There is much confusion regarding baptism, since it is often assumed there could only be 2 ways to look at it. Either baptism saves you and makes you holy, makes you a Christian in the Roman Catholic sense of regenerating you automatically, or it is just a way to act out your profession of faith. As Reformed believers we say there is a 3rd way.
When you and your fiancé decide to get married, your legal status doesn’t change right away, but your relationship certainly does. But when do we celebrate our anniversaries? On the day we decided to get married? No, on the day our new covenant relationship was solemnized before God and witnesses. It is the same here. We do not deny that David, who will be baptized soon, that David’s relationship with the Lord has been established for some time. But today, here, that covenant relationship is solemnized before God and witnesses.
What would you think of a society that had no public marriages, b/c they didn’t want to make too much of outward forms and ceremonies? It is the same with baptism. We want to celebrate, endorse, approve, rejoice in David’s relationship with the Lord, and we want to do it the way Christ told us to – go and make disciples, baptizing them.
When the minister at a wedding pronounces the couple man and wife, has he created a relationship where there was none before? No. The prior relationship led to taking public vows at a specific ceremony, which added a legal and physical dimension to the relationship that wasn’t there before. In the same way, baptism adds further dimensions, obligations and blessings, to the relationship we have with the Lord.
Sprinkling some water on David’s head this morning may not look like much, but our weapons are not of this world. We trust the Spirit to fight for David, as He marks David as belonging to Jesus, in the covenant of grace mediated by Jesus His Savior. This is something the Spirit of Christ does – baptism is not mainly our act, but God’s. Imagine heaven torn open at this moment, and the Lord himself coming down, tearing off this roof, taking the bowl from Mr Doskey, hearing David cry out, “My Lord and my God!”, and then baptizing him. Now, the fact that I am not Jesus shouldn’t dull that reality, b/c I truly represent Christ as I baptize David, in spite of my own sin. We need representation. Jesus represents us to the Father, and we are justified. Preaching re-presents the Gospel to us. Baptism represents to us our cleanliness in Christ. The Supper represents Christ’s death for us. We need these things, and they are Christ’s gifts to us. The gift of God for the people of God.