Vicar Matt Doebler
Matins Devotion: January 16, 2023
Updated: Jan 17
Luther began his ninety-five theses with this statement: “When our Lord and master Jesus Christ said, “Repent!” he willed that the entire life of believers be one of repentance." And that's what Paul is getting at here in Romans 7. Paul says that, though the Spirit has brought us to life and freed us from the law’s captivity, we still have to fight against the sin nature that clings to us. We have to live lives of daily repentance.
This condition is what we often call: simul justus et peccator—we are simultaneously both sinner and saint. On the one hand, our old nature has been put to death—drowned in our baptism. We are a new creation. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, our new nature has been raised with Christ through the waters of baptism. We have a new identity as a saint because God has made us holy ones. The Spirit puts within us a new heart and new desires. We begin to obey God out of love.
And yet, at the same time, our daily experience shows us that the old nature still clings to us. It doesn't want to die. That old natures resists. It puts up a fight against any attempt to drown it. It’s a little like finding a stink bug hiding in your home and trying to get rid of it by flushing it down the toilet. It puts up an amazing fight. As the water starts circling, it kicks those little legs and uses that flat little body to skim right on the surface of the water. Sometimes it takes multiple flushes, because that stink bug just doesn’t want to go down.
And that’s our old nature. It doesn’t want to drown. But drown it we must. Daily. Through repentance.
That’s what returning to our baptism is all about. Luther teaches us in the Large Catechism that “Repentance is nothing else than a return and approach to baptism—to resume and practice what has been earlier begun and abandoned.” If I can say it this way, returning back to our baptism is going back to the future. Repentance is going back to the promise of that glorious future that we have because of Christ. That glorious future that was accomplished by Christ's death and resurrection. That glorious future that is promised to us through the gospel. That glorious future that is given to us at the font when God puts his name on us in baptism and calls us his dear child.
Returning to our baptism happens when we live out a life of daily repentance. When we stand before God and confess our sins and watch our old nature start circling the drain again. When God, through the absolution, declares that our sins are forgiven and assures us that one day we will be rid of that old man forever.