Some early Christians delayed baptism, thinking that if they received this sacrament in their last moments on earth, it would assure their entrance into the heavenly home of the baptized. The idea was that sin would have no chance to mar the blessing of the gift. There are a number of problems with this theory, not least of which is the idea that sin is a matter of "doing." If we are weak and upon our death bed, it is thought that the chances that we might sin are somewhat limited by our circumstances. Some years ago, I remember an elderly church member upon her death bed declining confession and absolution. She remarked, "How could I have sinned, while lying here?" Perhaps this too is a satanic delusion, a kind of false security that is dependent on human fantasy and the prideful idea that we will be in better spiritual condition in our last moments than we are now. Yet as death approaches the trials of faith may become more furious.
Delaying baptism also ignores the power of Satan to put on a late fourth quarter rally, à la Eli Manning. Our enemy is frantically committed to your perdition. He will press hard at the end to snatch your defeat from the jaws of the victory of the Lion of Judah. Even the prideful human plan to wait until the last to receive the seal of baptism is a step into the mouth of our enemy. Has our heavenly Father not promised to watch over us and care for us? Has He not sent the holy angels to surround our death bed? Has He not sealed us unto salvation with the sacrament of life? Has He not already seen to our death in the font of life by burying us with His Son? What about this later death should cause us to fear?
Baptism is not a one-time gift, but it is the gift that truly keeps on giving. Baptism is God's work, not our own. Thus it will always apply in our lives whether we have been baptized a month before dying or at the beginning of life, when we have been born dead in our trespasses and sins. Baptism is a remedy to death in every case, because it is God's remedy and He promises to stand behind it. Baptism marks you with the clothing of Christ. In holy baptism the sign of the Triune God has been set upon our hearts and foreheads, to mark us as redeemed by Christ crucified. Just as the rustler is delighted to see a calf that is unbranded, so Satan smacks his lips when he sees those who have avoided baptism, disdaining the seal of the holy Trinity. Such a person is an easy mark, dependent as he is upon his own spiritual strength, instead of on the strong name of the Triune God (Proverbs 18:10). He is readily devoured, stolen from the flock. In baptism the good Shepherd creates his flock, marking them by the holy name, which gives holiness. So why wait?
Baptism is the universal sacrament. It gives entry to the kingdom of Christ. And whom does our Father not want in the kingdom of His Son? Our heavenly Father has placed no barriers of age or status upon the gift of baptism. If age would be a barrier for baptism, what would keep us from applying other barriers to those seeking the gift of baptism? If age puts a limit on baptism, what would keep us from applying other limits? Of course, our Lord does not place limits of age on the sacrament of baptism. He says, "Go, baptize all nations." Who exactly would that command leave out? Who could not be included in the designation "all nations?" Whom has our Lord forbidden us to baptize? But if age limits baptism, wouldn't it be conceivable that other barriers, such as social status, just as easily prevent those who are otherwise eligible to be baptized? While it might seem unlikely to us, the early church struggled with precisely these questions.
How easily we humans apply our standards to God, as though He were limited by our conceptions. We may not limit the universal applicability of the sacrament of baptism based on these faulty conceptions. Those in the early church who treasured the celibate life began to discount the importance of baptism, delaying it because they thought so highly of their own virginity. Gregory Nazianzus will have none of it. He explicitly argued that baptism was applicable in every human situation. This is certainly the teaching of the apostle Paul: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27-28). Perhaps, we could even add here: "neither young nor old." Whether we are young or old, slave or free, male or female, married or single, etc. baptism puts us into Christ. That "putting into" is a permanent resource for our Christian life. If we live in Him, we will live in His way.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of sharing our holy faith with a Kurdish man who, suspicious of Islam, asked good questions about the faith of Christ. I had such a joy to be able to say that Jesus is our way to the Father. Christianity is not a path, at least not in the way in which a road map charts a path. No, Christianity's way is a person: Christ Himself. Christianity is not a way of living. No, it is a life that is Christ's own life. He is your life and you are hidden in Him (Colossians 3:4). Christianity is not a truth. No, it is the truth in the flesh of God's own Son. The man heard these words with tears in his eyes. "Is this your God?" he said wonderingly.
Baptism sets us into the one who is the way, the truth, and the life. This is who we are because we are in Him, not because we follow a prescribed pattern of life. Baptism gives us Christ and places us in Him, and provides resources in whatever station of life we may find ourselves; whether we be single, married, young, old, male or female. We are adorned with Christ and His righteousness. We are kept holy in the chastity of marriage. We are maintained in the righteousness of Christ in the single life. Baptism does it all.
Lord Christ, You have given us an inexhaustible treasure in our baptism because it sets us into Your death and resurrection. Help us to depend on this treasure because it puts us in Your death and resurrection. Amen.
Absolutely beautiful and so comforting too!
Baptism is so much more than just a "symbolic" act that draws all the attention to ourselves. It's a pure gift from God and one that was instituted by Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18–19) and is a gift to be used as a means to impart forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation till the end of time.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, "baptism does it all."
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Executive Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!