A Matter of Death and Life
The best way to express it is, “I am baptized!” It’s a present reality. Speaking historically, of course, one can say, as I do, personally, “I was baptized,” in that it actually happened on Holy Trinity Sunday, May 31, 1953, at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church on the North Dakota prairie some four miles north of Niagara, North Dakota, at the hand of my father, then pastor of that congregation. Though it happened nearly 60 years ago, however, it is still a present reality, so “I am baptized.”
It was not something I did. It happed to me and it has shaped reality for me ever since. My parents brought me up in the faith, teaching me the Word of God. The Lord Jesus has brought into my life so many people to show me His grace (my wife, Faith, being the most important) and to flesh out for me what it means that I am baptized. All of this is pure gift of God in Jesus! All of this comes from living each day in the God-given confidence, I am baptized.
How does our Lord’s apostle put it?
Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:3-5).
Let’s parse this a bit. You “have been baptized.” It’s a gift. It happened to you. It is essentially God’s doing, no matter what age you were when it happened. What happened? What did God do? “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death…” It happened to us. God buried us with Christ. Why? So that “as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” This brings the great promise for all so united with Christ: “if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” That’s what we are called to believe. All of us have to die. But in Jesus Christ, God is in the business of raising the dead. In fact, this is the only game in town. This is what God does – He raises the dead, in Jesus, all who are united to Him.
How does that work out in daily life? As we remember, I am baptized. Many of you know the catechism:
What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. (Small Catechism IV:11ff).
Christian living truly is a matter of death and life! It’s a daily dying to sin, and a daily living in the forgiveness of sins, raised to new life each day. Again, the Word of God:
We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:9-11).
One of God’s means for keeping us in His grace as His baptized children is the practice of confession and absolution. We confess our sin before God. In other words, we agree with the judgment of God’s law that we are dying sinners. That law puts us to death. And then, remembering God’s business is to raise the dead, we hear the Word of absolution as God’s pardon for Christ’s sake, as God’s Word to raise the dead, to call us back to life in Christ. It happened when we were baptized: we died with Christ and were raised to life. It happens over and over again when we confess sin and hear the Word of forgiveness: we are raised to life again with Christ. It is simply a repetition of what God did when we were baptized.
It happens in the public confession and absolution in our worship. It happens when Christians forgive one another in the name and for the sake of Christ. It happens in pastoral care, particularly in private confession and absolution. We die to sin and are raised to life in Christ as we hear in the voice of another the voice of Christ, I forgive you all your sins. The Lord Himself is delivering it. For we have died and lived again, as we each can say, I am baptized! And then we are called to give away to others the same mercy we have received in Christ. He never runs out, for there is always more.
Yes, it’s a matter of death and life – in Christ!
Herbert C. Mueller
LCMS First Vice President
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