Devotional Word for Monday, June 7, 2021
Way back in March, we had been progressing through the Heidelberg Catechism. We were going through just a few questions a week. We had made it through question 70. I distinctly remember saying, “Lord willing we will be working through the sacraments of baptism and communion over the next few weeks.” Three months later, we are about to continue our look through the catechism. In these recent months there have been a number of technological and logistical hurdles which have prevented these devotions. I bring this up here not to serve as an excuse but to say that the two words “Lord willing” really do matter. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” These past few months have been yet another example of the wisdom of God revealed in His Word.
Today we are going to look at question and answer 71 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Just to refresh our minds, the catechism had just previously defined what it means to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ. Question 71 fits the mentality of our day. It asks, “Where has Christ promised that we are as certainly washed with His blood and Spirit as with the water of baptism?” I say that this fits into the mentality of our day, and that might be unfair. One characteristic of the catechism which we have already seen and will continue to observe is the way that one question builds upon the next. In this way it serves to reinforce the meaning of what came before. Here in question 70, the catechumen has just been told of the promises associated with being washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ. The natural inclination upon hearing such news is to wonder upon what in the Scriptures such a claim can be based.
Listen to the answer. It says, “In the institution of Baptism which runs thus: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ ‘He who believes and is baptized will be saved: but he who does not believe will be condemned.’ This promise is also repeated where the Scriptures call baptism “the water of rebirth” and the washing away of sins.” Notice the logic of the answer. It first begins by examining part of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. There, the Lord Jesus indicates the name or manner of the water baptism. It is in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. This is to say that that in baptism, the Spirit is present and involved.
We also see the catechism make reference to the water of rebirth and the washing away of sins. To help us understand this, I would like to turn our attention to Titus 3:5 which says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” First observe that we are saved NOT on the basis of our righteous actions. We know that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are saved by the mercy of God which Paul describes as the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. This means that when the Lord saves us, He washes us with His blood which brings about the regeneration and renews us with His Holy Spirit working within us. This is Paul’s description of being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Finally, we have talked about the practice of water baptism and the sure connection between the Lord’s redemption and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. How are these two connected? Acts 22:16 helps us. It says, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” In this portion of Acts, Paul is describing his conversion. We remember that he encountered the Lord on his way to Damascus. From the time of that encounter, he sought to live for the Lord. His life was marked by faith and repentance. Insofar as he believed, he had already received forgiveness of his sins and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Yet upon conversation with Ananias (when his sight was restored) that Ananias called him to be baptized with water. Thus, Paul received the sign and seal of baptism. The water baptism signifying the baptism of the Spirit.
As Christians we understand that salvation is by faith alone. Yet, we also recognize that God has ordained the sacrament of baptism for our benefit. In it we receive grace and a visible representation of the gospel which was fulfilled by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Faithful Christians through the ages have sought to be baptized along with their children. I end today on this cliffhanger. Lord willing, we will return to examine baptism further over the next few weeks. Let us pray.