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20 MAY 1990

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor


Romans 3:21-31
Galatians 3:27
Ephesians 4:1-6

Preparation Verse: (Galatians 3:27)

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

We are gathered here today in the presence of God and each other for one of the most joyful of all Church functions.

We are going to participate in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, and as part of this service we will also welcome in new members to the church and to the body of Christ.

And yes, we are all going to participate. This Sacrament of Baptism is based upon God's covenant with the Church through the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Baptism is not a private celebration, but a celebration of the entire Church, for it requires the confession of faith of the participants before the body of believers.

It is also the initiation service of participants into Christ's holy Church, and by this we mean the Church universal: the Church of all who truly believe in Jesus Christ and have personally accepted Him as their own Lord and Savior.

In the case of infant baptism, the Sacrament is based upon the belief and confession of faith of the parents and others gathered in support of the infant.

And in this case, we call upon God's prevenient grace which surrounds us all and is freely given by our act of faith, and that grace is to be as a hedge of protection around the infant.

The Baptists, and some other denominations, don't believe in infant baptism, as such; but their service of dedication is essentially the same, calling upon the faith of the parents and God's grace to protect the infants until they are old enough to make their own confession of faith.

This brings us to the other similarities of this service with other services. It is the same service for membership into the church, for confirmation and, of course, for adult baptism.

The difference between the infant Baptism, or dedication service, and these other services is that all of the other services call upon the participants to make their own confession of faith.

And in making this confession of faith, they also reaffirm their own Baptism, or if they have never been baptized, then they are to be baptized.

Following this confession of faith is a commitment of service to God and to the community of believers.

And so that none of us misunderstand what is being said, we will let Scripture speak for itself, beginning with Romans 3:21-31.

21. But now apart from the Law of righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

In other words, the Bible witnesses to the truth about God: that His righteousness is not contained in the Law and the writings of the prophets, but is separate and apart, having existed before the Law.

22. even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

23. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

That's right! In God's eyes there is no sinless person and, as a result, God makes no distinction between one person and another, for all are seen equally as sinners.

None are better, and none are worse. We are all equal.

But, there is hope!

For our hope and salvation comes through our faith in Jesus Christ.

24. being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ;

25. whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

26. for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Because of our faith in Jesus Christ we are justified, or given a favorable verdict, that we are not guilty, for Jesus paid the price of our sins for us.

And even though God is holy and righteous, and can have no sin in His presence, our faith in Jesus Christ is seen as a covering of our sin-stained being; thus we are seen as being equal to being righteous and are saved from the death caused by our sin.

This is why Jesus Christ died for us: to pay the price that we could not pay.

But most importantly, this does mean that we can deliberately continue to sin, because by the same faith that led to our salvation, we strive to do the will of God, and become the loving, compassionate, peacemaking children of God that He desires us to be.

In our society we have degrees of crimes or sins, and each one carries a different penalty upon conviction; but in God's eyes, all sins are capital crimes.

So before God, none of us can say that we are better than someone else.

All we can do is demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ.

27. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.

28. For we maintain that a man [or woman] is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

We cannot get into heaven by being good, for as we previously read, all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

For under the Law, we are not judged for what we do right, but for what we do wrong.

You may drive your car over 25,000 miles a year and have been doing so for 4 years and have driven safely and legally and have not received a ticket for speeding.

But get caught speeding once, and you will be found guilty. None of the previous 100,000 miles of not speeding count for anything. You must pay the penalty for the one sin.

Thus it is before God, even though the Law was given to the Israelites.

29. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,

30. since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

31. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

The Law is like a tutor.

It shows us that we cannot live without sinning at least once in a while, no matter how much we desire to be truly righteous.

The Law shows us that we truly need a Savior.

It is our Godly love that fulfills the Law.

And by faith in Jesus Christ we are saved.

When we confess our faith, and are saved, we are then called upon to be a witness of that faith before others.

This is particularly important for parents and Godparents and those of the community of faith, the Church, to remember when it comes to the baptism or dedication of an infant, for it is by their witness that the child will come to accept Jesus Christ as his or her own Lord and Savior, and do the will of God.

Hear what Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1-6, and as we read these verses, remember that Paul was in prison because of his faith, when he wrote this letter to those on the outside.

1. I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

2. with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love,

3. being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

So often, we who call ourselves Christians forget what it means to be worthy of our calling.

We think that all we have to do is confess our faith in Jesus Christ, and then we can go off and do whatever we wish.

But Paul reminds us that our worthiness is seen in our character and the way we relate to others.

Arrogance, strife, impatience, and anger are not from God.

These human qualities break the bond of peace that God wants us to have with each other.

And as Christians we are called upon to diligently preserve the unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace.

We are not to fight over differences in denominations, or the way one church does something and another does not.

We are to be one in the Spirit and one in love.

4. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

5. one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

6. one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Before God, we are all equal.

And in Church we should be confessing this equality in Christ Jesus and rejoicing in our salvation.

We should joyously receive the love and encouragement of each other to set a proper and worthy example before the world around us.

This celebration of baptism is such an expression of our love and unity in Jesus Christ who we shall be with forever and ever because we have responded to his calling.


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