4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
This morning we have the privilege of baptizing Samuel Seitz into the faith. As I do so, it is beneficial to consider the meaning and significance of our baptisms. Christ sent His disciples into the world to disciple the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. So what is the significance of these baptisms? Baptism says something about us and baptism says something about God.
First, baptism says something about us. Baptism declares, in no uncertain terms, that we are sinners in need of salvation by Christ. We are dirty and our filth must be washed away. And the baptism of infants announces the sober reality of original sin. On one occasion, the theologian John Gerstner was a visiting preacher and was asked to baptize one of the infants of the church. They explained to him one of their local traditions – prior to the baptism, the minister would give a white rose to the parents. Gerstner, of course, wanted to know why. They replied that the rose symbolized the innocence of the child. In his pithy way, Gerstner replied, “Then what’s the point of the water?” Baptism announces that we all, even infants who are not yet old enough to know their right hand from their left, are born in sin. By nature, we are all subject to God’s just wrath and curse. Baptism, therefore, reveals something about us – that we are sinners in need of salvation by Christ – only He can save us, not we ourselves.
Second, baptism says something about God. It announces that God has graciously provided a way of salvation, a way to be cleansed of our sin, cleansed of our corruption – both the original sin with which we are born and the personal sins that we ourselves begin to practice. God has provided a sacrifice to cover the guilt of our sin in the Person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism reveals something about God – His forgiving grace through Jesus Christ.
And the baptism of infants declares something further about God’s grace. Infant baptism proclaims that His grace is not confined to atomistic individuals but extends itself to families, from generation to generation on those who fear Him. In baptism, God Himself speaks to our children. He promises them that He will be their God and the God of their children after them. Notice our text today:
For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
What is God like? What is His character? He is a God who shows mercy to thousands of generations of those who love Him. So Mary, the mother of our Lord, sang in her Magnificat: “For God’s mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). In our baptisms, God summons us to believe His Word by loving Him and keeping His commandments.
Baptism, therefore, reveals something about us – our sin; but it also reveals something about God – His abounding grace. And so reminded this morning that baptism proclaims our sinful corruption and our sinful actions and our need for the forgiving grace of God in Christ, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.