Matthew 28:16-20 (The Holy Trinity—Series A)
“In the Name”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
June 15, 2014
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
With these words the Divine Service begins, announcing to all that it is the one, Triune God who comes among His people in worship with His Gospel in Word and Sacrament. As we hear the Name of our Triune God and make the sign of the cross we remember the first time the Name was applied to us in Holy Baptism. At the font, we were marked with cross and washed with water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This Baptism, we read in Luther’s Large Catechism, “is no human plaything, but it is instituted by God Himself.” Our text, the Gospel lesson this morning, is God’s very institution of Baptism through the very Son of God, Jesus Christ. Through the washing of water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, you and I have been baptized into the Name of God. This morning, let’s take some time so explore what this means for us and how this effects our lives today.
Christians are baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That is the baptismal formula given by Jesus for our use in making disciples. What does it mean to be baptized “in the Name” of God? The phrase, “in the name” was used in Judaism to indicate that a person was being effectively committed to something or to someone. A Jewish boy who was circumcised “in the name of the covenant” at 8 days old according to the old covenant established with Abraham and set down in the Law of Moses was committed to that covenant. Similarly, a person baptized in the Name of God is committed to God.
A person baptized in the Name of the Father has God as His Father. Our heavenly Father made us and all creatures. He has given us our bodies and souls, eyes, ears, and all our members, our reason and all our senses, and still takes care of them. He gives us clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals, and all that we have. Our Father in whose name we are baptized richly and daily provides us everything that we need to support this body and life. God our Father defends us against all danger and guards and protects us from all evil. He does all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. Baptized in the Name of the Father, we have God as our Father.
Baptized in the Name of the Son, you and I receive all the benefits of Jesus’ redeeming actions. Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is our Lord. He has redeemed us, lost and condemned people, purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. Jesus accomplished this great saving act for us on the cross. He shed His holy, precious blood to cleanse us from all our sins. His innocent suffering and death in our place won our peace and reconciliation with God as Jesus was punished for our sins instead of us. Because Jesus suffered, died, and then rose again from the dead, we are baptized into His death and resurrection. Baptized in the Name of the Son, we die to sin and live to righteousness. We look forward to the resurrection when we will be forever with the Lord in body and soul. Because He lives, we, too, shall live. Baptized in the Name of the Son, we receive all the blessings of Jesus’ cross and empty tomb.
Baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit, you and I receive the life-giving, life-sustaining power and presence of the Spirit. Jesus promised that He would not leave us alone. He would send another Comforter to be with us, the Spirit of Truth. On the Day of Pentecost, Christ fulfilled His promise as He poured out the Spirit in power on the chosen disciples. In Baptism, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit on us. It is the Holy Spirit who calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, and enables us to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit makes us holy and keeps us in the one true faith, daily and richly delivering to us the forgiveness of sins and the new life of faith. Baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit, we receive the life-giving, life-sustaining power and presence of the Spirit.
In Baptism, then, “the Father receives the baptized person as His child, the Son as His brother and disciple, and the Holy Spirit as His temple and habitation.” (J. Gerhard) Baptism is God’s means of grace to save us from our sins, from death, and from everlasting condemnation by delivering to us the forgiveness of sins and rescue from death and the devil that Jesus Christ won for us on the cross and with His triumphant resurrection. Thus baptism as a means of grace is God’s way of saving people. It’s God’s desire that all people are saved and come to knowledge of the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. (1 Tim. 2:4)
It is no wonder, then, that the Risen and Exalted Lord Jesus commissioned His disciples to make more disciples by baptizing and teaching the Gospel! “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me,” Jesus proclaimed. This kingly authority of Jesus embraces heaven, all that lives and has its being there, angels, and archangels, and the saints in glory. This authority is exercised also over the evil spirit world of the devil and the evil angels who are conquered and defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Also, all the earth is subject to Christ—all its inhabitants, both friend and foe—and all the powers that are in the earth.
And what does Jesus do with this authority? What does Jesus do with His power? He shares it with us, His disciples, through the Gospel received in Baptism and in the Word. Paul declares in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation! Baptism is the Gospel combined with water and applied to us in a washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5) The power of baptism isn’t the water, it’s the Gospel—the forgiveness of sins won for us by Jesus on the cross. Baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Triune God gives us His Gospel presence to comfort us to the end of time with forgiveness and the guarantee of eternal life. Baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Triune God also give us the very power of the Gospel for our lives of faith and salvation, but also for the lives of faith and salvation of all nations.
We have received the Lord’s baptism and the new life of faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our sins are indeed washed away in Baptism. We receive forgiveness through the preached Gospel message of life and salvation in Jesus, as well as in the eating and drinking of Christ’s very Body and Blood with the bread and wine in His Supper. In Baptism, we are children of the heavenly Father; we are temples of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. We are brothers and disciples of Jesus. This is where being baptized in the Name of God effects our lives today.
In Baptism, by grace through faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I have received Jesus’ Great Commission. We have His Gospel power shared with us so that we can, as we go about our lives, share that Gospel with all nations. Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit gives us our marching orders as followers of Jesus. And we are empowered by the Spirit through the Gospel to be Jesus’ witnesses, to be His chosen instruments of making more disciples for Jesus using the means He has provided, Baptism and teaching the Gospel.
In the movie Ghostbusters, which is one of my favorites, standing on the top of the building in Central Park West, thinking that they had just defeated Gozer who was invading New York City, Winston remarks to Ray Stantz, “We have the tools; we have the talent!” That’s what Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 today tell you today. You have the tools and the talent to be Jesus’ disciples who make disciples, sharing the message and power of the Gospel with others. Jesus has given you the best equipment in His Word to share the Good News of salvation from sin and death with those at work, at school, at the Food Shelf, in the grocery store, or wherever you find yourself.
And lest you think that you don’t have the talent, think again! You are Baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. You are a child of the heavenly Father. You are Christ’s brother and disciple. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. The whole Godhead is on your side! And you have the promise of Jesus, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” As you use the Gospel to tell others about the life-saving, life-changing Savior you have in Jesus, He is there with you. The Spirit is there with you, giving you the words to say in that special moment when you are the mouth of Christ delivering the power of God to that person or persons so that they might hear the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins.
Having heard the Gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit they may come to believe and to confess Jesus as their Savior and Lord. And what a day it would be when, after you have shared the power of God in the Gospel with that person, that you should be the one to stand next to them at the font as their sponsor as they are baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and are so made a disciple of Jesus by baptizing and teaching. Amen.