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.
Friday, June 23: Romans 12
The promises of baptism – that God will be our God and we will be his people – are not fleeting. These are not promises made on a whim. They are not promises that come with an expiration date. No, the promises of God are eternal, unending, ever-faithful (Genesis 17:7, Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:12, Ezekiel 37:27, John 14:23, II Corinthians 6:16, Revelation 21:3). These promises, prompted by the Holy Spirit residing in our hearts, call us toward a response of belief in Christ and grace-filled obedience to God’s call. What is this call? It is the Great Commission: making disciple by teaching and preaching and baptizing (Matthew 28:19-20). It is to clothe oneself with God’s character and bear the fruit of his Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). It is to live together as a baptismal community letting “the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with al wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). It is to live a life defined by the gospel call. Paul describes it perfectly in the letter to the Philippian church: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (4:4-8). When we are reminded of our baptism, we are prompted toward Holy Spirit living through the blood of the resurrected Lord so we can stand before the Almighty Creator. As we continue to celebrate our baptism, it is my prayer you will be prompted toward belief and grace-filled obedience.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn