Children are a Gift

December 30, 2018 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Children, Christmas, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

Psalm 127:3–5 (NKJV)

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

This morning we meditate on Psalm 45 – a song of love, a song that celebrates the wedding day of the King of Israel. We will meditate on the King and Queen in their glory and rejoice in the ideal of wedded love that is presented to us. Psalm 45, as we will see, closes with this promise to the King and his Queen: “Instead of your fathers shall be your sons, whom you shall make princes in all the earth” (45:16). The psalm, in other words, anticipates the fruitfulness of the King and Queen. God would bless them with children.

It the blessing of children that Psalm 127 sings. Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is his reward. Children are a heritage from the Lord – children are God’s reminder to us that he intends to bless us and to cause His people to inherit the earth. The fruit of the womb is his reward – a treasure far greater than second homes, new cars, expensive toys, or undistracted minds. But children are not an automatic blessing – the blessing of children is contigent upon parents raising their children in the nurture of the Lord so that those children fight alongside them against God’s enemies. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. Does it cost to have children? Absolutely. Is it at times a struggle to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Absolutely. But the psalms orient us to the blessing.

Increasingly, however, our broader society tempts us to view children as a burden rather than a blessing. Our culture of death has not only aborted over 60 million children, but is now making the morning after pill increasingly available to stave off the supposed curse of fertility. Rather than extolling the glory of sexual self-control and celebrating the wonder of children conceived in wedlock, we have endeavored to divorce the sexual act from fertility by murdering the unwanted by-products of our sinful self-indulgence. Tired of confining the fire of our passion to the fireplace, we have lighted it in the middle of the house – and now the house is burning down around us. Rampant divorce, skyrocketing rates of mental illness, the #metoo movement, homosexuality, transgenderism – all are the fruit of our hatred of God and our hatred of the fruit of the womb.

So what of you? Have you given thanks for the blessing of children? Parents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to teach and train your children, to disciple them daily, to show them the paths of the Lord, and to invest in them? Grandparents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to invest in the lives of your grandchildren and point them to the greatness of the Lord? Congregation, when the cries of children are reverberating in our sanctuary and you’re having a hard time following the sermon, are you grateful for the blessing of children?

Brothers and sisters, let us remember on this First Sunday of Christmas that Mary responded in faith to the news that she would bear a child. She rejoiced despite the challenges she would face. So let us imitate her by giving thanks for the children that God has given us and anticipating with joy the arrival of others. And let us confess that as a society we have despised the little ones – as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Expose the Unfruitful Deeds of Darkness

November 25, 2018 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Communion, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Heart, King Jesus, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility, Sexuality

Ephesians 5:8–12 (NKJV)

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

Paul reminds us in our text that when the Lord saves us, He delivers us from darkness and brings us into the light. Whereas we once walked in darkness, subject to the prince of darkness and in bondage to our own sinful nature, God in Christ has brought us out of Satan’s kingdom and made us part of His own. He forgives our sins and renews us in the inner man, giving us a new heart by the power of His Spirit. He makes us to be children of light.

As those adopted into His family and made citizens of His kingdom, He now summons us to walk as children of light. The Lord of Light pours out the Spirit of Light upon children of light. And the Spirit so works in the hearts of those who have truly believed that they practice, in Paul’s words, goodness, righteousness, and truth. The Spirit bears rich and abundant fruit in the lives of His own. He causes us to walk in God’s commandments.

Consequently, those who have been saved want to have open lives. They want to dwell in the light and to have the vestiges of darkness removed from their lives. In Paul’s words, they have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. They don’t hide their emails or their phone conversations. They don’t engage in filthy speech or coarse jesting. They don’t look at pornographic pictures or develop intimate relationships with persons other than their spouse. They cultivate a love for goodness, righteousness, and truth.

While the calling to expose the unfruitful works of darkness is often uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is our duty to do so. We have just welcomed the —- household into membership. I now have the sober duty to announce that the elders are publicly suspending —- from the Lord’s Supper for the sins of adultery and deceit. For several years, —- has been living in sin, preying on several different women, some of whom have attended our congregation. He has been deceiving his wife and others and has been repeatedly unfaithful to her. Thankfully, —- is professing repentance. However, given the length of time he has lived a life of deceit regarding the nature of their relationship and his own walk with the Lord, the elders have determined to suspend him from the Supper until he manifests fruits in keeping with repentance.

We know that this will come as a shock to you even as it has come as a shock to his family and to the elders. We had believed that —- was walking faithfully with the Lord and that he was faithfully loving his wife. The truth, however, is that he has been deceiving us all. He has been having fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness rather than exposing them. Thankfully the truth emerged this last weekend and there is now opportunity for genuine repentance and change.

So please pray for the —-. Pray for —- – that he would truly repent and repudiate the unfruitful deeds of darkness that have bound him for the last several years; that he would seek out help and, by the power of God’s Spirit, break with the sin that has enslaved him. Pray for —- – that she would continue to lean on the Lord, entrust herself to His loving care, and treasure her daughters. Pray for their children – that they would know the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ, experience the comforting presence of their Heavenly Father, and love and obey their mom in these trying times.

Moments like this should cause each of us to reflect on the treacherous nature of our own hearts and the deceitfulness of sin. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (17:9) That judgment pertains to your heart and to mine. It was to forgive the guilt of our sin and to transform our hearts that Jesus gave His life on the cross and then rose again from the dead. So if you are in sin, ensnared by the darkness, come to the light before it is too late. Confess your sin in Jesus’ name and seek the forgiveness of the Lord.

Sobered by the pervasiveness of sin, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Finding the Will of God?

November 18, 2018 in Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - OT - Deuteronomy, Covenantal Living, Faith, Meditations, Wisdom, Word of God

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (NKJV)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Many people are confused about the will of God. They speak of “finding’ the will of God as though it is mysterious and difficult to decipher. But Paul tells us in our passage today that the will of God, God’s purpose for our lives, is really quite clear, plain, and simple: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Paul’s words remind us that, as Christians, our calling is not to peer into God’s secret will but to obey His revealed will. Moses writes in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” Our duty as Christians is to obey God’s revealed will not to discover His secret will. Within the fence of God’s revealed law, we are free to choose what we desire, trusting God for the outcome. This is the principle of liberty within law. As Paul reminds widows in 1 Corinthians 7:39 – a widow is free to marry whomever she desires only in the Lord. She has liberty – she may marry whomever she desires – within the context of God’s moral law – she may marry only in the Lord.

But walking as free men requires faith and courage. Sometimes we obey His law and the future ends in victory, prosperity, and kingdom advancement; sometimes we obey His law and the future ends in defeat, poverty, and kingdom retreat. This is the challenge of walking by faith. While pagans routinely practiced divination – looking at the entrails of animals, reading the signs in the stars, and relying upon superstitions in order to discern the will of the gods for each and every decision – God’s people have been called to walk by faith. We aren’t promised how obeying God’s law will turn out; we’re just called to obey it.

So what is God’s will for you? What is God’s will for your life? Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks. God’s will for you is that you learn and obey His moral law. Within the context of His law, you are free to do what you desire. The will of God, therefore, is not hidden or obscure. There is no need to find His will; it has not been lost. God wants you to know His law and then to walk by faith, entrusting the outcome to Him.

That which is true for us individually is also true nationally. This week we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. President George Washington remarked in his first Thanksgiving Proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor… therefore, I do recommend and assign [a day] to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country…

President Washington’s words remind us that our duty is not to find the will of God but to obey it. In the same proclamation, Washington called upon us “to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…” He insisted that virtue is essential for our survival as a people and for securing the continued blessings of Almighty God. We don’t need to discover God’s secret will but to obey His revealed will.

So as we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let us give thanks to the Lord for the Constitutional liberties we have enjoyed, for the peace we have experienced, for the abundance we have tasted, for the families we have been given, and for the salvation with which we have been blessed. If we are to give thanks in everything, how much more ought we to give thanks when we enjoy such manifold blessings?

Reminded that we are to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things, let us confess that we often ignore God’s clear will for our lives and feign ignorance of our duty. And as we confess our sins to the Lord seeking His forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

A Godly Woman

October 28, 2018 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Creation, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

Genesis 2:18 (NKJV)
18
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

The Scriptures insist that male and female together bear the image of God. God made males to be male and females to be female. This was his design, his intention, his plan. He saw that the man was alone and declared it wasn’t good. So He decided to make a helper comparable to the man. This morning let us consider what it means, therefore, for a woman to honor and glorify her Creator, the very Creator who also sent His Son Jesus as woman’s Redeemer.

First, because God is your Creator, His Word is to govern and rule your life. The first woman, Eve, sinned by questioning God’s Word and deciding for herself whether God’s Word or the serpent’s word was to be believed. She set herself up as the judge. But none of us were designed to live that way – and it is the choice to live that way that has wrought calamity and destruction in the world – and that continues to do so. The so-called “battle of the sexes” has arisen precisely because men and women have refused to live according to God’s Word and have instead lived according to their own.

Second, God’s Word declares that men and women were created to complement one another. God’s judgment that it is not good that man be alone reveals not only the relationship that God designed for marriage but also for broader society. Whether the number of men and women would have been perfectly balanced in an unfallen world we are not told – but we are told that God designed man as male and female to glorify His Name and be for the benefit of all. Men as male and women as female were designed by God to complement one another, not compete with one another.

Third, God’s design for women, revealed here in the creation story, is that women were created to help men fulfill their creational tasks. God declares, “I will make him a helper suitable to him.” If you are a woman, God created you to help the men in your life become better men. While this will look different in different situations, a woman’s basic calling is to serve as a pillar of strength and support that enables the men in her life to be all that they can be. As John Piper has written, “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” So, ladies, how are you doing? Are you affirming, receiving and nurturing the strength and leadership of your husbands? Your fathers? Your elders? Are you encouraging the men about you to be men and to be masculine? This is your calling.

And what of you men? Remember Piper’s words: “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” There are plenty of unworthy men in the world, men who abuse women or men who abdicate their responsibilities. So what of you? Are you weak and irresponsible, overbearing and tyrannical? Or are you stepping up to the plate and providing godly strength, leadership, and protection to the women in your life? This is your calling.

Reminded that rather than submit to God’s design for us as men and women, we frequently develop our own visions for what is good and right, let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.

Save a Soul from Death

June 24, 2018 in Bible - NT - James, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Sacraments

James 5:19–20 (NKJV)
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

One of our duties as a congregation is to come alongside one another and assist one another to walk faithfully with the Lord. Our enemies – the world, the flesh, and the devil – are relentless in their attacks upon our faith and faithfulness to the Lord. Consequently, the Lord has given us brothers and sisters to assist us in the fight. It is this dynamic that James addresses in our text. Let us note a few things.

First, notice that James views it as possible that those who profess faith in Christ be tempted to apostatize. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth – each of us has names that we can attach to James’ warning. If we have walked long in the faith, we have known those who wander from the truth and fall into error and sin.

Second, James views it as possible that those who are so tempted can be reclaimed. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back… It is possible, by the grace of God, to be God’s means of bringing an erring brother back to the truth. It is possible, in James’ words, to turn a sinner from the error of his ways.

Finally, James encourages us to reclaim those who have wandered for, in doing so, we save the erring brother from certain destruction. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. This is the great privilege of helping those who are wandering astray.

Today the elders perform the sober duty of announcing to you that our beloved sister and daughter, —-, is wandering from the truth…. Consequently, we are publicly suspending her from fellowship in the Supper and calling upon you, her brothers and sisters in the Lord, to come alongside her and attempt to rescue her from the error of her ways. She knows the right thing to do and often desires to do it but has thus far lacked the strength of purpose to carry out what is good and right. So what can you do?

First, regardless of whether you personally know —-, please pray for her and for those who do know her, especially her family, that —- would be disposed to listen to them, to do what is right, and to return to the truth with a whole heart. Pray that she wouldn’t flee from the truth but embrace it with a whole heart.

Second, if you know —-, please endeavor to reach out to her. Consider writing her a letter. Remind her of your love for her, of the Lord’s love for her, and urge her to return to the truth. The Lord is gracious and longsuffering and does not desire the death of a sinner but that one repent and return to Him. So this is what we desire for —-. Don’t treat her self-righteously; don’t lecture her in haughtiness or pride; appeal to her as a beloved sister.

And so, having been notified of —- sin, we are reminded of how susceptible we all are to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. So let us confess our own need of God’s forgiving grace and His merciful intervention to keep us in the truth. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Stirring Up Strife

February 25, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility

Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV)
12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.

When we live in community sin and strife are inevitable. Often in our exhortations, therefore, I take the time to warn us from sinning against others and provoking strife. We need to beware lest we be a cause of strife in our relationships.

But today’s Scripture reminds us that we not only need to beware lest we cause strife in our relationships, we also need to beware lest we perpetuate it. It addresses the victim of sin and strife not the perpetrator. What do you do when you are the victim of another’s sin? There you were, living piously, saintly glow radiating about your face, angelic halo dancing above your head, and then, out of the blue, comes a sinner who treads on your toe and picks a fight. Your husband ignores you. Your wife snaps at you. Your friend speaks maliciously to you. Your sibling breaks your toy. How do you respond?

Solomon gives you two options and he paints them in black and white – “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” The first option is hatred. You can respond to the sinner in turn. He stepped on your toe? Then step on his and poke him in the eye for good measure. Hatred stirs up strife. Hatred says, “I’ll see your sin and raise you some.” The second option is love. You can respond to the sinner out of turn. He stepped on your toe? Then overlook it and do good to him; or, if you can’t overlook it, then confront it graciously. If he confesses, you have gained your brother. If he persists, then you can choose to overlook it or to bring along others to help you resolve the matter. Love covers all sins.

Solomon’s words remind us that God does not give us a license to sin when someone else has sinned against us. Even when we are the victim of another’s sin, we are to respond to that sin in love. We are to beware lest we stir up strife by our response to the sin. Hatred stirs up strife. You didn’t introduce it, but you increased it. In other words, Solomon tells you, there is no situation so bad that you cannot make it worse by your sin. Our calling as victims, therefore, is to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, “who, when he was reviled, did not revile in turn; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23). Jesus’ life reminds me that your sin doesn’t justify mine.

But often when we are the victim of another’s sin, we justify our sinful response and we get angry with those who would correct us. Imagine that a thief stole your money and stabbed you in the arm. You are a victim. You go to the doctor. The doctor expresses sympathy for you, stitches up your arm, and gives you instructions about keeping the wound clean. “Keep it clean and you’ll be fine in a couple months.” But you’re so angry about this situation that you ignore the doctor’s orders. You refuse to change the bandages and the wound gets badly infected. Finally, you return to the doctor and he’s dismayed. “Did you keep it clean? Did you do what I said?” he asks. “No,” you sullenly respond. So he rebukes you and tells you that you may lose your arm; you may even lose your life. But you angrily respond, “How dare you blame me? I was the victim! I didn’t stab myself!” What’s the doctor going to say? Is he going patronize you? To apologize for rebuking you? No! Not if he’s a good doctor. He going to tell you that you are a fool and that you’ve only made a bad situation worse.

So what of you? Are you using another’s sin to justify your own? Are you nursing anger or resentment or bitterness in your heart against another? Are you blaming your wife for your outbursts of wrath? Are you blaming your husband for your nagging spirit? Are you blaming your parents for your sullen attitude or sinful rebellion? Are you blaming your employer for your laziness? Or are you taking responsibility for the way that you are responding to the sin of others?

Reminded that the sin of others does not justify our own sin, let us confess that we often stir up strife through hatred rather than cover it through love. And, as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able do to so. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Do it again!

December 24, 2017 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Christmas, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Liturgy, Meditations, Parents

Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)
30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child, I doubt that I have to remind you that children love these times of celebration. While we adults often grow tired, kids never tire; they long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open presents?” Are you children excited?

We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. God never tires of causing the earth to spin like a top; never tires of flapping the wings of a bird; never tires of causing the grass to sprout from the earth; never tires of sucking water out of the earth through the roots of a tree and turning the nutrients into apples that people can eat. All these works of the Lord reveal His untiring joy and laughter, reveal His delight in all His work, His faithfulness and uprightness. G.K. Chesterton explains all this in his inimitable way in his book Orthodoxy. He writes:

“Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

So what of you? Have you grown old? Have you ceased to look in wide-eyed wonder at the world? You teens, have you become too insecure or too self-important to rejoice with joy? You young adults, have you become too self-absorbed and ambitious to slow down and enjoy family and friends? You adults, have you become too tired and lazy to celebrate with joy? Or too greedy to enjoy the delights of fellowship? Reminded that we have sinned and grown old, that we have become bored and complacent with the marvelous world that God has made and in which He has placed us, that we have complained rather than overflowed with thanksgiving, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Thoughts on Households and Church Membership

February 26, 2017 in Bible - NT - Acts, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology
Acts 16:31-33 (NKJV)
31
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
This morning we have the privilege of welcoming a number of households into membership at Trinity Church. At such times it is always profitable to recall why we do this membership thing. This morning I would like us to consider why we administer membership vows to the Head of Household rather than to each individual member of the household. Why do this?
The point is certainly not that only the Head of Household is important; nor is the point that in order to be a member of the church you have to be an adult. May it never be! It is important to remember that the Head of Household is taking a vow not only for himself or herself but for his or her entire household. In other words, if you have been baptized and you are part of a member household, then you individually are a member of this congregation. You receive the loving care of Christ, the kindly fellowship of the covenant community, and the gracious accountability of the elders and deacons. You are part of the body, an integral member of the covenant community, and to be treated as such. So as we bring these families and individuals forward, all those who have been baptized join us as members of the church.
If they are all individually members of the congregation, then why have just the Head of Household take the vows? The reason is this: to emphasize that God has created a covenantal world. What this means is that not all the decisions which affect us personally and legally are decisions that we ourselves make. All of us were born to parents that we did not choose; we were born into a country we did not choose; we were born subject to laws and statutes we did not choose. Not only is this the case, we all were born in sin, subject to the wrath of God, because of the rebellion of our father Adam. He was our representative, the one whose sin determined the course of our lives. God created the world in such a way that we have representatives whose choices affect us for good and for ill.
And praise God that this is true – for were it not, none of us could ever be saved. Why not? Because we are saved not because of anything we have done but because of Christ. We have His righteousness credited to our account. Though we have not personally been righteous, God in His grace and mercy looks upon us in Christ and treats us as holy and beloved. Because we are part of His house, under His loving headship, we receive innumerable blessings.

So household vows emphasize three things: first, the critical role that the head of household has for the spiritual vitality and health of the entire household. Second, the incredible blessings that come to the entire household when that household is subject to the Lord Jesus Christ. And third, the need for faithfulness from every member of the household so that, in the future, additional healthy, robust, and godly households can be established to the glory of God.

Why baptize babies?

February 26, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Quotations
Romans 6:3–6 (NKJV)
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
In our exhortations, I have been exploring various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. Since we have the privilege of baptizing a baby later this morning, I thought it beneficial to use our exhortation to explain our rationale for this action. Why do we baptize babies? I’ve written on this elsewhere, but consider a few more thoughts.
In Biblical Theology sacraments are visible words. Even as God communicates to us in His written Word, the Bible, so He communicates to us in visible words, in covenant signs and seals – what we call sacraments or ordinances. One of the earliest covenant signs was the rainbow – God placed the rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant that He made with Noah. The rainbow visibly proclaims God’s promise to Noah and to us that He will never again flood the earth. So every time we see the rainbow, God invites us to believe His promise and trust Him. In other words, the rainbow isn’t our word to God but God’s word to us, God’s promise to us (Gen 9:12-17).
What is true of the rainbow is also true of other covenant signs: they are primarily God’s Word to us, not our word to God. Paul emphasizes this in Romans 6 by using the passive voice to describe baptism. He writes that the Roman Christians “were baptized” (passive) into Christ and “were baptized”(again, passive) into His death. So why the passive voice? Because, first and foremost, baptism is God’s act, God’s word, not my act, my word.
We do not baptize ourselves; we are baptized by another. In baptism, God speaks to each of us individually – He claims us as His own and assures us that, so long as we trust Christ, we are cleansed of our sin as surely as water washes our bodies and are anointed with His Spirit as surely as the water makes us wet. While the preaching of the Word holds that promise out generically, baptism makes that promise personal. Today, God speaks to Piper and assures her that His promise is reliable for her; even as He spoke to you in your baptism and made the same promise to you.
Robert Rayburn illustrates this powerfully while explaining why it is that we have ministers of the Gospel perform the baptism:
The reason why no one [but the minister] baptizes someone in our churches… is so that it be absolutely clear that baptism is not our act; it is Christ’s…. Suppose we were to have an infant baptism here next Lord’s Day: and suppose on this moment alone of all the moments in the history of the Church since the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ this was a sacrament by sight and not by faith: Just as the minister was prepared to begin, with a loud, tearing sound the roof of the building parted; and lo and behold, the Lord Christ Himself descended to where I am standing right now. There were seraphim hovering above His shoulder. We were all on our faces before the glory of God, but He told us to arise. He took the baby in His arms and He pronounced the Divine Triune Name over the child and made the promise of His Gospel and covenant to this child by name and then by name summoned him or her to the life of faith and godliness and consecration. He then spoke a word to this child’s parents about the sacred stewardship He was now entrusting to them and how they would answer to Him for this child’s faith and this child’s life on the Great Day. Then He spoke a word to this congregation about your responsibility and then a word to the minister about his. Then He blessed the child and poured water on its head and ascended back into Heaven and with a loud crash the ceiling came back to where it was before and everything was as it was.
Let me tell you a few things that would be inevitably true. One is that that child, though he or she would be too young to have any personal recollection of that moment, would remember his Baptism forever and better than he would remember any other event in his life because scarcely a day would pass without his parents telling him what happened in the church when he was three weeks old and what the Lord Christ said and demanded and promised. He would live as he grew up—at 3, at 4, at 6, at 8. at 12. at 18, at 26—he would live under the specter and under the mercy, the glory of Baptism. His whole life would be colored and shaped and formed by it. That’s what Baptism is. That’s exactly what happens in the Baptism of a child or adult when it happens in this church. The only difference is that it is by faith that you see it and not by sight.
Baptism is an invitation to trust God’s Word; it is a call to faith; a call to believe God’s promise in Christ personally. Consequently, it is fitting to apply it not only to believers but also to their children – for God graciously names our children as His own and summons them to trust Him along with their parents.
And note that baptism does demand something of us. Paul declares that baptism unites us with Christ’s resurrection such that we also should walk in newness of life. We should walk. Whether we were baptized as an infant, a child, or an adult, God speaks to us through our baptism, unites us to Christ, and calls us to trust Him, to love Him, and to walk in newness of life by the power of His resurrection. We are to respond to His grace with faith and obedience.

So reminded that in baptism God has claimed us as His own, has put His Name upon us, and summoned us to walk in newness of life, let us confess that we often respond to His Word with unbelief, that we have despised our baptism and forgotten the call that He has issued to us in it, and that we have need of His forgiving and cleansing grace as even our baptism signifies. And, as we confess, let us kneel as we are able and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession in your bulletin.