Twelve years ago this month, my two oldest children were baptized. Their baptisms were received together because they were both over a year old before we realized the truth of baptism. So, every month on the date that each family member was baptized, we celebrate our baptismal birthdays. We typically have ice cream or some sweet snack and I read something from Luther or others regarding baptism. This year I think I’ll write and read this to them since it is very pertinent to our time:
Many Christians linger in despair wondering “Am I really saved or truly elect? What is my status before God?” This is because they have learned to not hear the words of God, or have been taught odd ways to understand His crystal-clear loving words to and for them. God does not save, elect, or justify with words that are generic ideas such as, “Jesus saves.” No, the divine speech is such that it is specific, concrete, and active so that it comes to and for you in particular. This cannot be taught or emphasized enough.
This is why baptism is not spoken of generally, nor as a nebulous idea or concept such as, “In Christ I am saved,” “I will arise and go to Jesus,” or by a spiritual baptism without or aside from the water. This is not God’s language. Baptism is not an idea or concept, but power, because it is the Gospel and the Gospel is the power of God to salvation (Rom 1:16). Thus, God speaks powerfully, concretely and particularly this way,
“For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:27-29)
“Do you not realize that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.” (Rom 6:3-4)
The water of baptism puts the “in Christ” in real time and space on and for you so you don’t have to search inwardly or high above using some form of spiritual inner-eye for Christ. The water combined with the Holy Word IS Christ and puts you into Him by bathing you as it is spoken.
Recall how He spoke to you when you were baptized, “<insert your name> I (meaning God—it’s not the pastor’s baptism) baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). And to make it certain that divine speech reached you in particular; earthly water was poured, sprinkled, or immersed onto your earthly skin and bones.
God’s entire point in baptism is simply that He would save His elect sinners (Mark 16:16) by absolving and giving them His Holy Spirit in baptism (Acts 2:38).
Enthusiasm was the old heresy of seeking God apart from his words. It is the enthusiasm of the old Adam that seeks God’s salvation and favor apart from God’s direct and overt words in His creaturely presentations. Luther said this enthusiasm clings to us because it is original sin which wishes to no longer hear and know God so beggarly in His creatures—but desires God immediately, within the self in a direct and invisible/spiritual way.
The Only Divine Language
The population of the world today is approximately 7.6 billion. Enthusiasm seeks a direct internal wordless knowledge of God’s favor. With 7.6 billion old Adams and Eves running around out there that means 7.6 billion religious variations of “How I think I know God and am in His favor.” Why are there so many religions and denominations in the world today? The real surprise is that there are not more! Indeed, in seeking assurance by listening to how others “got saved” and are “sure”, how many variations of assurance have you heard and what separates those stories from any other religion’s conversion testimony?
God does not work that way in such inner darkness through men’s foggy imaginations. No, He speaks in defined, concrete, and particular ways toward and for you and me so that we will know without a shadow of doubt. As Luther said, “If God didn’t want us to be sure He wasted His time sending His Son and giving us the sacraments.”
“Now, the first thing to be considered about baptism is the divine promise, which says: ‘He who believes and is baptized will be saved’ (Mark 16:16). This promise must be set far above all the glitter of works, vows, religious orders, and whatever else man has introduced for on it all our salvation depends…Thus you see how rich a Christian is, that is, one who has been baptized! Even if he would, he could not lose his salvation, however much he sinned, unless he refused to believe. All other sins, so long as the faith in God’s promise made in baptism returns and remains, are immediately blotted out through that same faith…” – Martin Luther, Babylonian Captivity of the Church
God’s justification of us does not happen secretly in our spirits. God justifies you and me in His absolving Word (Rom 3:4, Psalm 51:4) for you and me—spoken bathed, breaded, and wined—and that is very certain and comforting.