Baptism of Our Lord
The Baptism of our Lord
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Today we observe the Baptism of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. What could be so difficult about such a topic? Believe me when I say that much has been written about this sacrament that is such an important doctrine of our faith and a foundational pillar in our church. The act of baptizing is written 192 times in the New Testament. It is mentioned more than repentance and forgiveness.
Definitely, one can see that baptism is important to Jesus and to our faith. It is so important to Our Lord and Savior that he himself was baptized. It is so important that Christ commanded us to baptize all people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. [Matt 28:19]
From the time of Christ’s own baptism, all disciples of our Lord, to this very day, speak of the importance of the saving grace given to us in our baptism. The four Gospels, the letters of the Apostle Paul, leaders of the early church, Augustine, Jerome, Luther, etc. all speak of baptism as the securing of our membership in the family of God.
The baptism John performed emphasized the need for repentance. He was speaking to the Jews who believed they need not repent because Abraham was their father and therefore the kingdom of heaven was their entitled inheritance. To be sure, God did not need the water poured out by John’s hand to forgive or to declare a person righteous, but that same person needed to repent and turn from his ways, returning to the path of righteousness in order to be saved.
John went on to explain that his baptism was not the ultimate saving act. He indeed baptized for forgiveness of sins but he proclaimed the coming of the Messiah who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the means of grace through our baptism. This is to say that the Spirit of God that hovered over the face of the deep at the creation of everything is the instrument through which the grace of God gives us salvation.
You may say to yourselves, “What about Jesus? We have the grace of God the Father given to us through the Holy Spirit, where does Jesus fit in?” The grace of God has been bestowed on many people throughout time. The Spirit of God rested on different people such as Abraham, Moses and the prophets. God had even declared His faithful servants righteous from time to time. But under the Law, we cannot be saved. Therefore, Jesus consecrated Holy Baptism with his own death and resurrection. His righteous sacrifice for our sin-filled souls redeemed us from sin and death. His resurrection from the grave gave us eternal life in his kingdom as true sons & daughters.
Our baptism is not a hollow action with meaningless words. It has power and grace to save the lost and the stricken, not because of the sprinkling of water and the confession of our faith, but because Jesus Christ, truly man and truly God, was baptized by the authority of his Father in heaven.
This was the anointing of our eternal king into his eternal kingdom. By being baptized, Jesus was sanctifying the life giving water for us. It was at this moment that Christ took on our sin and began the long journey to the cross.
We baptize today because we acknowledge our sin. We know that we are sinful and unclean. We know that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. [John 1:29] His baptism was not for the forgiveness of his sins because he had no sin. His baptism was to fulfill all righteousness. [Matt 3:15] It is through His righteousness that our baptism cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
So why do we baptize… because we deserve it? No. We baptize because we need it. We cannot shed away our sin as if it were an old coat. We cannot raise ourselves to life after our death. As the apostle Paul states:
“ 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.” [Romans 6:4]
It is when we confess Jesus as Lord that our baptism takes hold of our miserable souls and kills the Old Adam. That former person who reveled in his sin is drowned with the waters of life. Now this does not mean that we must be baptized over and over again to keep destroying our new sin. This one baptism does not falter or fail. It does not have a time limit or expiration date. Nor should we flaunt our righteousness in the face of God. We do not continue to sin in order for His grace to abound. [Romans 6:1]
As Paul says in verse 6 of Romans 6:
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” [Romans 6:6]
This is our confession: Jesus is our Savior. Through the baptism, which he sanctified, we are killed in our sin and made alive again in Christ.
“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 6:10-11]
Let us not take our baptism for granted. Let us walk in the newness of life. Let us be dead to sin, free at last in the glory of God. For the baptism of Jesus gives us another blessing. Through our baptism, we become God’s children.
John’s baptism was for repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Christ’s baptism was to fulfill all righteousness. As a confession of our faith, we baptize for the forgiveness of our sin, and to become a child of our Father in heaven.
Christ is God and therefore did not need to be made a child of God. To fulfill all righteousness, Jesus was christened by his Father in heaven. By all authority in heaven, Jesus was named Savior of us all. John baptized with water but God baptized with the Holy Spirit. It is the true Son of God of whom John spoke. Jesus is the wearer of the sandals of which no one is worthy to stoop down and untie. [Mark 1:7]
This is Jesus who claimed his Lordship in John 8:58 when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” The same Jesus who, in John 17:5 prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Yes my friends, as we confess in our Creed, Jesus is of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
What does this mean? Our baptism holds more than just water. Through baptism we acknowledge our sin. Through baptism we confess our faith, for who would baptize in the name of the trinity if they did not believe? Through the gift of baptism, our sins are forgiven; we are made righteous before God and become His children to live eternally in His kingdom.
It seems that the baptism of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was all about us. In it, he fulfilled all righteousness. In it, he reveals his divinity. In it, he makes us children of God. We do not deserve this love. We are not entitled to this grace. We are not worthy yet we are the benefactors of his will.
The Paschal candle is lit this morning to remind us of our baptism. We could take our Lord’s baptism for granted. We could take his sacrifice of death on the cross for granted, but to do so just proves the necessity of our baptism. Without his resurrection from the grave, giving him dominion over death, we would surely get what we deserve.
Today we observe the Baptism of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. What could be so difficult about such a topic? Absolutely nothing. We need only remember that we are the object of God’s redeeming grace. We do not and cannot save ourselves from our sinful condition. We can only be acted upon by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are the operators of this formula and we are the result. Confusion comes when people try to insert themselves into God’s side of the equation, when we think that we are a factor in our salvation when we are really the redeemed outcome by our Lord and God.
By being true heirs to the kingdom of heaven, we now have the authority by Christ to bring others into his kingdom. Jesus Christ was baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness and now we are to carry on this wonderful life saving sacrament. Therefore I end with the words he gave to his disciples.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matt 28:18-20] Amen.