Our Jewel-studded Crown:
A Sermon for Baptism

Just as the waters floated Noah and his crew to safety, the waters of baptism now save us from death unto eternal life.  And baptism creates in us a spiritual memory or keepsake.

Snyder Bible    
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1 Peter 3:18-22 
Ezekiel 36:25-27 
Matthew 28:18-29

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Anniversary Garnet

{optional: Mignon and I were talking about our upcoming wedding anniversary.  It'll be number fifteen, and she was trying to get me to guess what stone was appropriate for that anniversary.  I wanted to watch the news the other night, but she had the Home Shopping Network on.  "I just want to look at the jewelry," she said.   Then they advertised a diamond ring with the price tag of $1,996.  I thought to myself, "Is this the fifteenth anniversary stone?"  I shuddered to think that it was, not because she isn't worth it, but because I don't have any money.  Then she said, "I wouldn't have that if they gave it to me."  I was relieved, but I thought, "I'd have it if they gave it to me -- and I'd sell it and get the proper stone for a fifteenth anniversary."  It didn't take me long after this to find out what that stone is, but I'm not telling.  (Ruby -- but some say Sapphire.)   

On our seventh anniversary, we bought a large, many-faceted, deep red garnet in a gold, modified cathedral, setting.  We saw this ring when we were shopping about that time, but a garnet was the last stone we thought we wanted.  Yet this stone was so compelling, so inviting, so valuable that we just kept coming back to see it.  Though Onyx is supposed to be the appropriate stone for a seventh anniversary, we bought this compelling garnet instead.

Last week Mignon had the ring cleaned.  We looked at it again and it really sparkled.  It reminded us of our first seven years of marriage, which were wonderful years.  In a way that ring stands for the many facets of love, companionship and ministry we've shared - the many intangible assets of living godly lives that can't be saved except symbolically, or maybe in some memory bank in eternity for later.  But when that garnet ring is worn and seen, we remember happy stories; and we're thankful. Although there may be millions of stones of greater value, this garnet maintains a certain  pricelessness to us as it symbolizes our ongoing partnership in Yahweh.}

The Text 

1 Peter 3:18-22 For Messiah also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to Yahweh, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 19. in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20. who formerly did not obey, when Yahweh's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to Yahweh for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Yahshua Messiah, 22. who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of Yahweh, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Peter begins his third chapter with advice on marriage -- that married people may remain unified through love and mutual submission.  He extends his teaching on love to include all brothers and sisters in Yahshua.  Peter tells us to "...live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love, be compassionate and humble" (v. 8), for out of this brand of love the Savior died for us.  Then he tells us of the importance of our baptism in our ultimate salvation -- that through it, we remain united and cleansed -- and it gets Yahweh's attention!

Peter teaches that the water on which Noah and his Ark floated symbolizes the water of baptism. Just as the 40 days of rain cleansed the earth of evil, the waters of baptism now cleanse us unto salvation. And just as the waters floated Noah and his crew to safety, the waters of baptism now save us from death unto eternal life.  And baptism creates in us a spiritual memory or keepsake.

{Much as our garnet anniversary ring is a memento,} Your baptism is a memento, a reminder, and a down payment of the Father's grace, salvation and destiny for you.  May I suggest we consider our baptism a diadem or crown; and people should be able to see at least one jewel adorning it.

Baptism: A Jeweled Crown

The idea of baptism as a "jeweled crown" is almost identical to  Martin Luther's understanding of baptism.  Luther wrote:

No greater jewel can adorn our body or soul than baptism: For through it, perfect holiness and salvation become accessible to us, which is otherwise beyond the reach of man's life and energy.

Luther's saying that, through the Father's grace bestowed at baptism, we have an open door to His  wonderful blessings that otherwise would be denied us -- blessings such as cleansing, a clear conscience and rescue from ultimate judgment. Baptism is perhaps the most underrated spiritual gift.  But it may be the most valuable.  Have you looked closely at your crown?  You'll find there seven jewels, each with special beauty and value.

1.There is a beautiful Red Ruby on Your Crown:

Baptism is our Appeal for Rescue.  I think of my baptism as a flag with my name on it shot up into Heaven to fly perpetually, drawing the rapt attention of the Elohim.   My rescue flag will never drift away because it's  firmly attached to me by a great, long cord.  At times, I feel tugged heavenward as the wind of the spirit flies my flag to and fro, like a sail in a gale. 

Remembering your baptism ought to make you feel a little like Bill Grogan's Goat:

(Clap, clap, clap, clap)
Bill Grogan's goat was feeling fine;
Ate three red shirts from off the line.
Bill took a stick, gave him a whack,
And tied him to the railroad track.
The whistle blew, the train drew nigh;
Bill Grogan's goat was doomed to die.
He gave three groans of awful pain;
Coughed up the shirts and flagged the train!

Can we imagine ourselves tied to a railroad track -- one rail is iniquity and the other sin -- the smoking train of His wrath bearing down?  We "cough up a red shirt" and flag down the engineer of the universe just in time to be saved.

Likewise, your baptism flags the train of your destruction in the nick of time; for His time is not ours.   No telling what might have happened in the ensuing hours!  So the red, red ruby in your baptismal crown is the remembrance of your appeal to the Almighty for rescue. Relive your baptism and be thankful.

2. There's a Pearl in Your Crown: Your Pearl of Protection.

It follows that, if baptism saves us in some sense, it's also our seal of protection and preservation against evil.  Yes, the baptismal waters have made an indelible impression upon not only our hearts and spirits, but on our flesh.  Baptism has marked us out as dead to this world but alive to the cosmos.  Consider the words of

Colossians 2: 11,12. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Messiah;  and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of Yahweh, who raised him from the dead. 

This text provides one of the reasons we baptize infants and children.  In the old days, righteous families kept the covenant with Yahweh by presenting their sons on the eighth day to be circumcised -- physically marked as Yahweh's.   Today, baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of our covenant with Yahweh.  Like circumcision, baptism is a physical ordeal -- it elicits a physical response.  But we'll talk more about that later.

But there's more.  We believe that baptism is a sacrament: that is, something we do in physical reality that elicits a response from Yahweh in spiritual reality.  In baptism we act in accordance to Yahshua's command and Yahweh our Father  returns greater grace -- to help preserve us from the devices of the devil.  In the case of infants and those who can't speak for themselves, they are protected until they can speak up.

Nowadays, dentists are coating our teeth with plastic that protects them from acids and prevents cavities.  One dental assistant told me that she coated her own teeth over twenty years ago, even before this procedure was approved for adults.  She had to sneak around to do it, but she hasn't had one cavity in all these years.  Likewise, your faith and obedience combined with His baptismal grace serve to protect you from evils that you may never realize have you targeted.  The rescue flag of your baptism reminds the Almighty time after time to look out for you until you're perfected. 

Consider the lowly oyster -- he builds a pearl around the irritating little piece of grit that floats into his abode.  The sparkling pearl protects the oyster from sharp, hurtful edges.  Likewise, the pearl in our baptismal crown protects us and preserves us onto glory.  Now do you see why baptism is especially important for innocent children?  When we relive our baptism in faith, we celebrate this our protection.  Let's be thankful.

3. Our Crowns Also Display Diamonds.

Again, Martin Luther writes that

Baptism signifies that the old man in us is to be drowned in repentance and perish with all sins and evil; and that the new man should daily come forth, who shall live before Yahweh in righteousness and purity forever.

Metanoiea is translated "repentance" in the Bible, and actually means "a change of mind" or "a turning about."    Repentance means the baptized believer must turn 180 degrees: from seeking the will of the "old man" to seeking the will of "the new man."  Repentance means that we continually keep our eyes upon Yahshua and "walk in the spirit," taking up His cross daily.  The diamond in our crown is the marriage stone.  Be we man or woman, if we're rightly baptized into His sacred name, we're married to him and submit to his will.  Yes, you strong men are the lovely brides of Zion.  In anticipation, you've already received your diamond.   So now, being betrothed as wives, shall we not live in accordance to our marriage vow, made at baptism?

Regarding the diamond: it's the worthless lump of coal that, through intense heat, pressure and time, becomes the priceless gem.  When we behold ourselves, our diamond tiara is a sparkling remembrance that our lives, our minds, our bodies, are no longer ours, but the Bridegroom's, who fills us with diamond light.  Relive your baptism and be thankful.

4. Beware!  Your Crown is Radioactive!

Did you know that uranium may change in molecular structure over time?  From 235 electrons to 238?  Uranium at 238 is radioactive.  This makes it a powerful element that may be harnessed for great good or eternal destruction.  Uranium lights our homes; uranium destroyed Hiroshima.  The Almighty intended to test us when he created uranium.

Baptism is a super radioactive power.  It's been called "An outward sign of an inward change."  It changes us from 235 to 238 -- from one element to another.  Now, that's a mystery, but it's also a fact.  That's why, when we profess faith, we should be baptized immediately, but never in private, for baptism requires us to light the light of the world.  It is our initial public confession that we belong to Yahshua  and no one else.  When we're baptized, we "come out of the closet" and "pledge allegiance to the Lamb."

Although this act leads to blessing, it also sets us up for ridicule.  To publicly confess your faith in Yahweh's son destroys your former allegiances to Yahweh's enemies.  Your picture appears on "wanted posters" in hell's kitchens and post offices. The devil wants your new-found faith destroyed and burned.  He would have your soul, too -- and that of your child.  But he'll never catch you unless you let him.

Many times we'll want to turn back to the old covenants we made with the world.  But when we long for the "leeks of Egypt," the Holy Spirit reminds us of the message in our crown's uranium -- that those who persevere will receive an atomic bomb powerful enough to destroy death and hell.  Relive your baptism and be thankful.  

5. Perhaps the Most Outstanding Jewel in Your Crown

is made of strong steel mingled with other beautiful gemstones.  This Hematite (as it's called) is the steel strength of our unity with all other baptized believers, shimmering with the gems of our diversities: of gifts, of talents, of personalities, of appearances.  We're all very different, yet we're proud to be associated one with another.   

The gemstones mingled with the steel in the hematite remain unnamed because they're so diverse -- as diverse as we are, one from another.  Yet they're unified so as to appear as one -- Father, Son, Spirit -- and child -- all are glistening as one great shining star.   No one will miss seeing the stars in our crowns, and some will be blinded by the light.    

Bible scholar Gerhard Maier says that "Our concern [should be] unity in diversity and not diversity in contradiction."  We're not dupes or twins or clones; we're not Dumb and Dumber or Moe and Flo.  We're each infinitely different.  Yet we're unified and burnished in the red hot coals of sainthood, then seared and hardened in the cool baptism waters.  Shwoooosh!  The waters boil when we step in.  Others see the hematite in our crown and they remember that we're a distinctive people; a magnetic people, a peculiar people, a committed people, a sanctified people, a united people -- united in the bridegroom!  So relive your baptism and be thankful.

6. There's a Chunk of Gold in Your Crown

Baptism is your down-payment on precious awards.  Prophets of economic doom tell you to invest in gold so that when the world's economic system, based on paper, credit and worthless slugs of cheap metals -- fails -- you'll have one of the few commodities that'll be tendered world-wide.

When believers visit the Holy Land, one of the great attractions is being re-baptized in the Jordan River.  We've seen pilgrims don white robes and run in a frenzy to the Jordan's stormy banks in anticipation of some spiritual or emotional high.  But when they hit the water, their faces immediately change; some even decide they don't want to be re-baptized in the Jordan after all.  Why?  Because the Jordan's water is ice cold.

We've felt the ice water; we relive its feeling today.  The temperature of the baptism stays with us, we recognize that feeling and it makes a deep impression.  Sometimes it's cold enough to make babies cry out loud and awaken us!  Yahweh gives us this precious baptismal gold as a tangible asset and down payment on our salvation that we can't forget.   When we need to cash out, we'll bless the day we invested, "sacrificing that fragrant offering acceptable and pleasing to Yahweh, [so that he might] supply every need according to his riches in glory in Messiah Yahshua" (Phil 4:18b-19).

It's comforting to know in these unstable economic times that no matter what else fails, the supply of our Heavenly Baptizer will never fail, and that we have something tangible, a receipt if you will, to prove our share in Him and his eternity.  That receipt is our baptism.  Let's relive it and be thankful!

7. The Final "Jewel" is a Round Rock - a Simple Limestone.

Limestone can hardly be called a jewel; it's common -- of little value in the eyes of speculators.  It's just a piece of soft rock, hewn round, resembling a circle.  It's hidden in the crown  -- no one likes to look at it much -- so ridiculous it seems among the precious jewels.

But we may consider this rough, gray stone as the doorway of a tomb rolled back; it's the massive stone door that couldn't hold our Master in the prison of spirits.  Though he died, death couldn't hold him -- the limestone was simply rolled away and the gates of death destroyed forever.  

The Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Rome these wonderful words:

Don't you know that all who have been baptized into Messiah Yahshua were baptized into his death?  If we've been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3,5).

We can hardly imagine it now; but when we look at the door of the tomb rolled aside, we find hope in the midst or our greatest trials.  Praise Yahweh.  Hallelujah!  Relive your baptism and be thankful.

The Most Precious Jewel of All

The world boasts of its great riches; its precious jewels. There are great diamonds, like the Dresden Green -- the largest and most precious natural diamond in the world.  How about the Star of Africa: 530 carats, 74 facets; or the Hope Diamond: 44.4 carats, valued at over 2 million dollars.  Consider the big fat Burmese Ruby: 1,184 carats, worth 36 million dollars?  {Optional: But, to tell you the truth, a more precious gem to me is the garnet that we chose for our seventh anniversary that Mignon even now is wearing.  However, owning the Star of Africa could really help us out right now!}

But all these {, even those gems with nostalgic value,} pale in comparison with the glorious and irrevocable jewels of our baptismal crown : red ruby, delightful pearl, luminous diamond, powerful uranium, gifted hematite, priceless gold -- and common old stone.  Let us renew our covenant to do more than simply assay our jewels with nostalgia for the good old days when we acquired them down at Cripple Creek.  Let us instead relive those days and the zeal that followed them.  Let us relive our baptism -- and be thankful.

 

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