A note on baptism | Daily Office Devotional 2021/9/11

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:13-17

When the apostle Paul said that “all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death” (Romans 6:3), he was speaking about the sort of change that happens in all who believe in Jesus as Lord. In the early Church, baptism was so closely associated with believing in Jesus that these two things were spoken of in the same breath. To Paul, therefore, baptism was a radical change in the life of new believers—one in which their former nature died and a new nature came into being— through baptism, they were born again.

Paul also reminds us of a further consequence of baptism—that “we were buried . . . with [Christ] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead . . . we too might walk in newness of life. 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” (vv. 4-5). According to Paul, then, baptism

  1. Causes us to be born again into a new life grounded on Christ,
  2. Firmly assures us of our own resurrection because of Christ’s resurrection, and
  3. Empowers us to live godly lives because of Christ’s victory over sin.

In other words, baptism unites us with Christ. The things that are true of Christ become true of us too by baptism. We are identified with Christ through baptism. This is what the apostle Peter means when he says that “baptism . . . now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).

John’s baptism, which we read of in today’s Gospel reading, was different. It had none of these effects, being simply an act that demonstrated one’s repentance (see Acts 19:4). Jesus, on the other hand, was sinless and did not need to repent of anything. By undergoing baptism, therefore, our Lord was freely identifying himself with us sinners, who have so much to repent of. Hence, when we undergo baptism, we share in Jesus’ identity as the perfect Man, the righteous one before God. In his baptism, Christ shared our fate of the penalty of death that we might share in His reward of resurrection.

When our Lord was baptised, the Father proclaimed His Sonship and the Holy Spirit descended on Him. If we truly share in Christ’s identity through baptism, we can be assured that when we are baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we become beloved sons and daughters of God and vessels of the Holy Spirit.  Let us be grateful for our baptism, for it shines as a gleaming lighthouse testifying of Christ, the source of our salvation.

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