Baptismal Exhortation, August 31

Baptismal Exhortation, August 31 August 31, 2003

Here is a brief explanation of baptism I used in a service this morning:

As we saw this morning, Jesus’ baptism and reception of the Spirit was immediately followed by combat in the wilderness with the devil. The church fathers saw that this was one of the meanings of Christian baptism: Baptism, they said, was a “seal,” like a mark put on a slave, like the brand put on a sheep to identify His owner, like the tattoo put on the arm of a soldier when he joins a regiment. That is what we are doing this morning: He is being enlisted into the army of Jesus Christ, being clothed in white in order to serve under the command of the rider on the white horse.

But he is not merely being enlisted as a trainee in the army; he is also being equipped with his weapons for battle. As Peter said, “Repent, and let each of your be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” And as Paul said, “we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body.”

We battle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and rulers in high places, and our weapons in this battle are spiritual weapons, powerful for casting down every vain imagination and every thought that exalts itself against Jesus Christ. Above all, our power to fight comes from the Holy Spirit of Jesus. Through his baptism, this child is being inducted into the church, which is the dwelling of the Spirit and the army of the Spirit, and he becomes part of that temple and a junior member of that army. And he is called to make war in the power of that Spirit, just as Jesus did.

To the parents: as you take vows today, you are committing yourselves to train his hands for that battle. You are committing to teach him about the weapons of our war, training him to put on the shield of faith, take up the sword of the Spirit, put on the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of righteousness. You are to raise him so that he will fight faithfully against every evil.

And here’s a wonderful post-baptismal prayer from Bucer (found in H.O. Olds’s book on the Reformed baptismal rite):

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks, that you have granted and bestowed upon this child your fellowship, that you have born him again to yourself through your holy baptism, that he has now been incorporated into your beloved Son, our only Savior, and is now your child and heir. Grant, most loving and faithful Father, that Chris and Chystal might prove our thankfulness for your great grace, faithfully bring up this your child through all the situations of life and that we with this child as well, might more and more die to the world and be joined to the life of your Son, our Lord Jesus, and daily grow in grace, that we might ever praise you and be a blessing to our neighbor. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and with the Holy Spirit, one God, age after age. Amen.

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