Monday, May 02, 2005

Jeffrey C. Atwood on his baptism

Jeffrey C. Atwood, son of Chris Atwood, writes on Here We Stand about his confirmation day. I've seen recent confirmation classes like his and I have great hope for confessional Lutheran Christians for years to come, but they do need our continued prayer. I am so encouraged by young Atwood's words.

Jeffrey writes:

Baptism is very important to me as a child of God. Baptism is one of the two sacraments of the church. Sacraments are sacred acts instituted by God to his followers. Baptism was instituted by Jesus in the Gospels and connects the visible actions of the washing with water with the Word of God. Like other sacraments, Baptism works forgiveness of sins. This is its most important power. Baptism is the washing of a person with life-giving water. Baptism grants us all of the benefits which Jesus won for us on the cross.

Baptism grants several things when I receive it. First of all, Baptism marks me as a Christian. From now on, I will be distinguished by others as a Christian because of my baptsim. Baptism’s other powers are less visible. In Baptism, we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. We die and are raised to new life with Him. It also is the means of the distribution of Jesus’ grace. This grants the forgiveness of sins. Another result of this grace is that I receive eternal life from Jesus. This is because I am no longer held death’s servitude because of sins. It also releases me from the power of sin and the devil. As a result of baptism, the devil does not have a hold on me. We are also reborn as God’s children. We are assured new, imperishable bodies.

Baptism also affects my daily life. Each day, Baptism calls me to repent. It tells me to drown the old Adam in us daily. The old Adam is our former state brought on by the fall of Adam into sin. It calls a new righteous man to emerge in its place. This man is a new and righteous creation, with none of the characteristics of the old Adam. It is perfect and righteous and good. Baptism also daily forgives our sins. It doesn’t just forgive the sins from the time we were baptized, but every sin thereafter is forgiven. Every day, we can wake up knowing that our sins have been forgiven through Baptism. Baptism also enters us into daily communion with God.

We know Baptism works because it is mentioned in the Bible several times. Jesus himself was baptized by John at the river. Baptism was instituted by God. Jesus himself comands his disciples to baptize all nations. When he gave this command, that included infants. That is why today we baptize infants and not just adults. Baptism works its powers when the water is brought together with the Word. By itself, the water is simply ordinary water. However, with the Word it becomes life-giving water. It is important to remember that Baptism is not a work, but a free gift of God. I only have to accept it. I have done nothing to merit the gifts given by Baptism. It is not by my own faith or strength which I accept it. It is through the Holy Spirit working in me.

In short, Baptism is nothing less than the Holy Spirit working in our lives. It immediately grants forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Daily, it grants me forgiveness of my sins each day. It also tells me to drown the old Adam through daily repentance. It also indicates that a new, righteous man should emerge in its place. It also enters us into daily communion with God. We know baptism works because Jesus himself was baptized, and he commanded his disciples to do the same with all peoples. Finally, we know that it is not through our own works or merit that Baptism accomplishes what it does, but through the gift of God.

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