(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


    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

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

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
     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.
    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
    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
    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
    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."
    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)

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