October 24, 2023

A Seal

Titus 3:3-8; Galatians 3:23-29

All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

—  Galatians 3:27

Some Christian teachers have described baptism as a kind of “seal” that the Spirit of God places upon believers. Sometimes people say this is like a wax seal on a letter, identifying the sender and showing that it was sent by them for a purpose. The fourth-century church teacher Augustine used another analogy to understand baptism as a seal. He said it was like the sealing kiss at a marriage ceremony: witnesses are present, promises are made, love is declared, and all of that is affectionately summed up in a kiss. Many Christians throughout the centuries have also then asked: Will all who are “sealed” in baptism be “saved” in the end? Not necessarily. At weddings, love is declared and promises are made, but in some cases a marriage may fall apart. A pastor friend of mine describes the seal of baptism as something like a coupon: a customer must use the coupon to claim the value that is placed on it. God’s baptismal promises and his claim on us are sure and true, but the one who is baptized is also called to live into those promises and to claim that identity. Further, though a person can walk away from a relationship with Christ, we may never underestimate the love of Christ for that person. He promises to pursue his lost sheep, and his church is called to do that too.

Lord, thank you for your ever-pursuing love, your promises, and your claim on all who are baptized in the community of faith. Amen.

About the author — Kristopher Walhof

Kristopher Walhof is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church who lives with his wife and seven-year-old son in rural Kenya. He teaches Bible and theology courses to theological students seeking ordination in the Africa Inland Church (AIC) denomination.

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