Over the past few weeks, we’ve been focusing on the ministry of word and sacrament and on this program, we’ll be specifically looking at the sacrament of baptism. It is not only a means of grace but also a rite of initiation. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul encourages Christian husbands “to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish.” In Baptism, we experience this washing of Water with the word.
Unfortunately today, many Christians no longer believe this but rather think of baptism as our sign of obedience to Jesus, rather than his sign and pledge to us. But this is the sign that Jesus mentioned in the Great Commission when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” So what’s the meaning of this practice and what does it actually accomplish? That’s the focus for this edition of the White Horse Inn.
“When we talk about the sacraments, we’re talking about the activity being from God to man for the sake of Christ and not from man to God. When we speak about sacraments in particular, we define a sacrament this way. We say, 1) it’s something that needs to be instituted by Jesus himself, 2) it needs to involve an earthly element of some sort. In the case of baptism, of course, we’re talking about water. In the case of Lord’s Supper, bread and wine, and so forth. And 3) it needs to have an attachment to the promise of forgiveness of sins.”
Term to Learn
“The Sacrament of Baptism”
Q. How does holy baptism signify and seal to you that the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross benefits you?
A. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and Spirit wash away the impurity of my soul, that is, all my sins.
Q. What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?
A. To be washed with Christ’s blood means to receive forgiveness of sins from God, through grace, because of Christ’s blood, poured out for us in his sacrifice on the cross. To be washed with his Spirit means to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and sanctified to be members of Christ, so that more and more we become dead to sin and lead a holy and blameless life.
(The Heidelberg Catechism, Q’s 69-70)