Wash and be clean

At church last Sunday we had texts on Naaman the Leper (2 Kings 5:1-14) and the leper who begged Jesus for healing (Mark 1:40-45).  The former, thinking to buy healing, came with $400,000 worth of silver and $4 million worth of gold (I appreciated how Pastor Douthwaite translated the ancient weights into their modern equivalence an worth).  The latter came with nothing but desperation.  God ended up healing them both, though not as Naaman expected.  Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon, all of which is worth reading, built up to this:

Sorry, Naaman! Who you are and what you got makes no difference – go, wash, and be clean. And sorry, Joe [the "ordinary Joe" in Mark]! Who you aren’t and what you don’t have makes no difference – I will; be clean. What makes the difference is not anything in these two men – what makes the difference is who our Lord is and what He has come to do. . . .

And now also for you. Also to you Jesus has said, I will; be clean. To heal you from the leprosy of your sin. For sin is the incurable nightmare that afflicts us. Sin is our death sentence, robbing us of life, separating us one from another. Satan doesn’t want you to think sin is so bad, and so he belittles sin in order to belittle our Saviour. He doesn’t want you to think you sin is so bad, and he wants to convince you that you can cover it up with the good you do. But that’s like putting make up on leprosy – you may look okay on the outside, but the disease is still eating you away. . . .

And so Jesus has provided a water of cleansing for you, that like Naaman, you may go, wash, and be clean; that like Joe, He may touch you and cleanse you. And when you are baptized, that’s exactly what happens. All your uncleanness washed away in the forgiveness of your sins. Not because the water is so great – that was Naaman’s objection, remember? What’s so great about the Jordan? What’s so great about the water in the font of baptism? Well, nothing. It’s not the water, but the Word and promise of God attached to the water, that if Naaman washed in the Jordan, that if you wash here, you will be touched by Jesus and you will be clean.

That’s why infant baptism is such a great thing! Babies bring nothing to the font, they can’t even bring themselves – they have to be carried. But that’s exactly the point. It was all the Lord with Naaman, it was all Jesus with Joe, and it is all Jesus here. All the work of the Lord. It is His touch, His washing, His healing, His giving spiritual life. All the baby, and all we can do, is receive it. For that is why Jesus came. To come to us sinners with His: I will, be clean. . . .

Now, there are plenty of modern-day Naamans, who say water can’t do that; that’s it’s empty; that it’s just water. Many who want something more spectacular and awe-inspiring. But what can be more precious or great than this? That our Saviour puts Himself here for you. That His life is here for you, and for your children, and for all who are far off. As Naaman’s servant said: This is a great word. A simple message, a simple washing, but a great salvation.

So despite how these two men may have been quite different, in the end, what mattered most is what made them the same – they were dying and needed life. And that is what makes all of us the same as well. And for all the same, the Lord of life has come. So that whether you’re a Naaman or a Joe or somewhere in between, you have a merciful Saviour – the Lord of life who came to die, so that the dying have life. The holy one come to become unclean, so that the unclean be holy.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Epiphany 6 Sermon.

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://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Thta’s the gospel!

    Thank you!

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Thta’s the gospel!

    Thank you!

  • kenneth

    Amen! +++++++++ I was just told about Luther’s Commentary on Galations and I am delightfully reading it. It’s like Baptist seminary re-visted and killing most of their teaching which I think is basically Arminian. “Water and Clean” is as a synopsis of the commentary and the Bible’s message. Namaan is cleaned a rich man (in spite of the left’s penchant to make the West the whole ill of the world) and indeed the poor blind do see.

    If you should ever have questions about Law and Gospel or the two kingdoms Luther’s commentary is the absolute place to find answers.

  • kenneth

    Amen! +++++++++ I was just told about Luther’s Commentary on Galations and I am delightfully reading it. It’s like Baptist seminary re-visted and killing most of their teaching which I think is basically Arminian. “Water and Clean” is as a synopsis of the commentary and the Bible’s message. Namaan is cleaned a rich man (in spite of the left’s penchant to make the West the whole ill of the world) and indeed the poor blind do see.

    If you should ever have questions about Law and Gospel or the two kingdoms Luther’s commentary is the absolute place to find answers.

  • mikeb

    Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

  • mikeb

    Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

  • George A. Marquart

    I have become used to hearing abut Baptism without mention of the Holy Spirit. It makes me wonder. Do the Scripture and our Confessions teach that when we are baptized the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us? Does it matter whether or not He does? When Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the children of God, do they speak of a “real presence”, so to speak, of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, or is it metaphoric? When those same Scriptures speak of Jesus living in us, do they speak of a “real presence”, an indwelling of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, or is this a metaphor?

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    I have become used to hearing abut Baptism without mention of the Holy Spirit. It makes me wonder. Do the Scripture and our Confessions teach that when we are baptized the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us? Does it matter whether or not He does? When Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the children of God, do they speak of a “real presence”, so to speak, of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, or is it metaphoric? When those same Scriptures speak of Jesus living in us, do they speak of a “real presence”, an indwelling of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, or is this a metaphor?

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • mikeb

    George,

    I hope this helps. I’d encourage you to speak with your local pastor who is far better able to explain these things than I.

    Do the Scripture and our Confessions teach that when we are baptized the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us?

    Yes–The Scriptures testify that we receive the Holy Spirit and the Confessions are faithful to teach this doctrine. In the Small Catechism Luther (which I’m borrowing from liberally here) cites Acts 2:38-39: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.’”

    John’s Gospel declares (3:5-6) “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

    Paul told Titus (3:5) “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

    In 1 Cor. 6:11 Paul said “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    Does it matter whether or not He does?

    It does indeed matter that He comes, to humble himself. It’s a powerful testament of His undying love for all men. When the water is brought together with the Word of God in Baptism the Holy Spirit works the mystery of faith in us. Not because of anything we do, but on account of what Christ has done. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). And we can be sure that on account of this newborn faith we can be sure that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism unto death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:3-4). What a blessing for us! We”are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).”

    When Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the children of God, do they speak of a “real presence”, so to speak, of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, or is it metaphoric? When those same Scriptures speak of Jesus living in us, do they speak of a “real presence”, an indwelling of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, or is this a metaphor?

    I think these passages speak for themselves. They testify to what God will do and is doing. There is no reason to believe the being indwelt with the Holy Spirit is Bible code for having a ‘holy attitude’.

  • mikeb

    George,

    I hope this helps. I’d encourage you to speak with your local pastor who is far better able to explain these things than I.

    Do the Scripture and our Confessions teach that when we are baptized the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us?

    Yes–The Scriptures testify that we receive the Holy Spirit and the Confessions are faithful to teach this doctrine. In the Small Catechism Luther (which I’m borrowing from liberally here) cites Acts 2:38-39: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.’”

    John’s Gospel declares (3:5-6) “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

    Paul told Titus (3:5) “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

    In 1 Cor. 6:11 Paul said “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    Does it matter whether or not He does?

    It does indeed matter that He comes, to humble himself. It’s a powerful testament of His undying love for all men. When the water is brought together with the Word of God in Baptism the Holy Spirit works the mystery of faith in us. Not because of anything we do, but on account of what Christ has done. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). And we can be sure that on account of this newborn faith we can be sure that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism unto death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:3-4). What a blessing for us! We”are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).”

    When Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the children of God, do they speak of a “real presence”, so to speak, of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, or is it metaphoric? When those same Scriptures speak of Jesus living in us, do they speak of a “real presence”, an indwelling of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, or is this a metaphor?

    I think these passages speak for themselves. They testify to what God will do and is doing. There is no reason to believe the being indwelt with the Holy Spirit is Bible code for having a ‘holy attitude’.

  • jb

    Umm . . .

    Perhaps a glance at the very next verse following the II Kings OT text would put the finishing touches to the Gospel in this instance. Naaman, already favored by the Lord, converted to the God of Israel via his “baptism.”

    And his flesh was as that of an infant. There was so much Gospel there I did not need to offhandedly refer to “modern-day” Namaan’s rejecting Baptism.

    Naaman did not. He believed God, as did Abraham, despite his natural, sinful misgivings, and it was also counted to him as righteousness.

    I ended there, with the caveat (as the text says) that his skin was, after his baptism, as that of a young child, of whom Jesus said, “Suffer the children, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    Naaman was showing forth the faith received by baptism. He is not merely and example of this or that. He was the precise objectof the whole pericope. He got it, and was brought to faith.

  • jb

    Umm . . .

    Perhaps a glance at the very next verse following the II Kings OT text would put the finishing touches to the Gospel in this instance. Naaman, already favored by the Lord, converted to the God of Israel via his “baptism.”

    And his flesh was as that of an infant. There was so much Gospel there I did not need to offhandedly refer to “modern-day” Namaan’s rejecting Baptism.

    Naaman did not. He believed God, as did Abraham, despite his natural, sinful misgivings, and it was also counted to him as righteousness.

    I ended there, with the caveat (as the text says) that his skin was, after his baptism, as that of a young child, of whom Jesus said, “Suffer the children, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    Naaman was showing forth the faith received by baptism. He is not merely and example of this or that. He was the precise objectof the whole pericope. He got it, and was brought to faith.

  • jb

    P.S. Not to quibble, but the actual value of the silver at Friday;s weekend closing price (750 pounds) was $408,000, and the 150 pounds of gold shekels worth $4,156,800. That is not to mention the ten changes of clothes, which were most certainly very regal garments, with gold and the finest of dyes incorporated into the fabric as well and probably worth yet another minor fortune. That was not Naaman’s to give, but the payment from his grateful King. Naaman came to Elisha as broke as did the poor leper to Jesus.

    Both left fully in the faith. Therein is the real connection between the two texts, wonderful as it is.

  • jb

    P.S. Not to quibble, but the actual value of the silver at Friday;s weekend closing price (750 pounds) was $408,000, and the 150 pounds of gold shekels worth $4,156,800. That is not to mention the ten changes of clothes, which were most certainly very regal garments, with gold and the finest of dyes incorporated into the fabric as well and probably worth yet another minor fortune. That was not Naaman’s to give, but the payment from his grateful King. Naaman came to Elisha as broke as did the poor leper to Jesus.

    Both left fully in the faith. Therein is the real connection between the two texts, wonderful as it is.

  • Peter S.

    Such a great sermon, full of grace. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Peter S.

    Such a great sermon, full of grace. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Anne C.

    Is it the Lutheran Missouri Synod belief that salvation is by baptism? Is belief not required? Many have been baptised but claim to be atheists or just not believe in Jesus Christ as their savior.

  • Anne C.

    Is it the Lutheran Missouri Synod belief that salvation is by baptism? Is belief not required? Many have been baptised but claim to be atheists or just not believe in Jesus Christ as their savior.

  • jb

    Yes.
    Yes; and
    Unfortunately, yes.

    Those are the simple answers to your questions, Anne. We in the LCMS hold, as the Scriptures and Confessions clearly teach, that Baptism is a means of grace, that is, it confers faith and grace as sheer gifts of God in Christ. Hence, it benefits even the very tiniest child, newly born, because it is not “our” action, but God’s gift, and His means to grant faith and grace.

    That some, after Baptism, willingly walk away from their baptismal grace is, unfortunately, a fact of life in this sinful world. Yet when one returns to the faith (highlighted by the Prodigal Son returning to his father’s home, and received with great celebration), one is returning to their birthright in Baptism.

    Pray for all, especially those out of faith or having rejected their faith, that they might likewise come “home.” :-)

  • jb

    Yes.
    Yes; and
    Unfortunately, yes.

    Those are the simple answers to your questions, Anne. We in the LCMS hold, as the Scriptures and Confessions clearly teach, that Baptism is a means of grace, that is, it confers faith and grace as sheer gifts of God in Christ. Hence, it benefits even the very tiniest child, newly born, because it is not “our” action, but God’s gift, and His means to grant faith and grace.

    That some, after Baptism, willingly walk away from their baptismal grace is, unfortunately, a fact of life in this sinful world. Yet when one returns to the faith (highlighted by the Prodigal Son returning to his father’s home, and received with great celebration), one is returning to their birthright in Baptism.

    Pray for all, especially those out of faith or having rejected their faith, that they might likewise come “home.” :-)

  • Anne C

    Thank you for your answer.

    To go further into the question. An individual has been baptised, is an adult, has never and/or currently does not believe Jesus is their saviour and we see no signs of faith. Knowing that we do not know another’s heart, but assuming there is no real faith, then they are saved and will be with Christ in heaven solely through the gift of baptism to a non-believer. How about baptizing people on their death-bed? Salvation has no other “requirement” but baptism? Are the “elect” and the “baptized” the same?

  • Anne C

    Thank you for your answer.

    To go further into the question. An individual has been baptised, is an adult, has never and/or currently does not believe Jesus is their saviour and we see no signs of faith. Knowing that we do not know another’s heart, but assuming there is no real faith, then they are saved and will be with Christ in heaven solely through the gift of baptism to a non-believer. How about baptizing people on their death-bed? Salvation has no other “requirement” but baptism? Are the “elect” and the “baptized” the same?

  • Donegal Misfortune

    I really wish I could have asked this when this was posted. I have a few questions about baptism as I am drawn along the Wittenberg trail and was wondering if I could get some guidance on this. I have some questions concerning this view which I cannot find the answer anywhere. 1) If a family comes to a paedobaptist (lets go ahead and say Lutheran) view after their children are older and changes denominations from a credobaptistic one, do they go ahead and have the children baptized with or without their understanding and/or consent… and if so what is the cut off age of the father and mother for bringing their children to the font or is there an age limit as long as he or she is still under the headship of the father? 2) Can you have your foster child baptized whether and infant or not? 3) If you are a legal guardian of an adult relative who has a severe disability that lives with you, is it one’s responsibility to have him baptized whether they understand or not? 4) Can you bring another person’s child with you to be baptized? I ask this as I have family that allows some cousins to come to church but the parents aren’t willing to have their children baptized.

  • Donegal Misfortune

    I really wish I could have asked this when this was posted. I have a few questions about baptism as I am drawn along the Wittenberg trail and was wondering if I could get some guidance on this. I have some questions concerning this view which I cannot find the answer anywhere. 1) If a family comes to a paedobaptist (lets go ahead and say Lutheran) view after their children are older and changes denominations from a credobaptistic one, do they go ahead and have the children baptized with or without their understanding and/or consent… and if so what is the cut off age of the father and mother for bringing their children to the font or is there an age limit as long as he or she is still under the headship of the father? 2) Can you have your foster child baptized whether and infant or not? 3) If you are a legal guardian of an adult relative who has a severe disability that lives with you, is it one’s responsibility to have him baptized whether they understand or not? 4) Can you bring another person’s child with you to be baptized? I ask this as I have family that allows some cousins to come to church but the parents aren’t willing to have their children baptized.

  • http://koivwvia.wordpress.com jb

    Donegal Misfortune -

    Interesting questions . . . I would be happy to answer them, since I have traveled every one of the paths you mention.

    My e-mail is koivwvia@hotmail.com

    jb

  • http://koivwvia.wordpress.com jb

    Donegal Misfortune -

    Interesting questions . . . I would be happy to answer them, since I have traveled every one of the paths you mention.

    My e-mail is koivwvia@hotmail.com

    jb


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