Sermons

Baptism of Our Lord B (Gen 1:1–5)

January 11, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA

INI + AMEN.

What do you think about the Bible? … Well, besides that it’s God’s Word? When we think about the Bible what makes it different than Aesop’s Fables or Confucius’ Sayings? Moral lessons to help us be good people? Wise sayings that show us some good life advice—albeit divine life advice? Is it full of facts, sayings, and wisdom that we need to learn and understand so we’ve the right answers? Now this one really applies to Genesis 1: Do we think about the Bible in scientific terms? Is the Bible full of God’s Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?

All of these ways miss the mark in some way. The Bible isn’t an astronomy textbook or a physics or biology textbook. Now, it may affect our understanding and perception of these things, but it’s more than that. The Bible tells us about history, but it’s not a history textbook. You could turn the Bible into strictly a moral book, full of life advice that, when followed, would make you a good person and God happy with you. The Pharisees tried that! But Jesus said to them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me.”

The Bible is more than cosmology, it’s more than history, it’s more than a textbook with right answers, it’s more than a moral guidebook. It’s more than all those things because the Bible is about Jesus. From Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21—it all points us to Him. In Revelation He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” This goes for what Scripture reveals as well.

Christ makes manifest, epiphanies things that were hidden or veiled in the Old Testament, and what was hidden and veiled in the Old Testament is revealed in Jesus. So, what does our Scripture from Genesis 1 tell us today? Today, when we remember our Lord’s Baptism and our own, we see that

THE FATHER CREATES AND RE-CREATES BY WATER, WORD, AND SPIRIT.

(I. “In the beginning God created.”)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He is the source of all things “for by Him and through Him and in Him are all things.” Before He created there was nothing. No matter. No laws of physics. Not a single atom. Absolutely nothing. Because of what Genesis says, we believe that the triune God, the Trinity created all that we are, all that we have, all that exists. It’s not that “god” did it, and then we add the idea of Trinity later. No, in the beginning Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created everything. Genesis is recorded for us so that we know where we come from. The Trinity made it all, and for this reason we aren’t, as Christians, satisfied with generic “god” talk, that “god” is almighty, powerful, or awesome. Pagans believe in that sort of god. Such a generic creator God does us no good, as we’ll see in a little bit, but before the beginning was the Trinity, and then in the beginning He creates. God the Father creates. The Holy Spirit fluttered or hovered bird-like over the waters, doing what He does best, being “the Lord and giver of life,” as we confessed in the Creed. The Son, “by whom all things were made,” was there too because “God said,” and we know from John 1, which echoes our text from Genesis 1, that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

How did our Triune God create all things? He created all things from nothing, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But what He created from nothing was “without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” There was the churning yet formless deep with “the Spirit of God hovering, fluttering over the face of the waters.” Then comes the Word, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” You won’t find this in your cosmology or physics textbooks, but what the Triune God has before us in Genesis is that the Father, in union in the Holy Spirit and the Son, the Word created all things from water, over which the Spirit fluttered, and He created all things through speaking. In the beginning and throughout the remaining five days of creation, light and life come from water, Word, and Spirit. Even man was created not from dry dust but from muddy earth and was given life when the Spirit was breathed into him.

Now, when the Lord created, it was all good. “God saw that the light was good.” Every day of creation, whatever He made, it was good. And on the last day of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

(II. “If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation.”)

God created all things good, but we know that they didn’t stay very good or even good. Genesis 3 happens. Now, we know that Genesis 1–2 talks about creation. But there’s more than creation, there’s a second creation. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “If any one is in Christ, He is a new creation.” He doesn’t say, “Renovated,” like we do to our homes, or “Slightly upgraded,” like the next model software or cell phone, or “Restored” like we do to old cars. Paul says, “NEW creation.” This is a completely new thing. There’s nothing about us that’s redeemable. We can’t be renovated or upgraded. We can’t be restored, with a little elbow grease, like an old, rusted-out classic. There’s no self-help program. There’s no 10 steps to a better you. That’s not Christianity. That’s the religion of the world. The religion that says, “I’m not so bad. I only need to work on a few things, and then I’ll be set and god will at least be happy with the effort I put in. My faithfulness has to count for something. After all, I know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. The good I do has to count for something, right?” “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The creator god, the god in heaven who’s big and powerful and made all things, is the god of pull yourself up by your own bootstraps religion, the god of do your best. That’s the devil’s lie.

We’re in need of re-creation. Because we are nothing before the true God, the Triune God. But the Triune God is exactly the God to come in and re-create us. He doesn’t stay up there in heaven expecting us to work or climb our way to Him by whatever means. No, the Father sends His Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be born, to shine His light on our darkness, to be crucified, to be placed into a cold, dark tomb. Jesus bloodies His hands and dies, but Jesus rose. He takes us, the self-absorbed churning and formless mess that we are, we who dwelt in darkness, and He casts us into the waters. He gets His hands wet once again. He speaks His Word and there the Spirit is fluttering once again, endowing the water with life as He did so long ago. As much choice as the light had, the Father gives us. He speaks His Word over His Spirit-filled water, and He makes us His own. All self-righteousness (works, choices, decisions, heart-giving) and the religion of the world, all of these works of darkness are undone at the font because baptism is God’s work not ours, and there He re-creates us with His water, Word, and Spirit. All that He re-creates is good. We are good in Christ, only in Him, baptized into Him, because only when we’re in Him are we “new creation.”

Now, we are light separated from the darkness. We have our light shining, reflecting God’s light. “God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” “The people that walk in darkness have seen a great light.” “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Jesus is Light. He is our Light. We are light in Him, created to be light as the light was on the first day—by water, Word, and Spirit. “You are all children of light, children of the day,” created to bask in the light of Jesus’ Resurrection both now and forever. For “the Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” We no longer have works of darkness, but true works: works of Light as Jesus the light shines through us.

It’s the same song—just the second verse. What God does once, He does again. It shouldn’t surprise us. He created by Water, Word, and Spirit, and He re-creates the same way. This is our salvation. We are new creation created in Christ Jesus to live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

INI + AMEN.

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