What Does Such Baptizing with Water Indicate?
The last question we ask of the Sacrament of Baptism is, "What does such baptizing with water indicate?" We don't ask what baptizing with water might be or will be but what it indicates. We're not asking about what might happen or will happen but about what does happen.
Baptizing with water indicates that you are 2 people. You're Peter whose promise "never to disown Jesus" doesn't even last a day. You're Judas who can look Jesus in the eye, kiss Him with his lips, and betray Him with his mouth. You're the young man who would rather run naked away from Jesus then be caught as a clothed disciple. But you don't see yourself as that bad, do you? "My intentions are good," you say to yourself. "I try my best," you think. "At least I'm not as bad as so and so," you reason. This is your Old Adam thinking, and it only proves how wretched, fallen, and lost it is.
You, the person you see in the mirror, are the Old Adam, and you're the New Man. Paul in Ephesians 4 says the New Man "was created according to God in righteousness and true holiness." Your New Man was created by God when He gave birth to it in the waters of Baptism. As you were born from your mother's bag of waters, so your New Man was born from God's water. And just as you can't imagine how sinful your Old Adam is, so you can't imagine how sinless your New Man is. You're Adam and Eve before the fall: thinking, loving, willing only what God wants. Or you're Jesus: willing to do what His Father wanted rather than what He wanted; lovingly healing a leader of the mob; thinking of Judas as still a friend.
Your New Man always loves, trusts and believes in God above all things. Your New Man always uses God's name rightly and always wants to hear His Word. You're Old Adam never loves, trusts, or believes in God at all let alone above all things. Your Old Adam doesn't use God's name rightly but only profanely, and never wants to hear God's Word. No wonder you sense a conflict in you. No wonder you feel like Jekyll and Hyde. One moment you promise faithfulness; the next you're denying the faith. One moment you pray; the next you're sleeping. This conflict comes from having an Old Adam from the fallen Adam and Eve through your parents and a New Man from God through Baptism.
Most of you have unbelieving friends, unbaptized coworkers, or non-Christian relatives who have no conflict. They don't feel bad, guilty, or sad about their sins. They tell you, "You're too hard on yourself. Just do the best you can." They have a peace that you don't have, and now you know why: because they are only 1 person. They have no New Man only the old. They're not as holy and righteous as Christ Himself, but only as wretched, fallen, and lost as Judas. They know no torment or dissatisfaction with self here, but they will know it hereafter.
So be warned, if there is no conflict in you now; if you have no struggle against your sins and sinfulness, you too have only the Old Adam. You're outside of your Baptism. The New Man doesn't say, "I'm sorry that's just the way I am." The New Man doesn't use forgiveness, the gospel, or Baptism as an excuse to go on sinning. The New Man can never live at peace with the Old Adam anymore than oil and water can stay mixed.
Having been baptized with water indicates that you are 2 people. The Old Adam brought into this world in great pain by birth, and a New Man brought into the world in great joy by Baptism. You are not 1 but 2. You can only be 1 again by the death of one or the other. Learning to accept yourself, achieving a fully integrated personality won't do it, and neither will turning the Old Adam into the New Man.
You're Old Adam remains what it is till the day it dies. Like we sing in the hymn, it's only the voice of that Lord calling us to eternal peace that "shall bid our conflict cease." The Old Adam remains as Luther describes it in our Large Catechism: "angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, unbelieving, infected with all vices, and having by nature nothing good." Can you see then why saying genes cause drunkenness, stealing, homosexuality, pedophilia, sexual addiction doesn't really solve anything? Duh, the Old Adam is these things by nature. This is what it means to be fallen. As the Old Adam isn't made bad by committing sins but is bad to begin with, so the Old Adam can't be made into the New Man by doing new things.
It's not like in sports, education, or art. You can educate, train, discipline, yourself, to become an athlete, scholar, or artist, but the Old Adam can't become the new. O the Law can channel, suppress, direct the Old Adam, but it remains unbelieving, opposed to all that is truly good and God's. You can, by force of the Law, make your Old Adam go to church but you can't make it believe the Word. You can make your Old Adam tone down it's sinning, hide it's sinning, but you can't make it not want to sin. The Old Adam doesn't get better. You forget this to your own spiritual peril. Sometimes the Old Adam is quieter; it leaves you alone; you think the conflict is past. Then like a dog that turns on you, the Old Adam is suddenly biting you with lust telling you that if you don't give in you will die.
Don't debate with the Old Adam. Don't try to talk it down off the ledge of sin. Drown that sucker. Pour the waters of Baptism down it's open mouth as it howls that you can't live without me. Baptism indicates, i.e. Baptism shows what really is, your Old Adam has been drowned with all sins and evil desires. Not one of us here has the strength to drown a mad dog with our bear hands. It is too wild, too vicious, too powerful. Your Old Adam is far worse, but your Baptism is far more powerful. It joins your Old Adam to the crucified Christ. Picture a doll tied to a rock and thrown into a deep, clear lake. See your Old Adam plummeting to the depths of watery grave.
Daily see this picture. When you get up in the morning with yet another day of conflict ahead, make the sign of the cross as reminder that you've been baptized into the Triune God, and your Old Adam is a dead man walking. When you go to bed at night conscience of the fact that you have sinned again, make the sign of the cross over yourself as reminder that you're still baptized into the Triune God, and not only is your Old Adam drowned, but your New Man lives.
Dear baptized friend, your may walk about in a new life. That's what the Roman 6 passage Luther quotes says. However, it isn't accurately translated by the NIV. St. Paul doesn't say, "We too may live a new life." You hear this and you think, "Okay, my baptism means I'm to be different. I'm to live differently than I have been. I am to get out there and do this and that just like Jesus would do." This is all Law. The Law tells you what you are to do and not to do, but it gives you no power to do it.
What St. Paul says is "just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too may walk about in a new life." First of all note the "may." May doesn't denote command as "should, ought, or must" do, but permission. Second, the word Greek word "new" here denotes something extraordinary. If Baptism indicated that you are to live in life according to the 10 Commandments, this would be nothing extraordinary. This has always been the case since Moses came down from Sinai. You aren't to walk about like Moses did after Sinai but like Jesus did after Easter. Compare Jesus' life before Easter and after Easter.
We see Jesus' pre-Easter life in our reading. Jesus "soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." Death is hot on Jesus' heels; He smells the grave's odor; He feels its chill. The death that pursues us sinners pursed Jesus because He bore our sins for us. Jesus sees the cup of wrath that God is handing Him to drink for sinners. Jesus sees what our secret sins, our not so secret sins, and our blatant sins deserve. You gag and choke when you see what those people on Fear Factor have to drink to win a contest. Well, to win your salvation, to pay for your sins, Jesus had to drink the cup filled with God's wrath against your sins. No wonder He prayed not to have to do it, but His Father said drink, and Jesus drank it for you.
Pre-Easter Jesus knew the burdens of death, sin, and the devil. Left out of our Passion reading but in Luke is Jesus saying that this hour belongs to the power of darkness. This is Satan's hour and he's laughing with delight, and only the demons are singing. God the Father had the choice of giving you or Jesus into Satan's power; He chose Jesus.
Now how did Jesus live post-Easter? Did He run away from the tomb burdened by the death that chased Him? Not hardly. Death was a done deal for Him. Did He shudder at the cup filled with God's wrath against your sins? Not hardly. He drained that cup on the cross; there was no more to drink. Did He submit to the power of darkness? Not hardly. The Devil's reign was through. The Devil had no unfulfilled Laws he could hold against Jesus. He had no unpaid for sins he could demand Jesus pay for.
The extraordinary thing your Baptism indicates is that not only was your Old Adam drowned and your New Man born but you may walk about like Jesus did after Easter! You don't have to walk around afraid of sin, devil or death anymore than Jesus did after Easter. You walk about in a life where forgiveness, life, and Jesus reign. You walk about in a life where your Old Adam is dead and your New Man constantly stands before God in the righteousness and holiness of Christ.
When we walk about as if our Old Adam is not dead but in control or as if we are not in a new life, we deny the reality of Baptism, of Easter, and of Jesus passionate suffering. Baptism indicates not what might be, will be, or ought to be but what is. Your Old Adam is dead; your New Man is alive because Baptism forever joined you to Jesus. You go where He goes: to the cross and grave to bury the Old Adam and to the open tomb and skies to live and reign with Jesus. This is what being baptized indicates. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Lent Midweek II (20070228); Baptism IV