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.
Wednesday, June 21: Ephesians 4-5:20
Why do we baptize infants? This is a compelling question, and while the answer can be long and complicated, I hope to sketch out a brief picture for you. First, we believe children are included in the covenant community, and should not be excluded from the promises God extended to his beloved people. Marking them with the visible sign of the covenant community, then, is an important act. This practice is supported by the fact that Abraham, when he was called to mark his family and descendants with the sign of the covenant – circumcision – was instructed to do so when the boys were only eight days old. This visible sign, like baptism today, pointed toward the spiritual seal of righteousness placed upon him as a member of the Covenant community. Second, parents are called to devote themselves to the Lord and to train their children up in his ways. By committing themselves “to do all in their power to instruct these children in the Christian faith and to lead them by their example to be Christ’s disciples (Christian Reformed Church’s “Baptism of Children” Liturgical Form)” parents are proclaiming to the Covenant community they are dedicating themselves and their children to faithfulness before the Lord. In addition to this, the Covenant community is able to dedicate themselves to walking alongside the child and parents, encouraging each as they grow and learn in their journeys of faith. Third, when infants are baptized, they have no idea what is happening nor do they understand Christ’s sacrifice for them yet. It’s a beautiful picture of how we come to love because God first loved us. This baptism vow, made so early on in life, hopefully grows and matures into a life of faith, a Holy Spirit prompted remembrance that God’s call into the Covenant Community means entering into the cleansing, communal, covenant waters, and making the commitment to continue in the ways of the Gospel. This life, of course, is modeled to the child by the rest of the Covenant community. Does this mean we do not baptize adults? Of course not! Baptism is the sign that we are set apart for the work of the Kingdom, and when a person comes to Christ, no matter what the age, we welcome them with open arms and holy water. But we will continue to make baptismal vows as parents and communities with our children until the Lord comes again, in obedience with Biblical teaching. As we study and explore baptism, I pray that you will remember your own baptism, even as you pledge to walk alongside others in theirs.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn