Jan 8, 2016 – Baptism is a battle for Life
Baptism is a battle for Life; and Baptism is a battle for life. The epistle lesson from Romans today sparks this one idea with two emphases. Baptism is a battle for life; and Baptism is a battle for life.
A southern minister was about to baptize a very devout new covert in a river. The minister said to the convert, “Would you like someone to hold your wallet while I baptize you so that it doesn’t get wet?” The man answered: “No, please baptize all of me, especially my wallet!”
God calls us into His family, through His Word and through the waters of baptism. And His Holy Spirit consecrates every part of our lives for His use, including our wallet… and our phone and our calendar. He consecrates the whole of our life!
That is, it isn’t just parts and sections of our life that the Holy Spirit consecrates in baptism; it’s a change of life itself. I heard one pastor talk about how he explains to parents to not be concerned if a baby cries during baptism. He said, ‘of course they’re going to cry, they’re getting the hell washed out of them!’
That’s what the epistle lesson talks about today in verses 4-7; “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be… done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”
In baptism we’re joined to Christ in His death. In fact the Greek word in verse 4 that says ‘buried with Him’ is related to the word for tomb. So, when we’re baptized, we’re entombed with Christ. When someone is entombed they are sealed into death. And that’s what happens to the old man, the rebellious nature within us, at baptism. This is a form of death that is active, not passive.
It didn’t just happen to us; our old nature is killed with Christ. That death is an active death not a passive thing. Luther talks of it as drowning the old man. So again, when a baby cries at baptism, that’s the reaction of the old man, he doesn’t want to die. But in Christ our death to sin is sealed; sealed away in His grave. When Jesus was crucified for us, God accounted His death as our death. And in our baptism His death kills the old man in us who’s then entombed forever.
When someone is baptized, think of it the same way you would think of washing a cup. You ‘bury’ the cup in the water and when you bring it out, the dirt is left behind. The dirt is entombed in that water. That’s what’s happened to us and for us in our baptism. The old nature, the sinful nature, the nature that wants to justify itself by the law, has been sealed in the tomb with Christ. When you bury someone, you put them in a box and seal that box up in the grave.
Sin has been buried with Christ and boxed up and put in the tomb. And out of that particular tomb has come… Jesus. Jesus has risen up from the grave, alive and triumphant over all sin – victorious over sin, over death, and over the devil. Remember what we say at Easter, Christ is risen (He is risen indeed.) That new Easter life is what He gives each person in the waters of baptism. Again, in the lesson today St Paul says, in verse 8 now if we died with Christ we believe that we will also live with Him.
Baptism is a battle for life, for our new life. At the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, the site of the battle between the army of Mexico and a handful of Texans, inscribed on the walls are these words: “The blood of heroes has stained me; therefore let the stones of the Alamo speak, that their immolation in blood be not forgotten.”
For us, the battle with sin was won by the blood of Christ, Who is the cornerstone of our faith. And His victory is made our victory in baptism. We are now the stones that speak His victory. Baptism grants us the victory of new life in Christ. It brings the triumph of Christ’s cross to us and His righteousness is now poured out in the water of baptism on our heads and our bodies. Remember, baptism is a battle for life.
In the water of baptism we’ve been released from the bondage that sin had held us in. And we’ve been released from the guilt of breaking the law that condemns us before God so that we now live life in a new way, in the way of the Holy Spirit. We have new life in the Holy Spirit Who is granted to us in our baptism.
Jesus’ own baptism that we read about in the gospel lesson helps us to see the truth of that. When He was baptized we’re told the Holy Spirit came and alighted on Him like a dove. That was for our benefit. It was a living demonstration of what has been promised to us. Of course the Holy Spirit was with Jesus throughout all His life. But this visible display of the Holy Spirit coming on Jesus at His baptism is so we would understand that that’s also what happens for us. This new life in the Holy Spirit is ours for life.
And for that reason baptism is also a battle for life. All our life long, all our life on this earth we will engage the enemy who wages war against us because we have the Holy Spirit living in us. The enemy hates life because the enemy is sin and death and the devil. All life-long we will be attacked because we are loved by God and have life, eighth day – eternal life, in His Spirit living in us.
One writer has said it well, “the battle with the sin in our life is not completed in baptism… but the decisive victory has been won. The sin is dethroned, the new man, (our new life in Christ) has taken the place of the old man in us.”
The crucifixion of our old self by Jesus’ death on the cross, ends our forced service to sin. That crucifixion applies to us in our baptism and sets us free to live a life of free service to God. We’ve been released from our slavery to sin as St Paul reminded us in verse 6 today. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.
When you shower or bathe every day – and you’re under the water, pause and think about the water that was poured on you in your baptism. The freedom that that water gave you is yours each day. You can take time, with water covering you, and remember you’re free from the bondage to sin. You can choose how you want your day to go. You can choose to please God in the events in your day. That freedom to want to please God is yours through your baptism, all life long.
Think about this also. Before you get up in the morning, before your feet hit the floor, make the sign of the cross and just say to yourself, I’ve been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Let that reminder, of the mark of the cross of Christ that was put on you in your baptism, also remind you of what we talked about today; that His Holy Spirit consecrates every part of our lives for His use, including our wallet, our phone and our calendar.
you are free… of the old man,
you are filled… with the Holy Spirit,
you have been released… from being a slave to sin
and you can honestly desire to…. live for God.
Remember that though you go into the day and you will battle sin, death and the devil,
the decisive victory over sin… has been won,
the old man… is drowned
and sin has been… entombed with Christ.
But if making the sign of the cross reminds you of nothing else, remember as Paul said today, that if we died with Christ we believe that we will also live with Him.
Baptism is a battle for life and it is a battle for life, each day, every day, now and forever Jesus’ victory is yours. In His name, amen.
Sermon #865 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Epiphany Reading Matthew 2:1-12
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 42:1-9
42 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
5 This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. 8 “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.
Epistle Reading Romans 6:1-11
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Holy Gospel Matthew 3:13-17
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”