Sunday was a joyful and memorable day in the life of our congregation. I had the privilege to baptize a young man who has recently come to faith in Christ, and has been regularly worshiping at Grace over the past several months. I met with him weekly over the course of the summer, reading Scripture together and working through a book I use for our New Member’s classes (the book, Presbytopia, is an excellent introduction to the Christian faith in general and to Reformed and Presbyterian distinctives more particularly). Once we concluded that, he met with the session for a membership interview. We were delighted to hear his confession of faith in Christ and his testimony of the grace of God in his life. Finally, on Sunday, he came up before the congregation, professed his faith in Christ, and was doused with the waters of baptism. What a beautiful picture of the cleansing and purifying work of the Holy Spirit, who gives us new life and takes away the pollution of sin (Titus 3:5)!
The baptism was made more special by the fact this young man’s sister and her two young sons flew up from Georgia to attend the service. His mother, who lives in Alaska, was also present. What’s more, he took part in the Lord’s Supper for the first time. I am grateful to God for the encouragement the occasion brought to all of us who were there.
And for the occasion, I decided to preach a sermon on baptism from Colossians 2:11-15. I began by describing the Puritan admonition that we are to “improve” our baptism (this language is part of our confessional standards as well: see Westminster Larger Catechism Q & A 167). To improve your baptism means to find encouragement and comfort in all that your baptism means for you as one who belongs to Christ.
And Paul’s words in Colossians give us many reasons to find encouragement in our baptism. First, if you have been baptized in the name of Christ and have faith in him, your baptism means God has given you new life. Baptism is a sign of spiritual union with Christ, so that you have both died with him in his death and have been raised up with him in his resurrection. Your baptism means you are dead to sin and alive to God (v. 12; Romans 6:3, 4)! Second, baptism is a sign and seal of God’s grace of forgiveness. Paul assures us that our guilt before God, the “record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (v. 14), has been nailed to the cross of Christ. Third, your baptism means you have victory in Christ over all our spiritual enemies. On our behalf, Jesus defeated the powers of hell on the cross (v.15). We are still surely engaged in a spiritual battle against Satan and his evil forces (Ephesians 6:12), but we fight against a foe whose ultimate defeat is certain. Jesus made sure of that by triumphing over him by his death and resurrection.
We would do well to take to heart all that our baptism signifies for us as believers in Christ. And there is no better occasion for that than when we witness a baptism during a worship service. We can doubly rejoice: first for the one being baptized into Christ, and secondly for that same saving grace of God to us that has been sealed by our own baptism.
Soli Deo Gloria!