Der Herr sitzet, eine Sündfluth anzurichten.* Und der Herr bleibt ein König in Ewigkeit.
Hell’s dam-gates burst: a man, the LORD
Ascends to rule the nations,
And to the flood He gives His Word
To pour out in salvation
O’er ev’ry nation, ev’ry tongue
Which for hell’s bath were numbered;
That those who in these depths are flung
With millstone sins encumbered
This very death will rescue.
“Whoever Does Not Receive the Kingdom of God Like a Child Will Never Enter it”. Sermon on Infant Baptism, Wed. after Judica 2013
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 18:9-17/ Passion History/ Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate?
March 20, 2013
“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it”
Jesus died for you. You are saved. That is a short and sweet rendition of the article of justification. Lutherans have always said that the Christian Church stands or falls on the article of justification. If you keep that front and center, it will save people; God will build His church on it. When it is kept straight the conscience is comforted, and all the other articles of the Christian faith will be preserved. But without it all of the teaching of the Church is corrupted. Without it there will not be harmony in the Church.
That sounds good. But in practice it doesn’t look true. Jesus died for you, you are saved. That’s enough for salvation? That’s enough to keep the Church alive and together? Have we found that to be true? No, it looks to us like either the Lutheran reformers were wrong or it hasn’t been taught clearly here lately. Because the churches that have other things to boast about besides the article of justification do well and we feel like, to quote the Psalms, “A sparrow alone on a housetop, like an owl in the ruins.”
Once a catechumen told me, respectfully and honestly, “That seems too easy.” He had a lot of Roman Catholic family, so it was understandable. But it’s not just the pope’s church. If a Baptist asks you, “Are you saved,” tell them yes, and then if they say, “How do you know,” say, “Because Jesus died for me on the cross.” What will many of them say? “Yes, that’s true, but did you accept him into your heart, really and truly? Do you have a relationship with Him?”
And it’s not just them either. A lot of times it seems too easy to Lutherans, to Lutheran pastors. Jesus died for me, so I’m saved. But I’d like to see some evidence. Holiness, victory over sin, any kind of victory. What good is it if I preach Jesus died for us, and then everyone is just as angry and anxious as they were before? Sometimes I ask that of myself, and sometimes you do too.
But there are some Lutherans, and not just little kids, either, who know in the time of trial, that the article of justification is their refuge. Jesus died for me, so I’m saved. It’s not easy to comfort yourself with that when the mountains are removed and tumble into the heart of the sea, when it looks like you are going to die or maybe your congregation is, and maybe it’s your fault, at least partly. Can I get an Amen?
But there are some Lutherans who God has enabled to do it. That’s the difficult art that Christians are taught by the Holy Spirit—to say, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ word will never pass away, and His Word says that He saved me from my sins by His death on the cross.”
I am baptized in Jesus’ blood;
this is my pearl, my highest good,
which calms my soul in all distress
against the devil, hell, and death.
Or as the old hymn in the Lutheran Service Book teaches us to sing:
Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me
in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?
If saying “Jesus died for me on the cross, so I’m saved” seems too easy to us, saying “I am baptized” seems even worse. Especially if you were baptized as a baby. A man who plays the piano at one of the nursing home services was raised at Messiah Luth. Church. But now he’s a Baptist or a Nazarene. He always really likes my preaching, except when I talk about Baptism. One time he said, again, honestly and respectfully—“If all you have to do is be baptized as an infant to be saved, why don’t Lutherans just baptize babies as often as possible, even when their parents aren’t looking?”
But the baptism of infants is possibly the clearest picture we have of what it means when we say that salvation is by grace alone. That is what Jesus is getting at when He says “let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (St. Luke 18:16-17).”
Wednesday after Oculi
St. Peter Lutheran Church
Catechism: “How Can Water Do Such Great Things?”
March 6, 2013 (2nd rvs. Vespers)
“How Do You Know?”
How do you know that you’re saved? Sooner or later that question comes. It rises within our hearts. It comes from the mouth of another Christian, or from an unbelieving acquaintance. But it must come. If not now, sometime in our lives. How can it not come?
If you are saved, will the devil permit that to go unquestioned? Absolutely not. He didn’t allow Eve and Adam to live in God’s blessing in paradise without raising questions about God’s word. “Did God really say…?” How do you know that God isn’t keeping you in slavery when you could be gods yourselves?
Satan didn’t even shy away from questioning Jesus’ blessedness. “If you are really the Son of God, why are you left alone with me in the desert with rocks for bread?”
But God also asks. He questions those who have deceived themselves with false faith, “How do you know you’re saved?” He also questions those who believe in Christ and are His children. Through the apostle Paul he exhorts Christians to question themselves. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Cor. 13:5)
So is it God or the devil asking “How do you know you’re saved?”
Is it God or the devil speaking through the chief priest to Jesus: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Is it God, seeking to have Jesus confess the truth before the high council of Israel? After all, isn’t he in the office God set up to represent His people before Him in the temple? Or is it the devil, trying to make Jesus afraid, using the high priest’s appearance of holiness to make Jesus question whether His teaching is really the Word of God?
Is it God who asks Peter, warming himself by the fire, if he is a disciple of Jesus, so that Peter will be confess Jesus before men, so that Jesus may acknowledge Peter before the Father on the day of judgment?
Or is it the devil who asks Peter, trying to make Peter afraid, saying, “Are you sure Jesus is the Son of God? Are you sure that you are saved through Him? After all, Jesus is about to be condemned to death by the high council that God gave authority to judge in His name. They’re saying He’s not God’s Son, but a blasphemer. Are you sure that you’re ready to confess Him and die as a blasphemer with Him?”
This is not a question we can avoid any more than Peter could. Are you sure that you’re saved? How do you know?
We can say, “I believe, help Thou my unbelief!” Jesus does not put out the smoldering wick or break the bruised reed. But a person with such weak faith cannot be content to remain there. He prays, “Help Thou my unbelief” because the unbelief is sin. It is painful to be full of doubts about whether God receives you or whether you will be cast into the lake of fire.
When you are asked “How do you know if you’re saved?” the devil is asking to cast doubt on God’s Word. But God asks the question to remove our faith from ourselves and place it on solid ground—His promise. God asks to strengthen faith in His Word and weaken trust in ourselves. The devil asks to undermine faith in God’s word and to fill us with false confidence or to make us despair of God’s mercy.
How do you know if you’re saved? Do you have to do something to be saved?
The answer is…no—right? No, we don’t do anything to be saved. Jesus died for our sins on the cross. God promises us in the Gospel that our sins are forgiven because Jesus suffered and shed His blood for us.
Wednesday after Reminiscere
St. Peter Lutheran Church
Small Catechism: What benefits does Baptism give?
February 27, 2013
“The Secret Place of the Most High”
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.”
Wednesday after Invocabit-Vespers
St. Peter Lutheran Church
Small Catechism—What is Baptism? Where is this written?
February 20, 2013
Baptism is necessary for salvation.
Can we really say that? Yes, because Jesus says it. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (St. John 3:5)
As a member of this congregation you already say it, because the Lutheran Confessions say it in agreement with the Word of God. If you’re a member of St. Peter, you’re a member of a congregation that says that the Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions, are faithful explanations of Scripture. And the Augsburg Confession says: “Of Baptism [our churches] teach that it is necessary to salvation…”
Obviously, if something is necessary to salvation, it’s a big deal. And to go to a church where they say it isn’t necessary to salvation would be a very bad thing. Right?
That’s why later on the Lutheran Confessions thank God that the Anabaptists had made no headway in the Lutheran churches in the 1530’s. Anabaptists said that infants should not be baptized, that babies went to heaven without baptism. And for adults, when you were really saved was when you understood God’s Word as an adult and made a decision to follow Jesus. Then you would be baptized again. The confessions make this boast:
…we confess that Baptism is necessary to salvation, and that children are to be baptized, and that the baptism of children is not in vain, but is necessary and effectual to salvation. And since the Gospel is taught among us purely and diligently, by God’s favor we receive also from it this fruit, that in our churches no Anabaptists…[have gained ground], because the people have been fortified by God’s Word against the wicked and seditious faction of these robbers.
Notice how seriously the Lutheran Confessions take the teaching about Baptism. They are thankful that the rebaptizers have not succeeded in bringing their doctrine into the churches or in taking many sheep.
Unfortunately, we can’t make the same boast. Those who say that Baptism is just water and that it doesn’t benefit babies have made inroads in our churches. Thank God, we don’t have any pastors in the synod yet who deny that Baptism saves. But we have lost lots and lots of our sheep to churches who tell people that Baptism isn’t necessary for salvation. I was one of those lost sheep for awhile; I almost was rebaptized. Many, many sons and daughters of this congregation, baptized and catechized by Rev. Frenk and Rev. Martin, have gone on to join churches who say that infant baptism is invalid and that baptism is just water. I hear that at least one of the children I catechized has received so-called “believer’s baptism”, which is called that because the churches that practice it say that babies who are baptized do not believe in Christ.
Baptism is necessary to salvation. Jesus says so. In the great commission verse we said in the catechism today Jesus says, “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Why didn’t Jesus say what the so-called “bible-believing Christians” say—“Go make disciples of all nations, preaching to them and telling them to accept me as their Lord and Savior?” Because that is not how disciples are made. They are made through Baptism, and then they are instructed in all of Christ’s teaching.
So why have the churches that teach that baptism is an empty sign made such inroads into the Missouri Synod? There are two glaring reasons.
First of all, so many of us have convinced ourselves that it’s not that big a deal to deny baptism or to believe and teach wrongly about it.
WA 15, p. 696. Sermon on the 19th Sunday after Trinity (1524)
p. 709 Vom frembden glawben. (Concerning alien faith)
Now shall/should we also alien faith and concerning the authority to forgive sins deal with a little. I have also said it before (vorhyn), that it is an error that one should baptize the little children in the faith of the church and have preached the same way [gleichsam] about them being baptized without faith. This error now goes in/enters in [geht herein] with authority/power [Gewalt], because the devil does not sleep. He means for there to be no faith. The Pope with his also has held it up until now, that the children have no faith, rather they are laid in the womb [Schoss] of the Christian church, and one baptized them in the faith of Christendom [Christenheit]. These new [ones? Diese newe] also say, that the children have no faith, like the Pope, but instead that one should wait until they are grown, etc. We also say that alien faith does not help when [??] This child is
was not born for me, also he will not die for me. It has had its own death and birth. Shall/should I then [den] live and from death become free [lofs? Loss], so must I also through the faith in Christ come home. But we pray for the children, as also for all unbelieving and preach, pray, and work [erbeyten? Arbeiten? Erbitten?] to this end [dahin], that the unbelieving also come [home to Christ] [herzukommen]. Therefore also we live. So/also these [friends] have had faith, not the paralytic. But he must receive it, otherwise their faith had helped him nothing. But they him their faith brought (?)[badten] Christ [dem] about one’s [einen] own faith [brought him to Christ, Who gave him his own faith]. So through alien faith, I help him to get faith. We do not know, whether one believed or not. If I am right old and come to the baptism, and say, “I believe;” How can you know whether I believe or not? How do you know that? What if I’m lying? No one can know whether he comes at the prompting of his own word and mind. If you say it’s true, it’s true. [ists recht, so ists recht.] The child must not stand on my faith. I have little enough faith for myself. I should not lay it in the womb of Christendom only, rather lay [the child] in the word of God, where He says, “Let the little children come to me, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” Here I bring to you, Christ, a little child, that you have called me to bear to you. Here I have done my work. Christ will also do His. So I baptize the child not in my faith or in the faith of Christendom, rather my faith and the faith of Christendom brings the child here [to baptism], for this purpose, that He give it its own faith, and believe as I believe. And in the word, which Christ has given to me, I do not baptize
on it, [as though] it [the child] has no faith, as the Bohemians reckon/mean, that, when it is grown, it shall receive faith. The Word of God speaks over the child: to you shall your sins be forgiven, and shall the child still the word not believe, call you [heisst] that not word of God tightened.? [heist das nicht Gottes wort geluegen strafft? ] [You aren’t saying that the Word of God is bound [limited], are you?] I can well help another through my prayer and faith, so that he also believes.
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Rorate Coeli)
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 1:19-28
December 23, 2012
John the Baptist was baptizing on the far side of the Jordan river. Years and years before the whole nation of Israel had stood on the far side of the Jordan river, on the east of it. It had taken over forty years for them to arrive there after the Lord had miraculously brought them out of Egypt. It shouldn’t have taken so long. But the people did not believe that God could or would enable them to defeat the people in the land. So God let the people have their way; they wandered in the desert until they died (along with Moses), and their children came to the banks of the Jordan. Then Joshua led them into the land. And the first thing Joshua did was split the Jordan river so that the people of Israel could pass through, just as God had done with the Red Sea through Moses.
Now John’s baptism was on the other side of the Jordan, as though he were saying, “You have not yet really entered the promised land.” He was baptizing people in the Jordan and proclaiming, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Another Joshua was coming, not to bring them into an earthly inheritance, but into God’s Kingdom.
But baptism was not part of the religion of the Jews. God had not commanded it in the law given to Moses. The priests were commanded to cleanse themselves before they served in the temple. The Pharisees extended this washing of the priests and taught that everyone should do it frequently, as though they were priests who were going to go into the presence of God. And Jews at this time baptized converts to Judaism—the history seems to indicate this—as a symbol that converts had been unclean through association with idols, but now they were becoming clean by entering into the nation of Israel, which belonged to the one true God, the Lord.
But to command that the whole nation do this, as John was doing, was unheard of. So the Jews sent out priests and levites to ask John who he was claiming to be, where he got the authority to institute this new rite and proclaim this message.
The Levites were one of the tribes of Israel. God had designated them as the tribe that would serve in the temple, in His presence. The Levites did the holy work of cleaning the temple, keeping it up, guarding the doors, singing in the choir. One of the clans of the tribe of Levi, the cohenim, were set apart to be priests, and to offer the sacrifices and the incense at the temple in the daily divine service.
Priests and Levites had standing in Israel. In a sense, John was threatening their standing. His baptism was saying that all that the Jews had been doing up until this point in their history was not the kingdom of God. It didn’t even make them ready for the kingdom of God. Even though God had commanded it—the temple worship, the sacrifices—they still had to go out beyond the Jordan, as if they had never come into the promised land. They had to be baptized as if they were unclean gentiles who did not know God.
So the priests and levites come and ask John, “Who are you?”
What’s your authority to preach repentance and baptize and dismiss all that we’ve tried to do in obedience to God?
Are you Messiah?
Are you Elijah, who the prophets said would come before the day of the Lord’s coming?
Are you the prophet—the one Moses spoke about, to whom he commanded us to listen?
John’s answer to all these questions: no, no, no.
I am no one. I’m the voice Isaiah prophesied about, calling out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
I have a powerful message. I baptize you with water, calling everyone to repent—whether they’ve been good Jews or poor ones. I’m saying that all are sinners and none of you are ready for the coming of the Lord, that even though you’ve had God’s law and some of you have tried strenuously to obey it, none of that advances you an inch into God’s kingdom.
I baptize you with water for repentance. But there is one among you that you do not know, and he is greater than me—so great that I am not worthy to untie his sandals. He is the one you should be paying attention to—not to my authority, or your authority—not to who men claim to be.
We are here today the Sunday before Christmas Eve. Many people will skip church this morning figuring that they will be here tomorrow anyway.
How easy it is for those who have been diligent about religious duties to think that we have earned something and now we are somebody!
But even John wasn’t somebody. He was just a voice. The One he was preparing the way for was so great that John trembled before him—was afraid even to untie his shoes.
That great one, as you know, is Jesus. In Hebrew his name is Joshua. He is the one who brings us into the kingdom of God.
For us to go there we must first be nothing. That was John’s preaching. That was also John’s baptism. It was water, symbolizing the flood.
The flood destroyed the earth, but then it began again.
The kingdom of God—there will be no more beginning again, because it will be complete
“No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit.”
Jesus gives the holy Spirit. But he first tears down our old life in Adam and all our righteousness.
This Sunday—rend the heavens Sunday (rorate coeli)
The heavens were torn open at Jesus’ baptism
The curtain and the temple itself and the graves torn open at Jesus’ death.
Baptism is a continuous starting over—going out to the edge of the Jordan, flood, etc.
But the mighty one whom our pride keeps us from knowing raises us up in Him.
Our faithfulness in church is to be commended. But we still only know this mighty one when we come confessing our sins, recognizing the voice of God that calls us to repentance.
The mighty one comes to us humble in the baby at Bethlehem. He takes our human flesh. He recreates us.
- Sit Still. Trinity 25 Sermon (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)