Devotional Word for Tuesday, June 15, 2021
In our last meeting we looked at how Christians are as certainly washed by the blood of Jesus as they are by the water in baptism. That leads raises many questions. One of the subsequent questions is anticipated in Questions 72 and 73 which we will look at today. Question 72 asks, “Does merely the outward washing with water itself wash away sins?” The logic of this question is clear. If we affirm that Christians are surely washed with the blood of Christ just as they are washed with the waters of baptism, why wouldn’t they be connected? Why wouldn’t it be the case that the waters of baptism not only wash the skin but also wash the soul clean of sin?
The answer responds, “No; for only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.” Even as I read that answer, my mind goes to the hymn “Nothing but the blood.” Remember it asks this question from a different direction. It says, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Of course, both the catechism and the song are correct in this. Listen to Matthew 3:11 which says, “As for me (John the Baptist), I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This John speaking of the coming of Jesus and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which took place at Pentecost. For our purposes we need to see that the water baptism which Christians are to undergo is distinct from the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of Christians. It is distinct from salvation. The Scriptures are clear that righteousness comes through the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
Question 73 then asks, “Then why does the Holy Spirit call baptism the water of rebirth and the washing away of sins?” The answer responds, “God does not speak in this way except for a strong reason. Not only does He teach us by baptism that just as the dirt of the body is taken away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Christ; but more important still, by the divine pledge and sign He wishes to assure us that we are just as truly washed from our sins spiritually as our bodies are washed with water.”
I think the idea of an analogy or an analog connection might help us to understand what is going on here. Today, we live in a digital world. Take music for instance. We have phones or other devices that store files with little ones and zeros. The computer chips in the device convert that to electric pulses which then move a speaker and our ears perceive that as music. There is no physical correlation between the stored music and the sound we hear. This is different from an older analog device. Think about the way a record works. The needle passes over the grooves on the record. Those small perturbations in the needle are then sent through a megaphone (or converted to electrical signals and sent to a speaker. In either event, the actual physical groove causes the tones our ears hear. Don’t believe me? Make your record turn faster or slower, the pitches it places change accordingly. That does not happen when you get a new phone and the processor “reads” the digital data faster. Water baptism does not have a digital connection to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is analog. They correspond. Our washing with water corresponds with (though is not the same thing) as a washing by the blood of the Lamb. In this way, it serves as a promise to Christians that just as they are washed with water so they are also washed with the blood.