Order Of Worship (Liturgy)
Rev. S. Bajema
on LORD’S DAY 26-27b
Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ...
We consider this evening the first of the two sacraments found in the New Testament. This is the sacrament of ‘baptism’.
Do you remember when that was instituted? You see, while we hear about baptism early in the New Testament through John the Baptist, it was only after Christ’s work of reconciliation that He made it a mandate for His Church. Because first He had to put away our sins. Through His suffering and death our wrong was put behind God. This was the way He took away what stood between God and man. So the way was opened, through Christ, for men to come back to God.
Before this could happen, though, His work had to be acceptable to the Father. It was on His behalf that Jesus was working. And, as we know, it was acceptable.
That’s why when He set up baptism, Jesus first said, in the words of Matthew 28 verse 18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” So Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and man, because of His redeeming work, instituted Christian baptism. He made it a condition for all believers from that time on. As He further goes on in the verses 19 and 20 of Matthew 28, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Baptism naturally has an important place in the life of the Church, and in the life of the believer. As we saw in Lord’s Day 25, baptism is one of only two sacraments which are biblically valid.
In Lord’s Day 25 we also realised how sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see. A sign reminds us, and a seal assures us. Both point to something definite.
Now we see the definite truth to which baptism points us. That truth is that we see baptism as a washing.
Boys and girls, when Mum does the washing she takes something that’s dirty and smell, and she makes it clean and fresh. Then it’s ready to wear. So washing is a cleansing. Which is exactly what baptism is - a cleansing. And Lord’s Days 26 and 27 shows us this in three different ways.
The first of these is by picturing baptism as an outward washing. The second shows us that this outward washing points to an inward washing. And thirdly, baptism points to an onward washing that God’s Spirit does for His people.
Before we start to look at these points, though, let’s picture this with a photograph. And it’s a photograph of a happy family. A family that’s all together, playing in a park. Because of this picture of what they look like on the outside we know they’re also inwardly happy and content together. And because they are inwardly happy we have confidence that this will go onward with them.
Let’s look, then, at baptism as an outward washing. Because it is an outward washing, done with water.
Now water is recognised everywhere as a good way of cleaning. We have showers, or a bath, to clean our bodies. We wash our hands in water. Dishes are done in water. And, of course, like we heard earlier, our clothes are washed in water.
Water, an absolutely essential part of life. And so what better way to symbolise the cleansing of our hearts from sin?
It’s this washing Isaiah describes in his first chapter verse 18, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
God, in His marvellous grace, washes away our sin. And yet, though water gives us an excellent picture, it doesn’t do the cleansing. Despite what many might believe, we don’t have ‘holy water’! This water, rather, points to the cleansing power of the blood of Christ. For baptism, as we saw in its being set up by Christ, is to be done in the name of the Triune God. When we are baptised, it’s into the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three in One - blessed Trinity! The name of God which represents His being and all His goodness.
Once in paradise we lived in blessed fellowship with the Triune God. But this blessed communion was broken, torn apart, by man’s fall into sin. That life-line between us and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, was gone. We had become, by nature, children of darkness and death. And yet, in Christ Jesus, we’re restored to life and light. We’re brought back to that fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Baptism shows the fact that the obstacle of the guilt of our sin has been removed. We’ve been brought into fellowship with God once more. Our baptism stands for something! So, this outward washing points to an inward washing. Our second aspect.
Boys and girls, we expect that the happy family in the photo are also happy in their hearts. Because otherwise it would be a false picture. Then we know they could not last. Just like those who have been baptised on the outside have to washed on the inside as well. That’s what Romans 6 verse 4 was all about. For if we are not then we’re in double trouble!
Let’s see, then, the two parts to being inwardly washed. And the first of these is the washing done by the blood of Jesus Christ. For God, by grace, has forgiven my sins because of Christ’s blood, which was poured out for me in His sacrifice on the cross.
You see, a man’s life is in his blood. Without blood no-one can live. It’s certainly not just a slogan for the Blood Bank!
So, as the blood flows out of a body, so also life flows out of that body. We’ve all heard the expression, “He bled to death.” In a similar way, Christ gave His blood on the cross. He gave His life for His chosen and believing people. That’s why our sins are said to have been washed by the blood of Jesus. Ephesians 1 verse 7 confirms this, with stating, “in Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of Gods grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
Now God’s children enjoy free access to their Heavenly Father. Through the blood of Jesus we are washed to be acceptable to the Father. And we have this confidence before Him because we know we have been forgiven and redeemed.
This deliverance is a rescue from that just judgment of God upon our sins. The price has been paid! Christ’s blood was shed when He died for our sins on the cross. This is what Scripture means by being reconciled to God. Only Christ’s blood can do it. Only as we’re washed clean by Jesus’ blood does the external sign, that outward washing, mean anything.
The other part of the inward washing is that washing by the Spirit of Christ. To be washed with Christ’s Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed me, and set me apart, to be part of Christ. The Holy Spirit takes that great fact of what we have in Christ Jesus, because of His doing and dying, and applies it to us.
Imagine a very sick man. Yet, while he has a terrible illness, he does have some medicine that will heal him. That prescription is on the table in his room.
But to be any use, that medicine must be given to him. The trouble is that he’s too sick to do it himself. So sick that if he doesn’t get that medication he will die! That’s why someone else has to come and give the medicine to him.
Congregation, it’s the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Christ - who gives us our greatest spiritual inheritance. He gives us the soul-saving medicine! As Jesus said of this in John 16, the verses 13 and 14, “when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
The next logical question must be, “But how does the Holy Spirit do this? And the answer is that He does this by working within us the miracle of regeneration so that we’re born again. This is what Question & Answer 73 focus on.
This regeneration, however, isn’t finished with our being born again. Our evil nature still needs to be constantly attacked.
So there’s a difference between the already and the not-yet. For already we are saved, and yet our lives are still a growing in the faith.
Boys and girls, think of the last time you were on a family photo. Now when I look at the photo you’ve all got happy faces, and you’re in best clothes. But Mum and Dad might have had a bit of work getting you children all looking spic and span for that photo. And when the photo was actually being taken perhaps the photographer had to take some extra pictures because one of you was frowning. Or maybe two of you were arguing or fighting. Then you didn’t look very happy! Still, you have got a happy family. It’s just that you could be even more happier. For while you do love each other, you have to work hard at loving one another.
It is the same with the picture of baptism. In the words of the third aspect to this sermon, baptism is proved by an onward washing that God’s Spirit does for His people.
Answer 70 says that this means “that more and more I become dead to sin and increasingly live a holy and blameless life.” And Colossians 2, the verses 6 and 7, explains this, in saying, “So, then, as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
As we’ve seen, baptism doesn’t give us the assurance in our hearts that in our living we are already perfect Christians. Yet it compels and urges us to grow in grace - to be holy!
But what is this holiness, or as the Catechism calls it, this “set apartness”? Dear Christian, being holy is conforming yourself to the image of Jesus Christ in whatever you do. You’re His follower - so do that! He has bought us with His blood! And now He rules and keeps us by His Spirit. As Paul describes this in Ephesians 1 verse 13, “you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
We are His! We have been baptised into Christ! And it’s the Holy Spirit who’s the operator in our growing in holiness. He works through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word; through the prayer of faith; and through the fellowship of believers.
So you pay attention - now! You live out your relationship with God through His Word and your prayers every day! You meet with other parts of Christ’s Body today! Then you’re growing!
And let’s also tie this in with the whole plan of our salvation. We see that when we’re justified we’re delivered from the penalty of sin. This is done by the blood of Christ. But when we’re sanctified we’re being continually washed from the pollution of sin. Christ’s Spirit works in us to work away this sin that’s in us, and around us.
In this sanctification we grow in grace. The Spirit, through His mysterious work, makes us to be more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ. You see, it’s in the Spirit that our Lord Jesus continues to be with us. This is the marvellous truth of Pentecost! For Jesus had promised this. As He declared in Matthew 28 verse 20, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So, those who sincerely repent of all their sins; those who believe on Jesus as their only Saviour from sin; those who love and serve Him; they may be firmly assured that their baptism really does signify and seal to them the forgiveness of their sin. Then whether they were baptised as a child or adult, their baptism isn’t just an external thing. Then it cannot only be a tradition which gives the baby a name, and the family an excuse to come together.
For you then know it’s about what’s happened inside you. Not for you can it be something done out of custom or superstition. It’s real - it’s rock solid in the believer’s heart!
So baptism to those in Christ is an ever-present reality. And in our continually being washed by Christ’s Spirit, we’re constantly reminded of what Christ has done for us, and what our baptism really means.
Don’t we have so much to praise God for? His goodness is beyond all that we can ever imagine. And certainly way beyond anything we could ever deserve to even touch! Yet in Christ it’s all ours!
And if there are any among us who haven’t believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Lord and Saviour, baptism points the direction you must go. You must repent; you must believe in Jesus Christ; you must love and serve Him; or else, you must be condemned!
But may that condemnation not be for any of us here! Rather, brother, sister, young person, looking at that family photo now means so much. For you are part of that family. You know how much you are happy together. You have that love on your hearts for each other. And you know that there will always be that love on your hearts for each other.
You’re a real family. And, tell me, which family can say they’ve got the Father and older brother that this family has got? Indeed that’s what baptism is all about. God declared that He is your Father. And through Jesus Christ you know you’re His child! Amen.
O Lord God, We thank and praise You for the sign and seal of baptism. Through it You graciously confirm Your Word to us. May it very much challenge and comfort us in the knowledge of what Jesus Christ has done for us, and the difference that must make in our lives, now and always!
In Jesus’ precious Name, we pray, Amen.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service. Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz
(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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