Baptism: Its Daily Work in You
I am forgiven, yet I don’t want to only be forgiven – I also want to do better. Is there something for me to do to be doing better? Does God help me do better, or does He leave me helpless?
We’ve talked about what Baptism is – that it is water and the Word of God together. We’ve talked about what the benefits of Baptism are – namely that Baptism forgives sins, saves, delivers from death and the devil [Mark 16:16]. And we know how Baptism does such great things – by the Word of God working through the water. (Baptism is called the “washing of water with the Word” [Ephesians 5:26], and rebirth by “water and the Spirit” [John 3:5].
Today, we come to the Fourth Part on Baptism in Luther’s Small Catechism. Here we ask the question, “What Does Such Baptizing with Water Indicate?” What does Baptism indicate – what does it show – and, in fact, do in your daily life? Let’s look here at our Small Catechism:
P: What does such baptizing with water indicate?
C: 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.
P: Where is this written?
C: Saint 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 might live a new life.” [Romans 6:4]
In Baptism, God’s pardoning of your sins and your adoption as God’s child is full and complete. Yet, there is another part to Baptism. There is a daily work of Christ in and through your Baptism – the daily work of putting away the thoughts, words, and deeds of the sinful nature – and the daily raising up of the new life of the new man in you.
The Old Adam in us, as our Small Catechism puts it, is our fallen nature we are born with. From Adam, our first ancestor, who fell in sin, and from whom we come by birth, we have inherited a complete corruption of our human nature. So, we say that we are “by nature sinful and unclean”.
However, just as there is an Old Adam in me, there is also now a New Man in me. This New Man comes, not from Adam, and not by natural birth, but from the Man Jesus Christ and by Baptism.
Adam was my fall. But Jesus Christ is my new beginning. Jesus is a new Adam with a perfect nature. You start again, anew, from the new man Jesus in your second birth, Holy Baptism. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]
Now, in this life, you live with these two natures and two beginnings both in you. And these two natures are at odds.
The Old Adam in you doesn’t believe Christ has forgiven you, doesn’t believe you’ve been born again in Baptism, and doesn’t desire to be God’s child or to do God’s will. The Old Adam continues to want to disbelieve and wants to sin.
The New Man in you (from Jesus, through Baptism) believes God has forgiven you, believes God has made you new – and the New Man in you desires to please God. The New Man in you wants to keep God’s commands and keep to His Word.
What does the water of your Baptism indicate about all of this? Water in the Bible is not insignificant. Sprinkling water with a hyssop branch indicates cleansing that makes the unclean clean. And water, the Bible, drowns God’s enemies and thereby saves God’s people. When the Israelites fled from Egypt, they passed through the Red Sea on dry ground. When Pharaoh’s army entered the sea, the parted waters collapsed, drowned those enemies of God, and delivered the Israelites. In the days of Noah, a flood of water washed away the vile, violent, and unbelieving world and lifted up Noah and his family safely in the ark.
The water of your Baptism, whether you were dunked under it or it was poured or sprinkled on you, indicates that, every day, as a Baptized person, your Old Adam, your fallen nature – corrupted by God’s enemy, sin – is to be drowned and to die. And, every day, your New Man – like Noah and his family – is to be lifted up, freed, to live a clean life. Every day, the old self is to be put off and the new self put on.
This is all the work of Christ’s death and resurrection in you through Baptism. And, it also gives you something to do – to daily repent and to seek the help of Christ’s death and resurrection in you for doing better. For becoming better. He does forgive. And He does help.
Scripture is clear that, through your Baptism, the death and resurrection of Jesus is indeed working in you for the putting away of the old man and for the raising up, more and more, of the new man:
o Romans 6:5 – “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:4, see above, “a new life”).”
o Colossians 2:12 – “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him.”
o Colossians 3:1-10 – “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
o Ephesians 4:24 – “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
o Galatians 3:27 – “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
o Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Until Christ’s Advent, there will always be the Old Adam in me. But, every day, as I await Christ’s Advent, there is also always that New Man in me as well. So, I seek to live by that New Man as I wait. When Christ does arrive, when His Advent happens, then, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed.” “What is mortal in us will put on immortality”; And “What is corruptible in us – the Old Adam – will put on incorruptibility” [1 Corinthians 15:52-53]. We will finally be fully and only the New Man.
Until then, we daily do have something to do to be doing better – repentance and a new life – and we daily have help from our Lord in doing it. And, so we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.