Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wonderful Hymn:
“God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It”

     Last evening while studying and surfing the net, I was directed to this tender video:

     Casper and Disney are two boys who learned of the blessings of Baptism and wanted to be included in the kingdom of these benefits. Disney volunteers, saying:

And I was about five, too. At the beginning of kindergarten, I was crying a lot because I didn’t have a baptism and everyone else did.

     He was cut off before he could finish explaining. When asked why Baptism was so important to him he says: “Baptism was so important to me because I, because we become a child of God. That’s why it’s important to me.”

     This is why these boys wanted to be baptized. Their parents had not given this to them. They wanted what the other children had received. They wanted to be generated from above into the kingdom of God. They wanted to be adopted as God’s children. Disney automatically paused when he began to say “I” and corrected himself saying “we become a child of God.” This is a display of an amazingly deep theological understanding. This was not taught by his teachers but rose from his own realization of what Baptism is. While Baptism is applied to each individual, it is the way for all who are truly generated into God’s family. While it is unlikely that young Disney made this connection to the statements of Jesus in John 3, he received the Holy Spirit in his baptism and the Holy Spirit imparted to him the true faith and continues to instruct him in the understanding of this faith that has been generated in him.

     I find the mater-of-fact manner of responses from children to be delightful. This is the way that children speak when they are certain of their responses. These two boys have been catechized. They have been taught what the Holy Spirit declares. But their responses are more than what is heard as the result of programmed indoctrination. They are speaking from their hearts of what they have been moved by the Holy Spirit to believe. This is more than merely repeating what they have heard many times from parents and teachers. They speak from their hearts of what they themselves know. Disney’s response is especially delightful when he says:

Yeah, we get to be God’s child, like I just said.

     He says this after he was asked, “And what do you get in Baptism?”

     His response is: “The forgiveness of sins.”

     His questioner seems to be fishing for more, very likely what St. Peter declares in Acts 2:38, where he speaks of the gift of the Holy Spirit as well as the forgiveness of sins, but young Disney responds with what the forgiveness of sins means to the regenerated child of God, “Yeah, we get to be God’s child, like I just said.”

     When Peter preached to those who were gathered at Pentecost, he explained the how of the new life that accompanies the reception of the remission of sins through Baptism. The Holy Spirit is the one who works this miracle of faith through which the remission of sins is worked. The Holy Spirit is the one poured out in Baptism to preserve this faith within the newborn child of God so that this faith is nurtured and strengthened, so that it grows to maturity and in deeper understanding. But for young Disney, the unity of the Holy Trinity is so clear that he responds to the foremost issue, that the remission of sins means that one is received back into God’s family forevermore. Just as the Holy Spirit does not direct attention to Himself, neither does the child of God reflect upon this but rejoices first in the remission of sins through which he gets to be a God’s child. This is what Baptism foremost means to sinners who realize that their sin cuts them off from God. It is only when people begin to rely upon their own understanding and begin to focus upon their own displays of sanctification that they begin to focus strongly upon the gift of the Holy Spirit. When sinners truly realize their sinfulness, they count the remission of sins as the most important of their needs, and they rejoice in the reconciliation with God that remission of sins establishes.

     For this reason, it makes me very sad to realize that these dear boys are part of a church body that robs them of the fullness of being regenerated into God’s Holy Communion. I regretfully confess my own sin as a pastor in this regard, having taught the false doctrine and practice of Confirmation as a necessity for partaking of the Holy Supper through which the continual remission of sins is promised to the children of God. It saddens me that sweet children of God are baptized into His Holy Communion and then are taught that they must achieve an elevated status of understanding before they are allowed to be counted as true partakers of God’s kingdom. The very food by which God promises to sustain His children is denied to those for whom He promises it. Just as these two boys were denied Baptism until they cried for it, so they are being denied the family meal so that they still are looking on for what belongs to all of God’s family but they are not being counted as true communicant members.

     I rejoice that these dear boys have been baptized and that they rejoice in the promises of their baptism. Yet I grieve that the primary proclamation of the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26) is denied to them. Even though they are rightly instructed that their sins are remitted and that the true faith is generated in them and that the Holy Spirit is poured out to them to keep them with Jesus Christ in the one true faith, yet they are denied the Sacrament of the Lord’s Holy Communion for which their baptism generates them. The Supper of Life is denied to them. They are instructed that they are not yet worthy, even though the true faith in the merits and promises of Christ is the only cause of worthiness.

     Is it any wonder that more than half of those who are baptized in these church bodies become confused and disheartened and fall away? Is it any wonder that of those who do progress to the rite of Confirmation, more than half then lose their desire for the Sacrament? Is it any wonder that in these church bodies that their own statistics show that in nearly every congregation that less than half and usually even less than a third of the so-called communicant members partake of the body and blood of their Lord on a given Sunday?

     Should this be surprising when for the most important years of their lives they have been taught that they do not need the Sacrament? For the years of their greatest development bodily, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, they have been taught that all that they really need is their baptism and that the Family Supper is not necessary. Then, after Confirmation, these dear saints who have been thus falsely taught are suddenly to cast away all of these years of instruction in the lack of need for the Sacrament and now to begin to crave the Sacrament as a great necessity.

     Does this make any sense at all?

     Saint Paul is often quoted in this regard. This would be wonderful if his instruction were taken as he gives it rather than applying private interpretation to his words. Here is what the dear apostle says:

     Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

     For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

     When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

     For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

     For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. (1 Corinthians 11:17-33)

     Sadly, verses 27-29 are usually quoted apart from and even contrary to the context in which St. Paul is speaking. These verses are usually used as a proof text. A proof text is a text used to make a predetermined point, rather than quoting the text in accord with the point for which it stands written.

     Thus these particular verses are quoted as proof that individuals must examine themselves concerning what they understand before counting themselves properly prepared [worthy] of partaking of the Lord’s Communion.

     However, even with only the immediately preceding verse as a reference for the context, these verses instantly are perceived very differently than they are generally interpreted. What is the context for the necessity of a man examining himself? If we review the second paragraph above the perception is greatly enhanced.

     For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

     What is the point of St. Paul’s chastisement? He is chastising for the divisions that exist within the congregation. In the third paragraph he declares that because of the aforementioned heresies that the congregation’s suppers are not even the Lord’s Supper. He is declaring that merely following the outward form and labeling it as the Lord’s Supper does not make it the Lord’s Supper. He is warning that this form of practice is actually the opposite of proclaiming the Lord’s death till He comes. Instead, it is actually a mockery of the Lord’s death and thereby brings judgement upon the communicants of these false suppers.

     So the real issue that a man is to examine is whether or not his household is gathering with a true congregation that is truly offering the Sacrament as a “shewing of the Lord’s death till He comes” in accord with the pure teaching of the Gospel.

     In this particular setting, the Corinthian congregation was so far from the right shewing of the Lord’s death till He comes that they were not even considering the purpose and meaning of the Supper. Their treatment of the Supper was so bad that they did not even care who partook of the Supper. They treated it as an individualistic participation rather than the Lord’s family meal of forgiveness and nurturing in His Communion. They were not rightly discerning the Lord’s body and therefore they were ignoring others so that they were left out, just like the doctrine and practice of Confirmation does to those who have not been “properly instructed and confirmed.”

     Young Casper and Disney have it right. “Baptism was so important to me because I, because we become a child of God. That’s why it’s important to me.”

     These boys have been taught a marvelous hymn, a hymn which they prize and sing from their hearts. It is a shame that the doctrine of this hymn is ignored by their teachers and pastors regarding their true place in God’s family.

     The words of this hymn are available at God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It and at Witness, Mercy, Life Together: God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It. From these I quote the 2nd and 3rd stanzas:

Stanza 2

Sin, disturb my soul no longer:
I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger:
Jesus' cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me
Since my Baptism did release me
In a dear forgiving flood,
Sprinkling me with Jesus' blood!

Stanza 3

Satan, hear this proclamation:
I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation,
I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I've traveled,
All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny,
God, my Lord, unites with me!

     What is the purpose of Baptism? What is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper? Young Disney says it wonderfully.

     Isn’t it time that the pastors, teachers, and parents learn it, too? Isn’t it time that they stop eating and drinking judgment upon themselves by refusing the Lord’s command to suffer the little children to come to Him? Is this not the invitation of the Supper as well as of Baptism?

     At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:25-30)

     The wise and the prudent imagine that admission to the Supper is dependent upon being able to express one’s understanding, forgetting that:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

     Is this not what this wonderful hymn that is taught to the children teaches? Is this not their understanding that the Holy Spirit imparts to them and continually instructs them in connection with the one true faith given to them in their baptism?

     Here is the full hymn presented by Gillian and Paul Norris as a YouTube video:

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