Occasion: Baptism of Our Lord
Excerpted from print: Morning Bells at Our Saviour’s – 2008 (Rev. N.A. Madson )
Do You Value Your Baptism? | Matt. 3:13-17
With the account of our Savior’s baptism we are again brought face to face with one of the fundamental questions of our Christian faith, namely: “What does baptism give or profit?” In his matchless Small Catechism, Luther has, on the basis of God’s word, answered that question this way: “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” And the words and promises to which Luther here refers are the words found in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” …
… What we… shall seek to answer today is the pertinent question: DO YOU VALUE YOUR BAPTISM?
Do you value your baptism as a means of regeneration?
… You celebrate, perhaps, with no little ceremony, the day of your natural birth. But have you given the day of your second birth much consideration? And yet, dear hearer, what would it mean that you had been born of flesh and blood, but had not been born again of water and the Spirit? Would you not then have to curse the day of your coming into the world? What comfort would it give you that you had been born into the wealthiest of families, if you lack the riches of God’s grace? What would it avail you that you are known throughout the length and breadth of civilized world if you are stranger to the covenants of promise? What, though you are born into the family of the mighteiest monarch on earth, if you remain separated from Him who alone can truthfully say of Himself: “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18b)? … (It is) His word that says: “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). Does that mean anything to you? Or is your baptism merely a matter of form, which has not entered seriously into the warp and woof of your life?
Secondly, Do you value your baptism as a constant means of grace?
“Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has begotten you again with water and the Spirit, and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace unto everlasting life” (Baptismal rite)… What is the significance of those words in your baptismal ritual? Is it only the natural depravity of mortal man this is being referred to here? By no means! “All your sins” means exactly what it says. In your baptism you were given an acquittal not only from the charge of natural depravity (original sin), but from every sin which you in your life might commit. You were brought into the most intimate relationship with Him who can speak of the future as though it were long-gone past. Hundreds of years before His coming into the world, Christ could speak of His atonement as though it already were an accomplished fact. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, the her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).
But finally… Do you value your baptism as a weapon against sin?
… When the apostle Paul assures us that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, he is simply calling to mind the glorious truth that you have by baptism been “buried with Christ by baptism into death.” Was it grievous for a Moses to suffer affliction with the people of God? No, he chose it, and why? Because “he had respect unto the recompence of the reward” (Hebrews 11:26b).
What a weapon was not his baptism in the hands of Luther! The devil could drive him from one position of defense to another, but when he came back to that day of grace on which God had adopted him as His child, there the devil had to leave Him alone. “There”, says Luther, “it was grace and nothing by grace, for I was not able to do anything myself. God did everything.” Oh, that there was more of the humble, childlike faith of the Reformer! Then the enemies of infant baptism would have less to say against this blessed sacrament. Then there would be more vital Christianity in evidence on every hand. Under the many crosses and afflictions which we must bear as pilgrims and strangers, we would then have that as our shield which the darts of the arch-enemy cannot pierce. We would then find comfort even in the chastisements of the Lord. Oh, you who have been baptized into Christ, make diligent use of this weapon, and you shall be more than conquerors. Yes,
Learn to mark God’s wondrous dealing
With the people that He loves;
When His chastening hand they’re feeling,
Then their faith the strongest proves:
God is nigh, and notes their tears,
Though He answers not, He hears;
Pray with faith, for though He try you,
No good thing can God deny you.
Ponder all God’s truth can teach you,
Let His word your footsteps guide;
Satan’s wiles shall never reach you,
Though he draw the world aside:
Lo! God’s truth is thy defense,
Light, and hope, and confidence:
Trust in God, He’ll not deceive you,
Pray, and all your foes will leave you.”
Lutheran Hymnary: vv. 4-5 (1913)