The Baptism of our Lord (C)
January 8, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle, which was read a few minutes ago.
It’s been a running joke for years that the closer Christmas comes, the sweeter the children become, lest they find themselves on the naughty list. And if the kids don’t behave on their own, parents have been known to threaten them that Santa doesn’t bring presents to naughty boys and girls. Children, and some adults, consciously change their behavior so they’re not punished with the absence of presents. I think that’s how most behavior is controlled; through threats. Police don’t pull people over to compliment their safe driving. There aren’t special courtrooms that acknowledge those who haven’t robbed or murdered anyone. It’s the threat of being punished that keeps most people in line. Threats may be effective for the civil realm, but not for Christians. Our behavior as Christians isn’t controlled with threats, rather it’s by the power of our baptisms that we live as Christians.
One way that baptism gives us power is that it makes us dead to Sin. In our baptism, our old self, what Luther calls our Old Adam, was crucified with Christ. Saint Paul writes in verse 6 of our text, “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”. Sin’s power over us was so strong that nothing less than the crucifixion of the Son of God could destroy Sin’s power over us. We couldn’t break free from it ourselves, to be freed Jesus had to be crucified for us, and in our baptisms we’re united with Christ in His crucifixion. Our sins died with Christ, so that we’re no longer enslaved by Sin, rather we have freedom and this freedom enables us to live as those who call themselves Christians.
Paul writes, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”. What Paul is saying here is that it makes no sense to live in sin if our old sinful Adam has been killed. Our old sinful Adam is what leads us into Sin, but since the Old Adam was killed in our baptisms, to try to revive him is foolishness. Think about it this way. When you’re baptized, you’re Old Adam is killed, drowned really. But when you sin, you’re playing Dr. Frankenstein. When you ignore what is right and choose to do that which is sinful, you’re putting that Old Adam onto an operating table, hooking up jumper cables and trying to bring him back to life. Through repentance and forgiveness though we remember that he’s dead, Christ killed him with the water of baptism, and so we can, and do, live as new men and new women.
Now I know that this isn’t easy, for while Christ has won the decisive victory over Sin, the battle with Sin is far from over. As baptized Christians, we face constant temptations and Satan will use every trick imaginable to get us to reject our baptisms and to relinquish the power of Christ over the power of sin. As Christians, we fight to live in such a way that Sin doesn’t gain control over us.
One way that the “old self” tries to control us is by getting us to think that God’s grace is blind. Paul addresses this in the first part of our reading. He writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” What he’s telling us is that we can’t just live anyway we want assuming that God’s going to forgive us all the more. Yes, God is full of grace and He does forgive our sins. However, we don’t try to obtain more of His grace by going out and sinning more. This is horrible thinking because the more you consciously sin in life, the less you want God’s grace. By sinning more and more you’re trying to resurrect the Old Adam and kill the creation of your baptism. What you must remember when you’re tempted by Sin is that your baptism has killed it. Paul writes in Galatians, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Christ broke the power of Sin and by having it nailed with Him to the Cross, gave us the power to tell Sin that it’s dead and that we no longer hear its voice.
In the past, before we were baptized, we were heard its voice and we reveled in it. Our baptisms however killed the desire to live in sinful ways. In our baptisms, we died to Sin and were made alive in Christ Jesus. As the Father brought the Son back to life on Easter morning, so also, He brought us back to life on the day our baptism. This life, which is unlike our previous sinful life, is demonstrated by a new way of walking. “To walk” is a Hebrew expression that refers to a way of life, and in our baptisms we began a new walk, a new way of life. Paul uses the phrase in verse 4 when he tells us that through our death in baptism, we’ve been raised so that “we too might walk in newness of life”.
The evidence of this new way of life is seen in our daily walk. We no longer walk in hatred, violence, and the refusal to forgive. We don’t walk in jealousy or selfishness. Instead we walk in forgiveness, love, joy, peace, and goodness. This is seen in the way that we treat others and it’s also seen in our relationship with God. Paul writes in II Corinthians that through faith, “those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised”. We put God first in all aspects of our lives for this is the greatest and the most faithful way of walking.
Now is this easy? Of course not. It takes hard work to put forth the effort to live as the new people that we are, and we certainly can’t do it on our own. But through our baptism, where faith was put into our hearts and where the forgiveness of sins drowned our Old Adam, we have the power to live as God’s children. Our baptism gives us the confidence to go to our God seeking His help and forgiveness. Our baptism gives us a heart that clings to the instruction and consolation of God’s Word. Our baptism gives us the faith that enables us to resist the temptation to resurrect the Old Adam that was drowned in that Baptism. Luther wrote, “Therefore let all Christians regard their baptism as the daily garment that they are to wear all the time. Every day they should be found in faith and with its fruits suppressing the old creature and growing up in the new”. This is what it means to daily put on our baptisms, that no only do we trust that the Lord forgives us when we sin, but also that His Son’s death at the hands of Sin has given us His Son’s power over Sin. We have died with Him and we’ve been raised with Him. As Paul wrote, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him”. We live with Him here as we live a new life, but we also look forward to the day that we begin our eternal life with Him.
Our Lord’s baptism at the start of His ministry showed that He was one of us, that He would stand with us in the waters of Sin so that He could wash us with the holy water of baptism. I pray that you remember your baptism, for it’s in your baptism that you find the faith that enables you to not only resist temptation, but also the faith to confront the difficulties in your life. Luther once said that every time you wash your face you should remember your baptism. This is good advice, for by remembering our baptism we remember all that the Lord has done for us. We remember too that because we died and rose with Christ in our baptism, we get to walk with Christ; here in time and also for eternity.
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen