Today marks the anniversary of my baptism. Through this sacrament I was received into the body of Christ at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, then in Westchester, Illinois, but now located in nearby Indian Head Park, not far from Chicago.
When I was younger I did not treasure this day as I do now. Nevertheless, in the ensuing years I have come to follow Calvin in believing that our baptism, far from being diminished or invalidated by our inability to remember it, is a sign of our union with Christ for the whole of life into eternity. This union is effected entirely by the grace of God, which comes to us even before we are aware of it.
As always, the Heidelberg Catechism puts it very nicely indeed:
Q. How does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross is for you personally?
A. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, in other words, all my sins.
I can do no better than to end this post by quoting one of my favourite liturgical theologians, the estimable Hughes Oliphant Old:
In the Reformed understanding of baptism, baptism is a prophetic sign at the beginning of the Christian life, which continues to unfold throughout the whole of life. The sign of baptism claims for us the washing away of sins and calls us to newness of life. The sign of baptism calls us to repentance and to the profession of Christian faith. Whenever we confess our sins in prayers of confession or profess our faith by saying the Apostles’ Creed, we are living out our baptism. Baptism is not something that is done once and then is finished and over. It is something that shapes the whole of the Christian life, from the very beginning to the very end. Baptism is a means of grace. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about and fulfills what the sign of baptism had promised. That inward working of the Holy Spirit takes place through the whole of life until at last we die in Christ and are raised in Christ.
Thanks be to God that, by his grace, he made me one of his own!