(Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Vol.1. part 27) The Relation of Holy Baptism to the Sacrifice of Christ Lord's Day 26 Psalter No. 241 st. 1, 2,3 Read Matt. 28 Psalter No. 143 st. 2,3 Psalter No. 425 st. 5 Psalter No. 277 st. 3,4,5 Beloved, The Fifty-first Psalm is one of the penitential songs of King David. He, the man after God's own heart, had fallen into very great sins. He not only took Urijah's wife, but moreover, to cover his sin in the eyes of the people, he killed her husband with the sword of the children of Ammon. He ignored that sin for nine or ten months until the prophet Nathan came to him and caused him to pronounce his own death sentence. After he heard the story of the rich man taking his neighbor's ewe lamb, David condemned the rich man to die. Then Nathan said, "Thou art the man." God's people cannot live in sin; that means they cannot find their enjoyment, their pleasure, their life in sin anymore. "How shall we", says Paul, "live in sin if we are raised with Christ?" "Although the weakness of the flesh cannot prevail against the power of God, who confirms and preserves true believers in a state of grace, yet converts are not always so influenced and actuated by the Spirit of God, as not in some particular instances sinfully to deviate from the guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by, and comply with the lusts of the flesh" (Canons of Dort, 5th Head, Art. 4), and are drawn to grievous and terrible sins. David, Peter, and others written in the Scriptures prove this. With such gross sins they provoke God greatly, they become guilty of death, they grieve the Holy Spirit, break off for a time the exercise of faith, seriously wound their conscience, and sometimes lose the feeling of faith for a season. This caused David to confess in Psalm 32, "When I kept silence (namely, about my sins, and did not confess them before God) my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah." Even if God's people are kept from committing such sins as are named in Scripture, they do not remain strangers of such sad conditions. They are dark times in their lives. How can they get out of that condition? The message, "Thou are the man," came to David. God does not take His Holy Spirit entirely away from His people. They cannot fall out of the state of grace and justification. "By His Word and Spirit, He certainly and effectually renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins, that they may seek and obtain remission in the blood of the Mediator, may again experience the favour of a reconciled God" (Canons of Dort, 5th Head Art. 7.). God remains the Faithful One; unchangeable is His love with which He loves His people according to His sovereign good pleasure. The righteousness merited for them by Christ precludes their ever again becoming objects of God's wrath, not even when His Fatherly displeasure rests upon them. Therefore He shall redeem them again and sanctify them in the blood and by the Spirit of Christ so that they shall "more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling." For both justification and sanctification are benefits of the irrevocable testament of grace which is of force in the death of the Testator, is bequeathed to God's elect and is promised to them in the gospel. Yea, to that gospel it has pleased the Lord to bind the sacraments as seals of His unchangeable faithfulness. In them the benefits are confirmed to God's people as we shall now hear in the twenty-sixth Lord's Day, in which Holy Baptism is explained as assuring them that the eternal sacrifice accomplished on the cross is for their benefit. In that Lord's Day the Instructor says: Q. 69: How art thou admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to thee? A. Thus: That Christ appointed this external washing with water, adding thereto this promise, that I am as certainly washed by His blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as I am washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away. Q. 70: What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ? A. It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ's blood, which He shed for us by His sacrifice upon the cross; and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and unblamable lives. Q. 71: Where has Christ promised us, that He will as certainly wash us by His blood and Spirit, as we are washed with the water of baptism? A. In the institution of baptism, which is thus expressed: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost", "he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned." This promise is also repeated, where the scripture calls baptism the washing of regeneration, and the washing away of sins. In Lord's Day 26, Holy Baptism is considered in relation to the sacrifice of Christ, and that as Holy Baptism I admonishes and assures us of the benefit of Christ's sari tics; II explains the washing away of sins by Christ's sacrifice; III in its relationship to Christ's sacrifice is founded upon the promise of God. The previous Lord's Day spoke about the means of grace in general, about the Word and the sacraments. For the Holy Spirit uses both of these means in the heart of the elect, the Word to work faith, and both Word and the sacraments to strengthen faith. That is the value of the means of grace, they themselves cannot grant faith, but God the Holy Spirit in His sovereign work wants to use them. In Lord's Day 25 the Catechism finished the discussion of the preaching of the gospel, but a very extensive explanation of the sacraments follows in no less than five Lord's Days, of which two the 26th and the 27th speak of baptism and the next three of the Lord's Supper. That extensive discussion shows that our fathers deemed the right doctrine of the sacraments of very great importance. Let us then give close attention so that we may understand something of the explanation offered us. Lord's Day 26 starts the discussion of baptism, to be continued in Lord's Day 27, and extended to include infant baptism. We must now consider baptism in relation to Christ's sacrifice and that as baptism in the first place admonishes and assures us of the benefit of Christ's sacrifice. In the very first place Lord's Day 26 asks, "How art thou admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to thee?" That question asks about the benefit of Christ's sacrifice of which baptism admonishes and assures us. Christ's sacrifice is the ground of salvation; because of that sacrifice sinners are justified. But that sacrifice must be applied to us, otherwise it is of no real advantage to us. That application must be wrought by the Holy Spirit, and embraced by faith. Baptism, it is hardly necessary to say, cannot apply that sacrifice. Nevertheless in baptism, there lies an admonition and assurance of the real advantage of Christ's sacrifice for God's elect - an admonition to seek salvation in Christ alone, and an assurance for all doubting souls that they may find rest in Christ. How does baptism grant that admonition and assurance? "Thus, that Christ appointed this external washing with water, adding thereto this promise, that I am as certainly washed by His blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as I am washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away." Hence, baptism is a washing with water. The sign is common water that can symbolize cleansing in Christ's blood, as under the Old Covenant much ceremonial washing was done with common water to cleanse the seed of Jacob according to the law of Moses. That washing also pointed to Jesus' blood as the fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. Here, too, Rome is wrong when it departs from the use of common water and uses water dedicated by the bishop on Holy Saturday, thus seeking virtue in the signs, and making the Word of God of none effect. "Baptism is a washing with water", says the Catechism, an external washing. That, of course, refers to the sign. The thing signified, the value of Holy Baptism as a whole, is no less than Christ's blood and Spirit. The instructor first explains the external sign, which is nothing but an external washing. Thus John administered baptism with common water in Jordan. That baptism of John was from heaven; essentially it was like our baptism. John was sent by God to baptize (John 1:33) and his baptism was done by divine command, and differed from the baptism of proselytes, familiar in Israel, for those who would be incorporated out of heathendom into Israel. The baptism of John was essentially one with the sacrament of the New Testament and a sign and seal of the remission of sins. That oneness is evident from the fact that the Lord Jesus allowed John to baptize Him. This would not have happened if the baptism of John did not have the value of the sacrament of the New Covenant. Scripture nowhere makes a difference between the baptism of John and that commanded by Christ in Matt. 28. The Catholic Council of Trent, however, condemned those who teach that the baptism of John has the same value as the sacrament of the New Testament. They teach that the baptism administered by John was but a mere ceremony. An appeal to Acts 19:1-7 has no value for this assertion. There Luke tells us that Paul found twelve disciples at Ephesus who said they had been baptized "unto John's baptism" but they had not even heard that there was a Holy Ghost. Paul was said to have baptized them again, which he would not have done if the baptism of John had been a true baptism. However, we do not read that Paul baptized them again. The marginal notes state that the fifth verse speaks of the baptism by John. "When they heard this (of John) they were baptized (by John) in the name of the Lord Jesus." Paul did not baptize them again, but by the laying on of hands by Paul they received the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost which were unknown to them till this time. In no case can the Catholic church appeal to Acts 19 to prove their contention that the baptism of John was essentially different from the baptism of the New Covenant. It was the same baptism of repentance and remission of sins. Baptizing was done by immersion or by sprinkling with clean water, both forms of administration having the same meaning. Thus we repeatedly read of sprinkling. To mention just a few in Ezek. 36:25 the Lord says, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean." Paul writes in Hebrews 12:24 about the blood of the Lord Jesus as the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel; and to mention no more, Peter speaks of the "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Wouldn't the baptism of the family of the jailer and of Cornelius, the centurion of Cesarea have been done by sprinkling? The Christian church has acknowledged that sprinkling is not contrary to the institution of baptism by Christ. Only a few sects who seek to cover their errors by insisting on immersion have rejected sprinkling; but the Christian church has never, neither before nor after the Reformation disapproved of sprinkling, and that is the mode used in all Reformed churches, whether the sprinkling is done once or thrice. Baptism may take place only once. When our fathers were delivered from the Catholic heresy in the Reformation they did not repeat baptism, provided it was administered in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by an ordained person. Baptism in the extremity which the Catholics use is rejected, because a private person is not qualified to act in the Name of a triune God. We hope to consider this further in the next Lord's Day. The Lord Himself has instituted this external washing to admonish and assure His people of the profit of His sacrifice. In that institution Christ promised "that I am as certainly washed by His blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as I am washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away." Now consider the submersion under the water as is done in immersion or is symbolized in sprinkling. This submersion can show us that we are lying entirely under sin, that the uncleanness of our soul polluted us totally; that we are objects of God's wrath even from the hour of our conception. Oh, how God's people must agree to that! How deeply they learn to bow under the justice of God, as deserving eternal death; and what deep sorrow they have because of their sinfulness; how they must strive, not only against sin in the world, but also against themselves; and with how many sighs they long to be washed from all their sins so that they may perfectly serve and glorify God. God has promised His children that, and that promise is the ground of their hope which reaches out to perfect glory. But that hope is subject to doubts and conflicts. Now God wants to strengthen them, not only by giving a visible representation of the cleansing by His blood and of the washing away of all their sins, but also by sealing the promise of that blessing to them. Water takes away the filthiness of the body. Thus Christ's blood cleanses from all sins and brought about an eternal reconciliation. May we be enabled to look upon baptism with an eye of faith and embrace it in our heart. In baptism Christ seals His promise of perfect cleansing for His people. What a comfort for those who are sad because of their sins! Come now, you who are grieving in heart and mourning in spirit; here Christ Himself testifies that He will cleanse your unclean soul and can and shall do it in His blood as He seals it. That is the relationship that lies between holy baptism and Christ's sacrifice: that baptism admonishes and assures you of the profit that comes to your soul from that sacrifice. How long we wander about outside of Christ! He never turned anyone away. He invited the wretched and the wicked that He might glorify His grace in them. God's people learn to know themselves as wicked sinners. Yes, already in the moment that God arrests them and shows them their guilt, but more and more, as the Holy Ghost shows them the wickedness of their heart. No, evil does not lie in the outward things; we are inwardly corrupt, leprous from the crown of our head to the sole of our feet. How grievous sin then becomes, how it hurts! How we hasten to be delivered from sin. Whatever means are tried, all are ineffective to cleanse the soul. The situation becomes worse instead of better. Oh, how God's holiness burns upon them as a consuming fire. Yes, the debt must be paid, but their sins must also be washed away. Christ promises in the gospel and seals it in baptism that His blood takes away the sins of His people; all the sins, that are so great and so grievous, which they must wrestle against all their lives, but cannot completely conquer in this life. There are indeed, times when the way to heaven seems to be a procession, and they explain the going from strength to strength as if this consisted in growing steadily according to the desires of their soul. But when they are led deeper into what it is to be saved by grace and by grace alone, they learn to know the path of life so different. The way to heaven is a recession; sins that were thought dead arise and become strong, and oppress them as the nations that remained in Canaan could terribly oppress Israel. It can never be explained what great evil has been erected in the city of Man-Soul, and what God's children suffer because of it in this life. Hear and see what Christ is for His own. The most advanced in grace lacks the power to slay even one sinful thought, to cleanse his heart from one wicked sin; the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. In baptism God gave His seal to that promise for His people and for them only. Oh, would that people flee to that blood! However black they may be, here by faith is cleansing and mortification of sin. God grant them to look away from everything outside of Christ, and being constantly in communion with the sacrifice of Christ sealed in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, to know themselves perfect in Him, so that they may also understand the language of self-knowledge and the language of faith as the bride, "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon." Baptism then admonishes and assures the believers that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to them. To that end the Lord Himself appointed this external washing with water. His disciples baptized already when He was on earth. He Himself did not baptize. John declares this in the beginning of the fourth chapter of his gospel, where he writes, "that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples)." His disciples baptized in His presence, at His command, and with His approbation. Before Christ ascended to heaven (we will consider this in the last question), He commanded His disciples to go to all nations, teaching and baptizing them. By virtue of that institution the external washing with water has a sealing power, and baptism is more than an outward mark of distinction between Christians and heathens. Let the congregations beware of this Zwinglian-Remonstrant superficiality. Baptism seals to us the washing away of our sins by the blood and Spirit of Christ. No, not for everyone that is baptized, not every baptized person is or becomes a partaker of the sacrifice of Christ, far from it! Baptism in itself cannot wash away sins. Those who not only receive the external sign but also by faith may know Christ savingly: to them the Lord by baptism will seal the washing away of their sins to their spiritual edification in the strengthening of faith. The Catechism shows further how great the benefit is that is sealed by baptism when he shows what baptism teaches of the washing away of sin in the sacrifice of Christ. With this we come to our second main thought. II The second question of Lord's Day 26 reads, "What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?" The answer of the instructor points to two benefits that are sealed by baptism, namely justification and sanctification. These two benefits that must be carefully distinguished but never separated, if we would avoid the Catholic manner of mixing the two, are also bound together in the sacrament of baptism in the washing of our souls by Christ; for this is the answer explaining what it is to be washed by the blood and Spirit of Christ: "It is to receive of God the remission of sins freely, for the sake of Christ's blood, which He shed for us by His sacrifice upon the cross; and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and unblamable lives." The remission of sins mentioned here takes place in justification; to be renewed and sanctified takes place in sanctification. By reason of our fall God's righteousness counts us guilty to all His commandments, and demands perfect satisfaction in the execution of the punishment commensurate to the sin. Moreover, sin corrupted us in soul and body, so that God's spotless holiness can have no communion with man, but is to him as devouring fire and everlasting burnings. If ever one who fell in Adam is to be reinstated in the favour and communion with God, it is necessary (a) that God's righteousness is satisfied, and (b) that he himself is washed and sanctified. Both of these benefits are in Christ and are sealed in baptism for God's people. In the first place the instructor says that being washed in Christ is to receive remission of sins. Remission! Oh no, this does not mean that God merely ignores sin, and treats the sinner as though nothing has happened. We may forgive our fellow men thus, but God as Judge cannot relinquish His justice. When He forgives sin, His justice must first be satisfied. He Himself has rendered satisfaction to His incorruptible justice, and imputes it by grace to the elect, but guilty sinner. Man can not pay even one earthing, but on the contrary, he increases the guilt all the time. God grants the wretched, condemnable sinner the only righteousness that can stand before Him and that was brought about by Himself in the sacrifice of Christ. Because of that righteousness that gave perfect satisfaction to the justice of God, God the Father acquits the guilty sinner and forgives him all his sins. Being washed by the blood and Spirit of Christ includes this benefit, that by grace, God forgives sins for the blood of Christ. Once Christ placed Himself in the stead of His elect. Although He had or knew no sin, was counted guilty for the sins of His people that were laid upon Him. When He cried out, "It is finished", He testified that He had satisfied the justice of God, so that His people would be acquitted as it was freely declared in Him, when God the Father raised Him from the dead. For He "was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." "Who then shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again." This benefit of perfect acquittal of guilt and punishment, this unspeakable blessing of the remission of sins lies in being washed in the blood of Christ. That benefit of justification is imputed to God's people when faith is planted in their heart in regeneration, and becomes clearer to them as faith is exercised. We cannot presently say more about justification. Lord's Day 23 discusses this benefit of faith. Let it suffice here to remark how great the significance is of the sacrament of Holy Baptism, and what is sealed to God's children in baptism. Oh, that our eyes might be opened more also for the sacraments. God did not give His Word and the sacraments in vain. He will strengthen the faith of His people by the means He has given them. He testifies to His people who know themselves to be guilty, that they are as surely washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ, as they are externally washed with water. Thus atonement for their sins has been made, and their soul is righteous before God in Christ. This is the cause of much strife in the hearts of many. Their guilt before God felt in their soul, calls for eternal condemnation. In their state of nature they did not realize it. Then they walked on as if neither death nor hell threatened them. God summoned them before His judgment seat, and declared them guilty to all His commandments. Oh, since then they find no rest day or night. Death is at their heels; God's justice must be satisfied, and whatever they try, all is insufficient. They must agree that they deserve the death sentence. God does no injustice. If their portion were with the damned in hell, they would not be able to curse God, but would cry, "God is just!" Thus the worried sinner toils under the burden of his guilt. Although there is some relief in agreeing to the sentence, the justification in Christ's blood is so concealed for them that again the law regains power to curse them. Yea, even though Christ, the City of Refuge, is in sight, the avenger of blood has a right to attack until the guilty one has entered into this City. Now for their troubled soul, the people of God may take hold of the benefit that is portrayed before them whenever baptism is administered: that Christ's blood atoned for sin, and that He sealed that blessing and will assure them of it. Water washes away the impurities of our body. Would the blood of Christ be insufficient to take away all our sins and to reconcile His elect with God? May their soul flee to that blood; in that blood, with consciousness of their own heart, may their guilt be taken away, and their sins be cast into the sea of eternal forgetfulness, that they may glory in the grace of pardon for their iniquities. "It is to receive the remission of sins freely, for the sake of Christ's blood which He shed for us by His sacrifice upon the cross." However in baptism, not only the benefit of justification is sealed, but also of sanctification, which is inseparably bound to it; although, according to its nature, distinct from it. The Catechism expresses it with these words: "and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to be members of Christ." Thus a Christian's sanctification is not his own work, but the work of the Holy Spirit. The benefit sealed in baptism, namely the washing by the blood and Spirit of Christ, is to be renewed and sanctified (not to renew and sanctify themselves). Furthermore, for those who are renewed in heart, sanctification is not a robe that they can weave by their own strength! It is necessary to emphasize this in opposition to those who talk only about "bettering their lives," and want "not dogma, but life". They deny true sanctification and fall into the error of the Arminians, as if sanctification is the result of their own effort and exercise. To obtain the crown they begin to strive against sin both within and without and with boldness come before God with a conscience that has been lulled to sleep. Yet they lack Christ, Who has been given of the Father not only for justification, but also for sanctification. The Pharisee is a stranger of true sanctification; he glories in himself, but is a stench before God, a whited sepulcher, full of dead man's bones. With many there is confusion regarding sanctification and keeping the law. Against these we must draw the line firmly and hold that sanctification, as being the work of the Holy Spirit in fallen man, precedes the keeping of the law. Neither in the state of integrity, where man was holy, neither in heaven where the elect are perfect, do we speak of sanctification, and still Adam and Eve fulfilled God's law. In eternal glory there shall be perfect accordance with the will of God as expressed in His law. Fallen man is a sinner and entirely corrupted by sin, and therefore he rushes on headlong in defiance of God's law, and lacks all ability to keep a single commandment even for a moment or to show any true holiness before God. If he ever begins to keep God's law, he must be renewed and sanctified entirely. The doctrine of sanctification casts man down from all his heights and lays him in the dust of death. How could it be otherwise? God demands perfect holiness. His spotlessly holy nature reacts with terrible wrath to all unholiness. For the sinner He is a consuming fire and everlasting burnings. With "halves" and "parts" the Perfect One cannot unite. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." God created us in true holiness with the ability to remain holy, and He can have no communion with us unless we are perfect. "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy." That holiness that God requires of us, we can never yield of ourselves. Even before the fall it was wrought in man by God; how much more shall it be in fallen man. All show of holiness of ourselves is imitation, a denial of the Fountain. Sanctification is for God's people a benefit from the Covenant of Grace; Christ imputes His holiness to them and renews them. By His Spirit He works in them that inclination of soul by which the sinner hates and abhors sin, and seeks righteousness; it causes him to hate what God hates and to love what God loves. The Holy Ghost renews and sanctifies the totally corrupt sinner to become a member of Christ. Against the doctrine of improvement (since the church has slidden from its firm foundation), has also come up in our country and was especially noticeable in the liberal groups, the Catechism has placed itself on the firm foundation of Scripture, and we must carry on the battle that is being waged again in the matter of sanctification. Especially the little known and less understood Kohlbrugge contended in our country against that corrupt doctrine which denies all true sanctification. He was the man who when made free by God in Christ, contended for true holiness as a benefit of the Covenant of Grace, although some of his expressions were too one-sided. With deception and by making demands which he could not possibly fulfill, they kept him out of the Reformed Church whom they feared because of his orthodoxy; but they could not bind the power that went out from him. Alas, many of his followers that left the true doctrine, are the cause why Kohlbrugge was not understood, and was even condemned by some of Reformed persuasion. Let us put aside all opinions that anything from ourselves could in any respect be counted for sanctification. To state this would be Arminian. Christ's blood alone cleanses from sin. Still it is our nature to try to conquer sin in our own power. Even God's children are too often troubled with this. How many dark paths they must travel when Christ is passed by. By virtue of the renewing of the Holy Spirit and the sanctification as members of Christ, wrought in regeneration, there is in every soul a true desire to be perfect before God and to conquer sin, yea to mortify sin entirely. How does the awakened sinner seek to satisfy that sincere desire? Does he by faith seek the power of the blood and Spirit of Christ? Or does he often turn to the broken cisterns of his own strength? I call the experience of all God's children to witness, that because of spiritual ignorance regarding Christ's Mediatoiral work, the soul struggles unspeakably, resolves, promises the Lord, strives, loses and complains, until by his own experience he learns that we can never expect even one sigh for good out of ourselves. Then only is he prepared to learn to know Christ as the One given of the Father for sanctification, in Whom he obtains deliverance from sin, and in Whom he is placed before God as if he had never known or committed sin. In Him we are perfect. He who misses Him, lacks all; but he who is a partaker of Him, possesses everything in Him: both justification for the atonement of his guilt, and sanctification for the washing away of the pollution of sin. He who is a new creature in Christ receives in Him the restoration into communion with God. Christ not only suffered the punishment, but also in actual obedience fulfilled the law, standing in the place of all God's people. The sanctification merited by this substitution He applies to His own. He makes them partakers of it; He renews them by His Spirit; He sanctifies them to be His members, so that in Him they can stand before God, and be objects of the Father's favour. That can never be because of their own work, but only because of the perfect holiness of which those people are partakers by faith, and which neither needs nor allows any completion by man. All that we think to be before God amounts to nothing; the Lord is glorified in His own work. Thus God's people, although they are renewed in all their parts, cannot bring forth holiness of themselves, but only by the power of Him Who said, "Without Me ye can do nothing." That the Holy Spirit teaches them, and that divine work of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies those purchased by the blood of Christ, causes those who are renewed to "die more and more unto sin, and lead holy and unblamable lives." For God's people must die, die unto sin, since it lies firm in God's eternal good pleasure to purchase unto Himself a people that shall be without spot or wrinkle before Him for ever and ever. Christ merited that perfect holiness and God the Father sees His church in that perfect holiness and embraces it in His favour, and God's people embrace that perfect holiness by faith, knowing that in Christ they are without sin before God. Still sin cleaves to us in this life from day to day, even in our most holy activities. The holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this perfect obedience. Paul sketches for us in Romans 7 the experience of this life after his conversion. Who of God's children is a stranger to that life? As the soul progresses in sanctification, it becomes more sinful, more wretched, and poorer before God, but on the other hand holier, richer, and more blessed in Christ. Thus its language becomes the speech of the complainer who glories, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." All true knowledge of self brings us to Christ and causes us to find in Him the Fountain opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. But there is more. The renewing of the Holy Spirit makes us new creatures. He that is washed in Christ's blood partakes of another life. He belongs to another, and becomes another. In his state of nature he was, like all creatures, ungodly, unclean, unable to do anything but sin against God. Being sanctified in Christ and all their faculties being cleansed and renewed by the Spirit, sin becomes death to him, although sin is present with him, he has a delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man. Here is where the Neo-Kohlbruggians go astray. In opposition to them we must hold that the Holy Spirit not only causes us to die, but also resurrects us to a new life, and he who is resurrected from the dead and has become a partaker of divine life, in accordance with God's purpose and his holy calling, seeks to attain perfect holiness working by the Spirit with the faculties given by God. This renewing works sanctification in God's people step by step. In heaven shall be that which is perfect; there sin shall be no more. As long as we are in the flesh, sin cleaves to us and God's people must strive against flesh and blood, against sinful lusts and uprising iniquities and always again flee to the blood and Spirit of Christ, so that sin shall not have the upper hand. The examples in God's Word are too familiar to need explanation here. They show us that the danger of sin threatens us in this life, and where sin enters taking us captive, and we faithlessly surrender, God's name is dishonored, and the Lord's people are grieved. God's children, even if it is David, a man after God's heart, are then visited with the rod and with stripes, even though their sin is forgiven. God's love will not allow sin to reign in His people and out of love He chastens every son whom He receives, to make them partakers of His holiness. God renews His people, and by virtue of that renewing He calls them, not in their own power but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to die unto sin more and more, and to walk unblamable in a godly life. When unrighteousness becomes strong in God's people, and sin becomes lively, while they are distressed by indwelling sin, Oh! that they by faith may look to that blood and that Spirit, by which Adam's children become clean before God, and not attempt to fight against sin in their own strength. As powerless in themselves may they seek their strength in the cleft of the rock, to fear, hate, and flee from sin, and seek to apprehend that for which they are apprehended in Christ. Then you shall have liberty before Him, and He alone shall have the honour, when dying unto sin, you more and more become partakers of His holiness. Sanctification by the Holy Spirit impels God's people to bear fruit. Oh, may God's command to be perfectly holy cause us to hate sin, to loathe our own righteousness and become more and more partakers of the holiness of Christ. That is the second benefit God sealed in baptism so that the comfort of the sanctification in Christ may reach the church militant, and they may acknowledge with the bride, "I am black, but comely." So it is experienced in the life of God's children. Now in the third place I must show with a few words, that the relation of baptism to the sacrifice of Christ is founded upon God's promise. Application But let us first sing Psalter No. 425 stanza 5. "Jehovah's truth will stand forever, His covenant bonds He will not sever, The word of grace which He commands To thousand generations stands; The covenant made in days of old With Abraham He does uphold." III The strength of baptism lies in the divine promise. That promise was given at the institution of baptism. I have already referred to it and the Catechism quotes the familiar text from Matt. 28:19: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Also the word of Paul in Titus 3:5 where Scripture calls baptism the washing of regeneration and in Acts 22:16 the washing away of sins. It is clearly evident what a great significance the external washing has because of its divine institution; that baptism signifies and seals no less than the washing away of sins, as the instructor has taught us. Baptism would not have that significance if it had been but an institution of man; but now that the Lord Himself has instituted it as a sacrament of the New Covenant, it is a sign and seal of the righteousness and sanctification that God's elect have in Christ which the Holy Spirit applies to them. The Roman Catholic Church may speak of seven sacraments. With the exception of baptism and the Lord's Supper, they are human inventions and lack divine institution. On the other hand, the Lord instituted baptism and gave it as a sign and a seal for the salvation of His elect. He will remember His Covenant eternally. Baptism is not merely an external mark of identification. This sacrament does not mean that there is a possibility for all people to be saved; but it is a sign and seal instituted by God, in which the Lord seals and subjectively grants to their salvation that of which His people objectively partake in Christ. The elect by nature are as all other people, objects of God's wrath, lying in a state of death. In every administration and upon each of your foreheads God seals and has sealed that He will and shall justify and sanctify sinners in the blood of the Lamb. Oh, unconverted of heart, how terrible shall your judgment be, if you neglect so great a salvation. If I would say it, many would say, "It is too sharp," but The Confession of Faith, based upon the Word of God, tells you that if we die as we are born, we shall have received the sacrament to our condemnation. God bind that word upon your heart and disquiet you, and stir up within you a holy concern for your salvation. Baptism has significance for each of us, but with this great difference: to the one it seals his eternal punishment, to the other it seals out of free grace his justification in Christ. Oh, may the Lord make you a partaker of the grace signified while it is still the day of grace. Without the righteousness and holiness of Christ, no one shall be able to stand before God or ascend into the hill of the Lord. My dear fellow-traveler to eternity, hear the Word of the Lord; look upon the significance of baptism. The Lord open your eyes and heart before you will cry out, "If only oh, if only I had" when the door of grace is closed forever. What great blessings the Lord seals to His people in baptism! In Christ all God's elect are justified, sanctified, yea, glorified. By nature they walk in the way of sin and wallow, sometimes even externally in the mire of sin. However, in His own time the Lord will save them, He promised that in the gospel and sealed it in baptism. Oh, how guilty and unclean they have learned to know themselves before God when the Lord opened their eyes. What was then the need of their soul? What did they need for their salvation? Was it not justification to atone for their guilt and sanctification to cleanse them from their filthy sins? Could they stand before God with less than perfect justification and sanctification. Both of those benefits are sealed in baptism. Oh, worried souls, who seek day by day to give satisfaction for your guilt and to cleanse your heart, may you be given to find in Christ what you never can give. Baptism points to Him, for He is given unto His people for wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. May the perfect attributes of God so humble you that Christ may be formed in you, and attaining Him may become your chief aim. What do we need to be justified and sanctified by faith? Listen, people of God, may it be for your instruction: in justification we are cut off, in sanctification we are broken down. We must lose our life; we must be cut off from Adam to be grafted into Christ; but our strength must also be broken down that the Christ's strength may be made perfect in weakness. May the Holy Spirit teach us this in our life, so that we may go halting as Jacob did from Peniel, and in Christ by faith we may continuously embrace both the benefits that are sealed by baptism for all God's dear people, namely, justification and sanctification. To that end the Lord bind the admonition of baptism upon the soul, and grant us to taste the assurance of baptism by faith, so that we may glory in Him, in Whom His people are perfect. If by faith we may appropriate all that He is for His elect, may we always experience that in ourselves we are nothing than poor sinners. When God by the Holy Spirit applies the blessings of His grace to His people, then a path follows in which these will be experienced. In this way we learn to know our poverty more and more. After Peniel, Jacob was troubled because his sons made him a stench among the inhabitants of the land by their slaughter of the inhabitants of Shechem. The Lord also took away from Jacob his beloved Rachel. The idols that she had carried into Jacob's house were buried, but Rachel died, too. Her death was bitter, as her entire life was. Did she not say to Jacob in her envy of Leah, "Give me children"? And Jacob answered, "Am I in God's stead?" So was also her death when she called her son Ben-oni, son of my sorrow, as if his birth was the cause of her death. Jacob changed that name to Benjamin, son of comfort. Even Rachel's remembrance had to be removed from Jacob's house. First Joseph was taken away, and then Benjamin, so that Jacob complained, "All these things are against me." Jacob had to die to all that was precious to him, die, so that soon on his death bed he would lose himself entirely in the good pleasure of God, and command his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah: "There I buried Leah." Not Rachel, but Leah was God's elect out of whom Christ would be born through Judah. Oh, how much it cost Jacob to find rest in God's good pleasure! Thus the way of God's children is a dying way for the practice of sanctification, which with justification is sealed in baptism. The Lord grant us a little light and exercise of faith, so that dying with Christ we may also live with Him. Amen. (...end, Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Volume 1) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc1-27.txt .