Monday, June 18, 2007

Baptismal Exhortation-Dean Cooper

Paedobaptism and paedocommunion are perfectly compatible just like getting born is perfectly compatible with breast-feeding. In fact, at the hospital, if you do not start feeding the baby right away, the first day, the nurses get all in a dither and want to start feeding them for you.
This is not an argument for bringing newborns to the Lord’s Table. In God’s providence, He instituted this meal with bread and wine. But small children, toddlers, nearly still infants, CAN eat bread and drink wine.

That is consistent. But my point here is that Presbyterians are dramatically inconsistent with their view of the covenant. The covenant governs our entire understanding of the Scriptures and our lives with God. We baptize children because God makes His promises to His saints, and to their children. Peter proclaims this with power at Pentecost.

But what is going on at baptism? Is it not being born again? This Dean was already born from his mother’s womb. Today, he is being born into the church of Jesus. We are marking him out as God’s child, born of the water and of the Spirit. And if he is born again, into the church, then of course, he ought to come to mother church and eat mother’s food.

For a new born infant, that feeding place and food is obvious. At the breast, mother’s milk. In God’s kingdom, that place is His Church, and that food is the Lord’s Supper of bread and wine. Thus, it makes sense that brand new babies cannot eat bread and drink wine. But when they can, they should do so. After all, they have been born into this family of God and are welcome recipients at the family table.

Let me qualify a little bit here, lest anybody misunderstand me and misquote me. Am I saying that being baptized is being born again? Yes, I am. Does this mean that there is still a need to repent of sins, believe in Jesus, have faith, get saved, become a Christian and follow after Jesus in obedience? Well, there is too much in that sentence to give a simple yes. Particularly to our cultural understanding of ‘get saved’ or ‘become a Christian.’ To the rest I give an unqualified yes. We must confess, sins, repent, have faith and follow after Jesus all of our days.

But Dean is a Christian. We are naming him a Christian, today. That is what baptism is. He must be filled with God’s Spirit in order to ‘be saved’ if you will. There must be a spiritual reality to what we do here in ritual. But we gladly confess that we often do not know how, or when, that ‘point’ happens. In truth, we never know it. By the time we see the fruit, the work has already been done. Ultimately, it happened in Jesus work on the cross. It was there that He secured the salvation of His people. But how, exactly, it works itself out in real time, we are greatly ignorant.

Sometimes, we can see the wind. If the day is very dingy, dust is in the air, garbage is blowing around, we think we see the wind. But we do not really see the wind. We just see the effects of the wind. When the rains come down and wash the landscape clean, the wind blows invisibly once again.

The Spirit’s work is like that. Sometimes we can see the mess He is cleaning up. At other times, we do not know when He has blown through. Is the rain of God washing the first mess or a subsequent mess? Why does it matter as long as the mess of sin is cleaned up? At this baptism, we are declaring that God’s washing water is cleaning up all of Dean’s sin and sins. The sin of being a son of Adam and the sins that sons of Adam commit. God has dealt with it all in Jesus Christ and He is declaring that today in this rite.

Our confession allows for not knowing the time of this Spiritual work. God may have already filled Dean with His saving Holy Spirit, like He did John the Baptist, in the womb. It may happen here today, at his baptism. It may happen later on in his youth, or God forbid the heartache, perhaps after a time of soul-searching and rebellion. We want THAT to be the exception and not the rule. We pray at each baptism that the children brought to the Lord here will never know the disobedience of rebellion. But the point is that each Christian must be filled with the Holy Spirit, confess sins, repent and walk in the regeneration. They must have faith and exhibit a lively and life long faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing that I have said here precludes any of that.

So, let us embrace this baptism as a new birth in the kingdom of God and give God the glory for bringing such a wonderful event to pass. And may He, by His Spirit, raise this child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think this was your best baptism yet honey. Your biggest fan