Holy Trinity 2012, Volume XXI, Number 3
(A feature article from the journal: Lured from the Water, the Little Fish Perish by Norman Nagel)
Which birthday are we celebrating? How many birthdays has Logia had? Of water or of the Spirit? There is evidence of the Spirit. Is that then “born again”? How many years to “the age of discretion”? With that might come the recognition that a Christian surely knows his birth from his baptism. There is no mention of water in volume 1of 1989, sometimes called Urlogia. If we were to do it over again, would we not begin with the water and Name of holy baptism? While not undertaking to do others’ repentances, something might yet be attempted to relieve this waterlessness. The Large Catechism says we can never finish extolling what it calls “a water of God” [ein Gotteswasser] (LC IV,14), but we might nevertheless perhaps attempt a belated, aetiological, beginning.
Our banner is supplied by Tertullian. No one has ever had a more rollicking time with the water than Tertullian. “The sacramentum of our water by which the sins of our former blindness are washed away, and we are liberated into life eternal.” ¹ Thus Tertullian begins the first treatise we have on holy baptism at the end of the second century. There is never a hint that there was ever a time after Christ without holy baptism, for every Christian knew and confessed that he gave it to the apostolic ministry to do: gift, mandate, institution of the Lord. He was himself baptized in John’s baptism for sinners only, with the name of Servant-Son put on him with the water. When our Lord had done all that was given him to do with his baptismal name, he gave the Eleven a baptism to do in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Name and water running together. Water and Spirit running together. “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). It is the Spirit’s work to deliver the Jesus for us to us. “He will take of mine and give it to you” (John 16:15). The Spirit does this with his words delivered by the apostolic ministry (John 6:63; 17:20). He delivers the Jesus for us to us with the water; his death and resurrection are then ours (Rom 6:3–11). What we have put to block God off is washed away. With the water the forgiveness of sins. “A washing of regeneration and renewal done by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4).
What all is given and done with the water is given and done with the water. None of what our Lord has running with it may be subtracted, split off, separated, divided up, or spiritualistically lower-leveled. “What God has joined together let not man put asunder” (Matt 19:6). Or Dr. Luther: “Lasse das Sakrament gantz bleiben” [Let the sacrament remain whole].² Faith rejoices in the gifts given in the way our Lord gives them and does not take in hand to decide what we can do without, or devise better ways than he has given for his giving out such gifts with his water. Faith clings to the water conjoined with the Name (LC IV, 29).
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