The Effects: H.C. Question 72

Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?

Matthew 3:11 – “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

1 Peter 3:21 – and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

All Cleaned Up! H.C. Lord's Day 26

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!!

Hebrews 9 – Outward and Inward

Read Hebrews 9

Continuing on the theme of Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament and the Old Covenant, the writer of Hebrews now speaks specifically about the work of Christ as it relates to worship and the sacrificial system at the temple.  In the Old Testament, the sacrificial system was part of the cleansing rituals that took place so that people could come before God in worship.

In the Old Testament, the sacrificial system was part of the cleansing rituals that took place so that people could come before God in worship.  This applied, in a very particular way, to the position of the high priest on the day of atonement, when he would enter the Holy of Holies to make restitution of the people’s sins in the very presence of God.  The high priest used the blood of animals, sacrificed in the appropriate way, both for himself and for the people.  All of this, however, was just a matter of outward cleansing.

The true cleansing that takes place is one of inward cleansing.  Hebrews’ author points out that the sacrifice of animals is not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper; it was a matter of outward cleansing that points to a deeper cleansing that would happen through the blood of Jesus.

Throughout the Old Testament, there is a continual pointing forward to a future time when God would do something “new.”  He calls a people, they will eventually be a blessing to the whole world.  He gives the Law, but a time will come when it won’t just be an external thing but it would be written on the hearts of people.  He talks of sacrifices and offerings, but the true sacrifice God desires is an inward one.  He provides prophets, priests, and kings, all of which are shadows of what is to come.

All of this finds its fulfillment and deep meaning in Jesus Christ who, as the only way to the Father, provides a path from outward action to inward transformation, from outward washing to inward cleansing through His blood and God’s grace.

Day 41: Numbers 7-8; Offerings and Cleansing

Here, the head of each of the tribes of Israel bring their offerings before the Lord.  As you have read, each offering was the same.  I’m not entirely sure if there is some sort of significance to that, but I would venture to point out that each willingly brought it.  The fact that it was all twelve tribes that brought it leads me to believe that one of the points here is that the offerings were representative of the whole of the people of Israel.  The number 12 is a number that represents all of God’s people.  12 tribes, 12 apostles… and later we’ll read in revelation the 24 elders around the throne worshiping God, which is representative of all of Israel and the whole Church.

Once again here we see a cleansing ceremony.  The Levites have been set apart, as we read yesterday and today, for service to God.  They are chosen by God in place of all of the first born that were to be consecrated to God.  For them to serve appropriately, they needed to be cleansed and purified in the eyes of the Lord.  This is not unlike what we often do in our worship services.  We understand that we are a forgiven people, yet we still sin and those things can (and often do) hinder us from worshiping and serving the Lord with all our hearts.  So we set apart a time of confession and assurance of our pardon, often at the beginning of the worship service, so that we are lay those things down knowing that God has already cleansed us.  We are reminded that we are not a people under condemnation for our sins, but rather we live as a redeemed people!

Sometimes I think that Christians can get a bad wrap.  We are seen as quick to judge and quick to condemn.  Many people also think that we just remind ourselves how bad we are, always sinful… never good.  I think that this couldn’t be further from the truth!  We don’t live in our sin, in our past… or at least we shouldn’t.  Like the Levites and the priests here, we have been cleansed in the blood of Jesus.  He remembers our sins no more!!  In our time of confession, we are not there to condemn ourselves or put others down, but rather to remember the redemption we have in Christ Jesus and the gift of grace that has been freely given to us!  Hallelujah!