life, including living in your Baptism every day. Amen.


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