Dying to Live, The Way of Baptism
Sunday of the Baptism of Our Lord
Rev. S. D. Spencer
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Grace, peace and mercy from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen!
Even as birth marks the beginning of life – so death typically marks the end of life. Fallen man resists death with great fervor. But it’s all around us. We witness this reality every time we attend a funeral. We also witness this spiritual reality each time we attend a baptism. During baptism we witness the death of a sinner— during baptism we see the Old Adam who desires to destroy each of us, drowned. Baptism marks the beginning of new life. You see in Baptism we die to live.
Baptism is the way of God bringing children into His Kingdom. Remember Jesus’ command: "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Martin Luther says in the Catechism, "Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word and promise." In the Order of Baptism in the hymnal, the newly baptized receives formal recognition of being included in the Church', we hear it in these words: In Holy Baptism God the Father has made you a member of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and an heir with us of all the treasures of heaven in the one holy Christian and apostolic Church. We receive you in Jesus' Name as our brother or sister in Christ, that together we might hear His Word, receive His gifts, and proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. [LSB Page 271]
The congregation responds, saying, "We welcome you in the Name of the Lord." In Baptism we celebrate the birth of the new life in Christ Jesus but we also celebrate the death of the sinner. And not only the sinner at the font but we celebrate but our own death as well, for we have also died in Christ. The Old Adam was drowned that day as water with God's Word poured over our sinful bodies. Unfortunately, that Old Adam refuses to die. He keeps coming back. Luther once commented that his Old Adam must have learned to tread water; I think my Old Adam has a snorkel. The Old Adam keeps coming back, bringing along with him the sinful world and the devil, ever trying to draw us away from the light back into the darkness, away from life back into sin and eternal death.
This reality can’t be emphasize enough, we need to return daily to our baptism, in other words we need to die daily through contrition and repentance. Each and every day we need to confess our sin and ask God’s to create in us a new heart. St. Paul says in verse 4 of our Epistle: "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." We are to walk in this newness of live each and every day.
There’s not one day that goes by in which we don’t sin and need God's forgiveness. St. John reminds us of that: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10)
There’s not a single person here who can claim to be without sin. Everyone needs confession. For this reason we need to die daily as St. Paul says. Each and every day we need to live in our Baptism, so that the Old Adam in us might be put to death and so that the new man in Christ might daily come forth and live. So a truly Christian life is nothing more remembering our baptism and dying to the flesh. Just think about it for a moment. Regardless of how bad your day went, how frustrating it might have been, each day is a new day, with a fresh start, if you die daily by remembering your baptism. You are a new creation each and every day.
So how can you know if the old Adam is still actively controlling your life? St. Paul gives us a checklist that will help. Listen carefully and see if any deeds are active in your own life. Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Our flesh, our old Adam is infected with all sorts of vices and by nature has nothing good in it (Romans 7:18) But we are in Christ’s kingdom and these things are that should no longer enslave us. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The longer you walk in the spirit the more evident it becomes. The deeds of the flesh destroy but the fruit of the spirit will build up. Galatians 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”. How was your flesh crucified? In your baptism!
Here you can see Baptism, both in its power and meaning. In Baptism you are given grace, and the Spirit, and power to suppress the old Adam, so that the new man may live and grow strong. Baptism abides forever. Even though someone should fall from Baptism and sin, still we always have access to it. So that we may subdue the old Adam time and time again. Each and every day is a new day, a day with new life.
When I was growing up my Dad taught us to play chess. To keep us from becoming too frustrated when losing we were allowed 1 start-over each game. If things were going wrong - things were hopeless, you could say “Start Over” and you’d get to begin a new game. Our Lord graciously invites is to live our Baptism each and every day, He gives us a Start Over. The Lord brings to life a new man every time we come to Him. At the font and in our confession He raises a new creation with the forgiveness of sins. For our God is a God of life and of love, with a love so deep that He sent His own Son into the world to become baptized into His own death, the death into which we became baptized. St. Paul reminds us in our text: "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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" (vv. 3-4). Christ became baptized into His own death for us, placing His human nature under the curse of the Law for us, tasting eternal condemnation so that we would not have to. He gave His body and shed His blood on the cross , washing us clean with His blood, for the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all our sin. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has lovingly, willingly, and willfully gone from the Jordan River to Calvary's cross to die for us. You see, "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" ( Ephesians 5:25-27).
Since Christ has risen from the dead, we are baptized not only into His death, but also into His resurrection! His victory over sin, death, and the devil is yours! As Paul writes in our text: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:8-11).
We die, even as Christ Himself died. We live, for He lives and reigns for all of eternity. Daily we are dying to live. Our Lord gives us what we need to live in His Word and Sacraments. Jesus has given His bride, the Church, the charge to administer. She births and washes us through Holy Baptism, she continues to wash us through Holy Absolution, and feeds us with every word from the mouth of God through His spoken Word and with the body and blood of her Bridegroom. Our Lord does not desire that we suffer or live as orphans, for He has given us to be part of His bride until He comes again to gather us to Himself in heaven. Indeed, we are dying to live, that is the way of baptism and that is the way of life. For God gives you a start over, for He has forgiven all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, for Jesus sake and in Jesus name, amen and amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.