Baptismal meditation

Romans 8:10-11: If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Who raised Jesus from the dead?  The New Testament gives different answers to that question.  Jesus claimed authority to lay down his life and take it up again.  The incarnate Son raised Himself from the dead, because death could not hold Him.  Standing before the Sanhedrin, Peter declares that the “God of our fathers raised up Jesus,” and Paul says at the beginning of Galatians (1:1) that He became an apostle through Jesus Christ and the Father, and identifies the Father as the one “who raised Jesus from the dead.”

In several passages, the New Testament says that the Spirit raised the Son.  Paul’s summary of the “mystery of godliness” in 1 Timothy 3:16 describes the resurrection as Jesus’ “vindication in the Spirit.”  In the baptismal passage in Romans 6, Paul says that Christ was “raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,” likely a reference to the glory-Spirit of the Father.

These are not incompatible or conflicting answers to the question, and in the passage I read a moment ago, Paul puts it together in one neat formula that opens out into a promise: The Father raised Jesus from the dead through His Spirit, and He has given that Spirit to dwell in us, a guarantee that He will give life to our mortal bodies as well.  Who raised Jesus?  Father, Son, and Spirit; the Father through the Spirit raised the Son.  It is a Triune event.

And it is a Triune event that unfolds and unveils the inner life of God for the world to see.  From all eternity, the Father has begotten the Son by the power of His Spirit; from all eternity, the Father speaks His everlasting Word that is enlivened by the Father’s Breath, the Spirit.  From all eternity, the Son returns to the Father all love and honor, all glory and dominion, and He does so through that same Spirit.  Through the Spirit the Son goes out from the Father; through the same Spirit, the Son returns.

That’s the drama of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  The gospel is the story of God’s inner Triune life played out in a world under the dominion of Sin and Death.  The Father who has begotten the Son by the Spirit from eternity sends the Son in time, sends Him by the Spirit, to be born of Mary.  The Father gives the Spirit-born Son the fullness of the Spirit at His baptism, equipping Him for ministry and for battle.  On the cross, the Son bears the curse of the world, crying out in anguish that the Father has forsaken Him, abandoning Him to Sheol.  The Son suffers, and suffers death; He has gone out from the Father, gone out as far from the Father of life as it is possible to go, gone all the way to the grave.  But the Father did not abandon His Holy One to Sheol, and by the Spirit has raised Him up, glorified the cursed and humiliated One, raised Him to the glory of His Father.  In history the Triune God repeats the chiasm of His own inner history: The Son goes out from the Father by the Spirit, and by the same Spirit the Son returns.

Today is Pentecost, and there’s hardly a better day for a baptism than this.  At the first Pentecost, Jesus baptized the church with Spirit and fire, and ever since every baptized person is engrafted into the Spirit-filled communion of the saints.  The Spirit is the agent of baptism, the One who baptizes us into one body.  At His baptism, Jesus received the Spirit, and as Gina is baptized into the Son she comes to share in the Spirit that flows from His head to the skirts of his garments.

But your daughter’s Pentecost baptism is meaningful not only for her but for your entire family.  Through the Spirit, the pattern of Triune life, which has been displayed once for all in the gospel, is continuously replicated on earth.  Through the Spirit, the life of Jesus is repeated differently in the life of the apostles.  Through the Spirit the story of God’s inner life, the story of the gospel, becomes the story of the world.

In particular, baptism means that the story of the gospel becomes the story of your family.  Your children go out from you, but as you raise them in step with the Spirit, that same Spirit brings them back to you.  Generations will, we trust, follow.  As each new generation goes out from the old, it repeats the movement of the Son begotten by the Father, but these generations are reconciled and bound together through the Spirit.  Because of the Spirit, the Son does not wander from the Father, sons do not renounce their parents.  Because of the Spirit, there is no unbridgeable chasm between generations.  Through the Spirit, time itself is healed.

The long-term hope and health of your family depends on this conformity to the gospel story.  That is to say, your family will be healthy, and have hope for generations, for this reason and this reason only: Because the Father sent the Son by the Spirit, and raised the Son back to Himself by that same Spirit, the Spirit which has, this day, been poured out on all flesh.  And all this is promised and sealed to you in your daughter’s baptism.

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