A GESTURE OF FRIENDSHIP(Question 69)
69. How is it shown to you in baptism that you are a part of Christ and His sacrifice?
This week we want to look at the sacrament of baptism more closely. Baptism, as with many things in the Christian life, has been confused and distorted in many churches. Baptism is viewed today as an act of obedience that a new Christian performs to show he is set apart from the world, that he is truly Christ's. But the problem with this idea of baptism is that it takes the sacrament out of God's hands and puts it into man's. And once it is in man's hands, it becomes all about works and nothing about grace!
So think about that for a moment. If baptism is something WE do, how can it give us assurance? What if we weren't doing it with the right motives? Or what if we were in sin when we were baptized? If any of these things are true, then baptism can NEVER give us assurance of our salvation, because our salvation would depend upon what WE do. But notice again what the catechism says, "Christ has appointed..". Baptism comes from God. It is His gift to us to show that we are set apart, not vice versa.
Remember how we used the illustration of a handshake to describe how the feeling of friendship is expressed. Now, if you went up to a person to shake their hand and they did not respond, would that be friendship? What if you took their hand in yours and then shook it. Would that mean that they were your friend? Absolutely not. It would mean that you started the gesture, or appointed it, but it was not returned in like fashion. Even though you wanted to show friendship, the other person did not. This is the way it is with God and baptism. God is showing love or friendship. It comes from Him even when we dont respond. We were dead in sin and rebels against God, and He sent Jesus to die for us. In the sacrifice of the cross He was extending His hand of friendship. Even now as Christians when we still choose to go our own way and refuse God's help, baptism is there as a reminder that God still loves us. Not because of what WE do, but because of what Jesus HAS done. God extends His friendship and hold to its promise even though we choose not to respond. He does this because baptism is HIS sign to us, HIS seal that we are saved. It is nothing about us being good or starting a new life in our own strength.
Finally lets look at the part of the catechism that says we are washed outwardly of our sins. This is a picture or a sign of the inward washing that takes place when we are saved. Just as the dirt from our bodies are removed by water when we bathe or wash, even so our guilt before God is removed by the water of baptism. Not that the water in and of itself cleanses us, but the blood and sacrifice of Jesus does the real cleaning. Baptism is just a sign of the seal of Jesus' love upon us.
Next week we will look more closely at baptism and whether or not babies should be baptized.
©1998 Pomona Youth Chapel/Pastor Tim Shultz