30 June 2007

Baptism and the christian life

The sacrament of baptism
Today marks the 50th anniversary of my baptism. Through this sacrament I was received into the body of Christ at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, then in Westchester, Illinois, but now located in nearby Indian Head Park.

When I was younger I did not treasure this day as I do now. In fact, in my teens I worshipped, along with my family, in a baptist church that did not recognize the validity of my baptism at all. Nevertheless I have come to follow Calvin in believing that our baptism, far from being diminished or invalidated by our inability to remember it, is a sign of our union with Christ for the whole of life into eternity. This union is effected entirely by the grace of God, which comes to us even before we are aware of it.

As always, the Heidelberg Catechism puts it very nicely indeed:

Q. How does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ's one sacrifice on the cross is for you personally?

A. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul's impurity, in other words, all my sins.

Four years ago, at my request, the members of the session of Westminster Church were kind enough to make up and send me a baptismal certificate, based on their minutes from 1957.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

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