Category Archives: Baptism

When Every Earthly Prop Gives Way

It will therefore be no small gain to a penitent to remember above all his baptism, and, confidently calling to mind the divine promise which he has forsaken, acknowledge that promise before his Lord, rejoicing that he is still within the fortress of salvation because he has been baptized, and abhorring his wicked ingratitude in falling away from its faith and truth. His heart will find wonderful comfort and will be encouraged to hope for mercy when he considers that the promise which God made to him, which cannot possibly lie, is still unbroken and unchanged, and indeed, cannot be changed by sins, as Paul says (2 Timothy 2:13): “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” This truth of God, I say, will sustain him, so that if all else should fail, this truth, if he believes in it, will not fail him. In it the penitent has a shield against all assaults of the scornful enemy, an answer to the sins that disturb his conscience, an antidote for the dread of death and judgment, and a comfort in every temptation—namely, this one truth—when he says: “God is faithful in his promises [Hebrews 10:23; 11:11], and I received his sign in baptism. If God is for me, who is against me?” [Romans 8:31].

– Martin Luther, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church”, LW 36:59

Baptismal Identity and Sin

Go here first and read this article. Then come back to here.

I see why a person could misunderstand this article. You might think the article gives the ring of “Once baptized, always saved.” No matter what you do or how you live, don’t worry. You’re saved.

Now go back and read the article again. Consider this paragraph:

For those who are gay or struggle with some gender issue. You are baptized! God has not abandoned you. You are not less in His sight because of your struggles against sin. He has beaten sin for you. All of the guilt, doubt and despair you may feel has been answered for on Calvary. The struggle you face to live a “sexually pure and decent life” is the Spirit’s work in you. Your failings to do so are covered by Jesus’ blood and left buried in His tomb. Your victory over these very real and very bitter struggles is the baptism which the sign of the cross remembers, the absolution your pastor speaks, and the Body and Blood of Jesus He gives you.

The key word in the paragraph is struggle. There is not one Christian who does not struggle with any sin. Not one. I have my struggles. You have yours. When you struggle with sin, the Law is at work in you. The Holy Spirit is using God’s Word to show you your sin. The Holy Spirit is using the Law to show how you don’t measure up to the exacting demand God expects of His people. Sometimes the Spirit uses the Mirror. Sometimes He uses the Guide. He’s in control of what use of the Law He uses.

Yet you are baptized. This is your identity, no matter what sin is your struggle. You are forgiven. That’s a state of being. The Law preaches repentance. That’s the struggle the author mentions. Then:

Homosexuality, promiscuity, divorce, adultery, fornication—anything that is against marriage or denies marriage—denies the truth of Jesus and His church. But it is precisely in the truth of what Christ has done for His church that all sins are forgiven. 
All of them. Without exception. None greater or less than another. All of them are covered by Christ’s blood. And every struggle, and every failing, and every transgression, is covered by the promise of your baptism. This is why the whole Christian life, whatever you struggle with, is nothing other than a life in the Divine Service, hearing over and over the promise that Christ does not abandon us in our sins but forgives and gives us life.

The church does not accept the world’s view that “anything goes.” But neither does it seek to judge certain sins more than others. Rather, the church lives by Christ’s gifts. By His forgiveness. By His Word, water, body and blood. There is nothing else by which the Spirit works in us to rescue us from the world’s way of thinking and the darkness of sin.

Sinful human beings want to see progress and results. How do I know you are really repentant? How do I know whether or not the Law and Gospel you preach, Pastor, is truly working in your flock’s life? I need to see it to believe it. You won’t see it. You will, instead, let the Holy Spirit work in the Word. Let Him do what He is given to do, when and where He wills.

If there’s any sin that demands repentance on our part, it’s the sin of controlling the Holy Spirit. I confess I try to control Him all the time. Every day. Nevertheless, I am baptized. I am forgiven. I struggle with this sin and pray the Spirit to call to mind my Baptism. In that lavish washing of sin I am forgiven and free. Do I have a license to do as I please? No. The Law will do its work again, showing me my sin. I will repent. I am forgiven. It’s who I am in Christ.

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.

St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

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