The Balm of Baptism
Jer 8:18 I would comfort myself in sorrow; My heart is faint in me. 19 Listen! The voice, The cry of the daughter of my people From a far country: "Is not the LORD in Zion? Is not her King in her?" "Why have they provoked Me to anger With their carved images-With foreign idols?"
20 "The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!" 21 For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; Astonishment has taken hold of me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery For the health of the daughter of my people?
1Pe 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
Mt 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Recently, I became concerned about some growths on my knee. I went to the doctor and he told me that they likely were from eczema. So I went to Cathy’s Country store and I bought some bee balm and started to apply it. Sure enough, in just a matter of days, it cleared up.
So guess who’s singing the praises of bee balm these days?
But I have to tell you, recently I have discovered another balm, and I’m here to tell you that there IS a balm in Gilead, there is a healing salve in Christendom. I am here to sing the praises of the healing balm of baptism.
It’s a wonderful balm that I have learned to apply daily, and just like my bee balm, it doesn’t take a lot of time to apply it, just a minute or two, but after I apply it, I can begin my day with the calm assurance that it is quietly at work, doing it’s therapeutic work.
I discovered this balm while doing the daily devotions in Portals of Prayer. I noticed that Luther always began his morning prayer with these words. “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
It occurred to me, that I had heard those words before. In addition to hearing them every Sunday in the invocation, they were also the words uttered at my baptism as an infant, and those words, along with the application of water by the command and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, is what initially brought me into the kingdom of God. I believe the reason Luther uses them in his morning prayer is to daily get our focus back to what God did for us in our baptism.
The reason we use them in the invocation is also to remind us of what God did for us in our baptism. Without baptism, we would have no purpose for meeting together as a church. It is the Sacrament of baptism that the Lord has ordained to bring us into the church.
Mt 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
The essence of the Greek sentence structure here is that disciples or followers are made by baptizing.
It is in baptism that we are made brothers and sisters in Christ through the common fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Because it is in baptism that the Holy Spirit is bestowed upon us. This was symbolically evident as the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism by John, which was a forerunner of the baptism that Jesus would authorize at His ascension.
That the Holy Spirit is bestowed through baptism is evident from the words of Peter in his first sermon found in Acts 2.
Ac 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And so I start every day with those words spoken at my baptism. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I start out by thanking God for what HE did for me at my baptism. What did He do? Well, as we have already seen, He caused the Holy Spirit to take up residence in me.
He also washed away all my sins....oh yes, even as an infant I was a sinner as Scripture plainly teaches:
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Ps. 51:5) .
“There is none righteous, no not one.” (Rom 3:9,10)
“How can he be clean, that is born of a woman? (Job 25:4)
And the Savior declares, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
And guess what? Paul also said that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”
God is just, and because He is just, He judges sin, and the sin problem of that little innocent looking child must be taken care of. Something supernatural has to happen to that little child, or adult, to give it a new spiritual life. To enable it to inherit the kingdom of God. The child must be born again. And God in His great mercy has given us the means of rebirth for children and adults through baptism.
Jesus says, “Verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (Jn 3:5) Some will say that the water referred to here is the “breaking of water” at birth, but that interpretation does great harm to the text.
The context of Jesus’ talk with Nicodemus is baptism and the theme of baptism carries all the way through to John 4:1,2. Also please note that the text says, “Born again of water and of the Spirit” This speaks of one act. If Jesus was referring to two separate acts here He would’ve said, “Born again of water and born of Spirit.” But He says born again of water and of the Spirit. One act, one birth, namely the rebirth.
In this one sentence He makes the water and the Spirit one unified specific act, and that act can be nothing but baptism.
So in the balm of baptism I am also given new birth. My original sin problem is also taken care of since baptism effects the forgiveness of sins as evidenced in
Col 2:11,12 In Him (brought into Him in baptism) you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, (What is the circumcision of Christ?)
12 buried with Him in baptism, (It is baptism! Baptism is the superior NT equivalent of the OT rite of circumcision, and is called here “the circumcision of Christ.” It is internal, not external, and this baptism of Christ, puts off the body of the sins of the flesh, so in the baptism authorized by Jesus we have forgiveness of sin)
In our epistle lesson, we also see that baptism results in the forgiveness of sin as Peter writes:
1Pe 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
The answer of a good conscience before God is simply this. I am not guilty. The only thing that can give me a guilty conscience before God is sin, so we see again that in baptism, all our sins are removed, and we have the answer of a clear conscience before God. But there’s more as we continue in Col. 2:12, as Paul speaks of baptism he says,
“in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, (God also works faith and new life (raised with Him) through baptism!) who raised Him from the dead. (Baptism regenerates...gives us new life, raises us from the death effects of our sin, including the original sin that has even innocent looking infants in it’s grasp, and this baptism gives us new life in Christ.)
We see more proof of this regeneration and washing away of sins also in Paul’s letter to Titius:
Tit 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
By the way, I don’t believe it was by accident that the word “poured” was used in verse 6 as it is a picture of water baptism. Further scriptural proof of the power of baptism to wash away our sins is found in the conversion of the Apostle Paul as recounted in Act 22:12-16,
Ac 22:12 "Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, 13 "came to me; and he stood and said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that same hour I looked up at him. 14 "Then he said, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15 'For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
16 'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'
“Why are you waiting!” This was the theology of baptism of the early church. “You’ve heard the Good News about Jesus and baptism! Be baptized!” There was always a sense of urgency to carrying out this Sacrament for those who had heard the Good news. Remember Phillip and the Ethiopian eunich?
Acts 8:35-38 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. 36 And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?" 37
38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (RSV)
All we know from this passage is that Phillip told the eunich the good news of Jesus. That good news must have included the good news of the necessity of water baptism. He must have included in his presentation all the benefits of baptism because the eunich did not ask to say the sinners prayer. he did not ask for an altar call, he asked to be baptized! Bring that grace to me!
This leads me to believe that Phillip likely shared the good news of Jesus dying for the sins of the world including the sins of the Ethiopian but that in order to have this forgiveness conveyed to him and the new birth, and the Holy Spirit he would have to be baptized.
I mean, you can hear the excitement and the sense of urgency in the eunich as they approach water. After hearing the good news about Jesus and how Jesus ordained the use of water baptism as a means of conveying God’s grace, he leapt at the opportunity. Baptism and the gospel are inseparable.
Let’s also look and see what we can learn about baptism from Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
Ga 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
At first glance you might ask, what has this got to do with baptism? Well let me ask you, how are we crucified with Christ? Through baptism! Paul might as well have said, I have been baptized into Christ!
Ro 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Furthermore we see in Gal 2:20 that Christ (The Holy Spirit if you will, but Christ lives in me) He comes to live in us in baptism. Our sinful flesh is crucified dead and buried in baptism, we now live by faith given to us in baptism.
Galatians 3:2 says,
Ga 3:2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Think this through. How did we receive the Holy Spirit? In baptism. How did we know to be baptized? By the hearing of faith, the gospel, the good news, which always included the necessity of being baptized. And how baptism was the means by which God ordained to convey all the blessings of His grace.
Then later on in Galatians 3:26 we read
Ga 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
You can hear the Good news and even believe the Good News, but it is in baptism that you put on Christ. It is in baptism that you are robed in His righteousness and not your own filthy rags.
Think about what is being said here. You are all believers through faith in Christ Jesus. FOR in other words BECAUSE As MANY OF YOU WHO WERE BAPTIZED HAVE PUT ON CHRIST It is your baptism that identifies you as a legitimate child of God, just as circumcision identified you as a child in the OT.
“As many of you as were baptized” makes us want to answer the question, “what about those who aren’t baptized?” What about those who would shun baptism? Well they are like those spoken of in Mt 22
Mt 22:8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 'Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'
10 "So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 "So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless.
13 "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
The servants spoken of here are all those who invite others into the kingdom through the preaching of the gospel. We have already shown that this preaching of the gospel must include that the way to receive these benefits is to be baptized. It is in baptism that we are “clothed in Christ.” This is the wedding garment that identifies us as legitimate guests at the wedding.
The man without the garment clearly stands out. He refused to take advantage of the means of grace offered to him, namely baptism, and he was speechless....he was without any defense. He was told, but didn’t believe it. He thought his faith was sufficient. But the Bible says,
Mr 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
If baptism is not a necessary element of salvation, Jesus would’ve said, He who believes will be saved, but He didn’t, He said He who believes and is baptized. On the other hand baptism must be accompanied by faith as evidenced by the second part of this verse. He who doesn’t believe is condemned, baptized or not.
So this faith that comes to us in our baptism must be guarded or kept, or we can lose our salvation.
To illustrate this fact, let us look again at our epistle lesson, Peter writes:
“a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism
Here Peter tells us that Noah and his family were a type or picture of the effects of the means of grace we call water baptism. They were saved through water, the water lifted them above the destruction of the flood.
Now just a little bit about “type” and “antitype.”A type is a mere shadow of a future reality. The antitype is “anti or against any mere shadow, it is the real deal. Let me give you an example. When the Israelites were bitten by poisonous snakes, Moses was instructed to craft a brass snake and put it on a pole.
All the people that looked upon that snake were spared. This incident was a “type” of Jesus on the cross. The snake representing sin, and Jesus became “sin” for us. So the antitype of this incident was the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary. That was the antitype or fulfillment of the type pictured here.
So Peter is saying something very strong her. He says the actual fulfillment of what the ark pictured is here, and just as sure as Noah and his family were saved through the waters of the flood, so it is for everyone who is baptized. He says baptism now saves us.
(Now we need to be careful here. Many Lutherans stop at this passage and they don’t consider others that speak of the necessity of faith coupled with baptism as we have seen in Mk 16:16.)
The best way to illustrate this is to look at Noah’s ark. The ark represents faith. It was built because Noah believed God. Could that ark serve the purpose it was built for without water? Not really. Without water, it’s just a barn. Belief (faith) and baptism are linked in such a way. They need each other because God has ordained it that way. Believe and be baptized.
But what happens if someone leaves the ark during the flood. What if Ham says “I can’t stand the smell any longer!!!!!!! And he jumps overboard. He in essence leaves the faith and even though he was once baptized, riding in faith and enjoying the benefits of baptism, (salvation) he no longer is saved is he? He has left the faith!
Can he climb back aboard? Yes he can, and don’t you just know that Noah (Jesus) is constantly looking for him in the water. Constantly throwing a life ring to him. Constantly urging him to grab onto it and be pulled back aboard.
So, baptism must be accompanied by faith to effect salvation. Aha Pastor Matz! Now we got you! How can an infant have faith? Anyone who asks such a question needs to get a biblical understanding of faith.
Faith is a gift of God. It is God-given trust in Jesus and His Word. It may be and likely will be evidenced by an intellectual assent to God and His promises, in fact in time it must be, “for faith without works is dead.”
But this intellectual assent is only proof that faith is present, it is not faith itself. It’s only the flag waving in the breeze indicating that there is wind. Where was John’s “intellectual assent to Jesus when he “leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb?
And if children can’t have faith, why does David say in Ps 22:
Ps 22:9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts.
Why does Jesus tell us that if we want to enter heaven we must have the faith (the trust) of a child. We are the ones who have decided to put faith in a box so we can see it, but God chooses to leave faith invisible, in the heart, where He alone can see it.
The balm of baptism! Preserved for us in the teachings of the Lutheran fathers. I fear for those who have abandoned this basic doctrine of the church, but I don’t dare judge them. All I can do is try to set the record straight.
All I can do is urge you to embrace this wonderful means of grace and assurance given to you. It saddens me to see people leave the Lutheran church for the glitz and emotional highs and programs of other churches at the sacrifice of this basic scriptural teaching.. This wonderful gift of God given to His church.
The balm of baptism is our treasure. But as with any balm, it is useless if we leave it in the jar. I urge you brothers and sisters to apply it every single morning from this day forward. Start your day with Luther’s reminder:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. O thank you Jesus for bringing me into your family through those words spoken at my baptism. And I pray that as you washed away my sins then, that you will wash away my sins of yesterday. And I thank you for the gift of faith that you gave me in baptism and I pray that today you will help me to nurture it and cause it to grow as I have opportunities to trust You and Your Word. Thank You Lord, for giving me the Holy Spirit and I pray this day , that I will reckon anew that the old man in me has been crucified thereby giving place to the Holy Spirit to live and love through me. May all the gifts of grace bestowed upon me in baptism be evident in my life today for Your honor and glory. Amen!
This is the balm that the church of Jesus Christ has been given in baptism, avail yourself of it daily. and if you remain in the ark of faith, this balm will help you through many a stormy sea and give you the peace that passes all understanding. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. Grant this Lord unto us all.