On Christian Baptism
I am not typically far from making things too theological. What can I say? I have an insatiable desire not for knowledge per se but clarity of language. I am constantly befuddled by language and communication. It is one thing to think properly. It is another to be able to speak properly. And so I read and read. I also write and write.
I have in the pipes an eight week family devotion on the Lord's Prayer and an extremely long blog post (or short ebook) on baptism slated for later this year. I have been writing non-stop for over a year. With respect to baptism though, everything can escape your mind when you see an infant baptism.
I am typically far from existential writing. Start talking about how "things make you feel" and everyone with an ax to grind wants to start talking theologically. So take what's coming with a grain of salt if you are seeking theological rigor because everything changes when you see Christ's sacraments. As I have commented elsewhere, the infamous "Jesus wept" is directly proceeded not be knowledge but by vision (John 11:33-35). Weeping did not come from theology but from experience. Our Lord broke down when He saw the sadness of His friends.
So likewise, it is one thing to know Christ's sacraments and another to see them. I do not mean to exclude my Baptist friends from this because witnessing their baptisms is certainly moving. But the movement occurs after an individual's confession. It is as if the individual has turned towards God and only now does God weeps the tears of baptism. There is no dead Lazarus in a Baptist baptism. It is not debatable that in the symbolism (and reality) of infant baptism there is no movement from man apart from the movement of the man Jesus Christ. It is simply God reaching down in humility. It is divine condescension that leads to tears of baptism. God alone cries "I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless" and "I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."
Here we understand that we have thought too little about the work and person of Jesus Christ. Yes, you read me correctly. We have thought too little. The reaching down of the eternal logos to assume humanity is insane. Even for the believer, this must remain a mystery. God become man. That is not a typo I mean "become" not "became." God moving and acting His way to the cross and ultimately to death. But in Jesus Christ also man moving and acting His way to the cross and ultimately to death. It is staggering. It ultimately is the basis of baptism as well. Man is baptized because the New Adam, despite not having sinned, repented on our behalf in His baptism and death. And so God brings Himself near in baptism in response to the God-man. Here something much greater than Lazarus occurs. Here we are buried and raised with Christ (Rom 6:3-4). We are buried with the God-man. We are raised with the God-man. Baptism is a Christological sacrament and occurs only because of Him.
When you see a child having water poured on his/her head you see God bringing Himself near in something as foolish and insane as human flesh. You see Christ come forth in flesh on behalf of the individual baptized. You see Christ weep over His friend whom He loves. Yet, not because of any action on behalf of the child. No, only because of the great movement of God in Christ Jesus because of love. While we were sinners Christ came to redeem us (Rom 5:8). So also while we lay in the hands of a pastor He moves in the waters of baptism to redeem us.
Yes, it is one thing to understand baptism. It is another thing to witness baptism with your own eyes. My family has had the privilege recently. It is earth shaking. Literally. The earthquake of Christ on the cross occurs again. The resurrection of the dead occurs again. In the baptismal waters, new creation is formed not because of man. But because of the God-man Jesus Christ. This is Christian baptism.