Listen to Article
“You were baptized this morning?” asked the excited man of the seven-year-old girl – a family friend. And in response to her happy and affirming nod, the man genuinely replied, “I’m so proud of you.”
From a Christian perspective, a view that takes God at His Word, there are several very good elements in the above account. First and foremost, a young girl was baptized! Jesus gave the Christian Church baptism. Not surprisingly then, God’s Word throughout the New Testament speaks very highly of this gift of Jesus called baptism and its continuing use in the Church. The man’s excitement, then, over this Christian practice of baptism is also very good and appropriate. The absence of such joy and excitement over a baptism would be alarming. These two elements from the brief account are both sound and good. The resulting conclusion, however – “I’m so proud of YOU” –doesn’t add up. That’s bad math.
Allow me to illustrate. Let’s say a young man you knew – a family friend – was guilty of a major theft. He was arrested, put on trial, and convicted of a felony. He was sentenced by the judge to do five years of prison time. Then, unexpectedly, after just one week of time served, the judge called his case back before his court. In an unlikely turn of events, the judge wiped this thief’s record clean. He removed from your friend the remaining burden of time served. With the strike of his gavel and the stroke of his pen, the judge declared him innocent and free to go on his way. The family rejoices, and you rejoice with them. And then at the homecoming party, you hug the recently freed friend and say to him, “I’m so proud of you for getting out of your sentence.”
Can you see the bad math? A freedom has been gifted – granted to the thief apart from anything done or deserved. Joy over this unlikely gift given is certainly appropriate. But pride in the freed one, the one who did nothing to deserve the gift, the one who passively benefitted from the gracious word of pardon from the judge? That’s bad math. That’s adding glory and praise to the gift-ed and subtracting it from the gift-er.
“You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11).
In contrast to this, God’s Word has baptism flush with gifts – gifts from God to the convicted sinner. The name of the True God joined with water washes away sin’s record. The promise of God joined with water sets sinners apart from their guilt and its just penalties. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ connected with water declares the guilty one innocent for Jesus’ sake. The Bible, then, has baptism spilling over with gifts: God-to-Us gifts. And God’s Spirit is the gracious Deliverer of them all. Joy and praise are highly appropriate responses to such grace and mercy. This is God’s math on baptism. This math adds up to forgiveness, life, and salvation for convicts like that seven-year-old girl, convicts like you and me. Dear Christian, don’t go back to the blackboard for a recalculation. The math doesn’t get any better than this!
Baptism… now saves you. (I Peter 3:21)
“I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
“According to His mercy, He saved us, by the washing of rebirth and a renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
The Bible refers to the Sacrament of Baptism as our “second birth.”
If baptism is our “(re)birth,” what does that say about our role or responsibility in baptism?
- Tommy threw the ball.
2.The ball was thrown at Tommy.
The nouns and the verb are all in common in the above two sentences. The only thing that changes is the subject (the acting thing) and the object (the thing acted toward/upon).
Consider the following Bible passages about baptism. Ask a similar question with them.
What/Who is acting and what/who is being acted upon?
Baptism also now saves you (1 Peter 3:21).
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).
If God the Spirit (through baptism) is the Actor and we are the acted upon, how certain does this make the results of baptism? (Discuss.)
God Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
To be baptized invites a host;
Here He is present though unseen,
From all our sins He’s washed us clean.
Since by this water and the Word
We’re born again, we thank You Lord.
Through life and death Yours may we be,
Your children through eternity.
(ELH 248 | v. 4 & 6)