“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. John baptized. The disciples baptized. Jesus baptized. It says so. Everyone gets a Baptism. Then someone started a fight over all that purification. At least we know that people’s arguing over what Baptism is isn’t a new thing.
How old do you have to be? What if there’s just a splash and not a dunk? Why not just run around town with a squirt gun yelling, “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”? Now the Pharisees are getting uppity and so maybe Jesus wasn’t even baptizing? Except maybe He was? Or maybe it doesn’t matter whose hand it was because it was always God’s work. Hear John. He must increase, but I must decrease. That does a lot to explain what Baptism is.
Baptism is not a work you do for God. It isn’t an “I pledge allegiance to the Jesus.” It’s God’s work for you. The question isn’t whether or not Jesus actually baptized anyone. Jesus baptizes everyone. Sometimes He used John’s hand. Sometimes Peter’s. Maybe even sometimes His own, made flesh. But Baptism that bestows God’s good Gifts always comes from the good Giver.
A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given from heaven. So Baptism, given by the God from heaven, is for you to receive. You receive the forgiveness of sins, a new identity as God’s child, and all of the life everlasting that comes with it. You decrease. Jesus increases in you. Old Adam drowns. New man emerges and arises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
It changes the whole equation of salvation. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Now, salvation isn’t tied to your obedience but only to the belief which clings to God in the water. Works of the Law can’t save you. They can only damn you. It doesn’t say “whoever believes and obeys.” There’s no room left for obedience in this equation since Jesus already saved you. The obedience that comes from this, and it will come, is just Jesus’ increasing and your decreasing. Which also means there’s no real need to measure it. He said, “It is finished.” You’re baptized. Believe this, and know you have eternal life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
In Baptism we now put on Christ–Our shame is fully covered With all that He once sacrificed And freely for us suffered. For here the flood of His own blood Now makes us holy, right, and good Before our heav’nly Father. (“All Christians Who Have Been Baptized” LSB 596, st.4)
-Rev. Harrison Goodman is content executive for Higher Things.
Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch
Discover new insights from each line of the Psalms in Engaging the Psalms: A Guide for Reflection and Prayer. Read, repeat, and return to the Lord as you walk through all 150 Psalms. Now available from Concordia Publishing House.