Summary: We're not all called to be evangelists but we are called to proclaim Jesus Christ in the way we live among unbelievers
By Rev Bill Stewart
"I've been baptized." Have you been baptized? When? I was baptized on 28 January 1968 in the Holy Cross Anglican Church in Albany in New Zealand. I don't remember it happening; some of you will. But my parents and godparents were there as witnesses. And this certificate tells me that it's true. The great church reformer Martin Luther was baptized on 11 November 1483 in St Martin's Church in Eisleben in Germany. As you probably know, Luther stood up for the Gospel against the most powerful people in the world. He was banned from the Catholic Church by the Pope. And then he was put on trial in front of the Emperor for his beliefs. And he was asked to change his mind. He is reported to have replied: "Here I stand. I can do no other".
"Since your serene Majesty and your lordships request a simple answer, I shall give it, with no strings and no catches. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of scripture or plain reason (for I believe neither in Pope nor councils alone, since it is agreed that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I neither can nor will revoke anything, for it is neither safe nor honest to act against one's conscience. Amen."
The authorities didn't like that too much so he had to spend the next seven months hiding to avoid being killed. (Mind you while he was there he translated the Bible into German so he put the time to good use!) What did Luther do when the going got tough? He tells us that he used to say to himself: "I've been baptized". If you had been banned from the church and the most powerful people in the world were trying to kill you would you say to yourself: "It's going to be alright. I've been baptized"? Later on Luther wrote a little book to explain the basic Christian beliefs. And in that book he wrote these words about baptism:
"Suppose there was a doctor who had the skill to stop people from dying – or, even if they did die, they afterwards lived for ever. Just imagine how people would shower him with money! What with all the rich people wanting to see him, nobody else would get near him! Well, here in Baptism what is delivered free of charge to everyone's door is a priceless medicine just like that. It swallows up death, and keeps everyone alive. This is the way to look on Baptism and to let it be of use to us: We should draw strength and comfort from it when our sin or our conscience puts pressure on us, and should say: 'In spite of everything, I've been baptized! And if I've been baptized, I have the promise that I'll be happy for ever, and have eternal life for my body and soul'." (Luther's large catechism)
Martin Luther knew about suffering. The First Letter of Peter was written to people who were suffering. They had been forced to leave there homes and move to a foreign country. There lives may have been in danger because of their Christian faith. Peter writes to them and says: If you do suffer make sure it is because you have done what is right, not because you have done what is wrong. Why? Because Christ already knows what it's like to suffer. And he suffered for a reason. Even though he did nothing wrong, Jesus went through suffering to bring us to God. We see this in verses 17-18 of today's reading:
vv. 17-18: For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit . . .
Christ "suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God." But he didn't just die. He was resurrected! "He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit." What does this have do with our suffering? The answer is really very simple. Because of Christ's resurrection in the end it won't matter what we suffer in this life our future is certain. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. So if we are in Christ, even if we are put to death in the flesh we will be made alive in the spirit. As Peter says in chapter 4, verse 6: "For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead". I think he means those people who were alive when they heard the gospel but have now died. The gospel was preached, "so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does."