HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 26 & 27
How does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross is for you personally?
In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, in other words, all my sins.
What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?
To be washed with Christ’s blood means that God, by grace, has forgiven my sins because of Christ’s blood poured out for me in his sacrifice on the cross.
To be washed with Christ’s Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed me and set me apart to be a member of Christ so that more and more I become dead to sin and increasingly live a holy and blameless life.
Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
In the institution of baptism where he says: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism the washing of rebirth and the washing away of sins.
Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?
No, only Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.
Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of rebirth and the washing away of sins?
God has good reason for these words. He wants to teach us that the blood and Spirit of Christ wash away our sins just as water washes away dirt from our bodies. But more important, he wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign, that the washing away of our sins spiritually is as real as physical washing with water.
Should infants, too, be baptized?
Yes. Infants, as well as adults, are in God’s covenant and are his people. They, no less than adults, are promised the forgiveness of sin through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit who produces faith. Therefore, by baptism, the mark of the covenant, infants should be received into the Christian church and should be distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.
Saturday, June 24: Revelation 5
Often, the great hymns of the faith tell the story of our faith in deep and true ways. One of the great baptism hymns does this powerfully as it states, “Baptized in water, sealed by the Spirit, dead in the tomb with Christ, our King; one with his rising, freed and forgiven, thankfully now God’s praise we sing.” Although in our particular congregation we do not often immerse people in large pools of water when we baptize them, there is something very striking about the symbolism. When a person submerges under the water, it symbolizes they are dying to themselves, taking off their old, stained selves. When they come up, gasping for breath and dripping with water, they are cleansed and reborn, often draped in a fresh, white robe to symbolize their new identity in Christ, their new self. This is beautiful imagery. When we witness the baptism of others – whether infants or adults – we are reminded that we are a new creation, cleansed and reborn, robed in white, able to stand before the throne of God with the whole cloud of witnesses as if we had never sinned or been sinners. John paints a picture of this in the book of Revelation:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’…Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in the white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne and will shelter them with his presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eye (7:9-10, 13-17).’
What assurance we have! The cleansing waters of baptism, the visible sign of Christ’s invisible grace, are only a foretaste of what is to come, when Christ comes again and fully establishes his Kingdom. As we continue to celebrate the sacrament of baptism, it is my prayer that you will remember your baptism, singing praises to God for the Living Water yet to come.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn