So when the Apostle says that we have both died and been raised together with Christ in baptism (Col 2:12), his meaning is clearly nothing but this: We have been so truly joined to the body of the Christ who once died for our trespasses and was raised for our justification (Rom 4:25) that, on the basis of this union, we already in baptism we have received the real foundation and beginning of the death of the old man and the resurrection of the new man. … Its progression is the entire purpose and goal of the Christian life, but its fulfilment will be attained only when in true faith we depart from this life in the blessed hour, when we this body of sin is fully taken off and buried, and when it rises on the Last Day purified and glorified to eternal life.
Fredrik Gabriel Hedberg, Pyhän kasteen puolustus (Finnish translation of Baptismens vederläggning och det heliga dopets försvar [A Refutation of the Baptists and a Defence of Holy Baptism], 1855), 113.
An interesting thought from Luther’s sermon for New Year’s Day in the Church Postil:
For when death fell on Him and killed Him, and yet had no right or case against Him, and He willingly and innocently submitted and let Himself be killed, then death became liable to Him, did Him wrong and sinned against Him, and itself spoiled everything, so that Christ has an honest claim against it. Now the wrong of which [death] became guilty toward Him is so great that death can never pay nor atone for it. Therefore, it must be subject to Christ and in His power forever, and so death is overcome and put to death in Christ. (Luther’s Works 76 [CPH, 2013], 45)
Again, this fits beautifully with the centrality of the baptismal union: all things are subjected to Christ, for the Church (Eph. 1:22). Apart from Christ, death rules over my body. In Christ, death is subject to me, because it is subject to Him and I am in Him.
Sermon preached at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Fareham on 23 January 2011, Epiphany 4 [typos and all]
Naaman is one of those characters in the Bible whose story is familiar to almost everyone who has been to Sunday School for any length of time. Every time I read or hear the story myself, images of the fuzzy felt storyboard from my own Sunday School in the early ‘70s and ‘80s come flooding back.
And like so many of the biblical characters we encounter through Sunday School, Naaman gets a bit of a rough deal. He comes across as something of an anti-hero: he is the enemy general who has vanquished God’s people in battle, killed their king, kidnapped a poor Israelite girl as a slave, who shows no faith in the promise God makes through His prophet, and who is saved only after his servants persuade him to listen to the prophet. However, even a brief moment of self-scrutiny should make us realise that this is hardly fair on Naaman: he is certainly no worse than us. At every turn his reactions are just what you would expect from any normal, rational person. This passage is not a story about Naaman’s foolishness—it is a story about God’s foolishness, about how God saves us through wonderfully foolish means.
Continue reading And he was clean
Homily preached at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Fareham, on Sunday 9 January 2011.
Text: Matthew 3:13–17
It really made no sense. John the Baptist had been preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in anticipation of the coming of the kingdom of God. The Lord’s Messiah was coming and he would baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire, with his winnowing fork in his hand to separate the wheat from the chaff.
And so they came. Matthew tells us that “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins”. It was one mighty washing: the waters of the Jordan being stained with the crimson sins of the repentant sinners of Jerusalem and Judea, all of them eager to be found to be gathered as wheat into the Lord’s barn at the coming of His kingdom, not be burned up as chaff.
So what was Jesus doing, asking to be immersed in these same waters of the Jordan, to receive the sinners’ baptism? The pure lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, asking to be baptised by John, who has come to prepare the sinners of Israel for His coming? John’s reaction is not only understandable; it’s the only reaction that makes sense: “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me? ”
Continue reading Fulfilling all righteousness