My son, River, was baptized this last Sunday. Below I’ve posted the prayers and exhortation from the rite.
(Before the Baptism)
Almighty and eternal God, who through the flood, according to your righteous judgment, condemned the unfaithful world, and according to your great mercy, saved faithful Noah, even eight persons, and has drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh with all his army in the Red Sea, and has led your people Israel dry through it, thereby prefiguring this bath of your holy baptism, and through the baptism of your dear child, our Lord Jesus Christ, has sanctified and set apart the Jordan and all water for a saving flood, and an ample washing away of sins: we pray that through your same infinite mercy you would graciously look down upon this your child, and bless him with a right faith in the spirit, so that through this saving flood all that was born in him from Adam and all which he has added thereto might be drowned and submerged; and that he may be separated from the unfaithful, and preserved in the holy ark of Christendom dry and safe, and may be ever fervent in spirit and joyful in hope to serve your name, so that he with all the faithful may be worthy to inherit your promise of eternal life, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
In this morning’s sermon, we considered the continuities and discontinuities between the Old and New Covenant with regard to liturgy. Contrary to some Protestant traditions, Jesus did not teach that the New Covenant would dispense with rites, signs, material substances, and physical actions in worship. That is not what Jesus meant when He spoke of “Spiritual” worship. And one great sign of that, as I suggested, is that we do perform rites using material substances and physical actions – the rites of baptism and the Supper. Every time we baptize, we are declaring our continuity with Israel of the Old Testament.
Paedobaptism says even more, and says it more emphatically. Baptizing babies says that the boundaries of the church are in the same place as the boundaries of ancient Israel, the people of Abraham. We are saying that we are still the same people, and the same kind of people, as Israel was.
But baptism also declares our differences from the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant, the mark of inclusion was a cut in the flesh – the foreskin of the child was cut off. The rite of entry into Israel was a rite of severing, and this not only pointed to the threat of being “cut off” for covenant unfaithfulness, but also pointed to the fact that Israel was herself “severed” from the rest of the world, distinguished by clothing, food, and other customs from the Gentiles. Further, circumcision was a kind of sacrificial rite, in which a body was cut into two pieces and blood was shed. That was fulfilled in Jesus, and we no longer perform a rite of separation, a rite of cutting, a rite of severing, a sacrificial entry into the church. We instead perform a rite that symbolizes the inclusion of Jew, Gentile, slave, free, man, woman, white, black, Hispanic, and whoever in one body in Christ. A child entered Israel through shedding blood; blood is a sign of life, but pouring out blood is a sign of death. But in the NC, we no longer live under the ministry of condemnation and death; we live in the covenant of life, symbolized by the living and life-giving water of baptism.
For you, Toby and Jenny, this means that River’s baptism should be a constant reminder that you live under the New Covenant, not the Old. The Old Covenant came with great promises, the promise that Yahweh would dwell among His people and be the God of His people. But Hebrews tells us that the second covenant comes with better promises. The second covenant declares that the Son has come to tabernacle among us in human flesh. The second covenant announces that the Father is seeking worshipers to worship Him in Spirit and truth. And the second covenant comes with the promise of the Spirit, as Peter said at Pentecost: the promise is for you and for your children, and to all who are far off. Toby and Jenny, remind yourselves often of the meaning of baptism as God’s pledge to you and to River; and teach him to trust this promise of God, the promise of the new covenant, the better covenant, the covenant of water not the covenant of blood.
(After the Baptism)
Almighty God, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks, that you have granted and bestowed upon this child your fellowship, that he has been engrafted into the new life of the church through your holy baptism, that he has now been incorporated into your beloved Son, our only Savior, and is now your child and heir. Grant, most loving and faithful Father, that Toby and Jenny might prove our thankfulness for your great grace, faithfully bringing up this your child through all the situations of life and that we with this child as well, might more and more die to the world and be joined to the life of your Son, our Lord Jesus, and daily grow in grace, that we might ever praise you and be a blessing to our neighbor. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and with the Holy Spirit, one God, age after age. Amen.