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Baptism: Foundation for Christian Living
Ephesians 5:25-26


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
The Baptism of Our Lord–First Sunday after the Epiphany—January 10, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our message is based on a passage from today’s Epistle Reading in Ephesians:  “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”  We meditate on this text under the theme, “Baptism: Foundation for Christian Living.”

Jesus says, “You must be born again.  No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  Baptism is necessary because we are sinners.  It is because we are sinners that we must be spiritually born again.  It is because we are sinners that we must be spiritually born of water and the Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Baptism is not absolutely necessary for salvation, for Jesus also says, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved; but whoever does not believe shall be condemned.”  So, it is not lack of baptism, but lack of faith in Christ that leads to damnation.  It is possible, like the thief on the cross, to have saving faith in Christ without having been baptized.

But, that does not mean that baptism is unimportant or optional.  Today we remember the baptism of our Lord.  Although Christ was without any sin, he himself submitted to being baptized, not for his own sake, but for our sakes.  As he tells John the Baptizer, “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  Part of Christ’s living a perfect life in our place, part of his fulfilling all the will and law of God for us, included being baptized.  If baptism was not unimportant or optional even for Christ himself, than surely it is not unimportant or optional for us.

The baptism of our Lord is the beginning of his three years of public ministry, which culminated in his suffering and death to earn our salvation.  As St. Paul says in our text, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  After he rose from the dead, and before he ascended into heaven, Christ instituted the Christian Sacrament of Holy Baptism: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Infants also are to be baptized because they too are sinners.  As Psalm 51 says, “Surely I was a sinner at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  And infants are included in Christ’s command to baptize “all nations.”  We have the assurance from Christ himself that infants can and do have personal faith in him as their Savior, for he says, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it,” and he describes infants as “these little ones who believe in me.”

In our text, St. Paul describes baptism as: “The washing with water through the word.”  That’s the essential elements of baptism: the application of water—either by pouring, sprinkling or immersion—and the Word of God, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Holy Baptism is not just a rite of passage or a social custom or a symbolic action.  It is all those things, but it is much for, for Scripture tells us Holy Baptism is truly a sacrament, a sacred act in which God is at work. 

The Lord says in Isaiah, “I have called you by name, you are mine.”  Baptism is the foundation for Christian living, because in your baptism the Lord poured out upon you his immeasurable love and claimed you as his own.  Christ loved you and gave himself up for you, to make you holy, cleansing you by the washing with water through the word.  You will respond by living no longer for yourself but for him.

In today’s Epistle Reading, St. Paul describes your new life, “born again” in Christ: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. . .  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God. . .  Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” 

“Baptism: Foundation for Christian Living.”  Amen.

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