There is really no disagreement between the Baptists and Lutherans when it comes to the definition of Baptism. Or better put, you’re not going to find anyone who disagrees with Luther’s definition, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.” There’s simply no arguing with this. Jesus commanded Baptism. We just heard His words, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And not only did He command it, but He connected specific words to it, it’s combined with God’s Word, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” So everyone, Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant, besides some crazies - you’ll always have those, everyone is going to agree that Jesus commanded us to baptize with water and that He combined His Word with this water. What a wonderful thing! We agree! And I mean that. I’m not being flippant here. It’s a wonderful blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ that despite all our serious differences with our Protestant friends, we agree on this basic definition of Baptism, that it is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. This agreement shows God’s Word is clear and it shows that we have a foundation on which to talk with one another and convince each other of the truth based on God’s Word and nothing else.
But there are of course differences, and serious ones at that, between Lutherans and our Protestant friends. And this difference we’ll get into more next week when we talk about the benefits that Baptism gives, that Jesus actually says it saves us and delivers us from death and the devil. Tonight though I want to concentrate on the obvious fact that Baptism is combined with the Word of God. We don’t pick what we say at Baptism. Everyone says the same thing, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We all say that because Jesus explicitly tells us to say those words; these are the words combined with the water.
I don’t think anyone actually wants to say that Jesus’ Word isn’t powerful. Because that would be blasphemy. You don’t get to say that. Jesus’ word healed the sick, raised the dead, and forgave sins. He spoke and it was so. What we need to realize, then, is that since Jesus has combined His Word with Baptism it has the power and authority of Jesus Himself. Just as surely as He said, Lazarus, I say to you arise, and Lazarus arose, just as surely as he said, Little girl I say to you, arise, and the little girl got up, if Jesus says you are a child of the Father and gives His name to you, it is so.
In fact, Jesus Himself stresses the power of Baptism, the power of the Word that He attaches to Baptism. I wish that Luther had included in the Catechism not only the words, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them,” but also the words that come directly before this.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…” All authority, all power, in heaven and on earth, given to Jesus. All means all. There is no power not given to Jesus, even according to His human nature. And with this power, with this authority, what does He command? Not to take over the world with sword and slaughter, like Muhammad’s god commanded; not to establish an earthly Zion like Joseph Smith’s god commanded; not to take power from the state like the pope claimed for himself; not to do anything that wows this world, not to build up wealth or fame or any such thing. No, with all the power in heaven and on earth, Jesus says, Therefore, because I have this power, therefore go and make disciples of everyone, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
So there is no getting around this beautiful truth, that in Baptism the power of God is at work, all His power.
But what exactly is this power? How was power given to the Lord Jesus in the first place? Jesus is the Son of God, so He had all power from eternity. He was in the beginning with God. By Him were all things made. Jesus literally created the world. But this almighty power was hidden in His human nature, so hidden in fact that Jesus had just been scourged and spit on and crowned with thorns and tortured to death by crucifixion. So when Jesus says that all authority, all power, has been given to Him, He is saying that precisely because of His death and resurrection He has all power. That’s why we began our reading this evening with the Easter account. This is the sequence of the history. Christ suffers and dies and rises again, and only then does He claim all power has been given to Him. Because He has now won the power that He sought to win from eternity, the power to make sinners into saints, the power to remove sin from us, forgive it, wash it away, the power to make us children of God. It’s a power dearly bought, with the suffering and blood of God Himself. And it’s exactly this power that is exercised in your baptism.
Naaman the Syrian once despised the waters of the Jordan because they seemed dirty and despicable. But because Elisha spoke God’s Word and God’s command, those waters did what no other water could do, and washed away Naaman’s leprosy. It’s easy to despise the water of Baptism. It’s easy to say it can’t have power. But that’s only if you trust your eyes and not your ears. Jesus attached His Word and His command to the water of your Baptism, and He did that after spilling His blood to wash away your sin and win the power to give you eternal life, sinless communion with God, and perfect righteousness; to crush the devil under your feet; to give you His Spirit; to spur you on to a life full of love for God and love for your neighbor.
So realize the treasure you have in your Baptism. When you know what Baptism is, then you know what it does for you. Not just plain water. Water commanded by God and combined with Jesus’ Word. And that word is powerful, empowered by the blood of God Himself poured out for you, powerful to give you God’s name, the strong name of the Trinity. God as your Father, God as your Brother, God as the Spirit who empowers your life. God who is with you always. God whose eternal goal was to win the power by the life and death of Jesus to make you His own, and who has now made you His own by your Baptism. And so let’s make it our eternal goal to live by our Baptism, every day of our lives, to wake up calling on our Father to bless our days and keep us from sin and to go to bed calling on the Father who forgives for the sake of His Son and send His Spirit to watch o’er our beds. What a wonderful life to live, here in time and forever in eternity. In the name of Jesus. Amen.