1 Corinthians 12:12–13 (NKJV)
12For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
Later in the service we have the privilege of welcoming ——– into membership and then baptizing their son —– into the body as well. ——- dad, Alan Burrow, who is the pastor of our sister church in Meridian, Idaho will be assisting with the baptism and so I wanted to say a couple words about baptism for our exhortation today.
We see here in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that baptism connects us not only with the Triune God in whose Name we are baptized but also with the body of Christ, with the Church. In baptism, the Spirit unites us with Christ and with one another, that together we may worship the Father and experience the transforming work of the Spirit.
In Biblical Theology sacraments are visible words not magic talismans. Even as God speaks to us in His written Word, the Bible, so He speaks 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 (cf. Gen 9:12). The rainbow visibly proclaims God’s promise that He will never again flood the earth. 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.
What is true of the rainbow is also true of baptism: it is primarily God’s Word to us, not our word to God. This is why Paul uses the passive voice to describe baptism, “For by one Spirit we all were baptized into one body…” We were baptized; we didn’t baptize ourselves. Why not? Because, first and foremost, baptism is God’s act, God’s word, not my act, my word. In Paul’s words, it is the Spirit who baptizes us into the body of Christ. Hence, the human agent who baptizes us represents God Himself. When Alan comes forward to baptize —— today, he does so not primarily as —–‘s grandfather, as wonderful as that is, but as a minister of the Gospel, a representative of Christ Himself. Robert Rayburn explains:
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… 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… 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, therefore, is an invitation to trust God’s Word; it is a call to faith. In baptism, God speaks to each of us individually. He claims us as His own and promises us forgiveness and newness of life through faith in His Son. Consequently, baptism is not only for adults but also for our children – for God graciously claims them as His own and gives them His promises as well. Today, therefore, God speaks to —– and assures him that His promise of forgiveness and renewal is for him; even as He spoke to you in your baptism and made the same promise to you.
So reminded that in baptism God claims us as His own, puts His Name upon us, and summons us to trust Him and to walk in newness of life, let us confess that we often respond to His Word with unbelief. We often despise our baptism and forget the call that He has issued to us in it. Hence, 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.