Home > Baptism, Lent > “The Secret Place of the Most High”. Lent Midweek Sermon. “What Benefits Does Baptism Give?”

“The Secret Place of the Most High”. Lent Midweek Sermon. “What Benefits Does Baptism Give?”

baptism deutschlandWednesday after Reminiscere

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Small Catechism: What benefits does Baptism give?

February 27, 2013

“The Secret Place of the Most High”

Jesu juva.


In the Holy Name of Jesus.


Last week we heard the first thing that it is necessary for us to know about Baptism in order to defend our consciences against the lies of the devil when he wants to rob us of the comfort of Baptism.  When we are suffering or dying, or when we are depressed, afraid, and everything we do seems to fail, God baptized us so that we can say, “The Lord is with me.  He loves me.  He will turn all sorrow into joy.  Nothing can separate me from Him.”


And when the devil or our flesh or believers in false teaching say, “You think you are saved just because you are baptized?  Lots of people are baptized, but they aren’t saved”—the first thing you have to learn to say to them (or yourself) is—“Baptism is not to be taken lightly.  It is not just water; it is divine water,  God’s water.  Not because the water itself is unique, but because this water is caught up in God’s command.  Even more, He has joined His holy name to the water.  So now God’s power and glory and honor are joined to Baptism.  So I am not trusting in a human work or an idol when I say ‘I am baptized.’  Baptism is not man’s work.  Baptism is God’s work.”


This week we hear what the benefit of Baptism is, which is sweet Gospel and comfort from God.  Why did God command baptism and put His name on it?  Why put so much power and majesty into Baptism?  It’s as if the United States went to war and mobilized every possible plane, tank, helicopter, missile, and soldier—every last bit of its military might.  But God put all of His power (which is unlimited)—into Baptism when He joined His name to it.  Why so much?


For one purpose—to save.


There is so much power in Baptism—even the name of the most Holy Trinity—so that we may be saved and be confident and certain of our salvation.


The Small Catechism mentions three benefits of Holy Baptism.  It works or does something; it rescues or delivers from something; and it gives something.  For the sake of simplicity we will stay with those three things mentioned by the catechism: what Baptism works, what it rescues from, and what it gives.  And we will look briefly at where these benefits are shown in the Scripture in addition to the verse from Mark in the catechism, so that whenever a question arises about the benefits of Baptism, you will at least have heard that Baptism has these benefits not because I said so, or even because the catechism says so, but because God says so in His Word, the Holy Scriptures.


First of all, Baptism works.  What does it work?  “It works forgiveness of sins.”

I thought Jesus’ death on the cross works the forgiveness of sins?  Yes, Jesus bought and paid for the forgiveness of sins with His suffering.  The forgiveness of sins has a price tag for each one of us.  The first man ran up a tab for the whole world by rebelling against God.  Every generation of human beings was born with that debt.  And each generation added to it with sins of their own.

The debt that has to be paid for rebellion against God is the loss of God and all His goodness and kindness and mercy and His active anger.


That debt isn’t paid by being baptized.  Sometimes other protestants think that Lutherans believe that.  But no work that we do can repay the debt of rebellion against God.


Jesus, true God, repays it.  That is what causes Jesus such anxiety in the garden that He sweats blood.  It is the prospect of drinking the cup of God’s wrath and fury for all human beings.


But Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath against our sins to the bottom.  There is none left to drink.  We are redeemed.  The price that buys us out of slavery is paid.  We are reconciled to God through the death of His Son.


So why then does the catechism say that “Baptism works forgiveness of sins”?


Because the ransom paid by Jesus must be received by individuals.  The price has been paid, but that does no good for the person who doesn’t believe it.


So the Holy Spirit preaches the atonement Christ has made for sinners.  And those who believe it are to be baptized, so that the forgiveness of sins paid for by Jesus may be applied and received individually.


Baptism works forgiveness of sins not by earning or winning the forgiveness of sins, but by bestowing the forgiveness won on the cross and creating faith which grasps the forgiveness.


Scripture teaches this.  In the reading from Acts 2 for today, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children…”  And again in Acts 22: “Rise and be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.”  And in the verse from Mark 16 quoted in the catechism: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…”


When you hear the Gospel proclaimed, that Jesus died for your sins, and believe it, you receive the Holy Spirit and are forgiven.  But the Scriptures repeatedly link faith in the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus with baptism.  For instance, Galatians 3: “You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself [or put on] Christ.”  Paul links being a son of God through faith in Jesus with being baptized into Christ.  The two go together.


Why?  Because it is all too easy to hear the preaching of the Gospel—that Jesus has atoned for the sins of the whole world—but then doubt whether it applies to you.


How could it not apply to you?  Of course, the whole world means the whole world.  But we know well that the whole world does not believe the Gospel.  In fact, there are many people who say they believe it, but their faith is not saving faith because they remain enslaved to sin and do not bring forth the Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, etc.


It is quite possible to hear that Christ died for the whole world, and yet to doubt whether you belong to Christ because of your lack of spiritual fruit and the ongoing power of sin.

Here Baptism gives peace and fortifies our consciences.  “Jesus paid for the sins of the world.  But are my sins forgiven?  Do I have true faith?  Look at my ongoing failures and sins!”  To this, and to those who question our salvation because we were baptized as infants, we can say: “Jesus’ atonement applies to me because in Baptism the triune God promises that my sins are forgiven.  He says, ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” and ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”  He says “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3).


In Baptism God promises the forgiveness of sins.  When my sins are great, when I feel unbelief in my heart, Baptism is the pledge of the Most Holy Trinity that Christ’s suffering and death and resurrection has been applied to me.  I am a participant in Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.  Even if I have turned away a thousand times, God pledges in my baptism that He washes away my sins and that I am united to Christ.  “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”


“Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him…”says Psalm 32.  Blessed indeed.  Blessed here and blessed forever with a joyful happy conscience.  If my sins are forgiven, even if everything else is in the toilet I am blessed.  And in Baptism God promises that you are that blessed man whose sins are covered, against whom He will never count sin.  This is the good, clean conscience that 1 Peter talks about in connection with baptism.  We didn’t just have a bath and wash off dirt.  We received from God the promise of a good conscience.  Whenever I am uncertain of myself because of sin, Baptism says, “You are clean”—and God through it daily cleanses my conscience with the blood of Jesus.  My sins are forgiven.  Now I can live courageously instead of cowering with fear, because God is for me.


So you can see what a treasure we are given in Baptism.


But there is more, because the Lord also rescues and delivers us in Baptism.  From what?  From death and the devil.  [From here the basic skeleton of the outline is the same as what I preached, but a lot of the details came when I was putting this together.  Whatever I preached was handwritten from this point and I don’t know where the notes are.  So what is written here can be pirated for later use.]


-“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead will never die again.  Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death He died, He died to sin once for all.  But the life He lives, He lives to God.  In the same way reckon yourself dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 6)

-We reckon ourselves, count ourselves dead to sin because we died with Christ in Baptism.  Just as God reckons us righteous for Jesus’ sake, we reckon ourselves dead to sin (although we do not feel this to be true…)

-The point is, Jesus dies no more.  Never again does Jesus die.  It can never happen because He destroyed all sin forever by His one passion.  Now He lives forever, risen, never to die again.

-Being baptized, we have conquered death.  He is the head of the body, the Church.  And if the head dies and then comes forth from the tomb, puncturing death, entering everlasting life, then the body must follow.  Otherwise the body is decapitated and dead.

-Moreover, if Jesus is the head of the Church like the man is the head of the woman (or the husband is the head of His wife)—and He is—then, just as in marriage, what is the husband’s belongs to the wife.  The husband’s body does not belong to himself, but to the wife (1 Cor. 7).  In fact, nothing that the husband has belongs to the husband alone; it is the husband’s job to give everything up for his wife—even His own life. And that is just what Jesus has done.  He gave Himself up for His bride, “to sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,” (i.e. Holy Baptism, in which water is joined with the word of God), “that He might present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without any spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless.”  (Ephesians 5)


-Jesus gave Himself up for us, his bride, to wash us and cleanse us from every defilement, and make us a beautiful, holy, immortal, blameless Holy Church.  That is what He makes us in Baptism.  And there He gives us not only righteousness and holiness, but also its fruit—resurrection—rescue from death.


-Baptism also delivers or rescues us from the devil.


-Jesus is the seed of the woman who crushes the serpent’s head and destroys his power.  He takes away the curse and replaces it with everlasting blessing.


-He became a curse for us (Galatians 3) because Scripture says that all who die hung on a tree are cursed by God.  Bearing the curse of God, Jesus removes the curse from us.


-This crushes Satan’s head and knocks the fangs from his head.


-The curse is coming to its conclusion.  When we die, the curse on Adam and Eve no longer applies.

-If there were no forgiveness of sins, the everlasting curse of God’s righteous anger would fall upon us forever.


-But that curse has been removed by Jesus’ suffering and death.


-Since He tasted death for us and drank the cup of the Father’s wrath, now the devil has no power to condemn us.


-He can inflict pain and take away (temporarily) good things from us


-Yet we are no longer under his power.  Satan can no longer keep us running on the hamster wheel by which we live life fleeing from God’s judgment, trying to cover up and clean up our sins.  Because that is done.  It is done freely by God the Son, our Lord and kinsman Jesus Christ.


-He cleaned up our sins by taking the foulness and the curse on Himself.  If we try to do that we are damned.  But Jesus took the foulness, the curse, the sickness, and the wrath on Himself; then He rose from the dead.  He bore God’s wrath and rose from the dead, true God and man.  And Satan can no longer condemn or enslave those who have been made free of sin, death, curse, and God’s wrath by Jesus’ work.


–Jesus trampled Satan and ruined his kingdom.  That deliverance from the devil that Jesus received in His resurrection (when the Father raised Him and showed that His offering was acceptable)—is ours in Baptism.

-Baptized into Christ, Satan cannot accuse you, nor condemn you, nor damn you.  He cannot even give you a bad conscience if you cling to God’s promise in Baptism, which is that everything Christ did, everything He has, is yours, including His being raised and set free from all of the devil’s attacks, traps, assaults, temptations.



–Finally, Baptism gives eternal salvation.

I can say—I am saved, and I will be saved.  I share in Christ’s salvation now through my Baptism, and I am promised that I will share in it forever in my Baptism—that Christ’s once and for all death and resurrection is mine and that the Lord intends to keep me in this faith until I die.


–“To those who believe this”…Baptism is the pledge and promise of God that all these things belong to us.  Faith does not add something to Baptism.


-Those who believe this…say “Amen” to God when He says “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”


-They say “God baptized me; therefore I am forgiven, delivered from Satan and death, and saved forever.  Yes, yes, it shall be so.”


–That is what we say when we invoke the Triune Name at the beginning of the service or at the beginning of prayers or at the beginning or end of the day.  We are not saying, “I hope the Trinity hears me.”  We are invoking the name, claiming it.  We are invoking and claiming the Name that claimed us in our baptism, hiding us in Jesus’ wounded side like a dove in the cracks in the rock face of a mountain.  To say the name of the Trinity in faith (making the sign of the cross with Luther and the ancient church, or not making the sign of the cross, and in either case not judging those who do differently than we do) is to claim access to the name of the only and most Holy Trinity.  We have access to the Holy Name because the Holy Name claimed us in Baptism, where we were put in Christ crucified and raised.


–to make the sign of the Holy cross and to invoke the Holy Name in faith is to say, “God baptized me and buried me with Christ crucified, my God.  I am his and he is mine through my baptism, and I claim all that He is and all that He can do as my own; I claim the right to come into the presence of the Most High and to rest in the shadow of the Almighty from Satan, sin, and death—because He has promised me that refuge in Baptism.”


–“In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit” said in faith is “to dwell in the secret place of the Most High” (Ps. 91), to be “concealed under the cover of His tent” and to be hidden “in His shelter in the day of trouble” (Psalm 27), “to enter [His] house” “through the abundance of His steadfast love” (Psalm 5), to “be led to the rock that is higher than” we and to “take refuge under the shadow of [His] wings” (Psalm 61).  To learn to call on the name of the Trinity in faith and to claim the promise given in Baptism is to be “like a green olive tree in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8), to “flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon…


…[to be] planted in the house of the Lord

[to] flourish in the courts of our God,

[to] still bear fruit in old age

[and be] ever full of sap and green,

[to declare] that the Lord is upright;

He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (Ps 92:12-15)


The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


Soli Deo Gloria.

Recognize that the links to other sites probably teach a Baptist/Reformed/Pentecostal view of Baptism which ultimately undermine the comfort of the Gospel.  Compare and contrast and learn to guard yourself against the plausible-sounding yet poisonous deceptions by which the devil robs so many Christians of the comfort of Holy Baptism.



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