Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
6 October, 2013
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This morning the divine, sublime mystery of the Holy Trinity was distilled down to one simple sentence that makes sense to even the youngest of children: Adian, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Three distinct persons, one shared name from one divine Essence. Three in one. One in three.
Although, Baptism doesn’t end with the divine name. Jesus’ mandate for Holy Baptism goes on. While you are going from here, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have taught you. Baptism and teaching go hand in hand, and is the way of making disciples.
In the first three chapters of St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, he plumbs the depths of the divine mystery of salvation as a work of the Holy Trinity. And the more you read through Ephesians, the more you realize that when you wring it, that divine mystery is water-logged with baptismal waters. There is a constant echo in this letter: in Christ, in Him, in the Beloved, in Jesus. Salvation is in Jesus, and the way to get in Jesus is to be baptized into Jesus, into His name.
After exploring this divine mystery, St. Paul then tells you what it is to be a participant in it. Today’s Epistle begins at verse 22, but you really need the three previous verses to set the stage. But you did not learn Christ this way, if indeed you heard Him and were taught in Him, since there is truth in Jesus, (4:20-21). St. Paul makes a distinction between the way of the Gentile—the way of the unbeliever, and what you have learned in Christ. This truth in Jesus is that
Baptism Is the Place Where You Are Stripped of an Old Man and Clothed in a New Man
So, what did you learn of Christ, what did you hear from Him and what were you taught in Him? The teaching that goes hand in hand with Holy Baptism is the unfolding of baptism, like the blooming of a flower in spring. What does it mean to be baptized into Jesus? The first part of baptism is that the Old Man is stripped from you when the Holy Spirit drives you to repent of your natural lusts and deceits.
St. Paul writes that to learn of Christ is to be taught to be stripped of the former manner of life, the Old Man who is being corrupted according to lusts and deceits (v 22). Who, or what, is the Old Man? The Old Man is your natural, sinful nature in Adam. St. Paul describes it thusly: Therefore, this I am saying and bearing witness to you in the Lord, to no longer walk, just as the Gentiles are walking in the aimlessness of their understanding, having been darkened in their thinking, having been alienated of the life of God through their ignorance of hearing among them, on account of the callousness of their hearts, every one of them having ceased to feel guilt and giving themselves over to debauchery toward the working of impurity in lust (4:17-19).
The Old Man is aimless in understanding, following any teaching that sounds vaguely spiritual. His thinking and understanding is darkened because He is alienated from the life of God, in whom is light. He is alienated because his heart is callous to the Word of God, he is ignorant of hearing. Because he shuts his ears to God’s Word, he ceases to even feel the guilt that is upon him, and gives himself over to lawless living, which is his natural lust and desire.
The Old You, however, is not your essence. You are not your sin. But your sinful nature clings to you tenaciously. It adheres and inheres to you—body and soul. It’s not as if you can simple strip the Old You as you would strip off sweaty workout clothes. You need something stronger.
Water is called the universal solvent because it has the unique dissolves so many things. But water alone cannot strip off the Old You, nor can anything you can find on this earth. But when the Word of God is added to the water, it takes on a caustic nature for the Old Man in Adam. Baptismal waters strip the Old Man from you more thoroughly than any earthly solvent, because the Word of God penetrates to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
You cannot strip yourself of the Old You; it’s a work of the Holy Spirit. You cannot rehabilitate, reform, or modify his behavior. He must be stripped from you and drowned in baptismal waters. This is the first part of the teaching of Holy Baptism: that your old manner of life, your natural lusts and sins are to be drowned in the font.
Though Holy Baptism strips you of the Old Man in Adam, the Holy Spirit does not leave you spiritually bare and exposed before God. There is a second part of the washing of regeneration and renewal: and to be clothed with the New Man, who in conformity with God is being created in righteousness and piety of the truth (v 24).
If the Old Man is your sinful nature in Adam, who is this New Man? He is not something you generate from within yourself, far from it. St. Paul addressed who the New Man is earlier in His epistle. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were at one time far off have become near in the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who has made both one, and the dividing wall of separation He has pulled down, the hostility in His flesh, the Law of commandments in dogma being rendered ineffective in order that He would create in Himself the two into one New Man, making peace, and reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, putting to death the hostility in Him (2:13-16).
The New Man is in Christ, who became man to reconcile man to God. He is the One who tore down the dividing wall of hostility—which is your sin—by accepting the hostility of the Law in His flesh. The New Man is when you are joined to Christ, the two becoming one.
You are clothed with the New Man by Holy Baptism. In Christ means that you are baptized into Christ. St. Paul speaks of the New Man as if he is a new suit of clothes. A perfectly tailored suit of clothes conforms to your body. The sleeves are the perfect length, the waist just right, the collar a perfect two fingers; the clothes move with you. But after a long football season of too many hot wings and salty pretzels, you might have to get the waist let out a bit, or get one of those collar extenders. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a perfectly tailored suit of clothes which conformed your body to it when you put them on?
That is the New Man in Christ. You are conformed to the Son of God by virtue of Holy Baptism. Your righteousness is because of His righteousness. Your piety is because of His perfect submission to the Law. Your good works are His good works that He has provided for you—before the foundation of the world, in order that you would walk in them, in Him.
Just as stripping the Old Man is the work of the Holy Spirit, so also is putting on the New Man. He does so by delivering to you the Word of Absolution, your forgiveness for the sake of Christ. Forgiveness is what makes you right with God. Forgiveness is what makes you fit for the body of Christ. Forgiveness is what makes you holy and blameless.
In between the stripping of the Old Man and putting on the New Man, St. Paul also includes this: to be continually renewed by the Spirit of your understanding (v 23). Holy Baptism isn’t a one-time event in your history. It’s the continual renewing of your mind, of your understanding. It’s the Spirit’s continual work on you, stripping off the Old Man, and clothing you with the New Man.
How is this accomplished? Through daily contrition and repentance that drowns your old, sinful nature in confession, and the forgiveness and absolution that raises you up again to new life in the body of Christ, the Church. Therefore, having been stripped of the lie, continue speaking this truth with your neighbors, because we are members of one another (v 25).
And so St. Paul returns to the Psalms: Be angry and sin not. Do not let the sun set on your angry mood, neither give a place for the devil (vv 26-27). His quotation of Psalm 4 shows that the life of the baptized is an ongoing, continual stripping off of the Old Man, an ongoing continual clothing of the New Man. At the same time, you exist in these two natures. Be angry and sin not. Even when the Old You takes hold again, return to your baptism. Confess your sins, rejoice that you are a new creation in Christ.
Today a new Adian was raised from the font, because He was baptized into the name of Jesus. Today a New You is being recreated by the working of the Holy Spirit, who strips off the Old You to clothe you again in the one New Man, the Righteous One, Jesus Christ.
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard