Church Write-Up: Baptism and Love

Some items from church:

A. The Sunday school class is continuing its way through Romans. Today, we covered Romans 6-7. The pastor, a Lutheran, said that baptism is more than a rite of Christian obedience. Rather, it is how God connects the believer with Christ, in Christ’s death and resurrection. Romans 6:3 refers to being baptized into Christ and Christ’s death.

B. Baptism was practiced in Judaism a century before and a century after the time of Christ. In rabbinic Judaism, it was applied to Gentile converts to Judaism. Paul takes a ritual that concerns the washing away of sins and the death of the old self and applies it to Christ: Christian baptism is about the death of the old self and the resurrection of a new self through Christ’s death and resurrection. Paul fills the old with the new.

C. Jews treated Abraham’s faith as a work and God’s imputation of righteousness as God’s response to Abraham’s work. Paul, by contrast, focuses on what God is doing and treats faith as the means of receiving what God provides.

D. Lutherans sprinkle in their baptisms in reaction to the Anabaptists. The Anabaptists held that only baptism by immersion is acceptable to God. Baptizo only means to apply water, so Luther decided that Lutheran baptism will be sprinkling, not immersion.

E. In Roman society, slaves who were sentenced to death and somehow managed to survive the death penalty were set free. This occurred rarely, but it did happen. The pastor related this to Paul’s point in Romans 7 about the Christian being dead to slavery to sin and the letter and alive unto God.

F. Death will not separate us from God’s love. We no longer need fear being swallowed by Sheol, never to be heard from again. That reminded me of Psalms in which Sheol is presented as a place of separation from God, where God cannot be praised. Jesus came and changed that.

G. The service was about love. The youth pastor talked about how we cannot rely only on our own resources to love others, for they are limited and may run out. We need to be filled with God’s love. The pastor in his sermon told about how, when he was a child, his family went to a drive-in theater. Bambi was playing, followed by Anthony and Cleopatria. Both depict love as something that sweeps people away—-that people get caught up in. The pastor, years later, counseled a couple, and the husband admitted that he lacked romantic love for his wife, but he was committed to her and trusted that the romantic love will grow. The pastor also talked about loving those who disagree with us on Facebook—-blessing those who are mean to us rather than being mean to them in turn. I suck at love. But, paradoxically, being humbled by this realization (law) can perhaps open me up to trusting in and drawing from God’s resources (Gospel).

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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