Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: The Death Of The Old Man And The Flesh
One of the last things Jesus commanded His disciples before ascending up to heaven was to:
Go and make disciples;
baptize them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and
teach them to obey everything that He had commanded.
In todays lesson we read, from Romans 6:3 “Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death?”
Baptism is the sacrament by which a person, whether a baby, child, or adult, receives an indelible spiritual mark, is cleansed of all sin and is reborn into the family of God, being sanctified by Christ to everlasting life by means of the sign of water and the action of the Holy Spirit.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent gives this definition:
“The Sacrament of regeneration by water in the word. By nature we are born from Adam children of wrath, but by Baptism we are regenerated in Christ, children of mercy. For He gave power to men to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Christians have always interpreted the Bible literally when it declares, “Baptism . . . now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
To be baptized, translated literally, means to immerse.
The definition is not referring to the “how” but to the “results”. An example, when it comes to water, is this. If you dive into the pool, the results are you have become immersed. But if you take a shower, although the water is pouring over you, you are also being immersed in water. It is not how you became immersed it is the end result that the word baptizo references.
The point to notice, in the words of St. Peter, is that a person must show true sorrow over ones sins and to be baptized for the remission of your sins.
Concerning the Intention of the Adults being baptized:
The Catechism of the Council of Trent says:
“They must desire and intend to receive it; for as in Baptism we all die to sin and resolve to live a new life, it is fit that it be administered to those only who receive it of their own free will and accord; it is to be forced upon none. Hence we learn from holy tradition that it has been the invariable practice to administer Baptism to no individual without previously asking him if he be willing to receive it.”
“Besides a wish to be baptized, in order to obtain the grace of the Sacrament, faith is also necessary. Our Lord and Saviour has said: He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
“Another necessary condition is repentance for past sins, and a fixed determination to avoid all sin in the future. Should anyone desire Baptism and be unwilling to correct the habit of sinning, he should be altogether rejected. For nothing is so opposed to the grace and power of Baptism as the intention and purpose of those who resolve never to abandon sin.”
Concerning the Parents of the infants being baptized:
The same would be applied until the infant comes to an age of accountability and make a decision for themselves. That does not mean that they must be re-baptized. As the Catechism says: “This doctrine is taught by the Apostle when he says: One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Again, when exhorting the Romans, that being dead in Christ by Baptism they should take care not to lose the life which they had received from Him, he says: In that Christ died unto sin, he died once. These words seem clearly to signify that as Christ cannot die again, neither can we die again by Baptism. Hence the holy Church also openly professes that she believes one Baptism. That this agrees with the nature of the thing and with reason is understood from the very idea of Baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration. As then, by virtue of the laws of nature, we are generated and born but once, and, as St. Augustine observes, there is no returning to the womb; so, in like manner, there is but one spiritual generation, and Baptism is never at any time to be repeated.” All the graces had been given during their baptism as an infant.
And Paul says, “And now why tarriest thou? Rise up, and be baptized, and WASH away thy sins, invoking his name. (In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost)” (Acts 22:16)
Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death?
For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3–4)
Buried with him (Christ) in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the (or through the) faith of the operation of God (in the powerful working of God), who hath raised him up from the dead. And you, when you were dead in your sins;...he hath quickened together with him, forgiving you all offences: (Colossians 2:11–13)
And so the early Church Fathers wrote in the Nicene Creed (A.D. 381), “We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”
And the Catechism of the Council of Trent states that it is “of highest importance to the faithful...to learn that the law of Baptism, as established by our Lord, extends to all, so that unless they are regenerated to God through the grace of Baptism, be their parents Christians or infidels, they are born to eternal misery and destruction. Pastors, therefore, should often explain these words of the Gospel: 'Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' (John 3:5)”
Now lets look at verse 6 of our lesson for today:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin (that is our flesh) may be destroyed”
The land of Canaan, in the book of Joshua, is not a picture of heaven (as some would think) because there are no giants to be killed in heaven! Canaan is actually a description of the Spirit-filled life of victory, where the giants of sin - the lusts in our flesh - are crucified. All the giants were not killed in a moment. They were killed one by one.
The people of Israel had to go across two bits of water on their journey to Canaan. One was the Red Sea and the other was the River Jordan. Both these speak of death. We see in 1 Corinthians 10 that going into the Red Sea is a picture of water-baptism. The River Jordan is a picture of another kind of death. This was where John the Baptist baptized Jesus 1500 years later.
The Bible teaches that our old self was crucified by God on the cross. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer." (Romans 6:6). We cannot crucify our old man. The old man (the mind that wants to sin) was crucified with Christ on the cross. It was God who did that. But there is something else that we have to crucify - our flesh (the storehouse of desires). Galatians 5:24 says, "And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the passions and desires."
The flesh is different from the old man.
The flesh with its lusts is like a gang of robbers that tries to come into our heart to pollute us. The old man is like an unfaithful servant who lives inside our heart and opens the door every time these robbers come to steal. Which of the two does God kill? He kills the servant. The gang of robbers is still hale and hearty.
This is why we are all tempted in exactly the same way after we are converted as we were, before we were converted. That proves that the robbers are still alive. They still want to enter our heart - even after we are converted. But something else has died within us - the servant (the old man) who opened the door for these thieves. God killed him and put a new servant (a new man) within us when we were born again in baptism- a servant who does not want to open the door for the thieves. When temptation comes now to us, the new servant says, "No." Then why do baptized believers fall into sin? Because they don't feed the new servant well! Then he is not strong enough to keep the door shut against the robbers. And the robbers push their way in. That's how a believer sins.
But there is a vast difference between a believer sinning and an unbeliever sinning - because the believer doesn't want to sin and the unbeliever wants to sin. In fact that's the test of whether you are really born again or not. The proof of being born again is not whether you sin or not, but whether you want to sin. If you still want to sin, I would say you are not converted. When people come asking for baptism into the Church, as a Priest, I should be asking them one question, "Do you want to sin any more - even once?" I don't ask them, "Will you sin?", because nobody can say they will not sin. It is the 'want to' that is the old man.
These are the two deaths the New Testament speaks of. Both of these are pictured beautifully in the history of Israel. The army of Pharaoh was buried in one moment under the Red Sea. That's a picture of the old man. Who did that? God. The old man was crucified on the cross by God. Then the Israelites crossed Jordan, which speaks of another death.
We accept our co-crucifixion with Christ to our desires, our lusts, our concupiscence. Those who are Christ's take this attitude towards their lusts. The lusts are still there and the giants are still ruling the land. But Joshua and the Israelites had determined to kill them one by one. It is we who have to kill our lusts - one by one - as we are tempted. We must put to death the deeds of the body ourselves - by the power the Spirit gives us. "For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live." (Romans 8:13)
This is very different from the Egyptian army being buried in a moment by God.
Scripture is so exact when it comes to its application in the New Testament. If we open ourselves to the Holy Ghost, He will reveal these hidden things to us. The Bible is an exciting book. It's so perfect and exact in its Old Testament typology of new covenant life. Those godly men in the Old Testament did not understand all this then, but we can understand what these events typified today. The land of Canaan symbolizes our body that has been ruled by the giants of many lusts for many years. But we have taken an attitude towards those giants that says, "I am going to consider myself dead to sin." Jesus said we have to take up the cross every day. That's not killing the old man. The old man has already been crucified.
To take up the cross is to put our self-will (which is what the Bible calls our "flesh") to death daily, in the power of the Holy Ghost.
If you take a relaxed attitude towards sin in your life, you can put on the old man once again "That ye put off, according to the former manner of life, the old man, who is corrupted according to the deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22).
A person who "continues to live according to the flesh" will die spiritually - even if he was alive once (Romans 8:13, which is written to believers, is crystal clear on this).
Disciplining our bodily passions
This is why it is important to discipline the flesh and its concupiscences.
In Chapter 13 of Judges, we read of the family of Manoah that did not have any children. The angel of the Lord appeared to them one day and told them that they would have a son, and that he should be brought up as a Nazirite. Samson was born. The Lord blessed him and the Spirit of God began to move upon him (13:25).
But unfortunately, we read that Samson backslid - very early in his life. Whenever he saw a pretty woman, he just could not control his lusts. He would forget all about his calling to serve the Lord and would go after that woman - whether she was a Jew or a Gentile made no difference to him, so long as she was good-looking! This was his weakness throughout his life. God used him no doubt. But he had a tremendous weakness for pretty women - like many a Christian today. Samson's behavior stands in great contrast to Joseph's. Joseph lived before the Law was given and had much less revelation on God's ways than Samson had. Yet he stood true to God repeatedly - and has therefore been an outstanding example for young men for thousands of years. Samson, on the other hand, has been an equally outstanding warning to all men for thousands of years!
What a tragedy! A man who was such a mighty deliverer was enslaved to his own lusts and passions. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway." In other words, "making my body do what it should do, and not what it wants to do." That means that we are to make our bodies eat what it should eat and not what it wants to eat; sleep as much as it should sleep and not how much it wants to sleep.
We must control our eyes so that they look only at what they should look at and not at what they want to look at. We must control our tongues so that they speak what they should speak and not what they want to speak.
But the only way that that can happen is by first God, through the sacrament of baptism, buries the Old Man (the mind that wants to sin), with Jesus, and then raises us up as a New Man, (a mind that does not want to sin), with Jesus. And second, that we put our body of sin-our flesh, (the storehouse of desires) to death through discipline.
Just some bullet points:
Putting the flesh to death takes time. That is why Saint Paul says, “I die daily” I Corinthians 15:31
Ask for the graces to overcome the concupiences of the flesh.“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Teach your children discipline so that when they are older they will have control over their own concupiences of the flesh. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6