Over the last several weeks we’ve taken a close look at God’s gift of Baptism. I hope that in some way it has shed some light on Luther’s statement in the Large Catechism that when it comes to Baptism, we’ve got enough to study and think about our whole life here! Because in Baptism you have the washing away of sins. It is union with Christ. It is the Father’s divine approval. And when Christ comes again on the Last Day, the meaning of your Baptism will become abundantly clear, when your body is raised up in the resurrection to eternal life.
So looking back, the first week we looked at the nature of Baptism, that is, that it’s not just plain water, but the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. Our second week we looked at the blessing of Baptism, that is, what benefits it provides. We learned that Baptism works the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe.
Last week we reflected on the power of Baptism, that it is a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.
Now today we conclude with the fourth part of Baptism. What it indicates, what it means for our daily lives. Tonight we learn that Baptism embraces our entire lives as believers. That this Sacrament means death to all our selfishness and sin – and that through it we acknowledge that God is making new people out of us.
The Catechism tonight reminds us that we all face a daily battle, confessing and drowning our sins, and then daily living a new life by God’s mercy and grace.
So “what does such baptizing with water indicate? In indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires.”
First off, who is the Old Adam and what’s that all about? Well, that’s a way of speaking about the reality that we are all, every last one of us, fallen creatures. And I do mean fallen. But not like those clichés that we use to excuse ourselves, like “Well, we’re only human”, or, “Hey, nobody’s perfect.” Those excuses just won’t do! Because the truth is, our fallenness is far worse than all that. When we say the “Old Adam,” we are really talking about the rebel unbeliever in all of us who is an enemy of God and a child of the devil. The Old Adam is totally sinful and corrupt, and completely self-centered. The Old Adam is a hater of God and all that is good.
I know that’s harsh but that’s simply what God reveals about our sinful condition that clings to us all. And there are plenty of Scripture passages to back it all up. So that’s what we mean when we talk about the Old Adam or the “old man.”
But you’ve also heard from the Scriptures and from this pulpit and in Bible study that you’ve also got a new man. And in the Catechism we say that a “new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” What do we mean here by the new man? Well, it’s something of the very opposite. The new man refers to us no longer as fallen but as restored creatures of God in Christ. The new man is the faithful believer, the baptized Christian, who is the creation of the Holy Spirit, and a lover of God and all that is true and good.
So how does this Old Adam and the new man interact in all of us? Well, they’re engaged in something of an ongoing battle – a life-and-death struggle with each other. To be sure, the Old Adam is a monster who is mortally wounded, but he fights on through this earthly life, so long as we live on this side of the grave. But the good news is that his days are numbered.
And you know this struggle well. That’s why you say things to others that hurt that should never be said. It’s why you burn with sinful lust. It’s why you get puffed up with pride or slander others mercilessly with your words. The Old Adam is why you are so often discontent and stew with anger and frustration. But underneath it all is mistrust and just plain unbelief in the goodness and grace of God.
So what do you do with this old sinful nature, this unbelieving rebel? Well, the Old Adam is not to be coddled. He will not be placated or appeased. Instead, by daily contrition (that is, sorrow over sin) and repentance (that means daily turning toward Christ) that old sinful flesh, the Old Adam, is to be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires.
Got that? Paul writes, “Put off your old self [leave it all behind], which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (Eph. 4:22).
You see, we are to take this all seriously. There were some folks in Paul’s day, just as there are folks in our day, who have this idea straight from the devil that you can ignore God’s will, live however you want, and even deliberately sin, against better knowledge, banking on God to just wink and smile through it all. But that would be a deadly mistake. This way of thinking is an abuse of the grace of God. It is just plain unbelief. And things will not go well for those who persist in this.
It’s essentially to say, Hey, what a great deal! Because I like to sin and God likes to forgive sin, so what a great arrangement. I’ll just sin all I want. I won’t deprive myself of any perverse pleasure because I know God will just forgive me anyway.
But that’s not living out your Baptism, that’s despising it. Paul had a response for that evil way of thinking. It’s our reading from tonight. You can hear the Apostle get pretty fired up here: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” he says. You’ve got to be kidding me. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Paul continues, “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.”
That is, don’t you get it folks? Don’t you understand that in Baptism you’ve been born again! You’ve been killed and made alive! You’ve got an inheritance in the Father’s kingdom. You’re a new creation. Because in those waters of Baptism you’ve been buried and raised with Christ, and not metaphorically, but you’ve actually died. And you’ve risen. You’ve been joined to Christ’s death and resurrection and that’s that. That’s who you are!
So recognize reality! Understand who you are! A child of God – a foot soldier of Christ – a son of light. So put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
That is all to live the Baptismal life. Which is exhilarating, by the way. It is to live in the promises of God. It is to turn away from sin, which never delivers on any promise for any lasting happiness and joy – and to turn again toward the author of all joy, which can only ever be Christ and His Word.
The Baptismal life means to resist that Old Adam until he is drowned once and for all when we fall asleep in death. But even now we give free reign to the new man, the new creature in Christ, until he rises in final victory on the Last Day.
The Baptismal life is to come to confession and absolution. To receive the Sacraments frequently, and to live by the preaching of the Gospel, which is the source of all life.
And then we go home, and the Baptismal life continues as we forgive and are forgiven in our homes and families, and live selfless love toward each other – and in our community.
May God strengthen us all this Christmas, as we joyfully welcome the Christ Child in our hearts and home. May He sustain us by His grace, that we may live out our Baptisms, glorify God, and serve our neighbors. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, You have forgiven us our sins, rescued us from death and the devil, and given us eternal life by Baptism into the death and resurrection of Your beloved Son. Strengthen our faith so that we daily put to death all sins and evil desires and, trusting Your sure promised, are raised to live before You in righteousness and purity. Finally, dear Father in heaven, bring us to the fulfilment of our Baptism in the resurrection of the body to life everlasting; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
* * *
OFFERINGS TO LMC
Please remember your gifts to LMC. There are a few options for giving:
- You can mail your weekly offerings to the church.
- You can also do an online bill pay through your bank account, which can recur each month. Your bank then sends LMC a check with your offering. There is no cost to you or LMC for this.
- You can set up online giving through an App called Tithe.ly. There is a small fee associated with this transaction. You may find this option at www.lmcusc.org/give.