Galatians 3:26,27; Romans 13:14
What an exciting day this is. For those of you who are being baptized, it is scary to give your testimonies, but a wonderful day in which you will be encouraged in your faith and also be encouraged as a person. For parents, it is a great day of rejoicing at what God has done in the life of your child. For us as a church, it is a day when we are grateful that the work we have done in teaching you through SS and youth is bearing fruit. You are demonstrating that you have accepted Christ and you are embracing Christ’s body, the church, and are making a covenant with us as a congregation and we are glad to have you working together with us.
As we so rejoice, it is a good time to think about the meaning of baptism and the commitment which you are making in baptism. When you sign up for a baseball or volleyball team, that has pretty significant implications for the weeks coming. It means that you have made a commitment to attend practices, to stay in shape and to attend the games. In return, you get to enjoy playing the game. When you get a job and agree to work for someone, you make a commitment to be at work when the other person asks, to stay as long as he asks and do what he asks. In return, you get a pay check and enjoy your job. Today you are making a commitment to Christ and to His body the church. What does this commitment mean?
This morning, I would like to look at two passages in the Bible which talk about the commitment and what it means. Galatians 3:26,27 and Romans 13:14 are connected by one word – the word clothed - which helps us understand what baptism means and what the commitment you are making today means.
I invite you to turn to Galatians 3:26,27. These two verses help us understand the meaning of baptism.
When we read in verse 27 that those who are baptized have put on Christ, the question may be raised, “what does baptism do, does baptism save us?” Reading much of the rest of the Bible, including verse 26, we know that it is not baptism or any ritual act which saves us, but rather faith in Christ.
This is particularly important in the context of this passage. The verses preceding this talk about the law and how we are not under the law any more. It is a wonderful and important matter to realize that God has prepared this amazing gift for us. The eternal God who lives in heaven, who does not need anything has nevertheless chosen to create human beings. Even though those human beings have rejected Him, he loves them so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross and raised Him from the dead in order that he could forgive their sins and give them eternal life. God loves you, each one of you who is being baptized today, and each person in this sanctuary today and indeed each person in the world. His love is very great. So great that He is willing to make a deep sacrifice so that you can be free of the guilt of your sin and can have hope in eternal life. We do nothing to earn this tremendous gift. It is given to us by the grace of God and the only thing that we need to do to receive it is to have faith in Jesus. We just need to believe that Jesus is God’s son, that He came to earth to die and rise for us and that He will keep His promise and give us the gift of salvation.
Well if we are saved through faith, then what is the point of baptism? Many times in the Bible, faith and the act of baptism are spoken of in one breath. It almost seems as if they go together. What relationship do faith and baptism have?
We have already established that it is faith which allows us to experience the gift of God. Baptism does not save us, but it is still very important. Baptism is important as a sign of the faith we have. Probably one of the best verses to explain this is Romans 10:9,10, where we read, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” This verse helps us understand that faith is demonstrated to be real when it is declared. We can say we believe, but if we do not declare it to others, if we do not make it known, it remains by itself and we can change our mind and there is a question whether it is real. When we are baptized, we are making the declaration to everyone that faith is real in us.
Declared our faith through baptism not only demonstrates that it is real, it also helps us stand firm on it. If I decide to dye my hair red, I can decide and undecided without any implication because the resolve was just in my own mind. If, on the other hand, I tell others I am going to die my hair red, then if I don’t keep that resolve, they will ask me about it and wonder why I didn’t keep the word I made. When you are baptized, you are making your commitment public and it helps you keep the commitment you have made.
We are saved through faith and demonstrate that faith through baptism.
But the verse isn’t about that commitment. Baptism is assumed, it is in the past for those to whom this is written because it says, “all of you who were baptized…” The exciting part of this verse is what happens to us when we are baptized. These verses tell us two things that are true about the person who has been baptized.
First of all, we are told that by this act we become children of God.
The word “all” is important in this context. In verse 28, we find that there is no one excluded. Previously, the path to God was severely restricted and Jewish people had a definite advantage in getting to God. Now, however, that advantage is removed and all people, no matter which nationality, are able to be children of God. There are also no restrictions regarding economic and social status or gender. All…every person who has faith is a child of God.
And what a blessing to be called children of God! It means that we belong to God’s family. Every family has parents and our parent, our Father is God Himself. Today there are many families in which “father” is not a very good image. But if we think of the best image of a father, the one who cares for us, supports and protects us, helps us and guides us, then we can be very glad that God, the creator of all things is our Father. We belong to Him and can come to Him and know that He will always care for us. It means that Jesus Christ is our brother, because He is “the Son of God.” Just as brothers can communicate, fellowship and support each other, we can enter into that kind of a relationship with our brother, Jesus. It also means that we are brothers and sisters with each other and of course that has many implications for the blessing of being family.
When we become Christians, we become children of God.
Verse 27 gives us another blessing regarding what happens when we are baptized through faith in Christ. It says that we are clothed with Christ.
The verb tense in this passage is indicative, which means that it indicates what is. That is a wonderful thought. We aren’t talking about a possibility, about a hope or a wish. When we are baptized, we have put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to be clothed with Christ?
Clothing is close to us, it hangs right next to our skin. We don’t generally carry clothing, we wear it. What a wonderful picture of our relationship to Christ. When we are baptized, when we have declared our faith to the world, we put on Christ and He is close to us. Wherever we are, He is right there with us.
Clothing covers us. When clothes was first introduced in Genesis, it was used to cover the shame of Adam and Eve’s nakedness. We still use it for that. Sometimes people use clothing to make themselves look better, to protect themselves from the sun or the rain or even to change the way they look. Being clothed with Christ means that the shame of our sinful self is covered and God sees Jesus and therefore sees us as clean and pure and Jesus protects us from the wrath of God.
Clothing identifies us. Have you ever been in a crowd of people looking for a friend? One of the first things you may do is look for the clothing that he is wearing. If he has a distinctive jacket, you can quickly spot your friend by the jacket. To be clothed with Christ means that we can be identified by Christ. People can see Christ in us. Clothing is often the first thing people see about us. When we are in Christ, He is the first thing that people see about us.
So what do we look like when we are clothed with Christ? Very simply put, Jesus is with us wherever we are and wherever we go, people see Jesus in us. We manifest the presence of Jesus everywhere. We are aglow with compassion! We are covered with holiness! We are always manifesting the presence of Christ.
This is where faith in Christ and baptism are so different than any other commitment we may enter into. The clothes of a policeman identify him as a cop. When he takes his uniform off, we don’t know that he is a policeman. When we are baptized, we are identified with Christ so that He goes with us wherever we go. When we put on our work clothes, we go to work, and we are engaged in those activities, but when work is over, we take off the coveralls and we leave our place of work. When we are baptized, however, we are always Christ’s and He is always with us to support, encourage, guide and help us.
Being clothed with Christ is a close relationship that is constant in our whole life. Our life is no longer ours, we belong to Christ. We are never alone again, He is always with us. We are Christ wherever we go.
There was a practice at one time in which the person who was baptized would come to the baptism wearing old, dirty clothes. Then after the baptism, he would put on a brand new suit of clothes and get rid of the old clothes. What a wonderful picture of what is happening to each of you who is being baptized today. You are declaring that you have put off the old self and are, from now on, clothed with Christ.
May each of you who are being baptized realize just how significant and how wonderful that reality is. May we all realize just how amazing it is that we are clothed with Christ. This is what is. This is the present reality. We have put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
But we live in a world of darkness. If you turn to Romans 13, you will see that in verses 11-13 it speaks about that world of darkness and the negative influence it has. In the darkness, there is all kinds of evil. It is opposite to the holiness and compassion which is found in Christ. In the world the darkness permeates the hearts of people who are ignorant of God and do not go to God for help. Instead, they engage in deeds of darkness. Verse 13 lists some of the behaviour in the world of darkness. This week in the news one day, they talked about the pervasive attitudes of young people who as young as grade 7 begin to drink and by high school are frequently drinking to excess. This is the darkness this verse talks about. The verse also indicates that darkness is characterized by sexual immorality and by dissension and jealousy.
What a difference from a person clothed with Christ! Clearly a person clothed with Christ should not behave like those in the darkness, rather, we are told “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now isn’t that interesting!? In Galatians 3:27, we had the same word, “clothe” in the indicative, to tell us that is what we are, we are clothed with Christ. Now, we have that same word, “clothe” but this time it is in the imperative. We are told to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not something which is, it is something we are to do. How can that be? If we have put on our pants and shirt, we cannot put them on again? If we are already dressed, we cannot put on the same clothing. How can we be told to put on Christ, when we are already clothed with Christ?
That is the anomaly of the Christian life. With us, somehow both are possible. We are clothed with Christ, but we keep taking Him off? Does that mean He isn’t with us any more? No, He is always with us, He always is working in us, but sometimes His manifest presence, the characteristics of His life are not with us any more because we hide them in the darkness, we remove the evidence of Christ from us by our disobedience and our carelessness. So while it is true that we have been clothed with Christ, it is also true that we must keep on putting on Christ. The second part of the verse, which makes reference to the sinful nature, helps us understand this dilemma. Because of the freedom which God gives us, it is possible for us to yield to the sinful nature which was so much a habit with us before we put on Christ. When we do, we no longer look like Christ, but walk in darkness instead. Therefore, the command is to put on Christ.
How do we obey the command to clothe ourselves with Christ? One answer to that question is found in the second part of the verse. There we are told that discipline in our minds is critical. We need to make choices about where we let our minds wander. We are told “not to think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” The secret of victorious Christian living is found in this passage. Let me suggest some very practical ways to do that.
1. Keep on remembering who you are and how you were bought with a price. Keeping your eyes on Jesus and His sacrifice and the great gift you have received will help you stay close to Christ. Discuss with others the wonder of God’s work.
2. Discipline your mind and do not allow it to dwell on temptations and sinful thoughts. If you distract yourself from paths that lead away from God by keeping busy with good things that is a helpful way to victory. Learn to know when and where you are susceptible to temptation and if you keep distracted at those times, you will be able to gain victory.
3. Find someone who can help you be accountable. If you know that someone is going to ask you about a particular temptation, it helps you to overcome.
These things work because we have been clothed with Christ. In the deepest part of our hearts, because we are clothed with Christ, we want to live in righteousness and so doing such things will help give us victory and follow the command to clothe ourselves with Christ.
So as you are being baptized today, it is our prayer that you will understand the amazing thing that is happening to you today. Making a public statement about identity with Christ, is a powerful thing. You are putting on Christ.
As you make this powerful identification, we want to encourage you to keep on putting on Christ. Always remember who you are and always seek to be what you are.
In these three verses, Christ is mentioned four times. He is at the center of what is happening to you today and we want to encourage you to keep Him at the center of who you are from day to day, from here on.