INI + AMEN.
“I need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” John’s got a point. It’s a good question. The Scriptures are quite clear on the benefits and blessings of Holy Baptism. “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation.” It’s not just clearly written in the New Testament, but even in the Old Testament in example, in type, in shadow, in foreshadowing, the blessings of baptism are proclaimed. Even John’s baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Lk 3:3) So, then here comes Jesus “from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him,” and Jesus says that BAPTISM FULFILLS ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Well, why is Jesus baptized? Well, Jesus’ baptism is the opposite of ours. Sinners were coming out, confessing their sins, and being baptized for forgiveness. Jesus comes to be numbered with the transgressors, just as He was at His crucifixion when He died for you. He comes to be the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, taking them in His baptism, so to speak. His baptism is also a type and pattern for our Baptism. Holy Baptism is given for righteousness’ sake, and it’s given both to Jesus but, more importantly, given also to you.
BAPTISM FULFILLS ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Jesus’ righteousness, as He says, but it also fulfills your righteousness, gives it to you, gives Jesus’ righteousness to you.
((I. It opens heaven.))
Now, BAPTISM FULFILLS ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS in opening heaven. Now, how does Holy Baptism do that? Because it works the forgiveness of sins. That’s what Peter says in Acts 2. “Be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins.” That’s why John the Baptizer was a bit confused. Baptism’s for sinners because of what it does: works forgiveness of sins. Everyone’s in need of that! Except Jesus, of course.
That’s how Baptism opens heaven: it works forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness opens heaven and saves from wrath. Baptism does, too! That’s what John knows. Before Jesus comes to be baptized, John sees “many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his Baptism, and he said, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” They weren’t truly seeking refuge in God’s gift of Baptism. They came in unbelief. John was telling them that baptism does rescue from wrath. It does because it gives forgiveness. But they wouldn’t receive it because they had no faith. Faith and Baptism go together, as Jesus says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” But more on that later.
So also our Old Testament lesson points to Baptism opening heaven, and thus fulfilling righteousness. The Jordan River was the gateway into the promised land. Through it the Israelites would go and inherit the promised land, so also baptism is your gateway into paradise because, again, it delivers forgiveness.
((II. It delivers the Spirit.))
Now, BAPTISM FULFILLS ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS also because it delivers the Spirit. At Jesus’ baptism the Spirit showed up. “The heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.” So also in Holy Baptism the Spirit is there at the font, in the water. It’s not weird for the Spirit to be tied to the water. It’s how Jesus talks in John 3: “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus talks this way because that’s how it was in the beginning, when “God created the heavens and the earth…the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” When God spoke, when there was creating Word, there was the Spirit, “the Lord and a Giver of life,” enlivening the waters. So also in the new creation of Holy Baptism.
Even so, in the waters of Holy Baptism, water and Word, the Holy Spirit is given. That’s also what Peter says in Acts 2: “Be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” That’s also what Paul says, “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.” The Spirit is given, and He gives faith. Which is exactly why Jesus joins baptism and faith together: “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Baptism and faith go together because the Spirit works faith in and through baptism. It’s the washing of being born again, as Paul and Jesus say.
((III. It makes us sons.))
Finally, BAPTISM FULFILLS ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS because it makes us sons of the kingdom. We’re certainly disciples. That’s also what baptism does! As Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” How? “Baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” But Baptism also makes us sons of God.
That’s what we heard in last week’s epistle lesson: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” We are in the family of God. We’re part of the covenant people “by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism.”
If you’re a son, then you inherit the kingdom. That’s what Jesus says, “I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” That’s what Baptism has done for you. Thus what the Father spoke about Jesus at His Baptism, He also spoke about you at your Baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
John was a bit puzzled, but Jesus is quite clear: BAPTISM FULFILLS ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS. He’s your sin-bearer. The Lamb of God. Numbered with sinners. Baptism fulfills your righteousness. It’s opened heaven for you, delivered the Spirit to you, and makes you a child of God. All these blessings aren’t things we just “have.” They must be given. They’re delivered at the Font. It seems just like water, as we just sang. “All that the mortal eye beholds Is water as we pour it.” It’s more than that: “Before the eye of faith unfolds The pow’r of Jesus’ merit.”
The benefits of Baptism are quite clear. “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation.” You could of course reject all of it, not believe it, live as if it didn’t matter. Then it’d be like you threw out the winning multi-million dollar PowerBall ticket.
But God’s riches are there, faith receives them. Faith given by the Spirit there. Doubt, rejection, unbelief that’s from us or from the devil. The only place to flee the coming wrath on such things is Baptism. Faith rests there, “For here it sees the crimson flood To all our ills bring healing; The wonders of His precious blood The love of God revealing, Assuring His own pardon.”
INI + AMEN.