Summary: 1st Sunday in Epiphany The Baptism of our Lord
Rejoice in the Miracle of Baptism
I) We are made alive by God’s Spirit
II) We are gaining life by God’s Son
What do you think about when you think about baptism? Do you think about your baptism or perhaps the recent baptism of a family member? For those of you baptized as infants, your memories may be a little vague. You may only remember what you learned in catechism class. In conformation class or in adult information class you were taught God’s word concerning baptism. The sacrament of holy baptism is a precious gift from God. A sacrament that works the forgiveness of sin, delivers us from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe and trust in the word and promises of God.
Although you may not remember your baptism, a miracle has taken place. This miracle of God shows us his love and mercy. So today as we celebrate the baptism of our Lord, St. Paul encourages us to Rejoice in the miracle of baptism. By that miracle, we are made alive by God’s Spirit and we are gaining life by God’s Son.
I) We are made alive by God’s Spirit
A) God saved us. We needed saving.
1) In his letter to Titus, Paul was instructing this young pastor about the work that needed to be done in Crete. Paul reminded Titus that he needed to teach the congregation sound doctrine, and to do what is good. To provide encouragement for God’s people Paul reminded the Christians of Titus’ congregation of how they once were. The Christians of Crete were disobedient, foolish, and enslaved by their desire for pleasure. At one time in their lives, they were steeped in sin, without Christ and God’s love. In other words they needed saving. They needed to restore their relationship with God.
2) Before sin came into the world mankind had a perfect relationship with God. God created Adam and Eve in his image, an image of righteousness and holiness. But sin changed that image and our fellowship with God. Because of sin mankind was separated from our Father in heaven. This original sin was then passed down through each generation after Adam and Eve. Everyone born was born sinful and separated from God with no interest in serving him. The psalmist tells us, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." We, too, were separated from God at birth. Born spiritually dead and heading straight for hell. From eternity, God’s plan was to restore the relationship between him and sinful human beings. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live." It was not God’s will that we would be forever separated from him.
B) God’s method for saving.
1) We were not able to repair our relationship with God, and so God stepped in. He put his plan into work. Paul tells us " when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." We can not save ourselves by what we believe to be righteous deeds. The only righteous deeds that God will accept are keeping everyone of his commandments perfectly. Jesus tells us God’s requirements in his gospel, he tells us, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
a) God created Adam and Eve perfectly and expected them to be perfect. The painful truth is we are not perfect. We are sinful. We have not kept one commandment perfectly. Our love for God is not always as wholehearted as it should be, and it shows itself when our minds drift in prayer. We do not always gladly and willing come to church or share our time, talents and treasures with God. Even the good things we do are not perfect. No matter how well we think we keep God’s law, we always fail and fall short of his holy requirements. God’s law points out our sin to us and tells us we are not perfect and there is no human way that we are going to be perfect. There is no way we can restore our relationship with God.
2) In the Old Testament God set up a way for his people to return to that right relationship with him. God gave the ceremonial law to the children of Israel and established the priest to be the mediator between him and man. He demanded blood sacrifices for the payment of sin. Demanded a lamb with out defect as a sin offering. The people were to bring their offerings to the priest and he made the sacrifices on their behalf. God accepted the sacrifice and forgave the one sinning against him. In the book of Leviticus Moses writes, " the priest shall burn it on the altar on top of the offerings made to the LORD by fire. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the sin he has committed, and he will be forgiven." But this was only for Old Testament believers and only temporary until God would finally send the fulfillment of his promises. We can not be saved by our righteous deeds, or by the ceremonial law that God gave to Israel. How then? How does God restore the relationship for us?