Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Sermon for 6-SAT 7/24/22
The Nature of Baptism
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Have you ever wanted to see a miracle? The problem is, we have to define what a miracle is before we can identify if we have seen one or not. Scriptures uses the term, in English, to translate a couple of different Greek words. One word is dynamis, a term for something powerful - used of a powerful sign, a work of power, or a wonder. Another word that is sometimes translated "miracle" is sameion, which means "sign" and is often translated "sign" as in Matthew 16, where the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign from heaven, and He gives them the sign of Jonah, pointing to His coming resurrection.
We tend to think of miracles as extraordinary things that happen, seemingly contrary to the laws of nature, like turning water into wine. The Bible seems to use the word "sign" as the word for miracle - sometimes referring to the great power required or demonstrated in the sign.
So, if you are looking for something "extraordinary," you may have seen a "miracle" without realizing it. That could be the case if someone recovers from an illness, especially if they were not expected to recover. If you were looking for a sign of God's presence or His activity, you definitely have seen "miracles". You see that whenever the church gathers for worship, or you hear His Word read or preached, or if you partake of the Sacrament of the Altar.
If you are looking for flash and dazzle, and something contrary to the laws of nature, or seeming to be so, you may or may not have seen miracles. It is hard to tell. What we don't often see are miracles performed to order. If you want to see that, you need to watch a Baptism. Our theme this morning is, the nature of Baptism.
Is Baptism a miracle? You could argue either way. First, it is a Sacrament, which is "a sacred act, ordained and instituted by God, with certain visible means, and which promises , conveys and bestows forgiveness." Does being a Sacrament mean it is a miracle? Let's compare it to our earlier description of a Miracle. It is surely a sign of the presence of God. He is at work in Baptism. It is His Word working and although the preacher speaks the words, they are not his, nor is what happens in baptism a result of the pastor's natural abilities or spiritual qualities. God is at work there, doing what He has promised to do.
Is it something extraordinary? That depends again on your definition of extraordinary, I suppose. It is not something unusual. People get Baptized all of the time. In some congregations, there seems to be a baptism or two a week. We seem to average one a year, or so. But something quite remarkable is happening, even though we may not sense the remarkable-ness of it many times. Nothing else can do what Baptism does, that much is for sure. So by that measure, Baptism is extraordinary.
If you are looking for something that is contrary to the ordinary course of nature, and something that is an act of impressive power, Baptism fits the bill. It may look all simple and ordinary, and even a bit like a ritual, but it is far more. Some churches use special bells and candles and clothes and all sorts of ‘stuff' to dress it up because they see it as outwardly so plain and uneventful, but all that stuff just distracts from the true wonder of what Baptism is and does. Baptism is no less amazing than a resurrection from the dead! That is because Baptism is a resurrection! Listen to our Epistle today, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."
Now, don't get lost in the words. Paul is saying that we actually die with Christ in our Baptism, and are raised again to new life. That is the "born again" that so many Christians make so much noise about without understanding that it happens here, in Baptism. When Paul writes that "we might walk in newness of life", the word "might" is not expressing mere possibility, it is pointing to the purpose of Baptism. In Baptism, we. die. with. Christ. We have been buried with Him through baptism into death. That means that we are buried with Him in the mystical union, which is created in our Baptism, and raised again in His resurrection to a new and eternal life. And the death and the resurrection are as real for us as they were real for Jesus. The reason most people don't notice it is that it is our spirit which dies with Christ, and is raised again. It doesn't happen to our flesh. That is also why we must face the death of the body one day, and why, just as certainly, our bodies shall rise again from the grave on that great day of the resurrection of all flesh, and we shall be reunited with them for everlasting life.
We are born again. All of that Protestant babbling about being born again that focuses on our decisions and our experiences is not taught in Scripture. If you want a real experience of being born again, you gotta be baptized! But only once. You don't need a second dose. God gets it right the first time.
We need Baptism because of our sin. Baptism is the cure for sin, and we have been born in sin, with original sin, the corruption of our very nature, handed down to us from Adam and Eve. There is only one cure for sin, and that is death. Jesus died for us and in our place, and in Baptism He brings us along, and shares His death with us, and His resurrection, and makes us part of His family, adopting us, and shares that cure for sin with us. We need that death, For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
We need that death because He who has died is freed from sin! His death, shared with us in this mystical union created in Baptism, frees us from sin. It frees us from the guilt and punishment of sin - because Christ has borne that on our behalf - and it frees us from our bondage, our slavery, to sin. You are set free by your baptism from the wrath of God and from the need to sin. Of course, you don't necessarily feel that way. Your flesh did not die, not yet. But your spirit has shared in Christ's death and resurrection and is no longer a slave of sin. The battle of the Christian life is that liberated spirit wrestling against a body of flesh which is still enslaved and still desires to do the will of sin. That is a battle we need to fight.
Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Scriptures says you are no longer a slave. In fact it tells you to consider yourself dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin no longer rules in you, and sin can no longer threaten you with death and hell. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all. So you have been set free – and even when you do not feel that freedom, you may proclaim it to yourself by simply recalling the Word of God here in our text.
This is your power to live a holy life as well. You are not a slave any longer to those desires and thoughts. They may hang around, but you can overcome them by calling on the power of God in you to set those sins and temptations aside. And you have that power in you! Eph. 3:16, Paul prays, that God would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. And He describes God's power in you like this in verse Ephesians 3:20, Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. And when you stumble over a temptation in weakness, you can repent and ask for forgiveness – and it is yours because Jesus died that death to sin for you, too. You should look at sin as no longer natural, but a mark of the enemy, and calling on God to aid you, stand firm against it.
But the best part of all of this is that your salvation does not depend on your successful struggle against temptation. You want to win, of course, but Christ has already died for your sin – for all of it. Because Jesus Christ has died for you, and risen victorious in the fight, your sins are forgiven! Just as death is no longer master of Jesus, it is no longer master over you. We have to face the death of our bodies, but it is not death in its fullness because you have already died in your baptism. So you cannot die again, not as long as you cling to Christ. Death of the body is just a temporary thing. When your body dies, you will be with the Lord, and you will receive your body back on that day of resurrection, refurbished, as it were, and outfitted for eternal life with the Lord.
The last time you were privileged to witness a baptism, you may not have thought about it then, but you were witnessing this miracle – this sign from God of His love and of our salvation. The child was made a member of the body of Christ, and he or she experienced all of these things, mostly without being aware of them happening. But there it was. God claimed him or her as His child, adopting him into His family, making him a fellow participant in the grace of salvation, calling him by name and joining him to each of us.
How can Baptism do all of this? Because it is God at work. It is not something WE do, but something God does. Your Baptism has given you all the promises of the Gospel, and had washed away your sins. You can use it every day, saying aloud, "I have been baptized", and reminding yourself that you belong to God now, and your life is never going to end, not even when your body lies in the grave.
How do you know that you are saved? You have been baptized! The sign of God, a sign of His presence and of His working, and time and place where you ceased being merely mortal and began a life that will continue forever because God says so!
Is Baptism a miracle? Yes. More than that, it is a mystery - something wonderful that is so much more than it seems just looking at it. But God has revealed its true nature to us. We are buried with Christ by our Baptism into His death, and raised with Him in His resurrection to a new life with Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Think about that next time you are troubled by life or tempted by sin. Your life is no longer about you, but, like Christ, you are alive to God in connection with Jesus Christ. That is the true nature of Baptism.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
Sunday, July 24, 2022
The Nature of Baptism