Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The Stuff of Jesus: Baptism 3.
But here the devil is busy to delude us with false appearances, and lead us away from the work of God to our own works. For there is a much more splendid appearance when a Carthusian does many great and difficult works; and we all think much more of that which we do and merit ourselves. But the Scriptures teach thus: Even though we collect in one mass the works of all the monks, however splendidly they may shine, they would not be as noble and good as if God should pick up a straw. Why? Because the person is nobler and better. Here, then, we must not estimate the person according to the works, but the works according to the person, from whom they must derive their nobility. But insane reason will not regard this, and because Baptism does not shine like the works which we do, it is to be esteemed as nothing.*
In the above section of his Large Catechism Dr Luther uses an example of a group of monks to end all monks due to the severity in their practices. The monks lived as hermits in reaction to the degeneracy in the church of the day. The chief monastery was located north of Grenoble France. What made this order so special is they would go out of their way to not interact with other monks to the point that if one was dying no one would care for him. The works of the monks are admired by the monks and some others as great acts for God.
This is the way many in our evangelical and reformed congregations treat baptism. The evangelical will claim it is their work and therefore it cannot save as scripture proclaims so clearly. In our reformed it is taught that it is the work of the visible church to make members out sinners. It is taught to deliver some grace but it is quickly taken back due in part to the doctrine of limited atonement. In both instances due to it being the work of man St Peter’s proclamation in his first epistle is reevaluated so that there is no salvation at all.
1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. ESV
To deny the powerful gift of baptism and make it a pitiful work of man robs it of the firm promise that one can look to in struggles on this fallen world. This promise of salvation, apprehended by faith, indeed justifies us. Since it is Jesus’ work for us we are not claiming any of the credit for this benefit so that the salvation is still all about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus has determined to both locate and deliver the benefits of his cross and resurrection in baptism. Instead of trying to snatch this gift away from Jesus let us believe this good news and live in the peace it gives.
In the name of Jesus. Amen. †
*Large Catechism of Martin Luther.