Your Baptism Gives You Life From Death
Sunday January 14th, 2024
Your Baptism Gives You Life From Death
Now to Him who has loved us and called us to be kings and priest through His own blood, to Him be honor and dominion forever and ever, Amen.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We 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. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
In the name of Him in whose death we are united so that we might gain life, dear fellow redeemed:
During the Civil War a man by the name of George Wyatt was drawn by lot to go to the front. He had a wife and six children. A young man named Richard Pratt offered to go in his stead. He was accepted and joined the ranks, bearing the name and number of George Wyatt. Before long Pratt was killed in action. The authorities later sought again to draft George Wyatt into service. He protested, entering the plea that he had died in the person of Pratt. He insisted that the authorities consult their own records as to the fact of his having died in identification with Pratt, his substitute. Wyatt was thereby exempted as beyond the claims of law and further service. He had died in the person of his representative. There we have the truth of Identification of a Christian in a nutshell. God’s way of deliverance is through death–through identification with our Substitute in His death and resurrection.
This Sunday, our focus has been on the sacrament of Holy Baptism. For most of us, our baptism took place when we were babies and do not remember it happening. But this saving gift from God is much more than just an isolated event when we were babies. The gift of Baptism has lasting effects that change your life even to this day. That day you were baptized, you died. Not physically of course, but, as Paul says, to sin. Every day since, your baptism plays an active role in your life, reminding you that you no longer belong to a life of sin, but rather a life worthy of God’s children.
Paul begins chapter 6 by completing his thought from chapter 5. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:19-21 ESV)
This is the heart of the Gospel. The Law of God is a mirror. It shows us the true nature of our sin, how we have failed to live up to God’s standard in the slightest. It shows that we can “try our best,” but our best doesn’t even get us close to perfection. The Law reveals sin after sin after sin until our hearts are revealed to be nothing other than a darkened and hardened stone totally against God. Wherever we go, whatever we do, sin abounds because we are utterly sinful. But then the Gospel, the good news: Where that sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more. The worst sin, the most frequent sinner can find God’s grace to cover their record of sin. There no sin too dark, no deed too immoral that cannot be forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ.
At your baptism, this Gospel laid its foundation in your heart. It broke through the hardened and blackened stone of sin and it replaced it with a heart of love. The same love that drove your Savior to the cross to die. You are the recipient of a totally new heart, one that desires to do what God wills and one that is eternally grateful to Him who shed His innocent blood so that God’s grace may cover you.
Does it really feel like you have a new heart? Maybe not all the time. Often, we find ourselves still struggling to adhere to the Law. We neglect to do the things God wants us to do and we stumble or full-on dive into the sins God does not want us to do. Worse than that, have you ever said to yourself what Paul asks in verse 1? “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound?” This certainly appears to be the modus operandi of many “Christians” today. In fact, it happens even to the most faithful, the sturdiest of people. “What does it matter that I steal this piece of gum from my brother? I’ll ask for forgiveness at church on Sunday.” “Who cares if I talk badly about my fellow Christians or coworkers? Yes, it is wrong to gossip, but I’m covered by God’s grace.”
An easy and utterly destructive mindset for any Christian to fall into. Paul is adamant against this behavior “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” To treat sin like it is no big deal because you already have God’s grace means to despise everything God did to give you that grace. Jesus died for my sins? Well, I might as well rack up as many as I can then. My Baptism washed me clean and made me a child of God? Well, that is what’s important in the end so who cares if I act like a child of the world in the meantime? That is what we are doing when we deliberately walk into sin’s trap. We are despising the Gospel; we are despising God.
What then shall we say? Is this not the path that we all find ourselves walking at one point or another? Paul says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We 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 6 We 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Remember your Baptism? You died that day. You died to sin. That is not to say that you will never sin again because you were baptized, but rather you have been set free from its dominion. God has given you the Holy Spirit to drown your sinful flesh, adhere to what God desires for you, and to live a life of thanksgiving to the God who saved you. How did you die to sin? It is nothing of your own power. Rather, you have been united into death with your Savior. Here is the power behind your baptism. When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, your baptism places you right there with Jesus. Your sins on His shoulders, you dying vicariously through Him. Similar to how George Wyatt was counted at dead via his substitute Richard Pratt, you are counted as having died for your sins via your Substitute Jesus Christ.
It was your sinful decrepit nature that was on the cross with Jesus. It was nailed by God’s Justice. While Jesus was taken from the cross and laid in a tomb, your sinful self was not. It remains nailed to the cross of your Savior never to die for eternity. You, on the other hand were buried with Jesus. Through your Baptism you were laid to rest with Him, the payment complete, the sins of yourself and the world destroyed by His suffering. And, as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, even so you, me, and all the hosts of God will see the dawning day of Christ’s return and be resurrected to a blessed eternal life.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (9-11).
This is what it means to be set free, that is justified from sin. You are declared not guilty because you died. Died to sin, but alive through Christ. Death could not contain God. He destroyed death’s power because He died to sin. He paid for its punishment and therefore God raised Him from the dead. This is what Baptism gives you, namely, the claim to Jesus as your Substitute. The guarantee that you have died to sin and are alive to God through Christ Jesus.
What does this mean for people like you and me who continue to fall into sin and fail to live up to God’s Law? Remember your baptism. Remember what it means. It is not a symbol, it is not a washing of dirt from your body, it was not some ritual that you went through as a baby just because. No, it was God’s power working in you and through you. It is God’s abundant grace that places you on the cross with Christ, lays you in the tomb of Jesus, and raises you up with your Savior. By remembering the power that is behind your baptism, God gives you the strength to ward of Satan’s attacks. He dispels complacency within you and gives you the earnest desire to accomplish what God has laid out for you to do.
You have been given life through death, the death of your Savior. But, by your baptism, His death becomes your very own. His burial becomes your very own. His resurrection and life eternal are your very own even now. I’m not sure if George Wyatt could get away with his excuse of already being dead today. You do not have to have an excuse. You have died – to sin, but are alive to God forever. Thanks be to our God for His wonderful gift of Holy Baptism, Amen.