Thursday, June 12, 2014

Baptism, For YOUR Children

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Act 2:37-41)
Peter’s sermon is finished and it hit home. The people are realizing that they have acted wrongly. Cut to the heart as Luke says, convicted of their sin. Now they want to know what is to be done. How they can be saved. Peter tells them to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
A few things, there is no repentance here without baptism. These aren’t two different things, but the way you repent is to accept the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name by being baptized into his name. This is repentance, receiving the forgiveness of sins. Many things look like repentance. The proverbial cleaning up your life bit. Too often we have this way backwards. We think people have to start living the Christian life otherwise they aren’t repentant. Well no. The Christian life lives you. That is accepting the forgiveness of sins, and becoming a Christian is going to change you. Much more than you know. Being a Christian will change the way you live. But changing the way you live won’t make you a Christian. The repentance is really about ceasing to try to do it on your own. Ceasing to try lift yourself up by the boot straps, to clean up your own mess, to finally confess that you are a sinner who can do nothing but sin and then be forgiven of it. This is why we have baptism.
This is the first time baptism has been mentioned in conjunction with Christ’s name. We know Christ was baptized by John. But this was something completely different than Christ’s baptism. And for a time Christ’s own disciple baptized. But Christ never did. Christ brought people into the kingdom by forgiving their sins directly. He was there in person. Well, he is still here, but in a different manner. Now he has died and risen from the dead, he has conquered death. He has undergone the baptism that makes his baptism possible. And he has given it to his disciples with a command that they do it. Now it will be done. If you want to be saved, if you want to inherit the kingdom of God. Then be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now in this baptism, the one Christ baptizes you with, you receive the Holy Spirit just as John prophesied you would. Let it be known, this baptism that Peter is speaking of that comes with the Holy Spirit, is done with water or else they could not have counted how many were baptized. Oh, AND IT IS FOR YOUR CHILDREN!

Peter is explicit about this. Your children too, he tells them. They too need to be baptized. And when you return home to the far corners of the earth and those parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, yeah, this is what you do there too for those who hear of Jesus and want to be saved. You baptize them into the name of Jesus, that is the name that Jesus shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Not the moniker Jesus, but his name. And name here has a different meaning than moniker the way we use it. It is the being and essence of God that is given to us in baptism that we would be in it. This is why it is completely unnecessary to say “In the name of Jesus” at the end of a prayer. You pray in his name, because you have been baptized into it. His name possesses you. In the name of Jesus, isn’t a magic formula to be recited, it is the essence and being of the eternal and invisible God that Jesus shares with the Father and the Son, the only name given to men under heaven by which we may be saved. By which even your children may be saved. Peter says it is for YOUR children. The only question that needs to be asked after that is, when is it that your children become your children? And the answer to that question tells you when your children are ready to be baptized and made Christians by the gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift every Christian desires for their children. Seriously, denying your children the Holy Spirit, makes me question if you yourself are Christian. It’s a rather serious thing. 

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