************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Days 26-27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 4, 2018
Lord's Day 26 & 27
Colossians 2:9-12; 3:1-14
"Baptism Assures Us"
In Matthew 28, quoted by the Catechism in Q & A 71, we hear one of the last things Jesus said to His Church. We hear Jesus giving a command concerning baptism. A biblical Church faithful to Christ must baptize.
Let me remind you that we are continuing our study of sound doctrine. That is, we are continuing our study of doctrine that is based upon the Bible and not based upon what man's itching ears want to hear.
As the Catechism looks at baptism it emphasizes the assurance we get. Most of us were baptized years ago as children. We cannot even remember our baptism. So perhaps you wonder how it can be of any assurance to you now. So this morning as we look at baptism I want to look at the what of assurance, the how of assurance, the demand of assurance, and the who of assurance.
I The What of Assurance
A We start with the what of assurance.
Baptism has multiple meanings in Scripture. It points to our dying and rising with Christ. It points to the covenant. It points to the Old Testament sacrament of circumcision. But the main and most basic meaning is the washing away of sin.
The element of baptism is water. Water has multiple uses: cooling, cooking, drinking, watering. But baptism is interested in none of these uses. What it wants to emphasize is that water is used for washing. When your hands are dirty you wash them with water in a sink. If your whole body is dirty you wash it with water in a bath-tub or a shower. Water is the universal cleansing agent in every culture.
God has taken the cleansing power of water to give the church a beautiful sacrament. Let me emphasize this: it is a sacrament for the church. So taking a shower before worship is not a sacrament. I am sure baby Levi was given a bath either this morning or last night but that is not a sacrament either. To be a proper baptism, water needs to be applied by an ordained minister, in the name of the triune God, and in the presence of the church as the people of God.
In line with Scripture, the Catechism looks at baptism as a washing. It emphasizes this by using the word "wash" 18 times in its questions and answers about baptism. Which means sound doctrine tells us the sacrament of baptism points to the washing away of sin.
B Baptism by water points to two inward washings. First, it points to a washing with Christ's blood. Meaning what? Meaning that Jesus' blood cleanses us from all sins. That his blood washes away my soul's impurity. His blood. Not the water of baptism. Never the water of baptism as the Roman Catholics say. There is nothing magical or holy about the water in the baptismal fount. We use it for a holy purpose but the water itself is not special. It has not been consecrated by the church or blessed by the pope or mixed with salt. It is ordinary water from an ordinary tap.
Look at Q & A 72: "Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?" The short answer is "no." Baptism itself does not do anything to us or for us. It is merely an "outward washing." Baptism is an outward washing that points beyond itself to an inward washing. We are never washed clean of our sin by the water of baptism.
Baptism is a sign and seal of God's Gospel promise: to forgive our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ's one sacrifice finished on the cross.
Baptism is meant to be God's assurance of this. As surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood washes away all my sins.
Every time you see a baptism, congregation, be assured. Every time you see the dipping in or sprinkling with water, be assured. Be assured that you also are forgiven. Be assured that no sin is too big or too awful. Be assured that you aren't beyond the reach of God's grace in Christ. Let baptism assure you of your washing in Christ.
C Baptism by water also point to another inward washing. It points to a washing with Christ's Spirit.
Based upon the Bible, the Catechism tells us that to be washed with Christ's Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed me and set me apart to be a member of Christ.
Have you ever thought about the words that are said when someone is baptized? In obedience to Jesus' command, we baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). But we need to understand this correctly. If a policeman arrests a suspect by saying, "I arrest you in the name of the law," he means by the authority of the law. Similarly, when a minister says at a wedding, "By the authority which the state has vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife ...," he means he does this by the same kind of authority. But this is not what a minister means when he says, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The minister is not saying he is doing this in the name of and with the authority of God.
The words of baptism are best understood if we realize we are baptized "into" the name of the Father and into the name of the Son and into the name of the Holy Spirit. Into. Into. Into. Instead of "in."
"Into" means into fellowship, into communion, into union, into association with the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. We are baptized into fellowship with the triune God. We are baptized into membership in Christ.
However, the waters of baptism do not unite us to Christ just like the waters of baptism do not forgive us. Only Jesus forgives us and only Jesus unites us to Himself.
Every time you see a baptism, congregation, be assured. Every time you see the dipping in or sprinkling with water, be assured. Be assured that you have been joined to Christ. Be assured that you are a member of Christ. Be assured that you are in fellowship with the triune Godhead. Be assured that you belong to God, that you are part of the covenant of grace, that you are in Christ.
II The How of Assurance
A This brings us to our second point: the how of assurance.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are at a wedding. The bride comes down the aisle looking glorious on the arm of her father. Not a word is said. The groom takes her by the hand and together they walk onto the stage. Again, not a word is said. The groom reaches into his pocket and wordlessly thrusts a ring onto the bride's finger. Likewise, she wordlessly places a ring on his finger. Is either the bride or the groom assured of the other's love by this act of exchanging rings? Of course not! The exchange of rings only makes sense and has any meaning and value when there is first an exchange of vows. The wedding ring without a promise and word means nothing.
Now, instead of a wedding think of a baptism. Imagine that Nathan and Elizabeth bring Levi up here. They have said nothing. I have said nothing. Imagine that three times I sprinkle water on Levi's head. Again, I say nothing. Ridiculous, isn't it? Baptism without a promise and a word means nothing.
Baptism at its most basic level confirms a promise. Baptism at its most basic level confirms the same promise God makes through the preaching of the Word. Baptism at its most basic level confirms the promise to wash away our sins because of Jesus Christ's one sacrifice finished on the cross. Baptism confirms the promise that we belong to Christ.
Baptism confirms a promise. So we state that promise. We explain that promise. We read a form or read the Catechism as we did this morning. And we preach the promise.
Do you see the how of assurance? We are assured by the Word and the sacrament. The sacrament can never be separated from the Word or apart from the Word. It is Word and sacrament together that assures us.
B Think of what is said in God's Word, boys and girls, young people, parents and grandparents as you watch a baptism and be assured. Be assured you have been washed with Christ's blood. Be assured you have been washed with Christ's Spirit. Be assured your sins have been forgiven. Be assured you have been joined to Christ.
Do you doubt, when you stand under the shower, that its water is able to wash away the dirt on your body? Do you wonder if water has that power? Of course not. In the same way, be assured that the washing away of our sins spiritually is a real as physical washing with water. Believe. Rest assured in the promise of the Word and baptism.
III The Demand of Assurance
Our third point is the demand of assurance. The Word and baptism reminds us and assures us that we belong to Christ. Now there is placed upon us the demand to live like we belong to Christ. Listen to how the Catechism explains this:
To be washed with Christ's Spirit means
that the Holy Spirt has renewed me
and set me apart to be a member of Christ
so that more and more I become dead to sin
and increasingly live a holy and righteous life.
Our Bible reading comes from Colossians 2 & 3. Paul tells us to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature (Col 3:5). He tells us to clothe ourselves with the garments of Christ (Col 3:12). Do you know why? Because we have been baptized! Because we have been baptized into Christ's death and resurrection (Col 2:12; 3:1).
Baptized people live a certain way. Those who have been joined to Christ live a certain way. Do they live a life of immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed? Is their tongue used for anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language? Of course not!! Instead, they clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. They bear with each other and forgive each other.
The Word and baptism reminds us and assures us that we belong to Christ. To live like you don't belong to Christ is nothing less than a denial of your baptism. To live like you don't belong to Christ is nothing less than a denial of the Word of God.
So let me repeat: baptized people live like they belong to Jesus. We need to tell our children and youth over and over again the promise of the Word and baptism: that they belong to Jesus. We need to tell our children and youth over and over again that they have been washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ. And, we need to tell our children and youth they need to live a certain way. We cannot make excuses for godless behavior on their part. We cannot expect anything less than Christ's righteousness and Christ's holiness in their life.
IV The Who of Assurance
A Our fourth point is the who of assurance. The assurance of baptism is that we have been washed with Christ's blood. The assurance of baptism is that we have been washed with Christ's Spirit. The assurance of baptism is that our sins have been forgiven. The assurance of baptism is that we have been joined to Christ.
Who is this assurance for? The assurance is for all the people of God. The assurance is for infants as well as adults. Listen to how the Catechism explains this:
Infants as well as adultsSo, do we send the children out when we do a baptism? Is baptism only for grown ups? Absolutely not! We want the children to watch. We want them to hear the promises. We want them to receive the symbol of washing and belonging. Because the promise of baptism is for them as well as for adults. Because the assurance of baptism is for them as well as for adults.
are in God's covenant and are his people.
They, no less than adults, are promised
the forgiveness of sin through Christ's blood
and the Holy Spirit who produces faith.
B We never want to say, congregation, that our infants and children are not saved. We never want to say, congregation, that the promise of the gospel is not for them. We never want to say that only those who are older was washed with Christ's blood and Christ's Spirit.
The promise of baptism, the assurance of baptism, is for ALL of God's people. The assurance that we have been washed with Christ's blood, that we have been washed with Christ's Spirit, that our sins have been forgiven, that we have been joined to Christ is for ALL of God's people -- infants as well as adults.
Sound doctrine holds before us the what, the how, the demand, and the who of the assurance given us in baptism.
Sound doctrine tells us to watch when we baptize. Remember when we baptize. Be assured when we baptize. That you have been washed with Christ's blood and your sins have been forgiven. That you have been washed with Christ's Spirit and you now belong to Jesus.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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