The Urgent Need for a Baptismal Spirituality

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” (Matthew 3:16-17)

The theological insights we gain from Jesus’ baptism are not random, entertaining theological facts. Instead our theology of Jesus’ baptism should lead us into the development of a baptismal spirituality. The great Reformer Martin Luther spoke to the spiritual significance of baptism in his Large Catechism. He wrote:

In baptism…every Christian has enough to study and practice all his or her life.…Thus, we must regard baptism and put it to use in such a way that we may draw strength and comfort from it when our sins or conscience oppress us, and [we can] say: ‘But I am baptized!’[1]

Following Luther’s advice to study and practice our baptism, let me suggest three ways Jesus’ baptism should shape our spiritual life with God.

The pattern of dying and rising in baptism and the spiritual life (Romans 6:1-14)

First, we remember that our spiritual life is shaped around the pattern of dying and rising. The Apostle Paul writes about this in Romans 6:1-14, a Scripture passage that I read every time we celebrate baptisms at Eastbrook. Here are verses 3 and 4:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4)

Because of Jesus’ baptism, because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from death as the representative Messiah, we are invited into a spiritual life where we die to ourselves and live to God, we die to sin and we live to holiness, we die to what is not life and we rise into what is life.

Each day, we echo our baptism by surrendering ourselves to God in death to self and rising up in obedience to God by the Holy Spirit’s power. We say, echoing Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done.”

Sometimes life has to go down before it can go up.

Our spiritual life must be shaped by the call to dying and rising seen in baptism.

The call to suffering in baptism and the spiritual life (Luke 12:50; Mark 10:38-40)

Second, Jesus’ baptism reminds us that our spiritual life is a call to suffering. John’s baptism was a call to die to sin, to name it, to turn from it, and to enter into life. It was a call to spiritual renunciation of the self in order to follow God.

Jesus’ baptism was that, but it was also something more. His baptism in history prefigured a baptism of suffering that He would have to endure. Later in the gospel accounts, Jesus said:

I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! (Luke 12:50)

Jesus here refers to His upcoming suffering on the Cross. We do not recreate what Jesus suffered, but our spiritual life is an invitation into a cross-shaped existence. Jesus’ invites human beings trapped in an upside-down world to turn to God through death to self. This involves suffering. If our Christianity does not involve some level of suffering, we are probably not Christians or have misunderstood the calling of Christ. Not only that, but we are also called as believers to enter into the suffering of others. By choosing to enter into the suffering of others—the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the dying, the imprisoned, the spiritually empty—we shine the light of Christ into dark places, bringing hope, joy, and peace where darkness seems to reign.

Sometimes life has to go down before it can go up.

Our spiritual life must be shaped by the call to suffering seen in baptism.

The joy of God’s delight in baptism and the spiritual life (Matthew 3:17; Acts 2:38)

Third, lest we think that developing a baptismal spirituality is all pain and suffering, Jesus’ baptism also helps us remember that our spiritual life is centered around the joy of God’s delight in us. Jesus is the unique Son of God who fully reveals the Triune nature of God and manifests God’s kingdom and salvation into our midst. When Jesus rose from baptism, He heard the words of the Father over Him: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Jesus has come to make that a reality for us as well. As the Messiah, Jesus brings good news to us that we are not trapped by the power of sin, but that we can turn from sin’s power through repentance to God for life and new beginnings as His children. Peter preached about this at the very beginning of the church when he said:

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Baptism speaks of forgiveness. It is a sign of the old being washed away and the new coming again. We can begin again.  The Holy Spirit speaks of adoption. We can become God’s children. We begin again in God’s delight and love for us. Even as Jesus heard those words, “This is my Son, whom I love,” so, too, we, in baptism, experience the very great reality that we are children of God whom God loves more than we can comprehend. When we remember our baptism, we likewise remember we are loved by God. That reality should center us in God’s love for us every day and motivate us to live with love for others every day.

Our spiritual life must be shaped by the joy of God’s delight in us as seen in baptism.


[1] Martin Luther, as quoted in Book of Concord, edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000); referenced here: https://www.livinglutheran.org/2015/02/mythbusting/.

Why Was Jesus Baptized?: insights from Theodore of Mopsuestia

One of the somewhat confusing issues in studying the gospels is the rationale for Jesus’ baptism. In fact, this issue was hotly debated and widely written about in the early church. The question goes like this, “If John’s baptism was a sign of repentance, then why would Jesus, who is described as sinless, undergo baptism?”

While studying for my message on Jesus’ baptism at Eastbrook for this past weekend, “Baptized with Water and Spirit,” I was encouraged and built up by insights from Theodore of Mopsuestia. Theodore was a church leader in present-day Turkey during the 4th and 5th centuries. These insights are taken from a fragment of his writings.

Many raise the question, What in fact was the nature of this baptism with which the Lord was baptized? What did it amount to, the baptism of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who, for the sake of the salvation of all, became human? As such he was to show himself to be the beginning of a certain paradoxical life on account of which he is called Adam, since for Adam’s sake and for the rest of those who have arisen from Adam he becomes the beginning of everlasting life, in the same way that Adam was the original of this temporary and mortal life.

This Jesus, I say, recapitulated in himself everything that pertains to our salvation. For just as he both died and rose again, we also shall do so, in the same way. Since necessarily we were to be symbolically transferred from this present life by baptism and settled in that life which is to come, he saw to it that this baptism should be fulfilled first of all in himself. In his providential dispensation of things, he had received, before all others, this baptism of adoption which is by water and the Spirit. He thereby showed this baptism to be great and honorable, in that he himself, first of all, truly accepted it. Moreover, he himself identified himself with that part of society outside the law of grace, in which we also take part. For it was fitting the the Lord, in humility of spirit, should become subject both the the prophet and Baptist, like a common person from among the people. He was baptized that he might hallow the waters and bestow upon us, through the basin, regeneration and adoption and remission of sins and all the other blessings that came to us through baptism, prefiguring them in himself. As God, however, he is the One “who takes away the sin of the world,” and as such he has no need of baptism.

[Theodore of Mopsuestia, found in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1-13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture 1a (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 51.]

Baptized with Water and Spirit

As we continued our series “Power in Preparation” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church we explored the brief but highly significant episode of Jesus’ baptism by John in Matthew 3:13-17. This passage caused a lot of debate in the early church, primarily around the question: why did Jesus, who was without sin, need to be baptized with John’s baptism of repentance? While I do address that question in this message, my focus moves from four key theological truths of Jesus’ baptism toward application of that truth for a baptismal spirituality for our life with God.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.”  (Matthew 3:13)

Facts of Jesus’ Baptism

  • timing
  • setting

Theological Truths of Jesus’ Baptism

  • Representative Messiah: John’s hesitation and Jesus’ purpose
  • The Descent of the Dove: the coming of the Holy Spirit
  • Jesus the Unique Son of God: The declaration of the Father
  • The Triune God Revealed: The Son’s baptism, the Spirit’s descent, the Father’s declaration

Spiritual Implications of Jesus’ Baptism

  • The pattern of dying and rising in baptism and the spiritual life (Romans 6:1-14)
  • The call to suffering in baptism and the spiritual life (Mark 10:38-40)
  • The joy of God’s delight in baptism and the spiritual life (Matthew 3:17; Acts 2:38)

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the significance of Jesus’ baptism in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize the Father’s declaration over Jesus in Matthew 3:17
  • Set aside some time this week to read Matthew 3:13-17 again. Then write, draw, paint, or pray aloud your own response to this series of events in Jesus’ life.
  • Explore the theme of baptism in the New Testament through these Scripture readings:
    • Matthew 21:23-27
    • Mark 10:35-45
    • Luke 12:49-53
    • Acts 19:3-6
    • Romans 6:1-14
    • Colossians 2:9-12
  • Although it is drawn from the Gospel of Luke, you may enjoy watching “The Baptism of Jesus” by the Bible Project

Eastbrook at Home – January 24, 2021

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM. This weekend we continue our new series, “Power in Preparation,” which continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which began with the series “Family Tree.” This week we will look at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:13-17.

Join in with the Eastbrook 365 daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

The Voice of One Calling Out

This past weekend we continued our series “Power in Preparation” at Eastbrook Church by looking at the appearance of John the Baptist near the Jordan from Matthew 3:1-12 and how this sets the stage for Jesus. John is an extraordinary character in the gospels, whose life and preaching is incredibly challenging.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”  (Matthew 3:1-2)

John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-4)

  • Repentance
  • The kingdom of heaven
  • The voice (Isaiah 40:3)
  • The prophet (2 Kings 1:8)

The Wilderness (Matthew 3:1, 5-6)

  • Old Testament backgrounds: Jeremiah 2:2-3; Hosea 2:14-15; Ezekiel 20:35-38
  • Turning from self to God
  • Stripping and judgment
  • Purification and renewal

Brood of Vipers (Matthew 3:7-10)

  • Pharisees and Sadducees
  • Fruit in keeping with repentance
  • True children of Abraham
  • The tree about to be cut down

The One to Come (Matthew 3:11-12)

  • More powerful and even greater
  • A baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the life and ministry of John the Baptist in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize John’s message in Matthew 3:2
  • Set aside some time this week to read Matthew 3:1-12 again. Then write, draw, paint, or pray aloud your own response to this series of events in Jesus’ life.
  • Read more about John’s life in the following passages:
  • Luke 1:5-25, 39-80
  • Luke 3:1-20
  • John 1:6-8, 19-34
  • John 3:22-36
  • Matthew 11:1-19
  • Matthew 14:1-12
  • Mark 6:14-29
  • Matthew 17:11-13; 21:32
  • Explore Bible maps related to the life and ministry of John the Baptist here.