05192019 Easter 5 Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“We are baptized with the Holy Spirit!”

05192019 Easter 5 Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

May 19, 2019
“We are baptized with the Holy Spirit!”
Sermon Audio

Since Easter we have heard each week from the Book of Acts in our first reading.  We have like a stone on the water that is ‘skipped’ across a pond or river, touched on many readings.  They haven’t been sequential and this may cause some of us that are linear or logical thinkers to wonder.  But what we have heard are the various stories of the miracles and witness of the disciples, the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Paul’s conversion and our being called to care for the church.  Today, we return to Peter in Acts 11, who helps the Jews understand this message of salvation isn’t only for the Jews, but for the entire world. In the passage we have just heard, Peter tells the Jews that the Gentiles are included to hear the Gospel of their salvation.  And they and we who believe Jesus is the Christ confess that “We are baptized with the Holy Spirit!”

Many fundamentalist, evangelicals and non-denominationals, in various denominations believe that baptism requires full immersion in and under the water in order for their baptism to ‘be valid’.  We could spend the next few hours presenting a case for and against this man made ‘requirement’, but in doing that we would only divide and not unite ourselves behind the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is what I believe Peter encountered in his day as well. The Gentiles had certain beliefs and customs that showed a clear ‘line in the sand’ of where and what they were comfortable believing, teaching and confessing.  The Jews as well had their laws of cleansing, purification and what animals they were allowed to consume. What Peter was attempting to do was unite the people, both Jews and Gentiles, behind the simple truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that salvation was for all of mankind.  This led Peter after his vision to proclaim a unity in the Gospel message and how baptism was God’s action and done in obedience. And when an individual was baptized, their baptism is a gift from God and the firm belief that “We are baptized with the Holy Spirit!”

This encounter by Peter with both the Jews and Gentiles was to show that what Peter was fulfilling was his calling to fulfill God’s plan and not his own.  Peter had been given the gift of a vision. A vision that radically changed what he had been taught and his beliefs of who should receive the message of salvation.  Not just the Jews, but even the Gentiles and their whole house. Looking at this the Gospel is not only a tool for evangelism, teaching and stewarding the mysteries of faith, but an opportunity to unite instead of dividing behind the message of salvation.  For the Gentiles had already received the “Word of God”. They had heard the Gospel of their salvation and now in obedience to what they had heard, with their baptism they would demonstrate their faith and obedience and receive the Holy Spirit. So the Gentiles could then proclaim, “We are baptized with the Holy Spirit!”

What makes this experience so powerful is that Peter, Apostle and Disciple of Jesus Christ in obedience to God’s Will, confirmed the faith kindled in the Gentiles who had received the “Word of God”.  Peter not only fanned their faith into a flame, but was willing to demonstrate his active obedience to the new truth he encountered in the vision and proclaim the message of salvation. Yes, it had been first given to the Jews, but by Peter’s vision it was revealed that the Gospel was also meant for the Gentiles.  Peter therefore reached out his hand of friendship and connection and showed that both Jews and Gentiles would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit from God. This is the same gift we receive in our baptism when, “We are baptized with the Holy Spirit!”

Today nearly two thousand years later, what can we learn from Peter and his experience?  Simply Peter demonstrated his willingness to hold the Gospel as supreme and not to divide the people of God, Jews or Gentiles.  Peter’s question from our Acts reading is poignant, “Who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”  Peter understood that he was not the gatekeeper, but the delivery person for the love and grace that God wanted to give unto both the Jews as well as the Gentiles.  This is so powerful for us in our day and age. Satan wants to construct division, lead us into temptation and divide and destroy God’s church and attempt to fracture the message of salvation.  And God out of His love for us wants to heal that which divides us in order to unite us. And this is why the final statement, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” is so powerful.  It is God Who grants repentance and this leads us to life since “We are baptized with the Holy Spirit!”.

Since, “We are baptized with the Holy Spirit” we find life in God’s name, because of God’s gift of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  And we, whether baptized in a river, a font or even a small bowl, receive the gift of God’s grace, mercy and love. And God is not limited by the amount of water, nor the means or method of fulfilling God’s plan of salvation.  When the Trinitarian Words are spoken of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, connected to Water, God baptizes us and God gives us the gift of life and salvation through His Son Jesus Christ and our receipt of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit enables us to stand up against those who attempt to divide us because we are not getting our way and point to our unity in the Holy Spirit that all of us have been baptized into by Water and Word.  And this emboldens us to proclaim to all the world, whether Jew, Gentile, slave or free, fundamentalist, evangelical or non-denominational that when we are baptized by God, “We are baptized with the Holy Spirit!”  AMEN!