The Baptism of Our Lord

Sermon for the Baptism of our Lord based on Matthew 3:13-17

Dear baptized believers: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

If Baptism is our work, then we must question its validity and its effectiveness. If Baptism is our work, we must each ask ourselves: was I sincere enough when I was baptized? Did I understand Baptism completely and correctly? Did I know everything I needed to know in order for the Baptism to be of any use to me? If Baptism is our work, we must ask these questions and many more. If Baptism is something we do, we must continually question whether or not we did it correctly; if we did it well enough; if we did it earnestly, genuinely, and wholeheartedly.

That is why churches who believe that Baptism is our work, don’t baptize babies. If Baptism is just our confession of faith, you have to wait until you are able to confess the faith to be baptized. If Baptism is our work, you have to be able to do the work in order to be baptized, and you will never have certainty about your Baptism.

Thank God Baptism is not our work, but His work. This removes all questions and all doubt about its validity and its effectiveness; its genuineness and its sincerity. Why? Because it’s then not a question of our sincerity and genuineness, but God’s.

Do you think God is sincere or lying when He says, “Baptism now saves you”? (I Pt. 3:21) Do you think God is being genuine or joking when He tells us to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins? (Acts 2:38) Do you think God is being insincere when He tells you that your Baptism is into Christ’s death and resurrection and that in Baptism you put on Christ? (Rom. 6:3,5; Gal. 3:27) When it is a question of our sincerity and genuineness, we can never be certain. Because Baptism is a question of God’s sincerity and genuineness, we can be completely certain.

In Christ’s institution of Baptism, we also see the revelation of the Trinity very clearly. Jesus says, “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.” (Matt. 28:19) Baptism identifies God, and it identifies you as belonging to Him.

We see the three persons of God also in the Baptism of our Lord. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove, and God the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

No less happened to you in your Baptism. Saint Paul writes that Baptism is a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Thus you know the Holy Spirit descended also on you in your Baptism. Saint Paul follows this up with saying that through Baptism we become heirs with the hope of eternal life, (3:7) indicating our adoption as God’s beloved sons, with whom He is well pleased.

Baptism is God’s work. Baptism is God’s gift. You receive this gift of God through faith, while also obligating yourself to live a certain kind of life as a child of God. That is why, in the same passage from Romans chapter six that talks about our Baptism being into Christ’s death and resurrection, we hear, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” We are not to continue in sin. We are not to walk in the ways of the Old Man, but in newness of life; in the way of the New Man created in us by Baptism.

This is why the Christian life is a continual return to our Baptism. When we fall into temptation and we sin, we repent and turn away from the sin. We return to God’s promises to us in Baptism.

That’s the fourth part of Baptism in the Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die along with all sins and evil desires, and that a New Man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

When you fail to walk as a child of God, do not harden your heart and remain in your sin. Do not make excuses for your sin. Do not deny your Baptism by refusing to repent and refusing to live like a child of God.

Until we die, we will have our old sinful nature. We will be tempted to sin. When we fall into temptation, our Baptism calls us to repentance. It is not a one time repentance, but a continual, daily repentance. Baptism defines our relationship with God. It strengthens us to flee temptation, and when we fall into temptation, it provides us with forgiveness and the strength to avoid it in the future.

 

Flee to your Baptism for refuge from guilt, sin, and the devil. Flee to your Baptism in the midst of doubt, suffering, and temptation. Do not forget how great of a gift your Baptism is.

Treasure your Baptism. When facing disease or death, know that you are baptized into Christ and have been given the medicine of eternal life. When you are burdened by the horrible guilt of your past sins; when your pet sins have again reared their ugly head; when you see the effects of sin in your life, then look to your Baptism. Your Baptism is the certainty that your sins were put on Jesus and that He carried them to the cross and died for them. Your Baptism is your certainty that Jesus has covered you with His righteousness and declares you forgiven. Your Baptism is your certainty that you have been declared God’s beloved son and pleasing to Him.

Baptism is God’s work. Therefore it is valid and effective. Even for those who have denied their Baptism by refusing to live like God’s children, their Baptism remains valid and effective, continually calling them to repentance, calling them back to God.

Daily contrition and repentance is the Christian life. Baptism is God’s free gift to you that keeps you in the Christian life and will bring you to eternal life. This is God’s genuine, sincere promise to you. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Baptism is Eternal

Sermon for the Baptism of our Lord based on Mark 1:4-11

Dear sons of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thousands of years ago, God said, “Let there be light.” Since God’s Word does not wear out, wither, or fade, we still have light today. God’s Word which created light so many years ago has not expired, otherwise we would be in absolute darkness; there would be no light. Time does not undo God’s Word, or make it of no effect.

God’s Word with which He claimed you in the waters of Holy Baptism does not wear out, wither, or fade either. It doesn’t matter how long ago God claimed you through Baptism, your Baptism has not expired and will not expire. Time does not undo God’s Word, or make it of no effect.

We confess this truth also in how we deal with the elements consecrated for holy communion. The bread that has been consecrated to be the body of Christ, and the wine that has been consecrated to be the blood of Christ are treated with the understanding that God’s Word does not wear out, wither, or fade. Time does not undo God’s Word, or make it of no effect.

How can you undo God’s Word? Once God’s Word has been joined to the bread and wine, so that we have the true presence of Christ’s body and blood on the altar, how do you undo it? How do you reverse it? How do you cancel it? By waiting for a few minutes? By saying the benediction? By taking the elements out of the nave?

Since we cannot undo God’s eternal Word, we simply do what Christ instructed: we take eat and we take drink. We consume what has been consecrated to be the body and blood of Christ. God’s Word does not expire.

We, however, will expire. Our bodies will die, but God’s Word will not. The fact that we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection cannot be undone. The fact that we are in communion with Christ through the Sacrament of the Altar will not expire.

In the Baptism of our Lord the heavens were torn open to Him and the Holy Spirit descended on Him. No less happened to us in our Baptism. We could not see it, but that is nevertheless exactly what happened. We were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and the heavens are open to receive us when we die from this life. We were adopted as God’s sons and God is well pleased with us because our sins were washed away in Baptism.

There is a danger, however, that comes with Baptism. Baptism puts a target on your back for the devil. You either belong to the devil, or you belong to God. There is no one else to whom you can belong. In Baptism, God snatches us away from the devil, whose child we are by nature. God claims us away from the devil for Himself.

Don’t think for a second that the devil doesn’t care. The moment that one is baptized the devil goes to work to get him back. The devil knows that God’s Word will not expire, but his goal is to make us reject what God has given to us in Baptism. His goal is to make us believe that our Baptism wears off and that God’s Word is not eternal.

Immediately once Jesus was baptized, the devil tempted Him. That is the next verse if we would have kept reading in Mark’s gospel. This was no coincidence. The devil also comes after all of us with temptations immediately when we are baptized.

For this reason, it is not a good idea to baptize an infant if the parents have no intention of raising the child in the faith. Doing so brings the devil with his temptations, yet without God’s Word regularly sustaining the child’s faith, that faith will die.

Thus, parents are required to make an oath before God and the congregation that they will teach the faith to their child, promise to bring the child into God’s house, and bring him to the altar rail to receive the strengthening of faith in the Lord’s Supper when he grows up. Without these, faith dies, just like the flame of a lamp with no oil.

We even have sponsors for Baptisms, who are supposed to encourage the baptized in his faith and in regular church attendance, so that his faith does not die.

If you are a baptismal sponsor and your godchildren are not regularly attending Divine Service, call them up and encourage them. Tell them to stop acting like their Baptism has worn off, and to stop despising their Baptism. Tell them to come hear God’s Word and to be strengthened in their faith before it dies.

In all this, we see that the problem is not with Baptism, but with us. Baptism cannot be extolled and praised enough. Baptism cannot be held in high enough esteem.

Thus, Luther directs us in the Catechism during daily prayers at morning and evening to make the sign of the cross on ourselves in remembrance of our Baptism. Thus, our hymnal in every order of service directs us to make the sign of the cross during the Invocation, as a reminder to us that we are baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. During the Creeds when we confess that we believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, the hymnal also directs us to make the sign of the cross to remind us that this very body of ours will be raised from the dead because we are baptized into Christ.

The certainty of Baptism is why we should continually remember and celebrate our Baptism. God’s Word which claimed us in Baptism will not wear out, wither, or fade. Our Baptism will never expire.

When guilt comes chasing us, we should flee to our Baptism for refuge. When the devil comes with his temptations, we should flee to our Baptism for strength to resist and overcome temptation. When death and disease come knocking, we should find comfort in our Baptism which has rescued us from death, disease, and every danger to our bodies and lives.

Baptism is how you can stand before the holy Lord God almighty without fear of being destroyed because your sins are covered. Baptism is how you can receive the body and blood of Jesus without receiving the Sacrament to your judgment and death. Baptism is how you have been set free from sin and live in newness of life.

Just as God’s Word which created light has not expired, so also His Word which has claimed you in Baptism has not expired. He has also given you His eternal Word and the Sacrament of the Altar which nourish the faith given to you in Baptism, and strengthen you against the devil and his temptations. They strengthen your faith in what God gave you in Baptism, so that you do not reject His great gift to you.

Just as the heavens were opened to Jesus at His Baptism, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and He was declared by God the Father to be His beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased, so also because of our Baptism into Christ, the heavens are open for us, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and God declares us His sons who are well pleasing to Him.

God’s Word will not be undone. His claim on you will not wear out, wither, or fade. God’s name on you will not expire. You belong to Him forever. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Baptism is No Empty Show

Sermon for the Baptism of our Lord based on Matthew 3:13-17

Dear baptized believers: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God doesn’t do things just for show. He’s not a poser or a pretender. He doesn’t care for empty pomp or ceremonies. When God does something, there is a reason He does it, and He accomplishes something through what He does.

When it comes to the baptism of our Lord, then, we know that it was not an empty show that took place. Jesus was not merely baptized to be an example or to make a demonstration. Herein can lie some confusion.

John the Baptist was baptizing with a baptism of repentance, but Jesus had no sins of which He needed to repent. All the crowds of sinners were coming and confessing their sins, repenting of them, and receiving baptism. So, if Jesus’ baptism was not just an empty show, and if He had no sins of which He needed to repent, why was He baptized? Why does Jesus stand with the crowds of sinners and receive baptism like a sinner?

That’s what John the Baptist wondered, too. He said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John wasn’t just saying that he’d rather not baptize Jesus, he was saying that it doesn’t make any sense to him. Jesus is the greater; John the lesser. Jesus is perfect; John is sinful. Jesus would institute a Baptism with the Holy Spirit; John was merely baptizing with water. Why would Jesus come to John for baptism?

Jesus responded to John by saying, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” See, Jesus’ baptism was not only for show. Jesus’ baptism fulfilled all righteousness.

Righteousness is the state of being right before God. Righteousness means being acceptable before God. Righteousness is perfection, holiness, and purity. Jesus fulfilled all this in His baptism.

It cannot be for Himself that He fulfilled these things. Jesus was already right before God and acceptable before God. Jesus was already perfect, holy, and pure. Rather, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for you. To prove this, the heavens were torn open at Jesus’ baptism, once again for you.

Heaven was already open for Jesus. He came from heaven and would return to heaven. At Jesus’ baptism, heaven was opened for you. All righteousness was fulfilled for you.

The Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested on Jesus. God the Father announced from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

See, the Baptism of our Lord was no empty show. It was no empty ceremony or demonstration. Jesus’ baptism fulfilled all righteousness. Heaven was opened, the Holy Spirit was present, and it was well pleasing to God the Father.

So also, your Baptism was no empty show. It was no empty ceremony or demonstration. Because of Jesus’ baptism, in your Baptism you received Jesus’ righteousness. Because of Jesus’ baptism, in your Baptism heaven was torn open for you, and remains open to receive you when you die. You were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and God the Father declared you His son with whom He is well pleased.

No one can take this away from you. God will never forget His promises to you that He made to you when you were baptized. He’s not going to change His mind about you and expect you to fulfil the righteousness that Jesus already fulfilled for you. God’s not going to close heaven to you or say that you are no longer pleasing to Him.

In order that you don’t wander from Him, God has given you His Word to strengthen your faith and teach you. In order that you won’t forget His promises to you, He reminds you again and again of His promises in the Bible.

So that you won’t walk away from all the promises that He has made to you in your Baptism, God gives you a meal that nourishes your faith and feeds your soul.

The Lord’s Supper is no empty show. It is no empty ceremony or demonstration. It’s not some meaningless ritual that we follow for the sake of tradition. God doesn’t do things just for show. He’s not a poser or a pretender. He doesn’t care for empty pomp or ceremonies. When God does something, there is a reason He does it, and He accomplishes something through what He does.

In the Lord’s Supper, God gives us the body and blood of His Son, Jesus, our Saviour, to eat and to drink. Through it, He strengthens us in the faith of our Baptism and He nourishes us to eternal life. Through it, He gives us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

God gives us these real and certain Sacraments because He knows us. He knows how weak we are and how prone to wander. He knows that we are in a world filled with trouble and illness, doubts and temptation. He knows the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us.

To save us from real sins, from real temptations, from real doubts, and from a real enemy, no empty show would do. Thus, God gives to us real gifts in the Sacraments to give to us the righteousness that Christ has accomplished through His birth, baptism, life, death, and resurrection.

Because you are baptized into Christ, when God looks at you, He doesn’t see your sins. He sees Christ’s righteousness. There is no remaining righteousness for you to fulfil. After all, Christ did say that He would fulfil all righteousness.

All righteousness is fulfilled, and has been given to you in your Baptism, because Baptism is not some empty show or ceremony. Baptism is where you received Christ’s righteousness; where you were declared right and acceptable before God – perfect, holy, and pure. Baptism is where heaven was torn open for you, and remains open to receive you when you die. Baptism is where you were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and God the Father declared you His son with whom He is well pleased. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.