Notes from a Baptismal Homily – Baptism as Cosmic Spiritual Warfare

Welcome Guests.  Congratulations.

What is it that just happened?  What is it that baptism accomplishes?

There are many ways to look at it:

  • In secular terms, the community of St. Michael’s welcomed a family into formal membership.  This is, of course true, and while happy as we have been so happy them as worshipping and socializing with us until now, that happiness has now increased beyond measure.  This way of understanding it is true.
  • There are also spiritual ways of looking at this, and, as many baptisms as we all have been blessed to witness and take part in, I am assuming you are familiar with them.  For example:
    • In baptism, we are putting away the old man and putting on the new (that is, Christ).
    • In baptism, we participate in the death and resurrection of Christ.
    • Baptism is the entrance ritual into the Church; through Baptism we become part of Christ’s Body.
    • In Baptism we celebrate the way the Jesus Christ the God-man sanctified the water of the Jordan – the Jordan turned back! – by His very presence; a miracle that He continues to perform, most notable today through the hallowing of the baptismal water.
  • All these – and many others – are true.  But today I want to share another one that does not receive as much attention, and that that is the role that Baptism plays in Spiritual Warfare.
    • Not the spiritual warfare of the individual – the role of baptism in the salvation, sanctification, protection, and strengthening of each Christian is, I hope, widely understood.
    • No, I want to talk about the role of baptism in the cosmic spiritual warfare and the role it plays in God’s campaign to reclaim the territory of a world that groans in sin under the captivity of the Evil One.
  •  There are some people who think that reclaiming the world for God requires physical violence.  They are wrong.  The Prince of Peace has given us a better way. 
    • In fact, the victory of the Prince of Peace has already been achieved – as we constantly sing: death and the devil’s dominion have been destroyed by Christ’s death and resurrection.
    • Baptism – not violence – is the way that achievement is realized here and now.
  • It is easiest to understand how this works by looking at the campaign for holiness of Israel in the Promised Land back under the Old Testament (Covenant).
    • In those days, the nations had given themselves over to the worship of evil gods like Ba’al, Dagon, Ashareth, and Molech.  These evil gods held territory; they were the “dominions, powers, and principalities” of the world. 
  • God started His campaign to free mankind from these evil gods by having His vanguard nation, the nation of Israel, take over the Promised Land, set it aside for worship of the Good and True God – the God that we worship here – and thus make that land holy. 
    • God manifested Himself in that Holy Land through His Tabernacle.  After Solomon, the Temple was build on God’s Holy Mountain.  God had reclaimed part of the world for holiness.
    • But it didn’t last.  Idolatry.  The land was corrupted as the evil gods were worshipped by the Israelites in Israel and Judea.  The campaign seemed destined to fail.
  • The Messiah – Jesus – changed all that and ushered in a new campaign under the New Testament.  His final command before His Ascension, given to His apostles and to all of us is to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
    • God prophesied before His death that He would tear down the temple and rebuild in three days.
    • The glorious thing is that the new temple is not made by hands.  What is the new temple?  What is the new territory of given over to holiness?  What is the place from which God would spread His love and salvation throughout the world?  What is the new place that would become Holy as God is Holy where He would manifest Himself to the world?
    • The new temple is the body and heart of every Christian.  When a person is baptized, one more person is freed from the tyranny of the Evil One and there is one more place – one more human heart – from which Christ can operate to bring joy and light and healing to a suffering cosmos.
  • You are baptized Christians, like the Holy Land and Temple of old, set aside for one holiness and the presence of God.
    • Keep the territory of your heart and body pure; do not imitate the Israelites in worshipping strange gods, gods your parents did not know.
    • Do not allow any sin to defile the holy ground that is your heart, and when it does, immerse and reconsecrate yourself in Christ through repentance, the “second baptism of tears.”
    • And lastly, do not sit on God’s holiness as though is were something to be hoarded – you are part of God’s campaign to reclaim the world from suffering and wickedness.  Be bold and let God’s light so shine in your life that others see it and are drawn to worship the true God who is in heaven and who lives in the heart of every believer and in the midst of all His people.