Introduction: Standing in the place of a famous person. Long ago that person was there.
Baptism - Jesus was Here!

Text: Luke 3:15-22

Paul, like the Gospel writers, affirms that there is a connection between Christ's baptism and our baptism ...

  1. Galatians 3:26-27 – We are baptized into Christ. We take on the character of Christ. We assume his status as a son. One area of unfinished business is to articulate better what it means to be baptized into Christ.
  2. Colossians 2:11-14 – We are unified with Christ in death and resurrection. It is described as a circumcision done by Christ. He has initiated a new covenant with us. When God makes us alive with Christ (again note the unity with Christ) he forgives us of all sins and cancels the written code that testifies against us. This is a new order of life. Paul describes it earlier by saying that we are rescued from the dominion of darkness and placed into the kingdom of the Son. (Colossians 1:13). The implication for ethics has to do with the rule exercised over us.

  3. Romans 6:5

He became what we are that He might make us what He is. – Athanasius

In His Baptism, Jesus identifies with us ...
  1. In our humanity

            What is so appealing about baptism in an age where nothing seems important?
            First, baptism is holistic and experiential and this appeals to our age as something authentic. The post-modern culture may be more receptive to this than the modern rational culture was. God wants to baptize minds, but he demands more than that. Furthermore, God is interested in baptizing more than just feelings. Baptism is a total experience.
            Our culture is desperate for real and total experience. Why the rise of tattoos and piercing? Perhaps because it is real, bodily, and symbolic. It is event based – a marker of something significant. Why the popularity of extreme sports? Extreme sports may be so popular because in an age of meaninglessness it is assumed that the only way one can truly feel alive is to risk death.
            We live in an age where nothing seems to matter very much. And that which does matter doesn't matter for a very long time. Nothing seems permanent. This includes human life. So many question the meaning of their existence. They are confused about their worth, their value, and their identity. My generation (Gen X) has not witnessed the global turmoil that previous generations have. We did not live through wars and depressions. We are not the greatest generation, and therein lie our problem. We were not faced with monumental decisions or titanic struggles that demanded great sacrifice. Our greatest struggle is the question of our existence. Our greatest dilemmas are infused into our being born. We are the first generation to know that our parents could have legally chosen to abort us. We are the first generation commonly raised by institutions as much as families. We are the first generation to be born without God as a significant part of the culture. How this generation longs for a new birth and a tangible spirituality – a faith that has flesh! We find that in Christ and in baptism (a very tangible event!)

  2. In our sinfulness

    German composer Felix Mendelssohn's grandfather, Moses Mendelssohn, was not a handsome man. In addition to his short stature, he also had a hunched back. When he met a young lady named Frumtje, Moses fell madly in love, but Frumtje was repulsed by his appearance.

    Finally getting the courage to talk to her, Moses asked, "Do you believe marriages are made in heaven?"

    When she said yes, Moses said, "In heaven at the birth of each boy, the Lord announces which girl he will marry. When I was born, my future bride was pointed out to me. Then the Lord said, 'But your wife will be humpbacked.' Right then and there I called out, 'Oh Lord, a humpbacked woman would be a tragedy. Please, Lord, give me the hump and let her be beautiful.'"

    Frumtje reached out and gave Mendelssohn her hand, and later became his devoted wife.

    He became sin that we might become righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21)

  3. Our hope for a new beginning

            A few years ago I met a member of my generation whose thirty-something years of life had not been as blessed as mine. Her name was Grace. She had come to our church building to pray. She felt the urge many times to come in and pray. She was obviously longing for God. I sat down to talk with her. I listened to how she was unloved by her parents and men. She had had many relationships but they had been mostly bad. Yet, she wasn't bitter or angry, she was afraid. She was afraid that she would never be a success in life and that her life would be meaningless. She was going to school, turning her life around and doing all the things that would give her applause and admiration. She was doing everything that she thought she ought to do. But the fear and confusion, the lack of purpose, future, and identity was still there.
            After much discussion and coming back to this theme in her life again and again I finally asked her "How would you like a new life?" We discussed baptism, but not in terms of what she must do to be saved, but in terms of who she could be by the grace of God. I told her what God's grace could do with Grace – how He would bury her sins and the past then recreate her as new as a newborn child. All of her fears and confusion would be gone, because she would have a life that was a gift from the Creator.
            She asked how it felt to be baptized. The Scripture I shared with her to answer her question was Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."
            Only the language of new birth, a new beginning, and the promise of a new identity in Christ and a baptism that was the work of God, a symbol of the gospel could have spoken to Grace. All of that is pictured in Jesus' baptism as he shares with us the event that marks a new beginning – a moment in time when heaven breaks open and the future of all the earth is blessed.

In Our Baptism, We identify with Christ ...
  1. In his divinity (sharing in the divine nature) – 2 Peter 1:3-4 – We've been equipped! We have new value!

    1982 TOPPS baseball card         There is a Baseball card called "Baltimore Orioles Future Stars" and it is valued at $100. There are three players on this card: The first is Jeff Schneider. Schneider played 1 year of professional baseball, pitched in 11 games. The second player is Bobby Bonner, who played 4 years of baseball but only appeared in 61 games and 0 home runs.
            The third "Future Star" played 21 years for the Baltimore Orioles and appeared in 3,001 games. He came to bat 11,551 times, collected 3,184 hits and 431 home runs, and batted in 1,695 runs. His name is Cal Ripken, Jr. Bobby Bonner and Jeff Schneider's baseball card is worth $100, not because of their statistics, but because of what someone else has done. They get to share in the value of Cal Ripken, Jr.

  2. In his righteousness (Matthew 3:15)

            Baptism is God making a statement. He claims the baptized one. His historical work of reversing the Eden disaster is evident: he buries another sinful Adam and gives birth to a new child of God. God justifies and sanctifies. Yet, despite this profound revelation from God we are still riddled with doubts as though we are spiritual orphans or God's foster children.
            I never believed that I would have to perform "last rites" as a minister in a church of Christ, but I did just that. A man came to me whose wife was dying. He wanted to be assured of her eternal destiny; but her baptism, her submission to God's saving grace, was not enough to ease his troubled mind. I agreed to go to her deathbed and give her the chance to confess any unresolved sins. I was relieved when I got there and she had nothing to tell me. The man loved his wife, that was obvious, but his concern was that the law might have been broken. In contrast, her confidence was in the one in whom she believed and I think she was persuaded that he was able to keep his commitment to her.
            Now I was able to turn to her husband and say, "She was baptized. She belongs to God. Christ is her Lord. Whatever we may think, he's already spoken." Her husband was truly comforted by the certainty of the Lord's approval. It wasn't all about her righteousness – it was finally about his!

    Jesus was baptized not simply to follow orders or to set an example. He baptized so that we might meet him through baptism and take up his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was baptized so that all righteousness might be fulfilled! Furthermore, as we perceive baptism as God's covenant and declaration of love and relationship, then the natural attitude and approach to baptism will be one of joy and gladness.

  3. In his resurrection (now and to come) - Romans 6
    1. Buried in Baptism – We die with Jesus. We put off the body of flesh.
      • This is graphic language: The change is so drastic; it is not the cutting away of a small amount of flesh. It is death.
      • Baptism looks back to Jesus, who dies and leaves behind his mortal existence before being raised in a spiritual body and an immortal existence. Christ in his resurrection was living a new type of life and existence. Our life after baptism anticipates this.
    2. Raised in Faith – We are raised by faith in the power of God to give new life
      • Our life after baptism is described as a rebirth. It is more than just erasing a mistake or working on a few faults. It is total renewal. Not a new leaf, but a new life!
      • The break from the old life is severe. This is not a new resolution, a new habit, a new phase, or new idea. It is a new life, a new creation.
      • How can we change so drastically?
    3. If we have become united with Christ in his death, we will be united with him in his resurrection (v. 5)
    4. Our baptism points us to the future – to the Second Coming of Christ. This we believe:
      • If we have died with Christ, then we will live with him! [This ought to mark our lives with such joy, confidence, and hope! These are the marks of distinction that the lost are looking for!]
      • Why do we believe this? Because we know that Christ was raised (v.9) and no longer dies. Death does not rule Christ!

Conclusion: Submerged in Christ – God's plan to sum up everything in Christ! (Ephesians 1)

Our baptism binds us together. We are so different. We make distinctions. We judge. But the rebirth of baptism is God's gracious way of giving us a new birthright. We are sons of God. We are born into his house. That makes us brothers and sisters. The one baptism that we were all baptized into makes unity. No more distinctions, no more political, racial and religious tension.

Think about it! What if all the warring factions in Iraq were baptized into Christ? What if the Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East were baptized in to Christ? The things that they base their identity on would have to change! This is the solution for hatred and enmity in America. When we put on Christ, the things we base our identity on change. There is no longer black or white. There is no longer Hispanic and Anglo. Your income doesn't matter, your education doesn't matter, your past history of sins doesn't even matter! By the grace of God you are given a new life – the life of God's son Jesus Christ.

Because of this, we don't get to make excuses. You can tell me about your past and I will listen because that explains who you are. But once you've been born again, you don't have to make excuses. In fact have something much better – a new identity (newness of life) that brings joy and hope and peace that passes understanding. We ought to be bold and adventurous in doing good. We can experience a foretaste of resurrection if we are submerged in Christ ...

"But I was born on the wrong side of the tracks." No, you were baptized and born in God's house!
"But I have led a horrible life!" That life is gone. You have a new life – you were baptized.
"But I was born with this bad temper!" No, you were born again with his spirit!
"Nobody cares about me." You were baptized! God adopted you!
"My family has turned against me." You were baptized into the body. You are never alone.

You see baptism doesn't put a claim on God. It puts a claim on us!

We should know that our baptism was the place we encountered him. Baptism – Jesus is there!

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 11 January 2004

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