Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 26
Q 69. How does holy baptism remind and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross benefits you personally?
A 69. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it promised that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, that is, all my sins.
Q 70. What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?
A 70. To be washed with Christ’s blood means that God, by grace, has forgiven our sins because of Christ’s blood poured out for us in his sacrifice on the cross.
To be washed with Christ’s Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed and sanctified us to be members of Christ, so that more and more we become dead to sin and live holy and blameless lives.
Q 71. Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
A 71. In the institution of baptism, where he says:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
“The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”
This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism “the water of rebirth” and the washing away of sins.
The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is the first place that we see it expressly commanded that Baptism is a vital part of the life of Christ followers. It is important that we recognize how, though. In Jesus’ parting words, the key action is not “go,” it is “make disciples.” How we are to “make disciples” is by going, baptizing, and teaching. These three supporting actions provide for us the model for outreach, discipleship, and the Christian life in general.
Baptism is an important part of this, not just because Jesus tells us to do it, but rather because of the significance and the reality that it points to. The water of baptism symbolizes washing and it reminds us that God’s forgiveness is for us, no matter what age we are. We are shown physically the grace of God and reminded of the promise of God that whoever believes in His Son, Jesus WILL be saved. Jesus’ blood doesn’t stain, it washes us clean and makes us righteous before God.
We don’t think about this enough. Baptism, far too often, is just a cute thing that we do. Especially in the Reformed Church, where we practice infant baptism, it is an even that takes place where we get to see a little baby and celebrate a new life. Sadly, we don’t often think of the reality that the event we are witnessing reminds us of.
Every day, at the end of the day, I take a shower. I honestly cannot go to bed without doing so. If I try, I feel sticky and gross and just can’t get around laying in my own filth. So I shower. The water washes me clean and I can end the day, crawling into bed free of the day’s filth. Perhaps you have a similar experience?
In baptism we are reminded that, through faith in Jesus Christ, we too are washed clean. Infant Baptism, something we will talk more about next week, reminds us of the true nature of this washing: it is the promise of God available to all, no matter how unaware of this reality we may be. This washing removes the filth, the blemishes, the grime that is sin in our lives. It taints every aspect of who we are and, without Christ, we would constantly be working to scrub it from ourselves.
But, we are washed. You may notice that in the baptismal liturgy that is often read, it doesn’t say “you washed yourself clean,” but rather “you are washed clean.” In Jesus Christ, we are washed clean. We don’t have to lay in our own filth anymore. Rather, we have been cleansed! This is God’s work in our lives through Jesus Christ and it is an integral part of our identity.
Whether babies or new believers, the symbolism is the same: Forgiveness is for you, through faith in Jesus Christ. The next time you take a shower, jump in a pool, take a dip in Lake Michigan, or even wipe the sweat off your face with a cold, wet cloth, think about your baptism. Remember that you are washed in Christ’s blood, you have been made clean, and you can rest assured that we no longer have to wallow in our own mess but can dwell in God’s presence and security through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!!