Text: 1 Cor.1:18-31
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Baptism is the fourth in our Lenten Series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. This follows the Ten Commandments – God’s Law, the Apostles Creed – the Good News of who God is and what he has done for us and continues to do in us, and the Lord’s Prayer which leads us in to prayer and communication with God and Baptism how God marks us as his own.
A story is told about the baptism of King Aengus by St. Patrick.
About the year 445, Saint Patrick, after converting a great number of people, entered the kingdom of Munster. His destination was Cashel, from [where] King Aengus, came [forward] to meet him with the utmost reverence.
This prince had already obtained some knowledge of Christianity, and demanded the grace of Holy Baptism. The saint willingly complied with his request. His courtiers assembled with royal state to assist at the ceremony.
St. Patrick carried in his hand, as usual, the Bachall Isu; [the staff of Jesus] at the end of was a sharp iron spike, by which he could plant it firmly in the ground beside him while preaching, or exercising his Episcopal functions.
On this occasion, however, he stuck it down into the king's foot, and did not perceive his mistake until— "The royal foot transfixed, the gushing blood enrich'd the pavement with a noble flood."
The ceremony had concluded, and the prince had neither moved nor complained of the severe suffering he had endured. When the saint expressed his deep regret for such an occurrence, The King merely replied that he believed it to be a part of the ceremony, and did not appear to consider any suffering of consequence at such a moment.
Moment.—Keating, vol. ii. p. 15
Over the centuries Christians have debated what baptism is, [what it accomplishes], and to whom it should be administered, and how much water should be used.
Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 158.
Baptism is God Act. Martin Luther makes it clear in the catechism’s question: What is Baptism?
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.
For we who are born sinful and unclean always see ourselves as the active agent – the one who is doing something. It must be my action we believe, or as the common belief is held and sometimes expressed – an outward sign of an inward decision. The sign being we think our work.
The opposite thought though might be - that it is what the clergy does or in Luther’s day what the priest did that made ones baptism valid.
And while we agree that baptism is God’s gift and means of bringing forgiveness to his church in a tangible way, it is not the priest or pastor that makes baptism valid but the word of God – both command and promise.
Jesus himself tells his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The nature of the words used in Holy Baptism is in following the words and form of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28. Though Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and not English the order of words are used in conformity to Jesus’ command in whatever language is spoken. Uniting the command and word’s of God with water - baptism does what God intends by uniting us with him and making us his disciples.
Along with what God commands he also promises … forgiveness … for you and me and all who receive this blesses gift.
Saint Peter in his sermon in Acts chapter 2 after his words of Law brought condemnation and caused his hearers to ask - “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 … said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
To be baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit is to be baptized into Jesus Christ so we follow the formula that Jesus gave but we see here too that repentance brings forgiveness and the promise for all. Baptism does what God intends.
By the working of Holy Spirit connecting the water and the word, forgiveness is given. For the one being baptized it is a “pure passive” meaning we simply receive the gift God gives. More importantly it achieves what God desires – making disciples of all nations.
10 And when [Jesus himself at his own baptism] came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
It is that same comfort for we who are baptized in God’s name - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - knowing that just as the Father is well please with Christ Jesus his Son he is also well please with you and me. Not because we merit anything from God but only because we are found marked as his children through this blessed gift given for our benefit.
God has not given baptism for his benefit but ours. His gift in and through baptism reminds us that we can do nothing to appease God’s wrath and we deserve only eternal damnation. But because of the Father’s great love for us he has sent his only son our Lord to be our substitute. Through Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased by his once for all sacrifice for sin, at the cross and through baptism we are united by faith with all the blessing that Christ has won for us.
As Luther says:
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Some might put the significance of baptism on the believer and our efforts or - what we do - that makes baptism valid.
Some might put the significance on the water and mode of baptism. How much water and how it must be applied for some is the important part of baptism.
Whether immersed, poured, or sprinkled God’s word united with the water and the formula Christ gave makes a baptism.
That brings to the one baptized all God promises; and because it is God’s gift we can always remember and be thankful for what God has in fact done in us and for us in Christ.
It is comforting to note that no matter how much the devil works to taunt us daily reminding us that we don’t measure up, the comforting knowledge of our baptism brings peace that we are God’s child whom he loves like his own beloved son.
The devils desire is to pull you away from Christ. Luther saw the whole of his reformation theology through Jacob’s dream and ladder saying:
“The ladder connecting Heaven and Earth is the incarnation of God; it is what the devil hates most and is perpetually fighting against. The devil wants to tear the faithful away from Christ, their ladder to heaven.”
“Luther Man between God and the Devil” Heiko Oberman Pg.167
The devil wants to tear you from Christ and to do that he tries to tear you from you baptism - to give you doubt in God’s work and in God’s means of word and sacrament.
I remember my own questioning when my pastor at a nondenominational church I attended said. “If you’ve been baptized as an infant come and see me and I’ll tell you why you need to be baptized as an adult.” I’m sure in reflection it was intended for me and my family as he knew of my own baptism as an infant, though he never approached me and I never asked him about it. I did though consult the word.
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16
I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (I have the Baptismal certificate and my parents reflections of the day)
39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:39
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Mark 10:14
Those baptized as infants receive a valid baptism.
Much of the Christian church around the world misuse baptism. They don’t see it doing anything and as a result many fail to baptized child and adult alike. It is also true for we who rightly understand baptism as God’s gift failing to have our children baptized until the child is older - placing the ceremony of baptism and family above the child and God’s gift.
We also misuse baptism when we fail to remember what God has done for us in and through baptism. The baptismal font’s placement at the back of the nave serves as a reminder that God himself has brought us into his family through this precious gift.
In the 1970s during the Jesus movement that happened for many youth, I attended a Christian concert with a friend. A girl that was there was talking about the date of her accepting Jesus and becoming a Christian. It was June 22, 1967, that she accepted Jesus as her Lord and savior.
I felt a bit out of place because I didn’t have a date that I could announce because as far back as I could remember I’ve always been a Christian.
Then I remembered … I was baptized on May 17, 1955.
God claimed me in baptism and he has claimed you too. God be praised!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!