This past Sunday we celebrated the festival day in the Christian calendar known as The Baptism of Our Lord. On that day we remembered that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, setting an example for us, sanctifying the waters of Holy Baptism, and fulfilling all righteousness. On this day we talk about our baptism into Christ and what it means to us yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Our new hymn for January is one of my favorite hymns on Baptism, God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It by Erdmann Neumeister, who is best known as the writer of texts for Bach cantatas. More than any other hymn, this one preaches to us the great comfort and assurance that is ours as baptized children of God.
Here is stanza 1:
God’s Own Child I Gladly say it:
I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it,
Gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth’s treasures many?
I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free
Lasting to Eternity.
We are God’s children, adopted as sons, as it says in Romans chapter 8
5For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
The second line here is very important, because it says that we are baptized into Christ. This is a concept of the utmost importance because this Baptism means that we are baptized into the life of Christ. We are baptized into His death and resurrection; we have already passed through death into life. Paul explains this in Romans chapter 6:
1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We 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.
5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We 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. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Our baptism connects us to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, by which He fulfilled all righteousness and paid the price for our sins, as it says in John 2
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Propitiation is a word which is not commonly used, but it means a sacrifice whereby God’s justice is perfectly fulfilled. Christ’s sacrifice allows God to punish sin to the utmost so that we do not have to pay the price.
So, Christ has paid the price for our sins that we could not pay, and we have been baptized into Him so that we now have adoption as sons and the promise of eternal life. What a gift! And we are only half-way through stanza 1! This gift of God is greater than any earthly treasure or joy or anything that we could think of or imagine.
Here’s stanza 2
Sin, disturb my soul no longer:
I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger:
Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience size me
Since my Baptism did release me
In a dear forgiving flood,
Sprinkling me with Jesus blood.
Stanzas 2-4 will allow us to speak to sin, Satan, and death and tell them that we have nothing to fear. Stanza 2 clearly comes from 1 Peter chapter 3
18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Our baptism is an appeal to God for a clean conscience. This is not the kind of appeal that amounts to wishful thinking, but an absolutely certain appeal made by Christ on our behalf. There is no reason for us to live our lives with a guilty conscience! We have been brought safely through God’s judgment through the waters of Holy Baptism. Another Baptism hymn puts it this way, “Christ the ark of life has ferried us across death’s raging flood”.
Satan, hear this proclamation:
I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation,
I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled,
All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny,
God, my Lord, unites with me!
Satan means accuser. He is always trying to convince us that we are not good enough, that God doesn’t love us, that we cannot possibly measure up, and that we should just give up and just try to make ourselves happy. But wait! We are baptized into Christ! Listen to the words of Titus, chapter 3
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The accusations of Satan are meaningless because we stand before God innocent of all wrongdoing. He saved us according to His mercy and the washing of Holy Baptism.
Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine.
In Philippians 1 Paul writes:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain
We have already heard in Titus that we are heirs of eternal life. The death of a Christian is referred to in the New Testament as “falling asleep”. Our bodies will lie in “dust and ashes” until Christ returns, as Saint Paul describes it in 1 Thessalonians 4
For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
I want you to remember your baptism every day because you are washed, carried, forgiven, justified, sanctified, and made an heir of eternal life. Start every day by making the sign of the cross and remembering who you are in Christ. With this assurance, you can look sin, death, and the devil in the face and declare that you are baptized into Christ and a child of paradise.
We end with stanza 5
There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I’m a child of paradise!
A special thanks to our Vicar, Adam, who gave an excellent sermon on Baptism this past Sunday which helped focus my thoughts for this post.