The Beginning Of The War: Baptism Of The Christian

This is Part 1 of the Lent Series titled, 

Text: Romans 6:1-14

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Well-meaning Christians will often tell pagans that they should become Christians. And the reason they give to pagans: becoming a Christian supposedly allows a person to live a better life. They say that Christianity allows a person to enlarge their vision, break through the barriers of the past, and live with enthusiasm while defeating the disappointments of life.[1] In other words, the reason why a person should become a Christian is that the Christian life is supposedly stress-free, peaceful, and glorious. Christianity is sold as a peaceful walk on the beach – a life of ease where the good times roll.

Now, just to be clear, being a Christian means that we most definitely have peace with God – no wrath and no fear of condemnation in Christ Jesus.[2] Yes, when we were baptized, we were given the forgiveness of sins which brings about comfort; however, this peace with God and the comfort of forgiveness have ramifications in this life in the vale of tears. 

It is like this: before you and I were baptized into the Christian faith, we were under the power of the devil, which means that we were enemies of God. You heard that right, before baptism, you and I were ‘enemies’ of God. Before baptism you and I were on the wrong team – dead in sin and at war with God.  However, baptism changed all of this. At baptism, a new reality happened. You and I were made children of God.[3] We were wrapped in the goodness of Jesus. You and I were snatched out of the kingdom of darkness and placed in the kingdom of light.  

But as previously mentioned, there are consequences to baptism. You see, if we now belong to the Lord, we do not belong to the devil. And if we are now at peace with God, we are most definitely at war with the devil and his cohorts. 

So, we can say on the one hand that our baptisms give us peace with God. However, on the other hand, our baptisms put us at war with the devil. Our baptisms put a big target on our head and heart.

But we must keep in mind that the devil is not the only one that we become at war with. That is right; we actually become at war with ourselves. Yes, a civil war emerged in you and me at our baptisms. A struggle began when the waters of your baptism hit your head. When the Word of God with the water were applied to you at your baptisms, a conflict emerged with yourself. 

So, while we often see baptisms of babies in their white garments as peaceful celebrations, what is actually occurring is the beginning of a lifelong struggle for the baby, not only with the devil but with themselves. 

But why is baptism the beginning of a personal war for the Christian?

Quite simply, at baptism, you were given the Holy Spirit and faith.  And with the Holy Spirit and faith, new attitudes, desires, and actions as well. At your baptism, there was a creation of what is called the ‘new man of faith.’ We can also call this the ‘new self’ or the ‘new creation.’ And with this creation of the new man, there becomes an ongoing life-and-death struggle with the old Adam.[4]

You see, you and I were conceived in sin. We all have this sinful nature, which we call our old Adam or the old self. It was inherited from Adam and Eve and will, unfortunately, be with us until the day we die. It is a like a virus that stays with us and corrupts everything that we think, say, and do. In fact, this virus of sin – the old Adam – is so deeply embedded in mankind that most people cannot even recognize it in themselves.[5] 

So what this means is that as long as there is no baptism and no new man of faith and no new holy impulses and no Holy Spirit, a person will not experience a civil war within themselves. Indeed, as long as there is no new man of faith there will be no conflict with the old Adam – the old Adam will be free to reign. However, as soon as baptism creates the new man in the baptized person, along with the new Spirit-created attitudes and desires, well… war breaks out – the struggle begins. The old Adam is kicked off the throne, the gloves come off, and the battle begins.

And so, your life as a Christian is not one of ease like so many preachers and popular so-called Christian books say, but rather, your life as a Christian is the exact opposite – it is a life in conflict. Frankly stated, the Christian life is not experienced as luxury, comfort, or paradise, but a daily battle between the old Adam and the new man in Christ.

The Apostle Paul talks about this battle between the old Adam and the new man in Romans chapter 7. And even our Lutheran forefathers reference this daily battle quite often in their writings. They say that Christians are simultaneously Saints and Sinners. That is to say; in this life, you and I are sinners in the eyes of God’s Law, the world, and when we look at ourselves. When we pinch ourselves and look in the mirror, we see a sinner – 100% sinner through and through.   However, at the ‘same time,’ we are also saints in the eyes of God, because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. So, when we consider our baptisms, we see ourselves as saints – 100% saints because our baptisms have washed us of our sins, rescued us from death and the devil, given us eternal salvation, and wrapped us in Christ’s robe of righteousness.[6] 

By our natural sight we see ourselves as sinners; by faith, though, we see ourselves as saints. Both sinners and saints at the same time, depending on how we see ourselves.  

Now, we must be careful not to understand this as if we have a good angel on one shoulder and a little red devil on the other, as we have seen so many times on those old Looney Tunes cartoons. We are not in some neutral and innocent in-between place where we must decide which one to listen to.

And we should not take all of this to mean that you and I are part sinner and part righteous, like 40% sinner and 60% saint. We are not a mathematical fraction. But rather, we are people who have this old Adam hanging around our neck, and yet we have this new man created at baptism. We are both sinner and saint at the same time. We have both unbelief and faith at the same time.

Indeed, even though sin has been dethroned by grace at our baptisms, we Christians are still weak because this sins lingers on and wreaks havoc.[7] This sin is like an old man’s beard; it keeps growing back. And so, this is the reason why we confess every Sunday that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against God in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We confess this because this is true. This is who we are. We are 100% sinners through and through.

And yet, the Lord does not let our eyes remain on this fact. Baptized Saints, do you realize that the Lord snatches you away from yourselves and declares to you every Sunday that you are forgiven of all of our sins in Christ Jesus – that you are a saint because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection for you?  Yes, the Lord in the absolution reminds you that you have been baptized by having the pastor draw the sign of the cross upon you – driving you back to the reality of your baptisms.

And so, this is the war of the Christian. This is your war. This is the war that we will be discussing throughout the Lent Season. Yes, in the weeks to come, we will be learning where this war takes place, how it is to be fought, where the Christian gathers strength for this fight, and when this war will soon be over.

And in case you might be a bit discouraged at this point, do not despair! Yes, do not despair, for the fact that you have a war with your sinful nature is a sign of hope! In other words, “There is a battle, a civil war, within [you] only because this new man has been created. Remarkably, the struggle itself is evidence for the reality of the new man created in baptism.”[8]

Baptized Saints, this struggle is a struggle of hope precisely because you have the Holy Spirit. It is a struggle of hope because you have faith. This struggle testifies to you and others that you are a Christian who is at war with your own wretchedness because God’s gift of life is yours in Christ Jesus.

So, dear Christians, fight the good fight. Finish the course. Be steadfast in the faith against sin, the world, and the devil, for you belong to Jesus. Do not give up, for you have been baptized into Christ’s death and renewed in Him.

This is your war. This is the life of the Christian. This is the result of your baptisms – baptisms that put you at odds with the devil and your sinful nature, but at peace with the Lord God forever.    

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, (FaithWords, 2015), passim.
[2] See Romans 5:1, 8:1.
[3] See Romans 1:18 and Ephesians 2:1.
[4] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2017), 303.
[5] See the Epitome of the Formula of Concord, I:9 and the Smalcald Articles on Concerning Sin.
[6] Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 49.
[7] Jonathan F. Grothe, The Justification of the Ungodly: Second Edition (St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, 2012), 261.
[8] Ibid, 333.

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