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By Baptism a Child of Paradise!

There is just something about hymns and music that brings me joy and wonder. Such is the case of this Lutheran hymn: God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It

You can listen to it here:

When God first converted me to faith in Jesus Christ my first years were spent in a Pentecostal Baptist Church. I remember well filling out the “Baptismal Request Card”, afterall, I had never been baptized. At 19 Jesus had changed everything in my life and about my life. It was a drastic change, and I know not everyone has that, but it certainly did throw my parents for quite the loop. In fact, it was the date of my upcoming baptism which proved to my own mother that indeed I’d been “saved.” See, she’d been baptized as an adult convert on “Anniversary Friday” at our church and when given the day of my upcoming baptism it was “Anniversary Friday” exactly 20 years later. This was all well and good to “prove” my conversion to my mom but since nothing spectacular happened at my water baptism it often left me wanting something more.

Fast-forward 20 years and we were reforming and coming to learn that Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s Covenant with us not a pleadge we make to Him. We were understanding that it is a sacrament, meaning it was a means of grace from God to us; a gift. However, though viewed as a sacrament it still did not actually do what the Bible said it does; rather, it was simply a sign and seal of God’s promises but not the reality. So, for the dozen or so years I was dutch reformed I did understand that baptism was not my pledge to God but His pledge to me.

Enter the Lutheran, aka Biblical view of Baptism and I was in for quite the comfort. This is because, as Luther’s Shorter Catechism says, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word….It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”

God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It

Stanza 1

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!

He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.

Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any

That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!

This hymn begins with a proclamation that is ended with an exclamation point!

I am God’s child because I am baptized into Christ. I have been both buried and raised with Him and the debt for my sin is paid and washed away. Just like the flood waters in the days of Noah washed away the wicked, so the waters of Holy Baptism washed away my wickedness and sins. Just as in the Ark the family of Noah found safety while riding those flood waters, so too those washed in the flood waters of Christ are held safely in Him who is the True Ark.

Rev. Dr. Mark Birkholz says in his blog about Luther’s Flood Prayer, found on pp 268-269 Lutheran Service Book, (prayed during Baptisms in the Lutheran Church)

First, Holy Baptism drowns sin. Just as the flood drowned the evil and violent people in Noah’s day, and Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Red Sea, so all sin in you is drowned and put to death. This includes both the original sin you inherit from Adam along with all the sins that you have ever committed. This drowning is not something that happens only at your baptism, but every time you confess your sins you are drowning them again. Luther says in the Small Catechism, “What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that that Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die, with all sins and evil desires…”

This is exactly how I feel every time I remember my Baptism.

Stanza 2

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!

I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.

Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me

In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

This is my favorite of all the verses because for a long time I struggled with assurance. Sin, constantly berating me day and night over and over again and Satan constantly putting doubts into my mind and heart as to whether or not I’d “repented enough” (under the old evangelical/Baptist system) and whether or not I had “true faith” (under the reformed/Calvinistic system). But, here, in the Scriptures, I am promised that in baptism my sins have been forgiven and every time I confess my sins I am “drowning” them anew in those waters of baptism through which God has forgiven me because of Christ, not how much or how hard I repented. Truly I can sing with the writer, “I have comfort even stronger” and “my baptism did release me in a dear forgiving flood…”

For someone who is well-educated in theology and the Bible THIS is what I struggled with: Am I really and truly a child of the Living God? The Promise of God given in Baptism says a hearty, “Yes and Amen.”

Stanza 3

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!

Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.

Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled,

And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!

So now, when Satan comes against me, when the world tries to distract me, when my own flesh fails me, I can say with a shout “I am baptized into Christ!” Those “ugly accusations” do not change the fact that I am God’s Child and I can gladly say it. God has brought me into union with Him in those blessed waters. Oh that I’d known this years ago.

Stanza 4

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!

When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!

Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes:

Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.

Here is strong comfort. Baptism was not my pledge to God nor a proclamation to the world that I was now following Jesus. Instead, baptism is a gift God gave to me to actually do the promises He said He would. This gift is renewed every day as I confess my sins to God. When death comes, and it comes for all unless Christ Returns first, I will “leave all sadness to inherit paradise!” I don’t inherit it because I earned it, it is a gift that was given and promised to me through the waters of Baptism. It was through the Water and the Word that baptism gave me eternal life. While I may have been the one to fill out the baptismal request card, what happened in those waters, that “something special” I’d longed to experience did, in fact, actually occur: I was washed through the regenerating work of God.

Titus 3:5-8 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, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of ternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.”

Did you catch it? Through the washing of regeneration and renewal. Baptism brings us new life and cleanses us spiritually so that we are justified. This happens to us and is not a result of what we do. The Ante-Nicene Fathers writes: “The blessed apostle sets forth and proves that baptism is that wherein the old man dies and the new man is born” (ANF5:388). Suddenly, baptism was doing what it actually meant: washing me clean of sin and giving me true faith.

My theological friends will remind me that “washing” in Titus is loutron and that is not the same as baptize (baptism). However, it is in the same family of words and loutron means a cleansing or washing of the whole body and references the place where one bathes (is baptized/washed). Another way to look at this is that loutron is like a bathtub and baptism is what happens in a loutron; we are washed completely. As my husband said when I read this to him, “So you’ve been font’ed.” Yes, in that font/loutron I was baptized/washed and cleansed from all my sins. Taking this into account we could read it “He saves us through the cleansing of our whole being/body…” which with that picture it becomes a bath or baptism. But, I don’t want to get into a debate about this but keep it simple regarding the comfort given to us by God in the waters of baptism.

Stanza 5

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!

Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.

Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:

I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!

“Lifelong comfort sure!” That is what one lacks when baptized as a mark or proclamation of their going to “follow Jesus.” This is because baptism becomes our work of obedience; Jesus was baptized and we follow in his footstep. I have followed Jesus, therefore I get baptize. Baptism then is something we do because of what we’ve done. Rather, baptism really is what God does and we follow because of baptism. We follow Jesus because we’ve been washed, renewed, regenerated in those waters and because God did this to us and for us.

We can never look to our own works for comfort and to do so will result in a spiritual depression which the person has to claw themselves out of. Instead, remembering that Scripture teaches us that Baptism does save and is God’s Work alone, as these passages remind us:

John 3:5–6 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Acts 2:37–39 “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Romans 6:1–5 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Colossians 2:11–14 “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside”

The most powerful, direct and clear scripture which tells us what baptism actually does is:

1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”

Truly, there is nothing worth comparing to this “lifelong comfort”. Though the world, the flesh and the devil come against me, through all that this sad fallen world hurls at me, I can look at the work of God through the Water and the Word and say,

I am baptized into Christ; I am a child of paradise!

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