Fire, Baptism, Peace and Division


Text: Luke 12:49-53
Full Sermon Draft

You don’t get much more raw than this text. This is the Jesus that tends to get submerged. This is the Jesus of a sign of contradiction (Luke 2:34, Acts 28:22). So much of Christianity and church has been scrubbed and sanitized, domesticated and made safe…and then you read passages like this. And if you are going to be apostolic and orthodox, you have to make room for them. You have to talk about fire and division. And you have to see them as good news, because it is passages like this that are at the core of the Christian proclamation. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here. Settle before you are thrown in debtors prison until the last penny. (Luke 12:58ff)

Biblical Baptisms – John of Damascus

John of Damascus IconThis excerpt struck me in sermon prep this week. From John of Damascus. An interesting coincidence as St. John of Damascus is also known as the Doctor of the Assumption, the Assumption of Mary, which was on the calendar this week. Not something that Lutherans typically mark, anyway, John on Peace, Division and Baptism…

A first baptism was by the flood for the cutting away of sin. A second baptism was by the sea and the cloud, because the cloud is a symbol of the Spirit, while the sea is a symbol of the water. A third baptism is that of the law, because every unclean person washed himself with water and also washed his garments and then entered the camp. A fourth baptism is that of John, which was an introductory baptism leading those thus baptized into repentance so that they might believe in Christ. “I indeed”, he says, “baptize you in water, but he that will come after me, he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.” John purified with water in advance to prepare for the Spirit. A fifth baptism is the Lord’s baptism with which He was baptized. He was not baptized because he needed purification. He was baptized so that so that by making my purification his own, he might “crush the heads of the dragons in the waters” (Psalm 74:13), wash away the sin and bury all of the old Adam in the water, sanctify the baptizer, fulfill the law, reveal the mystery of the Trinity and become for us a model and example for the reception of baptism. We also are baptize with the perfect baptism of the Lord, which is by water and the Spirit. It is sad that Christ baptized in fire because he poured out the grace of the Spirit on the holy Apostles in the form of tongues of fire. The Lord says, “John indeed baptize with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, not many days from now (Acts 1:5).” It may also be that he is said to baptize with fire because of the chastening baptism of the fire to come. A sixth baptism is that which is by repentance and tears, which is truly painful. A seventh baptism is that which is by blood and martyrdom. Christ was also baptized with this for our sake. This baptism is exceedingly sublime and blessed because second stains do not pollute it. An eighth baptism, which is the last, is not saving. While being destructive of evil, since evil and sin no longer hold power, it chastises endlessly.

It is nice to see someone beside Luther and the reformers point to repentance as baptism. Even though he mentions it earlier as the chastening baptism of the fire to come, that is what I take the “eighth baptism” to be – the final fire where the current heaven on earth pass away with all not washed by the earlier baptisms. A great bit of biblical theology and reading of the divine plan of salvation.