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2010-06-13 (am) Colossians 2:6-15 Baptism (Annalise DeLeeuw)

          This morning, we’re going to look at the sacrament of baptism.  Humans like controversy.  Newspapers sell when there are hints of it.  The checkout stands are full of sensationalist magazines suggesting one outrageous thing after another.  Unfortunately, churches are just as susceptible to controversy as well.

So while we look at baptism this morning, we’re going to avoid the controversy surrounding its mode and time of application in a person’s life.  Doing so will actually keep us faithful to the spirit of the text which was written to address a heresy which had reared its ugly head in Colosse.

          Paul wrote this letter, because there was a controversy in the church.  There was a faction, a group of Jews, who were insisting that the Gentile Christians adopt certain Jewish practises, circumcision being one of them.  They probably thought well of thmeselve,s they probably thought God was on their side.  They probably aligned themselves with what we’d identify as the right-wing, conservative, orthodox types.

But the problem was that they were clinging onto an older revelation, an older covenant.  They were trying to apply the rules of the old covenant, the one God made with Abraham to the new covenant God made through Christ.  What we’ll see in our passage is that these two are as incompatible as oil and water.  They cannot mesh, at all.

The old covenant sign, circumcision, pointed to the new covenant in Christ.  The shed blood, the given up flesh, pointed to Christ’s shed blood and given up body.  But in Christ, that shedding and giving was done once and for all.

So, then a new symbol of the covenant was given.  Actually there are two: Lord’s Supper and Baptism.  These are the only two sacraments mandated by Jesus himself.  You can look it up for yourself.  Though some churches have added other sacraments, Jesus names only two.

So what about baptism?  What’s going on?  Is it necessary?  Well, no, it is possible that a person could die before being baptised and still be saved, as was the case of the criminal on the cross. 

So, if it isn’t necessary for salvation, why do it?  Because Jesus said so. 

Okay, but why did Jesus say to do it? 

We baptise in order to be reminded of what has taken place.  Baptism reminds us of God’s grace and love powerfully displayed on the cross.  Baptism reminds us that Christ died so that we might live.  Baptism reminds us that our sins are washed away.  Baptism reminds us that we have died and been raised with Christ.  Baptism reminds us that God rescued us, as he rescued Noah and his family from the waters of the flood.  Baptism reminds us that the emphasis is on God’s work, just as the Israelites were baptised when the crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, passing between two walls of water.

Now it is easy to get caught up in the controversy, such as the mode, sprinkling, pouring, immersion.  It is easy to get fixated on when, as an infant or as a believer.  But regardless of these controversial things, one thing gets mentioned every time: God’s work.

What did the Israelites do to be set free from Egyptian slavery?  Did they raise up their own leaders and lead a rebellion?  No, God raised up Moses to lead them and they at first rejected him!  No, in Exodus, we find that all the Israelites were unable to free themselves, even Moses needed Aaron to speak for him.

And in that we see the condition of sinful humanity.  Even those who struggle hard against sin, are powerless to have any real lasting effect.  Unless God acts first, we remain dead.  Haven’t we seen this before?  While we were still sinners, still in slavery, in chains to sin, Christ died for us.

Christ died so that we might live.  Christ died while we were unaware of what he was doing.  Christ makes us alive, makes the blind to see, makes those in darkness to see the light, before we even knew we were dead, we were blind, we were in darkness.

God works first.  This is the good news!  This is the amazing story!  We would not be able to come to faith if God hadn’t first given us faith to believe to begin with!

In the Colossians passage, people wanted to steal away that assurance.  They were saying, “Hey, unless you’re circumcised, you can’t really know.  For centuries we’ve been doing this.  Do you really think that God would just erase all that history?  Come on!  This is the way it has to happen!”

To that idea God responds with, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of our sinful nature, God made us alive with Christ!  How much participation did we have?  None!  God did it in us first!

Now, I’m going to use two illustrations to help us understand how God does this in our lives.  Nothing happens by chance, nothing happens by coincidence.  First illustration adoption, second illustration natural birth.

But first a story to highlight God’s power.  We find Jesus, near the beginning of his ministry, Mark chapter 4, the healing of the paralytic.  Rather, it should be called the forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins.  But you know the story.  Four friends bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  He’s teaching at a house that is chock full of people.  They can’t get their friend in through the door, so they haul him up on the roof, cut through the roof and ceiling and very carefully lower him in front of Jesus.  I mean, a guy on a stretcher comes down from the ceiling, you’re going to move out of the way right?

Jesus looks at him, sees his friend’s faith, sees his faith in Jesus—they believed that Jesus could heal him.  That’s why they brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looks at him and says: Friend, your sins are forgiven.

At this, the Pharisees, those orthodox conservative types say, “What?  He can’t forgive sins!  Only God can do that!”  Jesus turns to them and says, “Which is easier to forgive sins, or to tell this man to get up and walk?  But so that you may know that I have the power to forgive sins....”  He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and walk.”

Jesus has the authority to forgive sins and to heal people.  Jesus has the authority to calm storms and walk on water.  Jesus has the authority to orchestrate events.  How many times didn’t people try to take Jesus by force, try to make him king, try to kill him?  And yet, the events unfolded exactly as planned.

So now to our illustrations.  Adoption.  Annalise was adopted by Darryl and Cindy.  This was no accident.  God’s fingerprints are all over it.  Looking back, we can see that.  When we were in the thick of it, we could see it too, but whoa, it was a miracle.  Trust me, it just was.  God chose Annalise for Darryl and Cindy.  God chose Darryl and Cindy for Annalise.  Why?  Because God chose Annalise as one of his own.  Even before the foundations were laid, God chose her, just as he chose everyone here.  Do you really think that your presence here had anything to do with you?  It is the Holy Spirit at work!

The same Holy Spirit who enabled Peter to confess Christ, is the one who enables you to come every week and proclaim Jesus is lord.  Or, if for whatever reason, someone isn’t here, but by their lives they declare their devotion to God, that is the work of the same Spirit.

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