Friday, March 13, 2015

Colorado Anglican Society: Baptism & The Holy Spirit

Baptism & The Holy Spirit
Fr. Philip Eberhart
Colorado Anglican Conference
March 13-14, 2015


The opening sentences of our baptismal service come from Ephesians 4:

                     There is one Body and one Spirit;
People              There is one hope in God's call to us;
Celebrant      One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
People              One God and Father of all.

[Eph 4:4-6 ESV] 4 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Baptism is an individual choice of obedience to the commands of Christ to His Church and to the historic practice of the church, indeed of the whole people of God, per his instructions. 

Peter urged people who were coming to faith to "be baptized, every one of you for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"

Our purpose in this workshop this morning is to explore the role of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism.  As I said in my intro sentence on your schedule, 'the Spirit is the main ACTOR, on us and in us, throughout the whole process of coming to Christ, as well as the process of growing in Christ.

Baptismal water has no magic.  If blessed water could save, all we would need to do is to go sanctify a couple of fire engines and "baptize" everyone - no matter what their faith was or their practice afterwards.  Baptism is a sacrament, and as such it partakes in the nature of a sacrament:  "It is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace." It becomes effective in our life as we come to the waters with faith - sincere, authentic faith.  

Baptism is, in the words of the Prayer Book, a "means of grace."  It is the way that the Holy Spirit initiates us into the Body of Christ - by the power of the Holy Spirit we are made very members incorporate in the Body of Christ, the Church.


So what is the role of the Holy Spirit in this sacrament?

1.  The Holy Spirit is the agent by whom we are drawn to Christ in the first place.

[Jhn 15:26 ESV]
26 "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

[Jhn 16:7-8, 13 ESV]
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: ... 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

It is entirely by the divine agency of the Spirit that we are enabled to come to the truth and perceive it as such.  By the Spirit we are set free indeed.

[2Co 3:16-18 ESV]
16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

It is the Spirit's working, His wooing, His teaching and convicting us that brings us to the point of the early Jewish believers who found themselves "cut to the heart" and asking "what shall we do?"

[Act 2:37-39 ESV]
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

In our moment of confession and conversion it is the Holy Spirit who is applying the words of Jesus, issued from the cross - "Father, forgive them.  They do not know what they are doing." - the Spirit applies the forgiveness of Jesus to me and to my sins, personally and completely

Baptism then is our response to His grace and faithfulness - in obedience to His Word  and example.  We come at his invitation to the water.

2.  What is the Holy Spirit doing as we go into and under the water of Baptism?

     A.  Baptism is a symbol of our obedience to the call to repentance.  It is prefigured in the Old Testament by the waters of the Red Sea at Passover and by the Bronze Laver, called the bath or the sea, in the Tabernacle of Ancient Israel.  
Paul in writing to Titus of this process says:

[Tit 3:4-7 ESV] 
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Paul refers to baptism here as "washing", prefigured by the bronze laver at the entrance of the Temple/Tabernacle in ancient Israel - it is the "washing of regeneration".  Some have inferred that there is instrumentality in this washing - that the washing itself regenerates the new believer, but it is clear that the washing here is symbolic while the renewal - the actual regeneration - is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Professor A.T. Robertson puts it this way:

"Here, as often, Paul has put the objective symbol before the reality. The Holy Spirit does the renewing, man submits to the baptism after the new birth to picture it forth to men."
Robertson, A.T.  Word Pictures in the New Testament, Titus,

The washing is a symbol of our repentance and ...

    B.  Baptism is a symbol of our identification with Jesus.  Turn with me to Romans, chapter 6:

[Rom 6:3-5 ESV] 
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

As we are baptized, we "go under" the water in an identification with the death of Jesus and his entry into the tomb.  Some argue here for only a total immersion, but I believe that puts too much weight on the instrumentality of the water - the point here is the symbolism and obedience to "undergo" baptism, as a symbol of identification with Jesus death and resurrection.

Yes, and resurrection.  Identification with Jesus is not complete here without the work of the Holy Spirit which Paul refers to in the letter to the Ephesians:

[Eph 1:16-20 ESV] 
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Like at Jesus' own baptism, we have the entire Trinity present in this transaction - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - as we reciprocate what He did at the Jordan in identifying with us in baptism.  We are buried with him, symbolizing both the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, and we are placed "EN CHRISTO"  - IN CHRIST; identified with Him in both death and resurrection, in regeneration and renewal, by the IMMEASURABLE POWER of the Spirit, at our baptism.

We have to pause a moment to take in the depth and height and length and breadth of this action by the Spirit of God.  

Paul continues to talk about this as it is foundational for the whole Ephesian letter, for his whole theology in fact:

[Eph 2:4-7 ESV] 
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Over and over again Paul refers to our 'status' IN CHRIST.  It is perhaps the greatest theme he has throughout his letters and it bring me to my third and final effect or working of the Holy Spirit in our baptism.

     C.  Baptism is the beginning point of our life-long INCORPORATION IN CHRIST.  

By the power of the Holy Spirit we are made "very members incorporate in the mystical Body of Christ", as our Prayer Book service says.  It is by this power that we are made "members one of another" in Romans;  that we are "built together as a holy temple, for the indwelling of the Spirit of God" in Corinthians;  that we "grow up into Him who is the Head, from whom the whole body...grows and builds itself up in love." 

In fact, let's turn to that 4th Chapter of Ephesians again.  We started here at the beginning of this talk, in the first verses that talk of the Unity of God, the Oneness of which we all partake - the words we use at the beginning of the baptism service:

                      There is one Body and one Spirit;
People               There is one hope in God's call to us;
Celebrant      One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
People               One God and Father of all.

This chapter of Ephesians is the pinnacle of the letter, the mountain peak to which all the climbing leads, and to which all the "in Christ" references point.  Here we find the ultimate purpose of baptism and its ultimate result and end... incorporation into the very fullness of the full stature of Christ!  Let's read from vv. 11-14

[Eph 4:11-14 ESV] 
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The project initiated at baptism is just this!  "building up the body of Christ ... to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ".  This is the life-long project of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and in the Church.  It is the focused work of those who are leaders (and we all partake in some measure in these motivational ministry giftings) to equip the saints, that is each other, for the effective work of ministry.

The next two verses give us a complete picture of this process in body terms:

[Eph 4:15-16 ESV] 
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Here Paul turns to the practicalities of this process, and ends Ephesians with the nuts and bolts of relationships, anger, marriage, family relationship, spiritual warfare and all the gritty realities of our life "IN CHRIST."  All of this is set in the setting of the verses above, in the unity of the Body of Christ - itself a gift "of the Spirit" (v. 3) - and in the working of the Spirit's gifts to each member of the Body (v. 6), enumerated in v. 11 and designed to work together as "joints" - places where separate muscles and bones are held together by the tendons (the word for unity in v. 3 and 13, by the way), as the Holy Spirit "holds us together in unity", in the diversity of our gifts and the focused ministries that grow out of their exercise.

Let me conclude, with this practical note and a challenge to us all.

As we live out our baptism in the nitty gritty of our every day life, we are fully equipped andempowered by God's Spirit.  We have been obedient to him in repentance, undergone the washing of regeneration and are being renewed by that same Spirit.

We are fully identified with Him, in both death and resurrection, again by the instrumentality - by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the sacramentum of water.  Through this we are incorporated into Christ Jesus - not a change of clothes, but a change of address!  We no longer belong to this world or ourselves, even to our spouses or to our jobs, we belong to Christ and are "very members incorporate in the mystical Body of Christ."  

As such we are all given the "motivational" ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11 in varying degrees according to our roles and personalities, as God has designed us.  By that design, God has both equipped us and placed us into His Body, and we are held together by the ligaments (unity) of the Spirit of God, so we can work effectively together, for the building up of the Body of Christ in love, until we all reach the full stature of Christ.

My challenge is this:

Take time today, as you consider these truths, to look around you - to see who you are joined to by these ligaments of unity.
Friends, the physiology of the body - our physical body - teaches us that we grow strong, not by ease but by exercise.  Our bones and muscles must have exercise, resistance, pain at times, rest at times, to fully come to their peak function.  Movement in fact, is a study of resistance as we live bone to bone, muscle to bone, ligaments holding the two together in the tension of their work. 

It is no surprise to God - in fact it is by His design, that we "rub each other the wrong way."  Unity and Diversity are part of the same organism, by design!  They must be held together in tension and fully exercised among us - we are different from each other, but we are in this together!  God celebrates this fact and this process and is fully engaged in it with us.  The cartilage that sits between the bones in this Body is His Shalom.  His peace is the object that makes it all work together - bone to bone is not bone-on-bone, there is a cushion of PEACE - call it "the bond of peace" (v 3) that we must strive to keep, according to Paul.  

So to sum it up, as baptized people, we are called and gifted and placed In Christ.  Our part is obedience, forgiveness, love of one another, even when rubbed the wrong way.  We are "members one of another" with all our warts and humanness, all our errors and sins.  We must constantly appropriate our baptismal "washing" - as Jesus washed Peter's feet, from the daily dust, we must wash our feet - allow our feet to be washed, as a renewal and re-signing of baptism - hmmm, "resigning" from our self efforts and giving ourselves anew each day to His power to make us live, in fact, EN CHRISTO.

Let's join together in prayer:

From the prayer over the water:
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his 
fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

From the prayer after Baptism:
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of
grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.

And finally from Ephesians 3:
Now, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named, that in keeping with the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  
Please stand together:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. And the Blessing of Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you and remain among us all, now and forever.  

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