IN NOMINE JESU
Death. It marks the end of life. We witness this earthly reality each time we are at a funeral or committal. We also witness this spiritual reality each time we witness a baptism. It is in Holy Baptism that we witness the death of a heathen—the Old Adam that lurks within each of us. Baptism also marks the beginning of the new life the baptized now has with and in Christ. This Sacrament brings us into the Church as a rite of initiation. This has been the Church's means of initiating her children into the Kingdom of the Father, God Almighty, since the Lord gave His bride, the Church, the instructions to make disciples of all nations, "baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" and to teach them in all things as He has commanded, as we hear in the last chapter of Matthew, for, as Luther teaches us, "Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word." In the baptismal rite found in our new hymnal, the newly baptized receives formal recognition of being included in the Church's membership, as we hear in these words: In Holy Baptism God the Father has made you a member of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and an heir with us of all the treasures of heaven in the one holy Christian and apostolic Church. We receive you in Jesus' Name as our brother/sister in Christ, that together we might hear His Word, receive His gifts, and proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. [LSB 271]
The congregation responds, saying, "Amen. We welcome you in the Name of the Lord." In Holy Baptism we celebrate the birth of the new life in Christ…after we celebrate the death of the heathen. It is not only the death of the heathen at the font we are to celebrate but our own deaths as well, for we were killed at the font as well. The Old Adam drowned that day as water with God's Word poured over our sinful bodies. However, the Old Adam keeps coming back—every day. He comes, along with his cohorts the devil and the sinful world, to bring us back from light into darkness, the darkness of eternal death. This stark and dark reality cannot emphasize enough our need to daily live in our Baptism, which "indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily live before God in righteousness and purity forever" (Baptism IV). Luther points to our text here, citing verse 4: "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." We are to walk in this newness of live every day, for we need to confess our sins every day. There is not one day that goes by in which we do not sin and can forget about God's forgiveness. We pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." To ask the Lutheran question, what does this mean? To get the Lutheran answer, Luther says, We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that How would give them all to us by grace, FOR WE DAILY SIN MUCH AND SURELY DESERVE NOTHING BUT PUNISHMENT…. [Fourth Petition, emphasis added]
There is not a single person among us who can claim to be without sin and therefore without a need to make confession. We cannot, and dare not, cast the first, or any, stone, for we are not without sin. The blessed Apostle and Evangelist St. John reminds us, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 Jn. 1:8-10). For this reason we need to live in our Baptism each and every day, so that the Old Adam in us would drown and die and that the new man in Christ would daily come forth and live. Luther continues to teach us, this time from his Large Catechism: Lastly, we must also know what Baptism signifies, and why God has ordained just such outward sign and ceremony for the Sacrament by which we are first received into the Christian Church. The act or ceremony is this: we are sunk under the water, which passes over us, and afterward are drawn out again. These two parts, (a) to be sunk under the water and (b) drawn out again, signify Baptism's power and work. It is nothing other than putting to death the old Adam and affecting the new man's resurrection after that (Romans 4:4-6). Both of these things must take place in us all our lives. So a truly Christian life is nothing other than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be done without ceasing, that we always keep purging away whatever belongs to the old Adam. Then what belongs to the new man come forth. But what is the old man? It is what is born in human beings from Adam: anger, hate, envy, unchastity, stinginess, laziness, arrogance—yea, unbelief. The old man is infected with all vices and has by nature nothing good in him (Romans 7:18). Now, when we have come into Christ's kingdom (John 3:5), these things must daily decrease. The longer we live the more we become gentle, patient, meek, and ever turn away from unbelief, greed, hatred, envy, and arrogance. … And here you see that Baptism, both in its power and meaning, includes also the third Sacrament, which has been called repentance. It is really nothing other than Baptism. What else is repentance but a serious attack upon the old man, that his lusts be restrained, and an entering into a new life? Therefore, if you live in repentance, you walk in Baptism, which not only illustrates such a new life, but also produces, begins, and exercises it. For in Baptism are given grace, the Spirit, and power to suppress the old man, so that the new man may come forth and become strong (Romans 6:3-6). Our Baptism abides forever. Even though someone should fall from Baptism and sin, still we always have access to it. So we may subdue the old man again. But we do not need to be sprinkled with water again (Ezekiel 36:25-26; Hebrews 10:22). Even if we were put under the water a hundred times, it would still be only one Baptism, even though the work and sign continue and remain. Repentance, therefore, is nothing other than a return and approach to Baptism. We repeat and do what we began before, but abandoned. I say this lest we fall into the opinion in which we were stuck for a long time, imagining that our Baptism is something past, which we can no longer use after we have fallen again into sin. The reason for this is that Baptism is regarded as only based on the outward act once performed and completed. [LC IV, 64-67, 74-80]
Our Lord graciously invites is to live our Baptism each and every day. In fact, He has taught us to do so when He teaches us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses." Our Lord calls us to repentance so that our heavenly Father would forgive us for His Son's sake. The Lord does not desire the death of the sinner, except in the daily confession and forgiveness of sins, when He brings the new man to life. He who has killed the Old Adam in us at the font and in the confession of sins has raised the new creation at the same font and in the forgiveness of sins, for our God is a God of life and of love, with a love so deep that He sent His own Son into the world to become baptized into His own death, the death into which we became baptized. St. Paul reminds us in our text: "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (vv. 3-4). Christ became baptized into His own death for us, placing His human nature under the curse of the Law for us, tasting eternal condemnation so that we would not have to. He gave His body and shed His blood on the cross, washing us clean with His blood, for the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has lovingly, willingly, and willfully gone from the Jordan River to Calvary's cross to die for our sins. You see, "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25b-27). In the words of one of our Easter hymns we confess: Death's flood has lost its chill Since Jesus crossed the river; Lover of souls, from ill My passing soul deliver: Had Christ who once was slain, Not burst His three-day prison, Our faith had been in vain: But now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen; But now has Christ arisen! [LSB 482:2]
Since Christ has risen from the dead, we are baptized not only into His death, but we are baptized into His resurrection! His victory of sin, death, and hell is ours as well! As Paul writes in our text: "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (vv. 8-11). We die, even as Christ Himself died. We live, for He lives and reigns to all eternity. Daily we are dying to live. Our Lord gives us what we need to live in His Word and Sacraments, as He has given His bride, the Church, the charge to administer. She births and washes us through Holy Baptism, continues to wash us through Holy Absolution, feeds us with every word from the mouth of God through His spoken Word and with the body and blood of her Bridegroom. Our Lord does not desire that we suffer or live as orphans, for He has given us to be part of His bride until He comes again to gather us to Himself in heaven. Indeed, we are dying to live, thanks be to God!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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