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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What's Different About You Lutherans - Explaining Holy Baptism

(This article was included in our church's December Newsletter. This article and the ones following, will be posted each month as printed. I pray they will be helpful to those who wish to share the joy of being Lutheran with others so they might rejoice in the same grace.)
 
Last month you may recall we began talking about giving an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus, that is giving an answer for our faith and why we are Lutheran and why we believe what we believe. This month we continue by giving an answer for our teaching of Holy Baptism, that is why we believe Holy Baptism is so important and why baptizing as soon after birth is so important.
 
In order to fully understand Holy Baptism as a Sacrament given by God, one must first understand that from which Baptism is given, which is the Sacrament of Circumcision. In the Old Testament God make a person His child through Circumcision. Abram was made a child of God through the outward marking of Circumcision, as were his children and their children and so on. This marking of God upon His people was done at the age of eight days. In circumcision one was marked and made a part of God’s family. Paul lays this out for us in his letter to the Colossians, “8See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:8-12). God’s Word to us through Paul today is to encourage us not to be deceived by human reason and tradition which puts more emphasis in the one being made a child of God rather than the One making us a child of God.
 
After Jesus fulfilled all righteousness in His circumcision at the age of eight days, He then proceeded to give us something new in how we are now to be identified as children of God. As Jesus presented Himself to John the Baptist to be baptized with water and the Holy Spirit, He continued to fulfill all righteousness. And just as Jesus was circumcised only once, so He was baptized only once.
 
Peter connects Holy Baptism to God’s work of washing the world through the waters of the flood as we read, “18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Peter 3:18-22). Just as God saved Noah and his family in the Ark, keeping them from drowning in the waters of the flood, which cleansed the world, so God saves us through the waters of Holy Baptism, which drowns the Old Adam so that the New Man rises, so Peter pointedly says, “Baptism . . . now saves you.”
 
Although the Children of Israel broke God’s covenant so that the original earthly part of the covenant is no longer valid, but is null and void (the earthly promises of an earthly land), God never broke His part of the covenant, that part which pointed to the ultimate fulfillment in His heavenly land. So, even though we no longer need to observe the ceremonial law of circumcision, God has given us His Holy Sacrament of Holy Baptism in which He comes to us and gives to us faith, forgiveness and eternal life.
 
Holy Baptism is not something we do, just as circumcision was not something an eight day old child would do to himself. And certainly if circumcision was done on the eight day, marking one as a part of God’s family, we would understand that Holy Baptism would be done as early as possible marking one as a part of God’s family. Indeed, Jesus says to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), and just as one is a part of a nation at birth, so God would have us become a part of His family at birth or as early as possible.
 
To point to self when speaking of Holy Baptism is to be deceived by human reason and gives the impression that one can save oneself. Indeed, just as a drowning person cannot save themself, or they would not be drowning, and just as a child cannot choose to be conceived, neither can we choose God or choose to be baptized or choose to save ourselves.
 
Holy Baptism rightly understood is a gift from God, a Sacrament, which is a sacred act wherein God comes to us, and through the hands of the called and ordained servant of the Lord, the Pastor, He puts water and His name on us, marking us as one of His dear children and a part of His heavenly kingdom. This baptizing need only be done once, because, after all God gets it right the first time. And yet, as we live our daily lives we are often reminded of our baptism (which is why we make the sign of the cross as a reminder) so that we are reminded that we belong to God and He has so many gifts and blessing He desire to pour out on us daily, forgiveness, life and salvation.

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