“Five Gifts of Baptism”
On this Sunday the church traditionally remembers the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and this is the theme of the sermon today by Pastor Jim.
One of the accounts of the baptism of Jesus is in Matthew 13: 13 – 17: ‘Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”’
Today we have witnessed the baptism of a little child – she is now God’s child – and it’s a good time to think about what baptism and being God’s child means for each of us.
John the Baptist is arguing with Jesus, because Jesus had asked John to baptise him. John had been baptising many people, and his baptism was for sinners. John did not think that Jesus needed to be baptised because this man Jesus was without sin. But Jesus insisted. Jesus came into the world to be one of us and like us, and he wanted to be baptised just like one of us. By being baptised Jesus becomes one of us, stands with us and joins us when we are baptised. As one of us he takes our sins to the cross.
There are five gifts that God gives us when we are baptised. We are washed in baptism. The power of our baptism removes the stains from our lives – our stuff ups, our gossip, our temper, our lack of forgiveness, our failures in our families, our lack of trust in God, our failure to worship Him, etc. In baptism we are washed and forgiven.
At our baptism we receive the Holy Spirit. Through the water and the Word in baptism the Holy Spirit descends on us and gives us faith. During our lives the battle to hold on to our faith in God never stops. We confess that when we say these words: ‘I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel and kept me in true faith.’
When we are baptised we are adopted by God. We become a beloved son or daughter! When Jesus had been baptised God said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” That is what God says to us through our baptism.
Through our baptism we are branded as God’s child. We now bear the mark of Jesus. Just like people who put a brand on a valued animal so that it can be identified and not lost, so God puts his mark on us so that we will not be lost.
Through our baptism we have life forever with God. We can trust the promise of Romans 5: 5 – “Baptised into Christ’s death we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
The really special thing about our baptism is that it does not rely on what we do – it’s God’s gracious, life-giving gift to us. But what happens when we turn our backs on God? Does God turn His back on us? Does he remove from our lives the gifts that he gives us in baptism – forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, being God’s adopted child, branded as his child, eternal life? No! God does not give up on us and never rejects us.
He keeps calling on us to live in the power of our baptism and keeps on giving us the gifts that we receive in baptism. We can depend on God to keep his promise – we are a beloved son or daughter – we are his!
The audio of this sermon is available on this web site.