Summary: The theme prescribed for today is ‘One Body, One Baptism’, and this is the fourth time I will be preaching on the subject of Baptism during the Evening English Service in this church.
Many a times Pastors and preachers are placed in a quandary of having to preach the same topic multiple times to the same congregation. The theme prescribed for today by Church of South India nis ‘One Body, One Baptism’, and this is the fourth time I will be preaching on the subject of Baptism during the Evening English Service in this church. The predicament is to present the same topic in different perspective each time. I will make an attempt and throw up some conceptual thoughts. You will need to develop on those as it deem fit to you.
The most quoted Biblical passage for this theme is from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 1 to 6, read to us a little while ago. The key verse for us to deliberate on is verse 5, stating, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” which is fairly clear to us from a literary perspective but carry a load of teaching that needs elucidation. I am sure most everyone present here has been Baptised, perhaps as infants or as adults. Therefore, before I delve into the topic, let me ask you a question, what does baptism mean to you?
I am aware that it is not easy to answer this question. However, we must seek the answers from the Bible and nowhere else. The simplest answer one may come up is to say that Baptism is an option available to us to shed our sinful nature and be born again as a new person in Christ. Though correct in principle, it cannot be the complete answer. Just consider the fact that Jesus, God the Son without any sin, Himself was Baptised before He began His ministry on this earth; the parallel to that in our lives is the fact that many of us were Baptised when we were just infants, the only sinless state in human progression in life, in the arms of our parents or godparents.
For Jesus it was an act of Obedience and a public declaration of His absolute faith and commitment to God the Father. Therefore, Baptism of Jesus had set an example for us to lead a life of faith and obedience to the commands of Christ and publicly declare that we are followers of Jesus Christ. For infants, it is no different, except that the parents and the godparent make a public commitment to bring up the child in obedience and commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ. A child may re-affirm this commitment on confirmation at an appropriate age when he or she is about to enter life as an independent individual.
Turn with me to Ephesians 4:4-6 at this stage. Paul could not have been more explicit in proclaiming the monotheism, the belief in the existence of a single God, while at the same time implying God’s Triune nature, as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. My take on Paul’s line of thinking is that he emphasized a bottom-up approach to build his assertions about a single God. Let us read Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” At the bottom of the pyramid, Paul places all the believers in Christ, Baptised in Spirit. Moving upward the pyramid we see the believers in unity forming a body mass which is the Church and at the very top, we have the head of the universal Church, the one God, Jesus Christ. If we look at the pyramid from the top downwards, we find Paul arguing from the doctrine of the one true God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — down to the unity in faith and hope of the believers.
‘There is one body,” says Paul. The reference to body should not be seen with reference to our physical body. Body is the universal Body of Christ, the union of believers or in short, the Church of Christ. Unity does not just happen; we have to work at it. Often differences among people can lead to division, but this should not be true in the Church of Christ or Body communal of Christ. Instead of concentrating on what divides us, we should remember what unites us: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God! In the light of this, it is important for us to understand that all members of the Body of Christ are not identical or equally enabled. The next question in this context is have we learnt to appreciate people who are different from us? Can we see how their differing gifts, or the lack of it and differing viewpoints can help the Church as it does the work of God? Learn to enjoy the way we the members of Christ’s body complement one another. Paul puts it very well in 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free -- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”