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What Benefits Does Baptism Give?
Titus 3:4-8


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Midweek Vespers—April 29, 2009

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

For the remaining weeks of Midweek School classes, we are looking at the Sacrament of Holy Baptism as explained in the Small Catechism.

So fare we have considered the first two topics, “What Is Baptism?” and “What Benefits Does Baptism Give?”  We continue this evening with the third topic, “How Can Water Do Such Great Things?”  The questions and answers are printed from the Small Catechism on page two of the bulletin.  Let’s now read it responsively as printed in the bulletin:

How can water do such great things?

Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water.  For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism.  But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three:  “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying.”

Spiritually, all of us are like Naaman in this evening’s reading. For, just as Naaman was infected with leprosy, we are all infected with the spiritual disease of sin.  As David says in Psalm 51, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  And, like Naaman, we are powerless to cure this disease.  We could never do enough to make up for our sin, as Paul says in Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But, just as the Lord came to Naaman with good news of a cure for his disease, the Lord has Good News for you.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Just as Naaman’s leprosy was washed away in the waters of the Jordan River, your sins have been washed away by the river of blood flowing from your Savior’s side.  Just as Naaman’s flesh “was restored like the flesh of a little child,” your soul has been cleansed and restored in the sight of God.  As Peter say, “For you have been born again . . . through the living and enduring word of God.”

Naaman nearly did not receive the great blessing of a cure for his disease because it seemed to him to be too humble, too simplistic, not the way he thought it should be.  God’s great and mighty power is often hidden in things and places and people that seem simple and humble and not the way we would expect them to be. 

Holy Baptism appears to be just a simple sprinkling of water.  But, like the washing of Naaman in the Jordan River, Holy Baptism has divine power to cleanse and heal our souls, because, as Martin Luther reminds us in the Small Catechism, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.”  That’s what was so special about Naaman washing in the waters of the Jordan River: It was according to God’s command and empowered by his word and promise.  And that’s what is so special about the waters of Holy Baptism.  As Luther says, “How can water do such great things?  Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water.”

Just as God worked to heal Naaman of leprosy through the waters of the Jordan River, he works to heal you of the leprosy of sin, through the waters of Holy Baptism: “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.”

Let’s close by repeating again responsively the questions and answers from the Small Catechism printed in the bulletin:

How can water do such great things?

Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water.  For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism.  But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three:  “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying.”

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