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Baptism: Gift of Eternal Blessings

December 13, 2017 No Comment

Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel baptizes his granddaughter.

by Leonardo Neitzel

Another Christmas is soon approaching, and with it gifts to exchange. Each of us may have a story or experience about a gift—perhaps one received, perhaps one lost, one dreamed or wished for, or even a gift never received. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes.

But the gift of holy baptism—water and the Word of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit—exceeds all. While material gifts are perishable, the gift of baptism is both for this life and for eternity, packed with abounding blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Nothing makes God’s heart sadder than when a person despises or rejects the gift of baptism, for He desires to save all peoples through this means, giving them new life, and making them members of His family and heirs of salvation. On the other hand, nothing makes God’s heart more cheerful than when a person receives the gift of baptism. Jesus assures us that “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7).

God makes this gift available to all: babies and adults, males and females. It is a gift for all, by grace, with no merit on our part and with no strings attached, for, as we are assured: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

The proud husband and father with his newly baptized wife and daughter.

On September 27, two days after the birth of our granddaughter, members of our families gathered in the city of Sanary, France for the baptism of baby Elisa and her mother Caroline, our daughter-in-law. Even with the beauty of the setting, the order of baptism, and the people present, the reason for the gathering was far more beautiful. It was not mere tradition, nor was it viewing baptism as some magic or mechanical act. For Elisa and Caroline, it was the receiving of the gift of new life from God.

As the Spirit hovered over the waters at the creation of the world, the same Spirit is present in the Word and in the water poured on the heads of those at their baptisms. As the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea were saved and left behind their life of slavery in Egypt, so too Elisa and Caroline crossed from death to life through the waters of baptism. Mother and child received the sign of the holy cross both upon their forehead and upon their heart to mark them as redeemed by Christ the crucified. Each had her sins washed away. New life was given to them. They were inoculated with the vaccine of the Holy Spirit, which makes a Christian resistant to the spiritual diseases and temptations of this world, and which strengthens them in their journey with Jesus and His church.

In baptism, each is called by Christ’s name and made His own for salvation. We are united to Christ in faith through His suffering and death, and all blessings received by Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross are granted to the baptized. We die and are buried with Him to the old life and raised again to a new life with all treasures it entails for this world and for eternity. All this is given with no merits and strength on our part; baptism is a gift no person can afford. Instead it is God’s gracious means of salvation given freely for all.

In baptism, each is called by Christ’s name and made His own for salvation. We are united to Christ in faith through His suffering and death, and all blessings received by Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross are granted to the baptized.

There is no greater gift than the gift of salvation. Lovingly and eagerly Jesus desires to bless all people with the gift of baptism. There is no greater blessing than to be called by the name of Jesus to a new life with treasures uncountable. A person may possess all riches, fame and treasures of this world, yet without new life through faith in Christ, he has nothing. There is no greater joy than to receive God’s gift of eternal life as the most precious of all.

Once baptized into Christ and having had our sins washed away, we now want to live in gratitude, love, service, and witness to Him and to our neighbour. Through baptism, He gives us a new desire to live a holy life pleasing to Him, a life in communion with Him and with His Church. By His Word and Holy Supper, received in the regular fellowship of His Church, He sustains us in faith in the covenant of our baptism. He gives us a new desire to witness and to proclaim His mercies to all people to pray for all, so that they also be saved by faith in Christ as their Only Saviour. Jesus encourages us with these words: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).

Are you baptized? Wonderful! “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Praise God, thank, live, and serve in response to what He has done for you. Have you not been baptized yet? Listen and receive Jesus’ merciful invitation and calling. Come to the Fount of the living waters of salvation that He alone provides, for “baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). He promises: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

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Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel is Lutheran Church–Canada’s Executive for Missions and Social Ministry.

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