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Baptism of Jesus – 1/11/09 – Acts 16:25-34 – High Stakes Spiritual Q & A A

SERMON

 

Baptism of Jesus – 1/11/15 – Rev. Peter Sulzle

 

God Answers Your Most Crucial Questions

1. About the Salvation of Your Soul

2. About the Blessings of Your Baptism

 

Acts 16:25-34

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

 

Life is full of questions. What am I going to do with my life? How will my children turn out? What will happen to the economy and my job? Will I find a soul mate? How can I retire? Jesus added, “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” Many TV commercials strive to answer all of these questions for us. A third of them will answer the questions with food, a third with purchases, and the other third with medication.

There are many questions in life. Some are more important than others. We have questions and answers in front of us today. These are very important questions. What hangs in the balance is the soul of every person in this room. Every one of you needs to know how God answers your most crucial questions about the salvation of your soul and about the blessings of your baptism. Let’s find God’s answers to these crucial questions.

The Apostle Paul and Silas were on a missionary journey in the Roman city of Philippi. A slave girl who was demon-possessed began to follow them around proclaiming, “These men are servants of the most High God.” Paul and Silas didn’t want to be discredited by an evil spirit, so Paul commanded the demon to come out. The owners of the slave girl had been using her to get money by predicting the future. They were upset and accused the missionaries of anti-Roman activities. The authorities had them flogged and thrown into a prison. That’s when the jailor’s ordinary day turned extraordinary.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. These two men were imprisoned, beaten, and bloodied. Yet they weren’t moaning and groaning. They were praying to God. They were singing hymns. The other prisoners, and probably the jailor, were listening. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailor woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. He would have received their punishments. He wanted to do what he thought was the honorable thing. But then he heard a shout, “Don’t hurt yourself; we are all here!” The jailor was surprised by the earthquake, bewildered by the prisoners who didn’t run away, terrified because he almost killed himself, and amazed that his prisoners actually cared to save his life. He called for lights, brought them out, and asked the crucial question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

A natural question for someone in such a predicament. People ask this when they realize that there is someone out there far bigger than them. For the jailor it was after an earthquake and a near death experience. For others it may be a fierce storm, a foxhole, a surgery room, a funeral home. Sometimes it takes a life-changing or life-threatening event for which humans have no solution to get someone asking about God and eternity.

It’s something people don’t like to think about. The jailor realized he was in a lot of trouble, not only with the authorities, but with God. He didn’t want to think about it, but he couldn’t escape it. We can’t either. We know from our consciences that God holds us accountable for our sins because we feel the guilt when we sin. But even if our consciences fail us, we have God’s law written down in his Word. His law tells us, “There is no one righteous. All have sinned. God hates all who do wrong. The wages of sin is death.”

Our first inclination is to fix the problem. Like the jailor we ask, “What MUST I DO to be saved?” But we have spiritual sickness that we cannot cure. We are paralyzed from doing good. We have a fevered inclination towards evil. We’ve suffered the cut of sin and cannot stop the bleeding until we die eternally. We are the problem, not the solution.

So when we ask that question, “What must I do to be saved?” God gives the answer. Paul and Silas gave the jailor an answer he wasn’t expecting. He might have expected a worldly answer. “What do you mean - saved? There is nothing to be saved from. Do what you want and believe what you want.” Or “Do the best you can to correct the wrong. The more good you do, the better you’ll feel.” Or “Just go through this 10 step process to feeling guilt-free, consequence-free, and responsibility-free.” That’s the world’s solutions.

The jailor asked, “What must I do?” Paul and Silas told him that the answer wasn’t in what he did. Salvation was not about doing, but believing. They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Jesus is God’s answer to our question. Jesus saves us from God’s righteous anger, from guilt, from sin, from death, from hell.

Think back to the gospel. John the Baptist came preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He got people to ask the question, “What must we do?” Then John told them, “Look the Lamb of God.” When Jesus went into that river to be baptized, when the Holy Spirit came upon him, when the voice came from above saying, “This is my Son, whom I love,” God was declaring that Jesus was going to accomplish the work of salvation. It showed that Jesus was living perfectly under the law as our Savior Substitute so he could make the world right with God. Jesus is God’s answer.

Jesus stepped in as our sacrificial substitute. He took the beatings and blame from Roman government, from the angry devil, from our wretched sins. They beat him down to death and hell. But in his suffering and death he earned our freedom from sin and guilt so we are saved. Jesus is the right answer to the crucial question about salvation. When you are overwhelmed with the guilt and fear and shame of yours sins, Jesus is the answer. When you’re faced with death and meeting your Maker because of illness or accident or age, Jesus is the answer. If you’ve had a spiritual wake up call or need one desperately, Jesus is still the answer. Knowing this answer gives us freedom. We no longer trust in ourselves, but God’s love. We no longer ask “what must I do” out of fear or guilt, but “what can I do for God” out of love and thanks!

When we simply believe in Jesus, we see wonderful results, great blessings of God’s grace. It’s so important to see what Paul and Silas did for the jailor right away. After Paul and Silas told the jailor to believe, we’re told they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. No doubt they laid out God’s plan of salvation and explained the Lord’s Supper and the blessings it gave. And surely they spoke about the blessing of baptism because this is what happened. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. This is how vital baptism was to them. The entire family was baptized as soon as possible! It shows the importance of baptism.

On this day that we remember Jesus’ baptism, we also think of our baptisms and the rewards that come with it. Baptism, as the jailor learned, is a special gift from God to us. We need baptism. We are born dead in our trespasses and sin. Just like dead Lazarus couldn’t wiggle a finger or raise his hand to let Jesus know he wanted to be raised from the dead, we can’t raise a spiritual hand to do anything for ourselves. But in baptism, the simple application of some water in the name of the Triune God gives amazing gifts. In this washing with water through the Word, God covers us with the perfect record of his Son, Jesus. God forgives all of our sins. God unites us with Jesus and makes us his children. Baptism brings us the reward of God’s answer to our question, “What must I do to be saved?” Be baptized and wash your sins away. The answer, the reward, is Jesus, his perfect life, his innocent death, his resurrection and eternal life.

Remember what your baptism has done for you. When you remember it, don’t think, “I was baptized,” but “I am baptized.” We live in God’s baptismal grace every day. Your baptism empowers you to drown the old self with repentance and to put on the new self that is eager to do what is good. That’s a great reward of God’s grace with great value. Louis the Pious of France once proclaimed: The three handfuls of water that were poured on my head in Baptism are worth more to me than the crown that I am wearing. Find true joy of the Lord in your priceless baptism. Find power to live for God in your baptism. Find the hope of eternal salvation in your baptism. Then you’ll believe and think and react like the jailor. The jailor brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.

So many questions in life! This one is crucial: “What must I do to be saved?” Here’s God’s answer: “Believe in Jesus and you will be saved.” This one is crucial: “Why should I be baptized?” Here’s God’s answer: “It makes you my child and saves you for this life and for eternity.” The stakes couldn’t be higher. Eternal life is on the line. Praise God that he gives you the answer to life’s most crucial questions. The answer is Jesus. Amen.

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