Titus 3:1-8 (ESV) Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
Baptism works. It accomplishes things. It is not just an empty symbol that has no power. It is a sign, but also more than that. Baptism gives us adoption as God’s beloved children. Baptism takes the righteousness of Jesus that alone can justify before God’s judgment seat, and clothes us with it. Baptism takes the cleansing blood of Jesus and bathes us in it. Baptism buries us in Christ’s death and raises us up in His resurrection. Baptism gives us the Holy Spirit. Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe. Baptism unites us with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Believing that Baptism gives us all these things is faith. To believe means to receive a promise from God and say, “Yes. Amen. I believe this.” When water is combined with God’s Word, then this Baptism is a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, so our faith holds open its empty hands and is given this gift. Faith simply receives this saving bath and says, “Lord, I believe that the promises you have made to me in Baptism are true.” That’s what it boils down to: is God telling the truth, or lying, when He says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16)? Which of us wants to call God a liar? So believe His promises, particularly the ones He makes to you in your Baptism into Christ.
God promises that Baptism works. It works to save us from our sins and give us everlasting life. That is the perfect and complete work of Baptism, driven by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is the most important work of Baptism, but that’s not all that Baptism works in us. Baptism also affects our everyday life; it effects our sanctification. Since the Holy Spirit is given to us in Baptism, and His work is to make us holy, our Baptism brings about the righteous works that we do and the holiness that we take part in. St. Paul says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit is given to us in Baptism, and those are the fruits that He works in us.
If these are fruits of the Spirit, then can we take any credit for any virtues in your lives? No, we give glory to God, as St. Paul says, “We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We do these good works, but in truth, God accomplishes them through our Baptism by the gift of the Holy Spirit, who continues to work all these good things in our lives through God’s Word and Sacraments in the Holy Christian Church.
But where these good fruits are not found and instead there is the bad fruit of sin, then Baptism is not being put to use but rather resisted. Then the old Adam is overcoming the new creature that was born of the Spirit in Baptism. The opposite of the good fruit of the Spirit is the wicked fruit of our sinful flesh. St. Paul says, are these: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
May we repent of these and all other sins! Faith lives in a state of constant repentance, and if repentance is going on, then you can see your Baptism at work. Even though you carry that old sinful Adam around your neck, your Baptism into Jesus Christ keeps on working to call you back to repentance, and to give you forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. This is why it is a good idea to start and end your days “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” remembering and returning to the Name into which you were baptized. Then you remember who you belong to—that you are a child of God—and He has promised you that your Baptism works. God’s promises always are dependable, so repent and believe them!
Prayer (LSB 616):
1. Baptismal waters cover me
As I approach on bended knee;
My Father’s mercy here I plead,
For grievous sins of thought and deed.
2. I look to Christ upon the tree,
His body broken there for me;
I lay before Him all my sin,
My darkest secrets from within.
3. Lord, may Your wounded hand impart
Your healing to my broken heart;
Your love alone can form in me
A heart that serves You joyfully.
4. From Your own mouth comes forth a word;
Your shepherd speaks, but You are heard;
Through him Your hand now stretches out,
Forgiving sin, destroying doubt.
5. Baptismal waters cover me;
Christ’s wounded hand has set me free.
Held in my Father’s strong embrace,
With joy I praise Him for His grace. Amen.