In what ways could the one-time event of baptism be an ongoing conduit of grace? Is it something to reach for? Why or why not? (p. 155)This is a good question, and most Christians who believe in the rite of water baptism for today would affirm that there is indeed an ongoing role one's water baptism plays, at least one can be found with some digging from Scripture and from one's tradition.
One of my problems with alot of "baptism" passages in the New Testament is that, though water baptism might portray well something of the meaning of those passages, I think they speak of another spiritual reality which happens to Christians at conversion. A case in point for me in this is Galatians 3:27 (I add verse 26 with it as it clearly goes together) and the point of that passage can be seen only by reading the fuller immediate context.
I have to admit that for me water baptism and my own experience or reception of it meant little to me at the time, and not that much to me beyond it. This is not a reflection of what Scripture really teaches, but can be a reflection of our tradition. While most of us believe in baptism for today, do we really see any really vital meaning in it for us? I think part of the problem for us who are evangelical Protestants is that we are in the line of Christians who broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and their teaching of baptismal regeneration with faith following that- in their teaching. But while I believe we have good Biblical grounds for doing so, what is its meaning for us today? Do we know? How would you respond to L.L.'s discussion questions quoted above?
My own answer is "Yes, it is, but no, I don't." Baptism in my church background and culture is admittedly weak, simply seen as a profession of our faith in Jesus before the world. That is good insofar as it goes, for indeed it is. But exactly what is being professed?
I believe it's about our identity with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection to new life so that the old Ted is gone and a new Ted in Jesus has arisen to a new life. The passage cited here refers to something which happens at conversion, which also happened in the death and resurrection of our Lord, and of which our water baptism signifies. And from that how we're to proceed by faith and live this out in our lives.
Water baptism is indeed a reminder that in Jesus we went under, under that chaos of darkness and death, are dead, and then rose up to a new life, into the sunshine of God's love and grace to us in Jesus. Henceforth we're never to live again as those who actually are now dead and buried. But instead we're to live this new life in which we're "dyed" in Jesus, in his "crimson dye" as "a worm crushed" (p 51). So in that sense water baptism for us can be a regular reminder of the reality from which we've been saved, the new reality in which we have been and are being saved, as well as the culmination of that to come.
There's no turning back for us in Jesus, for to do so is a denial not only of Jesus, but of our baptism and the truth and reality it signifies for us, a marker and special reminder of our true identity in this world. In which we do remain as those who, while in Jesus, still are "sometimes assailed by struggle and setback" (like Jacob, as L.L. points out). "In moments when [we] least expect it." (p. 52) Especially at such times our baptism can be an ongoing conduit of God's grace to us in Jesus, as we are reminded of what is really true of us, in spite of our failings and the hard knocks we are hit with in life.
What about you? How would you answer the discussion questions from L.L.'s book quoted above? (and there is more for this chapter, and for every chapter). Or, what would you like to share with us or add here?