There are many benefits we enjoy from living in an era of advanced technology. One of the unfortunate side effects, however, is that our world seems to be getting more and more impersonal. The family doctor who made house calls has been supplanted by the Health Maintenance Organization, which has been likened to a medical assembly line. The Automated Teller Machine has taken the place of the friendly banker. Every other day, it seems, there is a letter in the mailbox with your name printed all over it — but it’s obviously just a computer- generated attempt at a personal touch.
Aren’t we all much happier with a warm smile and a friendly handshake instead of an automated, pre-printed “Have a nice day?” Our Lord understands this human need that we have of individual personal attention. We are blessed to know that our Lord God has made a way for us to receive, not only the promise of His grace for all, but also a touch of personalized grace from Him, in baptism.
There are many passages of Scripture that assure us that, since God’s grace and love in Christ are extended to all people, we can also consider ourselves to be objects of His love. John’s gospel tells us “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son …” This gives us a solid assurance that, since God’s love extends to all, it also extends to us.
It is true, however, that the Bible does not specifically say that God so loved Robert, God so loved Mary, God so loved (your name) that He gave His only-begotten Son. But in your baptism the Lord says just that! The Bible says that baptism saves us, because it is a blessed way that the Holy Spirit brings the Savior to the individual heart.
We do not believe in baptism for its own sake; instead, we treasure it because the forgiveness that Christ earned for us on the cross is brought to us — personally — in the water with the Word. No matter what kind of open or secret sins may lurk in our past, each of us is assured that if we have been baptized into Christ, then we have clothed ourselves with Him (Gal. 3:27).
Luther writes: “Tell me, with whom does God speak and deal when you are baptized? Is it not true that this Baptism is intended for you alone and for no other person? . . . This is the promise God gives in Baptism: ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved’ (Mk. 16:16). Again, you are baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3), into the truth that He died for you and by His death freed you from sins and death. How, then, could God speak in a friendlier way with you and more surely and specifically include your person in the Word than He does in Baptism?” (What Luther Says, Vol. I, p. 47).
A Generous King!
The story is told of a conquering king who was leading a victory parade through the capital. As his carriage rolled along the parade route, his servants threw gold coins — the spoils of his victory — to the crowd. The happy citizens reached out their hands to catch the coins. All except for one, that is. This man, who did not feel that he had been a loyal supporter of the king, stood away from the crowd and hung his head. “Surely the king did not intend this gift for me,” he thought. But the king, taking special note of him, sent one of his servants directly to the man. The servant pressed a coin into the surprised man’s hand and said, “The king wants you to know that he intended this gift especially for you.”
Whenever you hear and believe the blessed news of God’s grace for all, you are like one of the citizens who gladly reach out for the king’s generosity. But when your heart is weighed down because of your sin and guilt, and you feel as though you have abandoned the Lord and are not worthy of Him — that is the time to remember the grace that our Lord has impressed upon you individually, in your baptism. When your conscience accuses you, Satan would try to lead you to doubt whether the Lord really wants you as his own. At such a time you can give the devil this powerful answer: “I am baptized! The Lord Jesus sought me out to be His own, and conferred His forgiveness upon me by washing me clean with the power of His Word in the water.”
The Lord wants you to know that the salvation that He purchased for ALL is the salvation that He wants to give to YOU, personally and individually. He has pressed this treasure into your hand, giving you this promise of His grace when your sins were washed away.
In a world that seems to be getting more and more impersonal, what a comfort it is to remember this personalized outpouring of God’s love!
—Pastor Bruce Naumann
(A planned article on the Sacrament of the Altar will appear in a
future issue. – Ed.)