Enemy of the Baptized

I hope you had a happy St. Michael and All Angels day yesterday, a day to reflect on angels, including the fallen angels whom Michael battles. On this topic, our pastor preached an illuminating sermon. As he said, ” the war in heaven has now come down to earth.”

We also had a baptism. In the bulletin was printed Luther’s admonition to the baptismal party, which included this startling sentence: “Remember, therefore, that it is no joke to take sides against the devil and not only to drive him away from the little child, but to burden the child with such a mighty and lifelong enemy.”

Think of that. The Baptized have been delivered from the devil, but that makes them the devil’s special enemy, with Satan always trying to thwart God’s grace and win them back.

You have got to read the sermon linked above, which dives deeply into this. A sample (Logan is the name of the baby we baptized):

So given the danger that surrounds us everyday, how could we put little Logan into such a difficult and precarious situation? How could we give him such a mighty and lifelong enemy, and rejoice in doing so? Well, we do, and we can, because although the battle rages on, the war has been won. Because the gifts of God are greater than the schemes of the enemy. Because the great dragon that was thrown down to the earth, was defeated by a baby boy who at one time was the same age as Logan and nursed at His mother’s breast. A baby boy wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. A baby boy the news of whose birth the angels announced and celebrated. A baby boy who was not only a baby boy, like Logan, born in the natural way, but the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born without sin. A baby boy who is the King of angels, come to do what no angel could do. For while Michael and his angels tossed the old, evil foe down from heaven, it was a baby boy named Jesus who defeated him once and for all.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://thebookbeast.blogspot.com Darren

    Our church is celebrating it today, with a party this evening. I’m really looking forward to it; this is one of my favorite feast days, and two of my three children are named after the great Captain of the Host. :)

  • Texan

    I didn’t know that yesterday was St. Michael and All Angels Day. In the afternoon I sat down to read a book and the one I chose was “Angels (and Demons)” by Peter Kreeft; neat. Beautiful sermon, too.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer TK

    I posted this in the above thread to illustrate a different point, but I will add it here also. I don’t remember ever attending a service for the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels, so yesterday’s service at Bethany Lutheran College was particularly meaningful since it was the first time we got to see our daughter sing in the BLC Concert Choir. BLC doesn’t have regular Sunday services (students are encouraged to become part of local congregations or travel to their home churches), but they hold services on special occasions, such as the annual Fall Festival.

    The service followed the Office of Matins. I really miss use of singing psalms! It reminded me of my ALC days in the 70’s. Chaplain Don Moldstad gave a good sermon on the corresponding scripture of the day. Nothing about candidates, but an excellent message about the goal of the devil (to destroy your soul forever) and of angels (to protect your soul to heaven). He explained that sin is not just specific acts that the devil might convince you to do, but part of an overall plan to create a way to separate you from God…a pattern of guilt…a weaker friend who will seemingly try to pull you away from God. Sin isn’t just an act; its part of a plan to pull us away from God. There was also a reminder that the world will continually tell Christians that their faith in Christ is irrevelant, out-dated…like walking around wearing night goggles during the day (a reference to an earlier comparison of faith in Christ to wearing night goggles). Your church is one place to recognize your fellow soldiers, where your “night goggles” of faith won’t look out of place. Beautiful choir music, directed by Dennis Marzolf, and wonderful band pieces directed by Adrian Lo. I enjoyed singing two ELH hymns I’d never sung before, to my knowledge: I Walk With Angels All The Way (252) and The Canticle Hymn (45).

  • Jenna

    Texan, yesterday wasn’t, technically, St. Michael’s and All Angels; today (the 29th) is. But the practice for the minor feasts is to celebrate them in the Divine Service on the Sunday immediately prior, that is, if your church chooses to do so. Mine doesn’t anymore, unfortunately. But I always look forward to the readings and collect in my personal morning prayers on the actual day.

    Dr. Veith, I appreciate your pastor’s reference to the way in which the warfare is taking place on earth. I thought of that yesterday–it was my first appearance as probably the most visible member of our newly formed Board of Missions and Evangelism, to talk about our upcoming neighborhood canvass. (No, I’m not the chairman. And we have elders overseeing it.) I’m fully expecting the attacks that I know are ahead of me. So it’s nice to remember that the angels, God’s ministers, are always fighting where I cannot, against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And that, through Christ, the ultimate victory is already ours.

  • Texan

    Well, I plan to finish the book today! I’ve always had confusion in relation to angels. Peter Kreeft does a good job of explaining, especially in light of all the goofy angel stuff out there in the past few years, what angels really are.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Very nice stuff, thanks for sharing, Veith. Lots of folks out here think that they are angels just waiting to go back to heaven and be married forever on their own planet (just try to sort that one out with your neighbor). Yep, Mormon theology tends to take every good thing and turn it into junk that can give you no comfort at all. Sounds like your pastor is real good at showing God’s connections which He makes between Himself and the Kingdom of God and the lives of men. I love baptisms too!

  • http://www.homesteadblogger.com/gonorthyoungpack Jenn W

    It was a particularly excellent sermon wasn’t it! I almost blogged it myself today, now I’m going to cheat and link to yours and blog pictures of children instead!
    In Christ
    Jenn at Bull Run

  • http://www.saintcynic.blogspot.com Christopher

    That was an amazing sermon, absolutely. I wish more churches in my area would preach like that. There is actually an education in that sermon, and not just a repetition of our Saviour’s resurrection in cutesy, anecdotal ways all the time.

    One thing I did notice, however, was the ambiguity of one of the pastor’s statements:

    “A Saviour who came down to live in a little boy’s body…”

    That sentence can be read and understood as a gnostic apprehension of what happened in the manifestation and first advent of Christ. That, is, the Saviour didn’t necessarily become a boy Himself, but simply inhabited the body of a boy.

    It’s hard to come up with different ways of stating that reality time after time, I understand. In any case, it was something that stood out to me.

  • Anon

    Another reason why the distinction my pastor frequently makes between “was baptized” and “am baptized” is so critical.

    Happy Michaelmas, all!

  • LAJ

    TK Thanks for writing about the service at BLC. I missed it as I was playing organ a few blocks away. We had individual absolution for all baptized church goers as we also observed Trinity 19 on Confession and Absolution. Our last two hymns brought in St. Michaels and all angels. Glad you enjoyed the service and shared part of it with us.

  • http://www.timbaron.com Tim Baron

    Could someone please tell me (within a Lutheran understanding of baptism) is there a difference between God’s work in a child’s baptism vs. God’s work in an adult baptism. Are both considered a “means of grace”?

    Are they the same kind of baptism? This has confused me greatly. Thanks: )

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tim (@11), this Lutheran might ask, in return: does God distinguish between those types — adult and infant — in his Word? Does he make different promises associated with them? Or are his promises — that it “now saves you” (1 Pet. 3:21) — connected to the act of baptism, whomever it is applied to?

    I would then answer, in order: no, no, yes. Does that help?

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer TK

    Tim – that’s one awesome website you have! Great to see a Christian using his/her gifts in mainstream culture. Cool!

    LAJ – At Mt. Olive?

  • sandi

    Wow, where does one find preaching like that in California?? If you are feeding on this kind of stuff regularly, I am in the depths of poverty..that one sermon has more meat then I see in an entire year….Lord help me! Really wonderful sermon, thanks for sharing it.

  • http://www.timbaron.blogspot.com Tim Baron

    toDD,
    Thanks for your comment, I still don’t get it though. Part of my struggle is because I’m a former Lutheran turned Evangelical (for 8 years), now returned Lutheran (for 1 year) and this issue of Baptism is the one thing I keep hiccuping on.

    Let me rephrase the question. Suppose I’m an unbeliever who is converted by a faithful presentation of law and gospel (the one doctrinal distinctive that pulled me back into Lutheranism.) God has worked faith in my heart, I believe the good news, I’m saved by grace thru faith.

    Does baptism add to that, or strengthen that faith/feed it as the Lord’s supper is suppose to? What is the connection between the two since this person now already believes (since infant baptism is supposed to work regeneration)?

    Thanks for your patience; )

    TK thanks for the encouraging words..if you’re interested I also have a blog I update with new art regularly: http://www.timbaron.blogspot.com

  • PD

    Tim,

    I usually do not leave comments (especially about my own sermons) but I wanted to address your question, which is a question I have wrestled with also (and I think a lot of folks do). So, a couple of thoughts:

    If there a difference between adult and infant baptisms? No. We baptize adults as if they were babies, and babies as if they were adults.

    This thought has helped me also, that there is a different understanding in how we think of “conversion.” Many evangelicals focus on a moment of conversion, a point in time when they crossed the line and became a believer. It is an historical thing. While for a Lutheran, conversion is something that is continuous, a constant drowning of the old man in repentance, and a constant raising of the new man by Christ in forgiveness. For the Lutheran, it is not a past tense understanding, but an always present tense gift. So we speak not that “I was baptized” but “I am baptized.” Usually when trying to fit the Lutheran (continuous) understanding into the evangelical (historical) understanding, is where the difficulties lie.

    Also, two things to read:

    http://www.saint-athanasius.org/WAdultBaptism.html – this is a portion of a sermon I preached dealing with this very question.

    http://www.ctsfw.edu/events/symposia/papers/sym2007cary.pdf – this is a rather long paper, but the first part speaks to your question, I believe. Lots of meat to chew on – and written by a non-Lutheran!

    Back to lurk mode. :-)

    PD

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tim (@15), no worries. I’m a Lutheran who has hung around with “Evangelicals” (ignoring the fact that Lutherans are, or at least should be, grouped in that label) quite a bit, and whose wife was raised a Baptist. I get why this could be confusing — I’m not even sure I fully understand it myself (though as a Lutheran, that is no barrier to believing it). That said, there are those here (including PD @16) who, being pastors, can probably answer better than I can. And I’d hope that your pastor would also be a good source of answers.

    Anyhow, I think PD’s first link generally says what I would have hoped to have said.

    To it I would add, in response to your question “does baptism add to that [salvation by grace through faith]?” that it depends on what you mean by “add”. If you mean does it “add” to one’s salvation, we can say no, since the Bible doesn’t speak of degrees of salvation.

    But if you meant by “add” what you asked after that — does baptism “strengthen that faith” — then the answer is yes, because it takes something that we humans like to make subjective (i.e. having “enough” faith, that is, relying on ourselves) and makes it something objective. In this way, it is very much like communion. In both cases, we have God connecting his sure promise of salvation to something physical.

    Does that make sense?

  • WRVinovskis

    Just a few thoughts…

    Christopher, WRT the comment about the Savior who came to “live in a little boy’s body”, it sounds like that was a poetic way of saying, “The Word became flesh…”. The key here is that the body he lived in was his own. He did not come and inhabit another being. Rather, in Mary’s womb, he took on our frail flesh.

    Sandi, where in CA are you looking for this kind of preaching?

    WRT “adult” vs. “child” baptism Lutherans do not make a distinction because we see Baptism and Grace as something that God is doing outside of us and apart from our works (extra nos). The gift given is the same regardless of the recipient. Calvinists, and others, who see baptism as an “ordinance”, that is, our response or our duty to God, must see a difference between adults and children because their ability to comprehend and “respond” is different.

  • http://www.timbaron.com Tim Baron

    Thanks everyone for your feedback on my question. I really appreciate your time and thoughts, and PD thanks for the links. I will check those out.

    I think I have a little homunculous calvinist living inside me that wants all my questions nailed down without leaving room for the apparent tension present in certain aspects of Lutheran theology: )


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