First Lesson: Genesis 9: 8-17
Responsive Reading: Psalm 25: 1-10
Second Lesson: 1 Peter 3: 18-22
Gospel Lesson: Mark 1: 9-15
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”- 1 Peter 3:21
Baptism now saves you. There are arguably no more controversial words in the entire scriptures for their meaning then this verse from 1st Peter 3. To understand the meaning of the 1st Peter, you need to know the story behind 1st Peter. I want to tell you its story today.
I want to tell you the story of two characters.
I want to tell you the story of a man that we will call Billy Baptism. Billy got baptized as a baby because Mom and Dad had been baptized as infants. Billy’s Baptism was going to be an excuse for Grandma and Grandpa to come see little Billy. So Billy grows in years, Billy attends Sunday School then Confirmation. In Confirmation, Billy is forced to wear what he thought was an ugly acolyte gown against his wishes. Billy finally gets confirmed. Billy looked at his Confirmation like a kid looks at the end of high school, he’s going to celebrate because he is not going back again. Billy went off to college, where he met and married a girl that wasn’t real religious either. Billy figured his kids should be baptized, yet when they didn’t want to be bored in Confirmation, Billy was fine with this. Billy eventually becomes an old man who occasionally attended a Christmas or Easter service. Billy dies. Billy’s preacher didn’t know Billy at all, so he had to think of what to say at the funeral. Billy’s preacher gets up at the funeral saying “Billy was saved because of his Baptism.” Billy’s Baptist cousin is furious! Billy was baptized eighty-some years ago. Billy’s life showed all sorts of evidence that he didn’t take the meaning of his Baptism all that seriously. Billy’s Baptist cousin started to complain about the Lutheran preacher to anyone who would listen. Everyone in this room knows Billy Baptism.
Now I want to tell you the story of another man named John Pilgrim. John Pilgrim was the type of person to whom the book of 1st Peter was written. John Pilgrim grew up in a devout Jewish home. Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, John Pilgrim encounters one of Jesus’ followers who convinces John Pilgrim that Jesus was the Messiah. John Pilgrim’s family was not happy with him. John Pilgrim was disowned by his family. Things were getting hot for Christians during John Pilgrim’s life. Many of them were forced to flee the lands where their family lived for generations to go into exile. John Pilgrim’s life was going to be hard because of his faith. John Pilgrim was not going to be able to maintain much in the way of social relationships outside the Church community. Think of confessing that you were a proud and open communist in the midst of the Cold War, this was the type of social ostracism that John Pilgrim would face. People often didn’t just think of John Pilgrim as wrong, they thought of him as “evil”.
John Pilgrim was “maligned” (2:12), and “reviled” (4:14). He lived in constant fear (1:17) of criminal charges being brought before him on account of possessing insufficient loyalty to the emperor. (3:15)
Where in the land where Billy Baptism lived, persecution of Christians might be people thinking you were some sort of religious weirdo. In John Pilgrim’s land, Christian faith could often be the difference between life and death. Billy Baptism would have no understanding of what John Pilgrim would have gone through on account of his faith. It seems foolish that Baptism as salvation applies equally to everyone involved here.
Let me tell you why John Pilgrim’s story matters as we consider the meaning of 1st Peter. John Pilgrim’s underground church would have probably received a letter like this through a messenger who traveled under the cover of darkness.
When we think of the famous words from 2 Timothy “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” These words would apply to a man like John Pilgrim like no other man that we know.
The thing about 1st Peter is its promises of Baptismal salvation are meant to apply to Billy Baptism just as much as John Pilgrim, and this is what I want to talk about this morning.
Let me begin by telling a story, as I’ve talked about before when I was misbehaving at fourteen years old, my parents sent me to the local Baptist high school to get corrected.
When I first started attending school there, I encountered an entirely different type of kid than I had encountered at the public school. There were kids that competed in Bible memorization contests (I didn’t know before there were such things), whereas my friends could only quote inappropriate Snoopy Doggy Dogg lyrics. At the public school, you were considered an odd duck if you weren’t watching R-rated movies at 12. At the Baptist school, you were regarded as a rebel if you ever watched an “R” rated movie. Kids would not attend dances, I knew a kid that got expelled for smoking a cigarette in the school parking lot. These kids knew the scriptures backward and forwards. I remember hearing the line again and again “It’s not enough to be baptized as an Infant”. I heard all sorts of dramatic testimonies of salvation from previously failed Christians.
I struggled with the question of Infant Baptism until I got to Concordia. At Concordia, I wanted to put qualifiers on Baptism to make my position acceptable to my Evangelical Free friends. It wasn’t until I got to Luther Seminary, where I fully grasped the Lutheran beliefs on Baptism. What changed me was seeing over and again, how messed up were the lives of even the best Christians.
Whenever someone claims Baptism is not enough, it is based on a misunderstanding of Baptism.
A few points about the scriptures and Baptism always need to be repeated.
1. The Scriptures never describe Baptism as one’s personal confession of faith. When people say that no infants are baptized in the Bible (this is true), but this is missing the point rather the key point is that God is the actor, we are the audience. God is giving to us, and acting for us, not we to him. Within Baptism, the direction is always Heaven to Earth, never Earth to Heaven. So in theory, God could baptize a rock to eternal life, no differently then he made a bush burn. Do not the scriptures say “"if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”- Luke 19:40
2. Baptism does save because it delivers Christ. Lutheranism gives all credit to God and no credit to man when it comes to salvation. For this reason, we place importance on things like Baptism and Communion like no other church does. Lutherans believe that Baptism bring Christ unto us. Baptism is the means by which God gives unto others his grace.
Perhaps the key words in the entire scriptures dealing with Baptism take place in Romans 6 where the Apostle Paul connects Baptism to one’s own death and subsequent rebirth and resurrection. Remember the scriptures describe Baptism as an act of “rebirth” of which we are as active of participants as our natural birth.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned,”-Mark 16:16
Often I’ll people say that it’s not enough to be “baptized” that you need to believe instead. Baptism though cannot be separated from belief. Baptism is the means by which receive Christ.
People will wonder what about the guy that his faith, yet is never baptized. When we say Baptism creates faith, we don’t believe that Baptism is the only means by which faith is created. We are a church of Word and Sacrament. The Gospel preached could be just as effective as the Gospel received. Whereas God reaches some through the spoken word, he also reach people from the physical element.
Educators will often talk about different types of learning styles how they learn either by seeing, doing or hearing. You talk to any long time teacher; they will not dispute this truth for a second. Different learning styles explain why some people thrive in shop, yet struggle in history. It’s not a question of brains but rather how they process information. Yet many people can’t understand that grasping Faith can come to us in different means.
What we must remember is that God reaches us through ways outside Baptism. No, differently than kids learn different ways.
Now we get back to the story of Billy Baptism and what are we to make of his salvation. What are we to make of the kid that grows up Lutheran, and comes home for family Christmas declaring himself to be an Atheist.
Do we believe that if someone is saved in Baptism that therefore they are always saved? Do we believe this, even if they publically profess against the faith of the church at a later date?
I don’t have a position on the question of “Once saved, always saved.”
“If God wants to be more generous than I would be, this is God’s business, not mine.”
When I was in Seminary, my preaching professor Micheal Rogness said something about funerals that’s always stuck with me that we never make a judgment as to a person’s salvation at their funeral.
Pastor Jason Peterson cites an excellent example. Peterson mentions how that “sweet church lady with the huge offering statement might be a prideful, callous unbeliever at heart”. “At the same time that drug-addicted pervert just might remember the Gospel from his Confirmation instruction during the seven seconds when his motorcycle collides with the semi and his heart stops beating”. We should not begin to attempt to answer these questions. We really don’t know what exactly Billy Baptism believes in the depths of his soul.
Today’s lesson from the Book of 1st Peter ties in baptismal salvation with an issue a story that we do know. It’s the story of Noah. The story of a world that had grown so wicked, and so thirsty that God needed to overwhelm the whole world with water in the midst of a dessert. The flood served as a reminder that God was not going to sit idly by in the face of destruction. God was going to come into the world and overwhelm once again through his death and Resurrection. Baptism is the completion of God’s salvation brought down from heaven brought unto the people left behind.
As we reflect upon the stories of John Pilgrim (the faithful 1st Century Christian) who risked his life nearly every single day for his faith. John Pilgrim was the type of man our Baptismal promise from 1st Peter was given. We also reflect on Billy Baptism the man who never found a preacher good enough to bring him to church. We remember the words about the meaning of Baptism found in Ephesians 4 that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. The same baptism is given to two men that although very different, stood at the pearly gates with the same one hope given through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
 2 Timothy 4:7
 Titus 3:5-7.
 Peterson, Pastor Jason. “Does Baptism Save? Lutheran Reformission Blog. 9. Sept.2010. Web. Feb.15.2015.
 Peterson, Pastor Jason. “Does Baptism Save?”
 John 3:1-8
 Romans 6:3-5
 Peterson, Pastor Jason. “Does Baptism Save?”
 Peterson, Pastor Jason. “Does Baptism Save?”
 Ephesians 4:5
First Lesson: 1 Samuel 3: 1-10 (11-20)
Responsive Reading: Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20
Gospel Lesson: John 1: 43-51
I want to tell you the story of your Baptism. Your Baptism took place on January 18th, 2015. It was an atypical North Shore winter with hardly any snow on the ground. You were surrounded by people that you know well: Mom, Dad, Uncle Joe, Grandma, and Grandpa.
You were also surrounded by people that you didn’t know very well before this day in the people of Sychar Lutheran Church. You see these people played a huge role in your Baptism.
They made a promise to walk alongside you, and support your Mom and Dad as you grew in years and your faith.
Many of the people that were at your Baptism are no longer with us. Don’t feel sad for them though! For they have undergone a different type of Baptism. In the words of the Apostle Paul, they were baptized into the death of Christ Jesus (Romans 6:4). In this Baptism, they received all the benefits of Christ’s resurrection unto themselves (Romans 6:5). In this Baptism, they received eternal life.
I am writing you this letter, Kinley, because many Christians misunderstand Baptism. Many Christians tend to view Baptism as a public exhibition as to your faith’s effectiveness. Baptism's effectiveness never centers though on anything that we do. You see your Baptism doesn’t promise you, a life without problems. Instead, what your Baptism promises you is that God will remain your God, and you will remain his child even in the midst of these problems. These promises are what we call “grace.”
Kinley, I don’t know what direction life will take you. I do know of a story that tells of your Baptism’s meaning. On the day of your Baptism, we read a passage from the scriptures about a child who we know from the time that he was just an infant like you in Samuel. On the day of your Baptism, we read from the story of Samuel and Eli.
The story starts out with Eli being a sad, sad man. Eli had a couple of sons named Phineas and Hopni, who were naughty kids. Eli’s sons’ bad behavior was so extreme that the Lord issued a curse that neither of Eli’s sons is around for his old age. Eli didn’t want the story to end this way.
Around this time, there lived a woman named Hannah. Hannah believed that it would be impossible for her to have any children. Hannah was desperate, so she went to see Eli. Eli, in spite of his sons was held in high regard. Eli was a judge, a ruler in one of Israel’s twelve tribes like Samson or Gideon, who you learned about in Sunday school. Hannah is so desperate for a child that she promises to dedicate her child to God if the Lord provides. After Eli gives Hannah a blessing; baby Samuel would be born. Hannah chooses to honor God by entrusting Samuel to Eli’s care.
You see Eli had been watching over Samuel’s life from before he was even born. No, differently than how God was watching over the people of Sychar as they formed as a community of faith in the years before your Mom and Dad even met. Samuel was left in Eli’s care; just like how the whole congregation assumed responsibility for your care on the day of your baptism.
Samuel’s life certainly took its twists and turns. Samuel saw his homeland enslaved by the Philistines; then Samuel rose up to lead Israel to victory against the most insurmountable of odds. Samuel shed plenty of tears in his life, Samuel experienced plenty of disappointment, and Samuel saw both wealth and poverty. Samuel saw bloodshed and peace. Samuel’s most famous life achievement was appointing a man named Saul to be the first King of Israel. Like you will, Samuel saw plenty of events where he couldn’t quite understand God’s role in it all.
This brings us back to the story of your Baptism and how people often get it wrong. You see too many people associate Baptism’s effectiveness with our response to it. Baptism is not a test given, but rather a promise extended. The best way, to understand Baptism, is to think of it as a “gift”. For what God does in Baptism is declare “You” Kinley to be his child. You don’t remember the day of your salvation, because you participated about as in it as the day you were “born”. This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be “born-again” of both water and spirit.
We often can’t make sense of this. I’ve heard people claim that “Baptism” is too generous an event, that Baptism is too easy for “sinners.” The thing about Baptism is you can never be too generous with grace. Baptism works just like when you were an infant, you would lay in your crib all day, dependent on Mom and Dad meeting all your external needs from food to sanitation. This is just like how God acts within Baptism. We have no reason to have to protect the Lord from his own generosity. We merely give thanks for God’s goodness.
Kinley, as you go through life my wish, is that you remember the promises given unto you on the day of your baptism. The day that your sins were washed away (Acts 22:16, Titus 3:5-7), the day that you were incorporated into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13), and the day that you were given a new garment to wear to remind you that from this day forth you will be clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Gal 3:26-27). What makes this such good news to hear is all these things that the Scriptures associate with Baptism are God’s doing never our own.
Kinley as you go forward in life. I wish for you to cling to the promises given to you in Baptism when times get tough. I pray that you draw comfort and peace from your Baptism being a hopeful event. Baptism says that your hope in this life shall come forth from the forgiveness given by a gracious God on this day.
In the Grip of Grace,
 The reading for this Sunday was 1 Samuel 3:1-20.
 This is basically the story of the Book of 1st Samuel which tells the story of Samuel from conception to the death of King Saul.
 Romans 3:24
 Further discussion of John 3 takes place in the 3-23-2014 sermon entitled “Born Againsm” that can be found on the Sychar website.
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Last Week, we were having a brief discussion about sermons here at Sychar during the Board of Worship. During this discussion, I made mention that I was going to be preaching on today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew 3 on the Baptism of Jesus. A suggestion was made that I spend this Sunday speaking about “What Lutherans believe about Baptism”, due to this woman admitting that most of us didn’t pay really good attention during Confirmation.
Yet as soon as I heard the request to speak about what we believe about Baptism in relation to Jesus’ Baptism. I had to state an important point in that the reason that Jesus got baptized at the age of thirty and the reason we get baptized generally as infants; has no connection. When we try to compare Jesus’ Baptism to our own Baptism, we are comparing Apples to Oranges, or life on Mars to life on Earth.
This leads us to the first question for this morning. “Why did Jesus go to John to get baptized?” Was Baptism present in the Old Testament?
Our lesson begins with the following words:
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tries to deter him, saying, I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”-Matthew 3:13-14
Note in these verses John the Baptist’s initial shock at being asked to complete the task of baptizing the Son of God. John considered himself to be unworthy. John didn’t really see how his Baptism applied to Jesus since it was centered on the idea of washing away one’s sinful state; John recognized right away that Jesus wasn’t a typical applicant for his Baptism.
I think as we seek to understand the meaning of Jesus’ Baptism this morning it is helpful to understand the history behind John’s Baptism explained by the Old Testament which helps us understand how we should contrast it from Christian/Lutheran Baptism explained by the New Testament.
One of the big themes within the Old Testament was a huge distinction within worship between those who were clean and unclean. For example if a man touched bodily discharge or fluid that made it’s way to a bed that man would not have been able to enter a worship space without a ritual washing. This ritual washing would always take place in the form of a bath.
Another type of uncleanliness would be disease. In the Book of 2 Kings comes a story that I will eventually test the Confirmation students on where the Syrian Commander Namaan contracts the skin disease of Leprosy. Leprosy would have also kept a person from being welcomed in God’s house. Yet when Namaan seeks to go find the prophet Elisha, Elisha gave Namaan the command to cure his skin condition by dipping himself several times in the Jordan River. At which point Namaan’s Leprosy would be healed in a type of Baptism.
This brings us to John the Baptist. John’s Baptism was quite a bit different than ritual washing as a means to end uncleanliness. John’s Baptism was focused around repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist spent most of his life living in the wilderness, living apart from the traditional spaces of religious worship. John’s outreach was spent mostly reaching out to the lower classes who were the types of people who were often excluded from God’s House on account of their poverty.
The way that people typically had in generations past received the pronouncement of the forgiveness of their sins was they would buy an animal and bring it to the Temple so that the Priest would perform a ceremonial sacrifice on their behalf. But due to the distinction within the Old Testament about clean and unclean an animal had to be inspected and deemed ritually pure before it would constitute an acceptable Temple sacrifice. So buying clean animals was expensive, even today if someone were to visit a Jewish restaurant that keeps Kosher, the food will be more expensive due to the thorough inspection process an animal must undergo to be determined to be clean. The key point about the origins of John’s Baptism is it provided a sharp contrast against the Rabbis of the day by claiming that there was a way to God outside of the Temple system, and outside of traditional religious means.
So this brings us to the question of utmost importance to our lesson in “why was Jesus baptized?’
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”-Matthew 3:15
So we know the reason that Jesus had to get baptized was “to fulfill all righteousness”. There are a few points that need to be stated here.
1. The first point is in regards to the age of Jesus getting baptized at thirty. Our Baptist friends think this is important. I’ve heard the objection to Infant Baptism on more than one occasion that “remember Jesus was baptized as an adult.” This is true (no doubt). But why be baptized at the age of thirty? It couldn’t have been for insufficient religious knowledge. At the age of twelve, Jesus was able to walk into the Temple and amaze the greatest religious scholars of his day. John couldn’t get the reason for Jesus’ Baptism since he saw no sin in him to indicate he was turning over a new leaf in life. It makes no sense that Jesus got baptized as a means of publically stating his faith in front of an audience, since this seemed to be pretty on display at the Temple at the age of twelve. Something else is at work here, perhaps it is explained by the 4TH chapter of Numbers describes thirty being the traditional age to enter the Priesthood. And a couple of additional things that one had to do to properly enter the Priesthood according to the Old Testament were to be washed with water along with anointed with oil to symbolize the blessing of the Holy Spirit. When one digs deeper into this background information. It begins to make sense why we have little to no details of Jesus’ life from the age of two to the age of thirty. His ministry was only going to begin with a proper initiation into it or “a fulfillment of all righteousness.”
2. Jesus’ existence is radically different from ours in that he needed to fulfill the Law such as a proper initiation into the Priesthood. One of the toughest things for Christians and Non-Christians to do is to get the Old Testament to understand its meaning. The Old Testament has a lot of strange laws in its pages. The people of Israel are told not to eat pork, so Jesus didn’t eat pork. The people of Israel are told not to eat Shellfish, so Jesus didn’t’ eat Shellfish. The people of Israel are told not to mix meat with dairy, so Jesus didn’t mix meat with dairy. The Old Testament is filled with all sorts of seemingly strange laws dealing with touching animals, offering proper incense in worship, even mixing fabrics on one’s clothing. Yet the whole point of the Gospel/the Ten Commandments and any other strange law within the Old Testament’s pages is that Christ would end of the demands of the Law. Christians have been set free through to the cross to take confidence in one’s salvation because it is about what God has done for you, not what you must do for God. While there might be plenty of good reasons not to eat a Cheeseburger or Bacon (I can’t think of any, but this is what I’ve heard) because of death and resurrection these reasons have nothing to do with your salvation. This has been recognized since the earliest days of the Christian church.
This leads to a final question. What is the relationship between John’s Baptism and Christian/Lutheran Baptism?
John the Baptist would baptize people several times; John even had followers who underwent daily Baptism rituals. Christian Baptism was different from John’s Baptism in it’s invocation, Christian Baptism always occur in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The difference between John’s Baptism and Christian Baptism is on display in the 19th chapter of the Book of Acts where the Apostle Paul came across some disciples of John the Baptist who had been baptized by John, but had not yet heard of the Holy Spirit. At this point in time, they are rebaptized by Paul in the name, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Paul explained to John’s followers that John’s Baptism was merely pointing the way to one that would come after him in Christ Jesus.
Paul in Romans the 6th chapter states the true nature of Christian Baptism in contrast to John’s Baptism when he says:
“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.”
John the Baptist even drew a distinction between the inadequacy of his baptism and the baptism to come in Christ Jesus when he said:
“That he only baptized with water, but the one to come after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
If one were to seriously study the New Testament they could in no way conclude that Christian/Lutheran Baptism and John’s Baptism served the same purpose or possessed the same meaning. Since Christian Baptism was only given it’s origins through the death and resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The key point to understand the comparison between Jesus’ Baptism and our Baptism is our Baptism has nothing to do with following Christ’s example. Our Baptism is rather centered on the unique promises given by God within Baptism. The declaration given by God is really no different then the declaration which ends our lesson for today.
“This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”-Matthew 3:17.
Christian Baptism is ultimately about the promises of God’s Word. God came down to wash away our sin. Jesus’ Baptism is not our Baptism. Today is the “First Day on the Job” that our Lord undertook to be our savior. The beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus’ Baptism took place to lead to the day when he took our sin unto himself. Christ took on our sin so we may be washed clean in the Baptism into his death that was to come. Amen
 Leviticus 15
 2 Kings 5:1-14
 Numbers 4:3
 Leviticus 8:6, Exodus 29:4- taken from Slick, Matt. “Why Was Jesus baptized?”. CARM. 10.Dec.2008. Web. Jan.8.2014
 Acts 19:1-7
 Romans 6:3-5
 Mark 1:8/Matthew 3:11
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire”- Matthew 3:11.
These words from our Gospel lesson for today which reflects upon the ministry of John the Baptist, how John the Baptist preached in the wilderness encouraging people to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Our Gospel shows how John’s Baptism in being similar set the stage for our own Baptisms. But what exactly do John’s words mean “I have baptized you with water, but he who is to come will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
To reflect upon these words’ meaning, I want to reflect upon the wisdom of one of America’s greatest religious thinkers in Archie Bunker.
For those of you who don’t know Archie Bunker. Archie was the lead character on a very popular TV show “All in the Family” in the 1970’s. Archie Bunker was anything, but polished or politically correct in his thoughts. Some might call him TV’s most lovable bigot as most of the show’s humor revolved around Archie making derogatory comments to those who were of different races, nationalities, sexualities, or held different political views from his own. Archie was the definition of a hothead, who would just say whatever thought popped into his head without regard for the consequences.
When it came to Religion, Archie Bunker was complicated. Archie would frequently assert during the course of the show, how important his Christianity was to him. Yet Archie rarely went to church and when he would go he’d storm off because he wouldn’t like the Minister’s Sermon.
When Archie does finally commit to start attending church, he does everything he can to get out of it, when it starts to conflict with his wishes to attend a Football game. So, why do we reflect on the wisdom of Archie Bunker this morning?
Because in 1976, there was an episode of “All in the Family” that dealt with the Christian understanding of Baptism like no American TV show before or since.
In this episode, Archie gets into a huge argument with his Daughter Gloria and Son-In-Law Michael or Meathead over whether they should have their Baby (Archie's Grandson) Joey baptized. Archie's Son-In-Law Meathead didn't want Joey baptized, “Because Meathead considered himself to be an Atheist”.
When Archie tried reasoning with Meathead, he reminded him that Meathead had been baptized. At which point an angry Meathead cried out “How he renounces his publically renounces his Baptism and it means nothing to him”.
At which point, Archie points out with his normal sense of tactfulness, how this is the stupidest thing he had ever heard. This would be the same thing as Meathead renouncing his belly button, it's impossible to do; just because you say renounce your Baptism doesn't make it so.
This scene brings up all sorts of questions that people have about Baptism. Meathead thinks of Baptism like most people do (Atheists and Christians) alike. It's just a ceremony were water is poured over the head. Sort of a family rite of passage with religious meaning for Michael and many others, Baptism doesn't actually do anything.
For example, when I worked down in Lamberton, I was at the Funeral Home for a Visitation when a guy comes up to me because he heard that I was a Minister. This guy wanted to quiz me or interrogate me.
This guy asks me, “If I actually believe Baptism saves anyone?”
This guy proceeds to tell me it’s more important that someone asks “Jesus into their Heart” as a true measure of their salvation.
Before giving me a chance to respond, perhaps because this guy knew he wasn’t going to like what I had to say.
He then starts quoting from the 3rd Chapter of John of how one needs to be “born-again” of BOTH Water and the Spirit so Baptism isn't enough. How we can't trust in our Baptism to save us.
At this time I pointed out how we I agreed with him that if everyone who is saved must be born-again.
Yet where we differed is when I pointed out how we participate about as much in our Rebirth and as we do in our Natural Birth. Where we disagreed on what it means to be “born-again”. Where as he associated being born-again with a dramatic life-transformation where you overcome your doubt and sin, instead being born-again is the very act of God to create faith and eternal life in the midst of sin and death in the waters of Baptism.
We are not born-again because we are effective Christians; we are born-again when we're rescued from drowning in sin by work of God's own Spirit.
Water by itself means nothing. Yet when water is connected to the promises of the Word of God then new life can come into being.
For the main issue involved in studying Baptism comes down to one fundamental question. This doesn't matter if Lutherans and Baptists are debating whether to Baptize Infants or Meathead is claiming to renounce his Baptism, “Is Baptism the work of God or the work of Man?”
If Baptism is the work of God then it's proper to associate Baptism with salvation. If Baptism is the work of God then one's age or intellectual ability is meaningless. If Baptism is the work of God then the Mark of the Cross upon our forehead given in Baptism is as difficult to take away for who you are as a permanent scare across your own leg. Whereas if Baptism is the work of Man then your Baptism can be declared worthless if you claim to lose your faith like in the case of Meathead.
But what do the scriptures say on these issues.
Titus 3:5-7 states “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
This passage clearly associates the act of Baptism with the work of the Holy Spirit to do wonderful, magical acts in Baptism of renewal and regeneration.
I Peter 3:21 states this truth more explicitly when it states “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.”
One of the most common misunderstandings I here about Baptism is in relation to Confirmation. When people seem to believe that “Confirmation makes Baptism valid” or “Confirmation completes Baptism,” while Confirmation is useful for religious instruction, the celebration of it is little more than a family ceremony or rite of passage.
This is in direct contrast to Baptism where
To quote my good friend Dr. Joe Burgess
“In infant baptism the Word of promise (Our Gospel) produces faith, and such faith is obviously not a decision. Nor is such but a fragment of faith, a kick start, as it were, for the infant receives the Holy Spirit, who cannot be divided into parts and is not merely potentially present. Just as the infant does not potentially receive forgiveness and eternal life, but actually and fully.”
Yet people get nervous if you associate Baptism too closely with Salvation. They say what about professing Atheists like Michael from “All in the Family” who refuses to get even his own kid Baptized? They say what about people who show up for Baptism then you never see them again? What about the nominal Christians like Archie Bunker of the world?
I think part of the problem with all this is we love to hear Grace for ourselves and judgment cast upon everyone else. We're continually wanting to associate God's salvation with our worthiness in some way, shape, or form. Yet the only hope any of us for the gift of eternal life whether we're active Church members or never in attendance is the Grace of God to save whom he wants to save.
God does not save any individual unfairly, God saves every individual he chooses unfairly. If God chooses to save more people through Baptism then we think he should, this is God's business not our own.
So, what do we say about Atheists who have been Baptized years ago like Michael?
It's important to point out that people's faith is often complex.
When people claim to be Atheists they may have been jaded by the church or people in it somewhere along the line. These people then consider themselves to be Atheists. When it's just anger they hold at other people.
Sometimes people claim to be Atheists when they're just plain angry at God. A famous example of this type of Atheist would be Larry Flynt who's the Publisher of Hustler Magazine had a very public conversion to Christianity in the 1970's only to become a very public Atheist after he was shot and permanently paralyzed. Flynt then began cursing God at every turn.
Some teenagers might claim to be Atheists just because they're looking for attention. And it's sometimes tough to differentiate between a person's reality and person's pose.
So, in cases of Atheists like Michael or Meathead, we would never say one's Baptism didn't work since faith was there at some point in time. God did not fail these people. Rather they fell away from the Christian faith due to their own sin, pride, and anger.
As far as a Baptized Atheists' final eternal destination I prefer not to attempt to answer this question. The scriptures clearly state in several places that those “Who do not believe, shall not be saved?”
Yet at the same time-plenty of people have been saved in spite of imperfect beliefs. None of us can ever believe rightly on the basis of our own sin.
So, we always want to stress caution when considering one's final destination, instead we just proclaim the promises of Baptism which are the promises of our Gospel. We might not see magical transformations right away. Yet the power of the Holy Spirit is such that he can breakdown the seemingly most impenetrable of walls. And reach people with the hope that God has claimed them as his own.
Back to the conclusion of this “All in the Family” Episode. Archie comes up with some scheme to get Baby Joey out of the house with him. Once Archie realizes the Minister is going to be of no help with his dilemma. Archie takes the radical next step of sneaking the Baby into the Church himself and bringing his Grandson to the Baptismal Font. Archie then dips his hand in the water and places it over his Grandson Joey's head at he mouths the words “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.
Archie Bunker may have seemed or appeared to be one of the worst people possible to shed light into how Christians understand Baptism. But in reality, he was one of the best. Because Archie wouldn't have thought Baptism was important, if he didn't understand the darkness in his own soul. Archie wouldn't have thought, Baptism was important, if he didn't realize his own powerlessness to change himself. Archie wouldn't have thought, Baptism was important, if he didn't realize how we all fall short of the glory of God. How spiritually dead we all are inside yet within the waters of Baptism, a miracle takes place which washes away our sins and gives us new life.
Why this happens? This makes no sense, other than the love of God who gave his life to save our own and will stop at nothing to bring us into his presence by the power of his Holy Spirit in Water.
For as our Gospel lesson states just as John baptized with Water, the one that came after him in God's own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord has baptized us through water with the Holy Spirit. Amen
 Mark 1:8
 John 3:18, John 3:36
 Romans 3:23
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.