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Acts 15:22-35


 

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: "The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."

 

So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. (ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In His Servants Hands

Silas, Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul 

10 February 2014

Some people are greatly troubled by the fact that Jesus Himself did not personally baptize anyone. This leads them to presume that baptism was not particularly important to Him. Such a conclusion, however, is not supported by the actual situation in the Bible. The Bible is set in the ancient world in which deputies often functioned in the name of others. An ambassador spoke in the place of his master and a steward for his Lord. In the parable of the shrewd steward, the steward was able to change the accounts of his master's debtors so that they will accept him into their households when he is seeking a position. When he changed the bills of debt, he was obligating his master to accept the discounted payments (Lk 16:1-10). What he does is necessarily the master's will. He is the voice of his master.

 

We act the same way in our culture. Many are the officers who carry out the law, promulgated by our lawgivers in government. Judges, police, and corrections officers enforce the law in the name of the people. The President of the United States does not execute writs, but the officers of the government do. They do so legitimately. So it is for those who have been called to share the will of the judge eternal, God the Lord. They legitimately and in the name of their avowed Master do what they do with His full guarantee to stand behind what they are doing and saying. When they execute His writ, then His will is done in His name. As Luther's Small Catechism reminds us, "God's name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it" (SC 3.1).

 

Thus Jesus sent His deputies throughout the inhabited world to offer His promise of forgiveness of sins in holy baptism. When they baptized, the Lord Himself was baptizing. He was their Master. They were His servants. What they gave and offered, He stood good for. Jesus did not need to do baptism because every baptism was His. He stood for it and the baptized were placed into Him. He couldn't do it any more than that. Tertullian seems to say that there was something deficient about the baptisms performed before the death and resurrection of Christ. However, since the disciples were baptized by John in the one baptism, this is hard to understand. By the same token the body of Christ could not have been present in the first celebration of the Lord's Supper. But what is present by the Word of God, is present because He says it into presence. The prolepsis of baptism is full of the death and life of Christ, even though performed before He died and rose. This is why Holy Writ tells us that Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). God our Father sees so clearly our salvation in His only begotten Son, that He sees Him as slain from eternity. This is what is most certainly distributed by those of us who have been commissioned to baptize in that Lamb slain. What great gifts He has placed in His servants hands!

 

Tertullian

 

"Some say, 'The Lord came, and did not baptize; for we read, "Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples" (Jn 4:2).' As if John had preached that He would baptize with His own hands! Of course, his words are not so to be understood, but as simply spoken after an ordinary manner; just as, for instance, we say, 'The emperor set forth an edict,' or, 'The prefect punished him.' The emperor doesn't publish the edict in person, does he? The prefect doesn't personally carry out the punishment, does he? No, one whose ministers do a thing is always said to do it. So 'He will baptize you' will have to be understood as standing for, 'through Him,' or 'into Him you will be baptized.'

 

"Let not the fact that 'Jesus himself did not baptize' trouble any. For into whom should He baptize? Into repentance? What good then is John, His forerunner? Into remission of sins, which He used to give by a word? Did he baptize into himself, whom he was humbly concealing? Into the Holy Spirit, who had not yet descended from the Father? Into the Church, which His apostles had not yet founded? It was with the same 'baptism of John' that His disciples used to baptize, as ministers, with which John before had baptized as forerunner. Let none think it was with some other, because no other exists, except that of Christ subsequently; which at that time, of course, could not be given by His disciples, inasmuch as the glory of the Lord had not yet been fully attained, nor the efficacy of the font established through the passion and the resurrection; because neither can our death see dissolution except by the Lord's passion, nor our life be restored without His resurrection."

 

Tertullian, 
On Baptism, 11
 

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, You servant Silas preached the gospel with the apostles Peter and Paul. We give you thanks for raising up evangelists and heralds of Your kingdom, that the church may continue to proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

For all those suffering from Alzheimer's disease, that they might be known by Christ far better than they know

 

For those who will be joined in holy marriage, that they would have joy made complete by Christ the groom of His bride the church

 

For the family of Joyce Makangula, whom the Lord chose to take to Himself, that they might grieve as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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