BAPTISM: GOD’S UNTHWARTABLE PROMISE TO YOU
Dr. Marney Fritts
Some evenings I have a hard time deciding what to make for dinner. I can stare at the contents of the pantry or refrigerator and wonder what to make and then end up at the store staring at the cut meats where the wondering continues for a while longer. Finally, sometimes I just decide to throw something together in the crockpot and hope it turns out edible. Or some mornings, waking up groggy in the dark of the bedroom, I think, what shall I wear that day. When I can’t find the one shirt that I was looking for, I then remember that I forgot to take the load of laundry out of the dryer the previous night such that said shirt is cold and wrinkled in the dryer. If I have a difficult time making these kinds of decisions in the mundane things of life, as I am sure you do from time to time in a variety of scenarios, how is it that I could possibly bear the burden of making a decision for Jesus Christ in matters of my eternal salvation?
There are two false assumptions in decision theology. Fortunately, for you and me, God has found a way to break through our erring assumptions with an unthwartable word of promise. First, however, we must take a good look at the false assumptions we put upon Scripture.
The first false assumption is that it is your decision. It is God’s decision, not yours. You did not choose Jesus Christ, but he chose you (John 15:16). Before you were ready, before you even had a chance to prepare yourself, God reached down in time and in space, and with some water together with God’s Word, through the mouth of his preacher, forgave you all your sins, claimed you from the devil and death, and, thereby, claimed you as his own. That was his promise when God baptized you. He found in you a sinner to be drowned and raised to new life in Jesus Christ and so he chose you. This promise God made to you when you were baptized made you a royal heir to his heavenly kingdom: “But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of any righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This saying is sure” (Titus 3:4-8). It cannot get any clearer than this: God is the one active in salvation: we are the passive receivers of his mercy, not because of any righteousness that we had done. He saved you when he baptized you (1 Peter 3:21). His promises are iron clad and can be trusted no matter what you have or haven’t done. That is what it is to be grasped by the hands of the Living God who has promised that He will never let you go. Never.
This claim of Christ riles up the old sinner in us because, first, it eliminates any chance for an altar call and, second, everyone can see that you are still a sinner. So, what is going on in baptism? In baptism, God replaces our meager moral progress in the law, with an unshakable promise given in the gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus Christ’s sake (Acts 2:38). That means that daily God keeps speaking his word of promise to you through the spoken word and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in order to drown the old sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires through God’s working of repentance in you. Then, daily, a new creature of faith shall be raised to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.
You see, he didn’t just baptize you and left you to see if you could hang on and persevere in his promise. No, he has never left you. As unfaithful as you may be, He remains faithful to his promises which he will continue to repeat to you until he has created faith. Otherwise, what hope or certitude would we have? In our own efforts to stick it out in times of trial and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps? Our own decisions? And that leads us to the second false assumption.
The second false assumption is to think that there is still time to choose before the end comes. “Choose this day whom you will serve,” is a particular form of the law; it is an imperative. Now, the law was not given as a way of salvation but instead, it tells you what ought to be done and reveals that it is not done. That is to say, it accuses even unto death. As Paul says repeatedly to those churches that dogged him on the freedom of the Gospel, “Well, then what is the law for?” His response is univocal: that law reveals sin (Romans 3:20, 5:20, 7:13; Galatians 3:19). The law makes sin great, and it magnifies it; it does not take sin away. For that, something else—some other word—is needed. The removal of sin is the work of the gospel.
So, what about, “choose this day who you will serve?” This command reveals what is to be done and, ultimately, that we have not chosen the Lord. Not a single one on the earth has ever done this. How can we make such a claim? Because Paul does, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless… “(Romans 3:10-12). Moreover, the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by our very own sins is the clearest testimony in the entire world that we have already made our choice.
It might seem a bit unfair that you were never given a chance. It is as if God would continue to do what he did with Jacob and Esau, who, “even before they had even been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works, but by his call),” said, to you, “I love you. I have mercy on you. I have compassion on you. So, your salvation does not depend upon your will or exertion, but on Me who has mercy on you.” Now there is the good news on account of which you shout, “Amen! Thanks be to God!”
There is no more time for amendment of life for salvation. Your family, friends, and coworkers will be thankful for the fruit of the Spirit that God is working through you, but it is for them, not for your salvation. They need your good works; God does not. The cock has crowed. Christ has already been crucified for your sin. So, it is an eternal treasure that he has come to you, has mercy and compassion on you by baptizing you, making you an heir to eternal life.
If you have not been baptized, the pastors of Zion are called to hand over this promise of God to you!