Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:1–11, ESV)
(from a devotion by Robert Bernhardt, http://visualfeast.csl.edu/2012/01/19/baptism-of-our-lord-romans-61-11/)
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
There’s a lot going on in that little bowl. I know it doesn’t look like much, but it’s really kind of a storm. None of you is looking at this little splash of water thinking dark thoughts of fear and trepidation. But maybe you should. In fact, these waters are downright treacherous. Here, right here, for some of you, you knocked on death’s door. St. Paul says it,
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
It’s a drowning. A dying. We experience death with Jesus. The moment the pastor says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, a killing, a drowning takes place. You are dead and raised. Death swirls around you in the water. Jesus’ death and yours. And don’t think for a moment that his death wasn’t real, or yours for that matter. He was pierced by nails, and stabbed by a spear. His heart filled with blood and stopped beating. He was taken down and buried in a tomb.
You see, death is the problem isn’t it. The grave. The place you will go sooner or later. A problem brought to us because of Adam and Eve. They rejected God. They fell into sin. To reject God is to reject the life he gives as a gift. They brought God sure promise of death as punishment, and not only death but permanent death, death that is total separation from God. Hell, created for Satan and the fallen angels, is the destination for all those who reject God. But it’s worse than you want to believe. Sin is in you. It’s proof of your own personal rejection of God. If you didn’t reject God, you wouldn’t sin. And the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23). You can’t get away from it. It’s like being stuck swimming in a stormy sea. You can’t get to shore. You can’t swim forever. The sea is too deep and the waves are too high. Eventually you will drown in death.
Ah, but that’s what Holy Baptism is all about. Jesus is there in your death. Paul declares it. It is God’s promise in Baptism. Jesus is there in your death. He grabs you out of the water you are drowning in. He pulls you out of the darkness.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
It’s not an idle promise either. Jesus didn’t just die he was raised. He wasn’t just carried into the tomb, he walked out of it. Jesus promises resurrection though the stormy bowl. Luther said it clearly.
What benefits does Baptism give?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
He’s only saying what Paul says.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Jesus dead and buried and raised again. We are united with that, with God’s Name connected to the Water. Promised a resurrection after death. Jesus proves he has power over death.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
It’s all good, but sin is still pulling you down. Every day you have to deal with falling short of what God tells you to do and not do. Most days it doesn’t feel like swimming but drowning. So what about that walking in newness of life that is promised?
It’s you sinful nature. The part of you that has evil thoughts and desires you hate. The part of you that lives for sin. Paul knew it. He says
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18–19, ESV)
You know it. It’s the life you live every day.
Well, that too, is dealt with at this stormy little bowl. Luther
What does such baptizing with water indicate?
It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Confess your sin and repent. Drag that old sinful nature, that heart of sin, to the bowl. Let him be drowned and die. Let the evil desires be washed away in the water. Die again to sin.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
It’s the only way to beat it. Jesus does it. He stand hip deep in the Jordan River, baptized by John. He’s in the water with you. Your sinful nature is washed onto him. He walks up out of the water and to the cross.
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
Once and for all time, he crucifies your sinful nature dead, done, buried in the tomb. And the life he lives now is yours.
There it is in that little, terrible, dangerous, wonderful, stormy bowl of water. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.