St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

What Good Is My Baptism Today?

Sermon on Titus 3:4-7

Text: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Over the years there have been many patents given. Some are for very important things that we use every day. Others were given for some rather interesting things, to say the least. For example, there was the “Eye Protector for Chickens,” which was patented in 1903. This device was to help protect the eyes of chickens from fights and general barnyard soot and grime. A “Bird-Powered Flying Machine” was patented in 1887. It was an enormous balloon propelled by large, harnessed birds. The inventor hoped to make mechanical motors obsolete. In 1896, a dimple maker was patented. By means of mechanical facial massage, you could produce new dimples and enhance existing ones. I’m sure that, at the time, these inventors felt that their inventions would be of great help to mankind. Of course, they are now nothing more than oddities at the Patent Office and are of little, if any, good today, more than 100 years later. This morning, we are going to talk about something else that happened years ago, the exact number will vary from person to person, and its benefit today. The event that we are speaking of is our baptism. My baptism occurred years ago, so WHAT GOOD IS MY BAPTISM TODAY? We will see that 1. I Have Been Justified, 2. I Have Been Saved and 3. I Have Been Born Again.

Our text for this morning from Titus is one long sentence in the Greek. Yet, in this one sentence, the Apostle Paul sums up the entire gospel message. Before we continue our discussion of baptism, I would like to turn your attention to something that took place long before your baptism. In verse seven, Paul uses the phrase, “having been justified by his grace.” Paul says that we have been justified. To understand the meaning of this word, we need to think of a courtroom. The entire world is on trial. The judge is God the Father. What are the charges? As we listen to the list of charges, we hear every kind of sin imaginable. There is lying, cheating, stealing, anger, and lust. The list goes on and on. Because God is a just God, he has no choice but to declare the world “Guilty!” and the punishment for breaking these laws is the death penalty. It is an eternity of punishment in hell.

Then, Jesus steps forward and addresses the Judge. He tells him that the sins of which all are accused were all paid for when he lived on the earth, perfectly keeping that law, and by suffering the very torments of hell when he suffered and died on the cross. The debt has been paid in full. Now, again, because God is a just Judge, he has no choice but to declare the world, “Not Guilty!”. That is what the word “justify” means, to declare “Not Guilty!”. Note that God didn’t look the other way when the sin was committed, nor did he dismiss the charges. The punishment was exacted from Jesus Christ. It is because of his life, death and resurrection that we have been justified.

We note the reason we are justified. It was “by grace.” Because of God’s undeserved love, the world was justified. As Paul reminds us, it was “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” No one in the entire world could save themselves by what they have done. It was because of God’s grace, mercy, kindness, and love. All of these words from our text show us that it was by God’s grace that we have been justified.

How is this justification made mine? How and why am I saved? Why do I receive the benefits, blessings of what Christ has done? Paul says in verse five, “He saved us through the washing . . . by the Holy Spirit.” This is referring to baptism. I have been saved through the washing of baptism. How can that be? How can the application of some water save me? Dr. Martin Luther asks that same question in his First Part of Baptism. He asked, “What is baptism?”. In response, he wrote, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is water used by God’s command and connected with God’s Word.” As proof of this he quotes Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is Christ’s command to baptize. When we baptize, apply the water in connection with God’s Word, we are following Christ’s command.

This brings us back to the question, ‘How does baptism save me?’. We note that Jesus said that we “make disciples” when we baptize. A disciple is a learner or follower. When we are baptized, we become Jesus’ followers or disciples, in other words, we are brought to faith. The Holy Spirit works through the water and the Word to create faith, a trust that Jesus is my Savior. This blessing becomes ours as the Holy Spirit creates faith.

We note that Paul writes, “He saved us through washing.” (Verse 5) This blessing, this benefit becomes ours when we are baptized. Baptism doesn’t just symbolize the washing away of sin, as so many other church bodies teach. In baptism, our sins are actually washed away, because saving faith is created in our hearts. That is why we refer to Baptism as a sacrament, something that God does for us, and we receive the blessings thereof. Baptism is a Means of Grace, one of the vehicles by which God’s grace is poured upon us. Baptism is important to me today because I received the benefits of Christ’s justifying work through it. I am saved. For many, if not most of us, we were first brought to faith when we were infants through this washing of Baptism. That is why Baptism is important to me. It marks that day when I was brought into God’s family.

However, my baptism is more than a memorial day. It is of benefit to me as I live my daily life. Paul speaks of this washing, or baptism, as a “washing of rebirth and renewal.” (Verse 5) It is a washing of rebirth, because through it the Holy Spirit creates faith, making me spiritually alive. Before this, I was spiritually dead, but now I have been made spiritually alive. We celebrate our physical birthday, but of far greater significance, especially in the light of eternity is our “Rebirth Day,” our baptism.

Baptism is also a “washing of renewal.” I am a new creation. Paul puts it this way in Romans 6:3&4, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” When we were baptized, part of us was put to death and buried. That was our Old Adam or sinful nature, which wants nothing more than to disobey God. He was drowned in the waters of baptism. When we were baptized, a new part of us came to life, namely, our New Man. Our New Man delights in obeying God’s will in thankful response for all that he has done for us. In baptism the Holy Spirit works the desire in me to throw off the slavery of sin and live a new life. As Paul wrote in Romans 6:2, “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”.

Baptism renews in me the desire to throw off the Old Adam and to put on the New Man. As I think of all the blessings that God has given me in baptism, namely the forgiveness of sins, new life and salvation, I want to thank God with my entire life. Reminding myself daily of these blessings helps me want to live for God. It also helps me to daily drown the Old Adam by contrition and repentance. I sorrow over the sins that I have committed, and I trust that God, for Jesus’ sake, has forgiven them. My baptism also reminds me that day by day my new man is to arise, as from the dead, to live in the presence of God in righteousness and purity. My baptism is very valuable to me every day as I strive to live a God-pleasing life, in thankfulness for all that he has done for me.

We began our sermon talking about inventions that seemed like a good idea at the time, but over the years have shown themselves to be, at best, impractical and, at worst, foolish. They are of little, if any, good today. But our baptism, even though it may have occurred more years than we like to think about, is extremely valuable today. For, through it, people, including infants, are saved. Our baptism is also important to us because it serves as a daily reminder to put off the Old Adam and to put on the New Man to live in service to God for all that he has done for us.

Baptism is not just some church ceremony you go through, like a rite of passage. Through it, people are brought to faith and are saved eternally. We also dare never think of baptism as some sort of magical washing, whereby the child is saved for eternity. Faith is created in baptism. But that faith can die if it is not nourished by God’s Word. We, as parents and a congregation, have an obligation to see to it that the faith created in baptism continues to be nourished in our children, as well as in our own lives. Today, as we recall Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, where he was set apart for service to his Father, we also recall our baptism, whereby we were set apart to be God’s children. What good is our baptism today? Our baptism is very valuable, because through it we were brought to faith and now enjoy our status as God’s children. We thank our God for giving us this most valuable gift. Amen.