Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

Baptized By Grace

This coming Sunday I will celebrate the baptism of two young people.

They will gather at the pond of a church member, sing a couple of songs, read some Scripture, make covenant promises, and be dunked into the baptismal waters of the holy land (McLeansville, NC).

It will be an important day for the two young people, their family members, and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Baptizing people is one of my favorite parts of ministry. On most occasions when the last person is baptized I will linger in the water for a few seconds longer and think to myself, “This is what I was made for! This is why God called me to be a pastor!”

Getting the privilege of baptizing new disciples of Jesus Christ is a gift of grace from God to me. In fact, baptism itself is a gift of grace.

Baptism is a clear picture that salvation is a gift of grace, provided by Jesus Christ, and freely received by His disciples.

Baptism recognizes that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and the third day was resurrected to new life. Baptism also pictures that by the work of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, our old life, with its rebellion and sins, has been buried away, and we have been raised to new life.

The Apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Colossian Christians:

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness… 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Colossians 2:9-10a, 12 (NIV 2011)

Paul declares the good news of grace. In Jesus Christ, we see the “fullness of God in human form.” Through the work of Jesus Christ in our lives we are “brought to fullness.”

The fullness of life. A gift we receive through Jesus Christ!

How is it possible to have “fullness” in life? Paul states by being buried with Jesus Christ in baptism and being raised with Him though “faith in the working of God.”

Baptism is a sign of grace. In baptism we proclaim that God worked in Jesus Christ; that by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, our past is buried, and we have the gift of new and eternal life.

Jesus did the work. We receive the benefit by faith.

Baptism reminds us that by Jesus’ death, our sins are dead and buried; and by Jesus’ resurrection, we are raised to new life.

United Methodist Bishop William Willimon writes:

“Part of the point of becoming a Christian is that it is something done to us, for us, before it is anything done by us. What we might have done different, had it been our action alone, is not as important as what Christ and his church does for us in baptism. As an infant, I was the passive recipient of this work in my behalf. Someone had to hold me, had to administer the water of baptism, had to tell me the story of Jesus and what he had done, had to speak the promises of what he would do, had to live the faith before me so that I might assume the faith for myself. In other words, by water and the Word, it was all gift, grace.”

— William Willimon, from his book, Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry

Sunday afternoon, standing waist deep in muddy North Carolina water, I am going to proclaim that Jesus offers us a baptism of grace, by His death, burial, and resurrection. I am going to offer two young people an opportunity to have faith in “the working of God.” Then I’m going to dunk them under in the name of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

And then, as they make their way back to dry ground I am going to stand there and quietly thank God for the grace that saved me, and gave me the promise of forgiveness of sin and the chance at new life.

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