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Baptismal Sermon
The Rev. Jason R. Grote

Many people today are ignorant concerning the importance and meaning of the Christ ordained sacrament of Baptism. Some parents view it as a mere ritual-- a customary act that is performed because it was done to them, to their parents, to their parents before them, and so on. It seems as though it is some simple tradition to be kept throughout the generations yet, in reality, it has no significant meaning.

Others view baptism as nothing more than a public vehicle through which one confesses that they accept God!! Notice the words I used, “Through which one confesses that THEY accept GOD.” Not the other way around. Many non-historical Churches within Christendom believe solely in Adult Baptism or, as it is sometimes called, ‘believer’s baptism’. And this is because they feel that a person must effectually love the Lord as their Savior before they can be baptized. Since only adults can confess faith, as they see it, then adults are the only ones allowed to be baptized. But, if you look at this concept and its implications, then you will see that the effectiveness of baptism is dependent and contigent upon the individual.

As such, this blessed sacrament becomes focused on the individual instead of God gracious and efficacious work by and through the Holy Spirit. It creates a thought pattern that baptism and, in reality, all of God’s sacraments are ineffectual unless the individual makes them effectual. In a sense, we could say that this view strips God of His ability to express His grace in our lives and instead sets man and his cognizance at the pinnacle of the sacraments.

Or to say it in a different way,“Was it your choice to be born? Was your birth dependent upon your desire? Did God’s creative power work only after you decided that you wanted to be created?” Obviously the answers to these questions are “NO!!!” We all know we had nothing to do with our birth. We couldn’t wish or desire it and God didn’t give us life only after we decided that we were good and ready for Him to act.

Likewise, the sacrament of baptism is a vehicle through which God communicates with man and shows forth His grace and mercy. It is a sign and seal, a mark, of God’s work within our lives. For adults, it is the work that has already been witnessed. For infants, it is the work that is promised. This outward and physical washing with the waters of baptism is symbolic of the inward grace of God!!! To better understand the grace of God in the sacrament of baptism let us turn to the Old Testament sacrament of circumcision.

Turn with me, if you will, to Genesis chapter 17 verses 7 through 14. Verse 7 begins with God speaking directly to Abraham, “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant..” Notice that God is the initiator of the covenant. Man is not the one who approached God and said, “Hey God… I want to make a pact with you!!! I need you to do something for me and I’ll do something for you in return. Let’s set up something.” NO!!! God is the one who sought out Abraham and God is the one who decided to place Himself in relationship with man.

Then the last words of verse 7 and all of verse 8 continue, “to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Here, again, we see God as the chief active participant in the relationship. He determines and lists the blessings of the covenantal relationship. In short, God is saying, “I will give of myself to you. You shall receive my mercy and my grace. I will bless you by being yours and your descendants God eternally, and I will give you a place to rest for ever.”

The we continue in Verse 9, “And God said to Abraham, ‘as for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.” Only after God has expressed His promises does He continue on to man’s participation in the covenant. Verse 10 & 11, “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.” This physical sign of circumcision was to be the first and foremost aspect of man’s covenantal relationship with God. It was the instrument through which man received God’s mercy and grace by being declared to be part of the covenantal people of God. Through circumcision a man’s relationship and status with God changed. And it was to this sign that all could point to be assured that they were recipients of God’s grace.

Verse 12 and 13 continue, “He that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised; every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house, or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he that is born in your house and he that is bought with your money, shall be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.” Every male descendant and every person in your household and under your care was to be circumcised. It didn’t matter whether you were a foreigner, a sojourner, or of a blood relation. All were to be circumcised. Those that were circumcised had a distinguishing mark-- a mark that identified themselves as God’s holy people, as God’s holy nation. They were a unique people to God. They were different than all other nations at the time. And as God is one so also His people were to be one. Hence, all were to be circumcised.

If this covenantal sign was not followed or completed, verse 14 tells us the consequence, “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” HE WOULD BE CUT OFF!!!!! And if it was an infant then the parents who were responsible for the child were to be cut off. The transgressor would no longer be in the company of God’s people. He would not be the recipient of God’s blessings. If we look at Exodus chapter 4 verses 24-25 we have a prime example of this. Moses failed to circumcise his own son and the Lord came and sought to kill him. But Zipporah, Moses’ wife, circumcised the son and the Lord left him be. We can see the necessity of keeping the covenantal terms and sign with God. A failure to do this results in spiritual death-- in separation from God and the wonderful mercies He bestows upon us.

In this brief passage from Genesis we see the importance of the covenantal sign of circumcision. Now, St. Paul tells us that circumcision has not been abolished. He writes in Colossians 2 verses 11 and 12, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” The circumcision of the flesh has been completed in the circumcision of the heart. And the sign of this circumcision is the waters of baptism-- by which God’s grace and mercy is shown unto us. Listen to St. Paul in his letter to Titus, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

Baptism is the Christ-ordained covenantal sign of the new covenant just as circumcision was the covenantal sign of the Old covenant. It is this sign that assures us that we are the heirs of God’s promises. This why Christ said to His disciples, “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Through this physical washing with the waters of baptism we become members of God’s Holy Nation. By means of the spiritual cleansing of baptism we receive God’s grace-- mainly the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a duty and requirement of all to be baptized. And if we refuse to participate or if we refuse to have our household sealed with this covenantal sign then we fail to keep the covenant God has established and we will be cut off!!!

Having said this, I must also fulfill my duty as a minister of God by exhorting Matthew and also the entire congregation. Now that your daughter is a covenantal child of God through the sacrament of baptism, you have certain responsibilities.

Just a moment ago, I quoted Christ when He told His disciples to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. But Christ doesn’t stop there. He continues with these words, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

During the baptism in which you have participated today you have made promises to God in our presence. This baptism is not simply a ceremony but rather a sign of rebirth into the nation of God. With this rebirth comes a commitment to a way of life, a dedication to a set of ethics, and a desire to be a living sacrifice to God.

You have a responsibility to, first and foremost, bring Helen to the worship of Almighty God. It is necessary as sons and daughters of God to come to Church. A life lived outside of the Church is a life lived outside of God’s family. It is to live the life of the Prodigal Son. As a person who leaves home no longer receives the blessings of living in their parents household, so also those who are part of God’s family that choose to “move away” cut themselves off from the blessings of God’s household. We also have a duty, as God’s children, to keep God’s covenantal meal-- the Lord’s Supper. It is through this meal that God spiritually nourishes us. And if we forbid ourselves from partaking of this meal we forbid ourselves from receiving the grace of God!!

Secondly, you must teach and raise Helen in the Faith. You have declared your faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour and you have the responsibility to raise Helen with the same truths. You must be diligent to teach her the Creeds which are the statements of the Christian Faith. You must teach her the ten commandments and you must not neglect to teach her the truths of God as contained in the Scriptures. To raise her in such a manner is to ensure her of God’s blessing.

And as a word of wisdom, THIS TEACHING MUST NOT BE BY WORD OF MOUTH ONLY!!!! As many people told me as I prepared for the ministry, “no matter what you say from the pulpit and no matter how many Scripture verses you can quote, the most effective part of your ministry and teaching is going to be how you live what you preach.” Your example, the conduct and behavior of your life, is going to be the MOST influential teaching and direction in Helen’s life. If you stumble, if you fail to live a godly life, you will in-turn cause Helen to stumble. Now we all understand that there are times when you will make mistakes as her parent and that is ok. But if you purposefully and willfully neglect to do these things God will hold you accountable. As we are warned by our Saviour-- woe to those who cause my little ones to stumble.

Having exhorted Matthew, I turn to this congregation of Christ’s church. We, as the church and family of God, have responsibilities towards Helen. We have a duty to support, lead, instruct, and to pray for her. We must also follow the commandments of Christ by welcoming her into God’s family with open arms. And we are to show and express to them the same love that Christ has shown to each and every one of us. By doing these things we not only become living examples to Helen but we also glorify and shine forth Christ.

In closing, I wish to welcome Helen into the family and kingdom of God. I pray that she will continually grow in the faith knowing that in the end she will receive everlasting life in the presence of God. I want you to know Matthew, that we are all here for you. We will love, help, and support you in any way. But most importantly, know that God is with you and that he will not fail you if you remain faithful to Him. AMEN