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Reflections on Baptism Part 4


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BAPTISM - THE DIVINE LIFE IN US Part 4



When Jesus emerged from the water, after having been baptized by John, there was a revelation from the Father:
And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:17)
This foreshadows the reality of those who are baptized. We become adoptive sons of God after baptism. We become sons of the King, we are incorporated into the Kingdom of Christ having been incorporated into the King himself in baptism.

From this moment of baptism we have a constant companion who never tires to say to each one of us as we journey through life
I have chosen you and not cast you off’; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:9, 10)
In baptism we hand our lives over to Christ and he offers us his life in exchange. Our humanity is elevated to the divine in baptism! What greater dignity could we ever have? It is in the power of the divine that we live our daily lives. Do you want access to that power?

We often hear people say Jesus Christ yes, the church no. Presumable they look at Christ and see perfection, the fullness of the Godhead, they see his infinite love, his perfect, humble life-style and then focus on the church with all its imperfections and see how far the church is from coming up to the standards of Christ. They are, of course, right in seeing the enormous difference between Christ and the members of the Church. There is and there will always be this difference. It is the difference between God and man. It has to do with that infinite gap that exists between the logic and ways of God and those of man. Man is operating within the fallen human condition (see Genesis 3). God lies outside of that condition; in fact he is saving us precisely from that condition in order to transform us into his likeness, to be ever united to him. This is a gradual process, a growth, a journey on which we all embark after baptism. Some are at the beginning of that journey, some in the middle and some at the end and most are somewhere in between these three stages. Even in the small group of disciples that Jesus had chosen, one betrayed him for money, another denied he knew him and all fled at the time Jesus was arrested. Not an ideal bunch, to say the least. And these were the choice of Jesus who knew what was in the heart of each. He also knew their potential, what they could become as they became focused on him, as they journeyed with him. We, too, should focus not on what we are now but what we shall become, like him. This journey ‘in Christ’ is possible only after baptism.

We have seen that we are baptized into Christ, united with him and everything he has is ours and we gradually allow the Holy Spirit to work that out in our lives. We are baptized in Christ and in the Church. Jesus identified himself so intimately with his followers, who make up the Church, that the Church is called the body of Christ:
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
Christ and the Church Christ founded are inseparable. That is why the church is both a church of sinners (made up of imperfect men) and also a church of saints (believers incorporated into Christ). We have been sanctified in Christ and are called to be or become saints; this is our life’s journey, being conformed to the ‘Holy one of God’ (Mark 1:24), becoming what he is.

It follows that when we are baptized into Christ we are also baptized into the body of Christ, his church, the church that he himself founded and for which he died. We become members of that body. It is interesting to note that Paul compared the Church to the body of Christ, not to the soul or spirit of Christ. The church is something tangible, concrete, recognizable and with historical continuity, not only a spiritual reality. As man is a unified being so is the church. It is not a disembodied spiritual reality neither is it a soulless, spiritless tangible reality. The church of Christ has developed, continually through history and is heir to the promise of Christ that the gates shall not prevail against it.

Jesus so identifies with the Church he founded that he could say:
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
When Saul was persecuting the young Church of Jesus he clearly asked why he was persecuting him. The Church and he are one, they are inseparable.
Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (Acts 9:3-5)
Whatever is done to the Church Jesus founded is done to him, whether it be good or bad.

It is as sons of God, our Father, that we come together to form a family bound together by the power of the Holy Spirit and by that love that Christ pours into our hearts, agape, and from which no one and no thing can separate us, not even death. So let us all come together to be that family we were meant to be “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)


Robert Walsh

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