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Holy Baptism: The Sixth Commandment

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, 24 July 2022
A Sermon on Colossians 2:6-19 by Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS

Colossians 2:6-19 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, ac-cording to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the sub-stance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of an-gels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

HOLY BAPTISM: THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the first three weeks of our summer preaching series on the 10 Commandments, and Martin Luther’s explanation in his Large Catechism, we focused on how God wants us to behave towards Him. From the outset, we recognized that in the commandments God tells us: “Not that way, but this!” Two weeks ago, we remembered that God gave us parents and other authorities as our first neighbors whom we honor and obey. Last week, we noted that God creates each life unique and calls us to do no harm to our neighbors but rather to see that they are protected as ones created in the image of God and ones for whom the Lord Jesus gave His life on the cross.

This week, the sixth commandment tells us about God’s created order and how men and women are to love and care for the most intimate neighbor of all, the one with whom we will live the rest of our days and with whom we will be fruitful and multiply. Again, this week, we learn “not that way, but this.” Our memory work will be the key verse our Lord Jesus cites regarding marriage.

P: Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife,
C: and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

But, first, let us delve into Colossians 2 to be properly grounded as God’s children.

Who and Whose You Are

In Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit establishes who and Whose we are. As St. Paul makes clear in Colossians 2, circumcision was the mark of the old covenant, normatively the cutting of male flesh on the eighth day after birth when a male child was recognized as a descendent of Abraham and Sarah. Holy Baptism is the mark of the new covenant, normatively administered to the chil-dren of Christian parents soon after childbirth. In Holy Baptism, we are buried with Christ and raised from the dead. Descended from the first parents who rebelled in the Garden of Eden, we are born dead in our trespasses, in bondage to sin, death, and the old evil one, and unable to free ourselves. Only the Lord Jesus can save us, and the Holy Spirit joins us to Him in Holy Baptism.

In obedience to Our Lord’s command to make disciples of all ethnic groups by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Christian parents bring their children for Holy Bap-tism. Where children, youth, and adults have not been earlier brought for Holy Baptism, Chris-tian family members, grandparents, friends, and neighbors must act in the place of parents and invite the unbaptized to the services of God’s house, pray for, encourage, and engage the unbap-tized regarding the necessity of Holy Baptism. Once we are baptized, the rest of our lives is spent in discipleship, which is learning from Jesus how Holy Baptism defines who and Whose we are.

Years ago, I knew an older pastor who had grown up in a ranching community in the Big Sky country above Abilene, Texas. He would tell people that Holy Baptism was like branding cattle. He would say, “God has put his mark on you. You belong to Him.” Sadly, many are baptized but never really catechized, which is exactly what our Lord Jesus commands: to teach disciples who and Whose we are. When laypersons, pastors, and even bishops go woke and try to give Jesus a worldly makeover, it not only does damage to Christ’s Church. It invites God’s severe judgment.

Who and Whose we are means daily relinquishing our own thoughts, words, and deeds to the Lord Jesus, whose life of limitless humble service even unto death on a cross tells us what His Father wants. If there is a conflict between God’s story and the world’s story, God must be God. Life is difficult, yes, but the Christian life is more difficult still. All of our loves, all of our lives must be reordered by our Baptism into Christ: we must keep on learning who and Whose we are.

Roman Catholic author G.K. Chesterton famously wrote: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried” (What’s Wrong with the World).

God’s Created Order

Now let’s say our memory work again.

P: Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife,
C: and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

Forty-one years ago when I was a hospital chaplain at a major trauma center in Dallas TX, we often talked about medical ethics. A key point often raised was: “Just because we can does not mean we ought.” In those days, only 36 years after the end of WWII when we had learned of the horrors visited upon human bodies by both German and Japanese doctors, the scientific community was much more cautious about what could be done with human bodies, born and unborn.

In our day when narcissism is widely unbridled and the pretensions of the omnipotent “me” are epidemic, many in the scientific and medical communities see profit where they ought to see danger. Cutting bodies and giving hormones to conform to thoughts that are at odds with created order is the triumph of what can be done over what ought to be done. Such creatures, whether doctors or their patients, are in rebellion against God’s created order. Sadly, the damaged psyche of the patient tragically looks for inner peace through attempts to modify the givens of the body.

God created us male and female and, normatively, to be fruitful and multiply. Natural law, again, makes clear how humans naturally reproduce. We are made male and female. Our bodies are lit-erally made for the other and not for the same. Yet, all of us are born with bodily desires that must be trained and bridled if there is to be a healthy community. Achieving political power to get one’s way, indeed to toss the Lord God out of the world that He makes and owns, is epidemic in our day, and, of course, uncatechized youth and adults are shaped by what Star Wars would call Jedi mind tricks. Fearful of being thought intolerant or labeled as some kind of “-phobic,” the uncatechized youth, adults, parents, siblings, relatives, and friends are quick to ca-pitulate.

The best defense is a good offense, and so catechesis in the service of love of neighbor will learn to build or maintain relationships where one can but not give in to the attack- and- “gotcha” politics of those hell-bent on having their way. Those who are most possessed by someone other than the Lord God will accept nothing less than capitulation… sadly, sometimes, even in Christ’s Church on earth. We have seen their ilk throughout history. God’s final judgment will not be kind to those who, in a Nietzschean quest for power, have visited misery on their neighbors.

Martin Luther writes: “Now, I speak of this in order that the young may be guided so that they desire the married estate and know that it is a blessed estate and pleases God. For in this way, over time we might cause married life to be restored to honor. There might be less of the filthy, loose, disorderly ends that now run riot the world over in open prostitution and other shameful vices arising from disregard for married life. Therefore, it is the duty of parents and the govern-ment to see to it that our youth are brought up with discipline and respectability. When they have become mature, parents and government should provide for them to marry in the fear of God and honorably. God would not fail to add His blessing and grace, so that people would have joy and happiness from marriage” (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 383:217-218).

So, then, God says to His own that we were created in male and female bodies that were made for each other and only within the context of marriage as the Bible describes it. This precludes sexual acts outside the marriage of one man and one woman in a lifelong covenant of faithful-ness. Celibacy is not easy for most human beings, but celibacy will not kill the unmarried. If you have failed in the past, the gift of private confession and forgiveness will help you to begin anew.

The Joy of Life Together

Now let’s say our memory work again.

P: Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife,
C: and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

Baby boom parents and grandparents grew up with birth control pills and then legal abortion. Along with penicillin, these so-called scientific “advances” made casual heterosexual sex seem-ingly without consequences. Unbridled desires could now be entertained with abandon. When I was a chaplain, we began to see our first cases of tumors among men from the gay community in Dallas. There was not yet a diagnosis of HIV positive or AIDS, but once, again, scientific re-search became devoted to dealing with the consequences of casual homosexual sexual acts.

The tacit assumption, then, and now is that sexual desire cannot and must not be bridled. This was the exact attitude of the Greek and Roman cultures against which Jews and Christians had to speak. Early Christians rescued and adopted newborns abandoned by their pagan neighbors. St. Paul spoke against these hedonistic and heartless attitudes not because he was misogynistic or homophobic as the cultured despisers of the Bible portray him. Rather, both as a rabbi and as an apostle, St. Paul simply taught what God’s created order is and how the baptized are to live.

Christian parents are called to model for their children how to be Christian adults, spouses, and parents. Not only are Christian spouses and parents called to show the joy of life together. We are called to teach the children from the earliest age what our heavenly Father does and does not want. We will practice the Christian faith every day and not merely on occasional Sundays, which means, unless you are genuinely ill, you bring your family to the services of God’s house.

Love of spouse requires putting a bridle on desires directed outside of marriage. Christian parents will teach children that love of the future spouse calls for chastity before marriage. Out of love for children, without naïveté about their bodily desires, and being willing to be disliked for say-ing “No,” Christian parents will set strict boundaries in order to protect their children. If you have frontloaded candid conversation and good Christian catechesis, you will have a basis for explaining why in love you are not letting them be alone where great danger lies. And, there can be no double standard when it comes to boys and girls. Good teaching helps children to under-stand what it takes to put the brakes on when the libido speeds up. This is good discipleship.

Finally, Christian parents will make clear that someone who does not practice the Christian faith is not a suitable spouse for a Christian. This is difficult, because sexual attraction is powerful, but the simple fact remains that Christians are to marry Christians. Lengthy courtships and year-long engagements are not a terrible burden if two Christians are preparing for the joy of life together.

Hear Professor Anthony Esolen’s prophetic word to parents: “We are tight-fisted with our devotion. We teach our children to be so. In every culture known to man until this thing of ours, youth was preeminently the time for love. But we teach young people that love is a fool’s errand until your accounts are settled. This is what is called ‘realism,’ which turns away demurely from the proper passions of young men and women, who should be moved to give themselves to one another in marriage. We are prudes in all the wrong things. Porn will not raise an eyebrow, but an early marriage, there you’re talking scandal” (“The Ugly and the Good,” Touchstone).

Against the marriage-despising culture, Christian parents will model that the best marriages are between the best of friends. And adult Christian parents will remain the best of friends even as they release their kids to go to be the best of friends to their own spouses.

Christian marriage involves all four types of love. Eros draws us together again and again. Philia is the friendship that leads to the best marriages. Storge is the love within a Christian family. But agape is the greatest of all – the sacrificial love that enables a man and a woman to give themselves to each other every day and to serve their children and neighbors as Christ loves them.

Now, let us remind ourselves one more time what it is that the Lord God wants for His people.

P: Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife,
C: and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

Father, grant that what we say with our lips, we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts, we may show forth in our lives. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

©Samuel David Zumwalt, STS
szumwalt@bellsouth.net
St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA

Bulletin insert

Holy Baptism: The Sixth Commandment

Praying

“O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: In-crease and multiply upon us your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 618).

Listening

Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit …”

St. Cyril [4th century Patriarch of Jerusalem, Israel]: “True religion consists of these two elements: pious doctrines and virtuous actions. Neither does God accept doctrines apart from works, nor are works, when divorced from godly doctrine, accepted by God… There is need of a vigilant soul, since there are many who would deceive you by philosophy and vain deceit” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Colossians, 29).

Colossians 2:12 “… buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith…”

St. Ambrose [4th century Bishop of Milan, Italy]: “This was written with the intent that we should believe that he is crucified in us, that our sins may be purged through him, that he, who alone can forgive sins, may nail to his cross the handwriting which was against us” (32).

Colossians 2:13 “And you, who were dead in your trespasses… God made alive together with him…”

St. Augustine [Late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo Regius, Algeria]: “… How blessed and blissful will that eternal day make us, when we shall actually see him and stay with him, the one we now rejoice in merely by desiring and hoping for him! What exultant joy God will give to his church, from which as it is born again through Christ, he has after a fashion removed the foreskin of its fleshly nature, that is, the reproach of its natural birth” (33).

Colossians 2:14 “This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

St. John Chrysostom [Late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople, Turkey]: “The decree of our sins which was against us, he has taken it completely away, nailing it to the cross” (33).

Colossians 2:18 “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels…”

St. Augustine: “Doubtless, the heretics, who follow the teachings of demons, who think up false systems under the impulse of their spirit, who give out that they have seen visions which they have not seen and by their deadly arguments sow their seed in foolish and credulous hearts – doubtless, these are the ones who do not hold the head, namely Christ, the source of truth” (40).

Reflecting

1. Do I trust the Lord Jesus forgives all my sins and brings me through death to eternal life?

Learning

Christian Questions with Their Answers

After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the pastor may ask, or Christians may ask them-selves these questions:

9. What has Christ done for you that you trust in Him?

He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.

10. Did the Father also die for you?

He did not. The Father is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man. He died for me and shed His blood for me.

11. How do you know this?

From the Holy Gospel, from the words instituting the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament.

Doing

1. Pray for every unbaptized child you know and for the child’s parents, too.

2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.

3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend the importance of and great need for self-examination before receiving the Sacrament of the Altar. If you have never considered making a private confession before a pastor, please do so… not for the pastor’s sake but for yours.

4. Set aside time daily, preferably first thing, but when you are able to focus, to hear the Word of God, to reflect upon that Word, and to ask the Holy Spirit to grant you grace to be shaped by and conformed to that Word. Daily Bible readings may be found at www.stmatthewsch.org. If you haven’t previously done so, please pick up a new devotional booklet before or after worship this weekend. Daily lectionary readings are on p.189 in the front of the Lutheran Book of Worship (Year Two, Week of 7 Pentecost).

5. Review this week’s section of Luther’s Large Catechism on the Sixth Commandment and read next week’s section on the Seventh Commandment and the preaching text (Colossians 3:1-11). https://bookofconcord.org/large-catechism/ .

For Husbands and Wives

Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”