What We Do When We Do Church – Baptism

1 Peter 3:18-22

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Part 1 of this series of devotions on What We Do When We Do Church was on hymnody – you can read that here.

Part 2 was on the Invocation. You can read that here.

The words of the invocation are also the words of institution of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

While baptism doesn’t happen in every worship service, we are reminded that we are baptized whenever we use the same words to begin a worship service.

Baptism is where we, as Christians, had our beginning, so it is appropriate to begin the Christian worship service with the same words.

But what is Baptism?

The Small Catechism of Martin Luther – the text book that I’ve been teaching out of for over 20 years – says this of baptism:

Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word. Which is that word of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “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.” (Matt. 28:19)

Baptism is when we first became a child of God the Father Almighty and brother of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit uses the Word and the Water to create faith in us and gives us the power to live in that faith.

What happens when we baptize a person?

Water and God’s Word, in baptism, are the means through which the forgiveness of sins reaches us.

Jesus Christ died on a cross nearly 2000 years ago to save the entire human race from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

The benefits of that “once for all” event come to us when we are baptized and stay with us through God’s Holy Word – including the words of the Invocation: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

While the death and resurrection of Jesus is a “once for all” event and while Baptism is a “once in a lifetime” event – we do reap the benefits of Jesus’ salvation and our baptism on a daily basis.

Again, the Small Catechism of Martin Luther says:

What does such baptizing with water indicate? It 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 emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. [emphasis added]

There are two ways that I have found helpful to remind me of my baptism and that I am a forgiven child of God that will live in heaven forever.

The first is whenever I wash with water – taking a shower or a bath or washing my hands. The washing of dirt and grime from my body is similar to what happened when I was baptized. When water was applied to me and the words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” were spoken as that water was applied, my sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus.

The Small Catechism says:

For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:5–8)

The second way I remember this is when I “cross myself.”

In a worship service, whenever I hear the words of baptism (as in the Invocation and the Absolution, more on this in a future devotion), whenever I confess that I have everlasting life (as in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed. Again, covered in a future devotion), or when I receive the blessing of God, as in the Benediction (also covered in a future devotion), I make the “sign of the cross” over myself (forehead to heart, shoulder to shoulder).

This reminds me that I received Jesus Christ the Crucified when I was baptized, as St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six:

“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom. 6:4)

This is how I remember that I am baptized.

Even though the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is not actually done every week in worship, it is celebrated every week in worship and remembered every day by a Christian.

Next time, we’ll explore the Confession of Sins.

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