Bruised Heel Salvation (Genesis 3)
1. This morning we have our second sermon on the Sacrament of Baptism in our series on the Sacraments. We're specifically looking at the benefits of Baptism. And one of the best ways to look at the benefits of Baptism is to see why we need Baptism in the first place. So we go back to Genesis and God's words to the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (v15).
2. We know what happened before this. We've seen many depictions of it in art throughout all our lives. It's the first pivotal point of all of human history--the fall into sin. Adam and Eve were walking through the midst of the Garden of Eden. They were passing by the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Then the serpent begins speaking to them. He talks them into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That one action--that one defiance of God's will--changed the entirety of Creation for all of us. We see this as God speaks to each of the parties involved--the serpent, Eve and Adam--delivering punishment according to their actions. The serpent received a changed existence because it was used for Satan's evil plot against humanity. Eve received INCREASED pain in childbirth for subverting God and Adam's authority. Adam, for relinquishing his authority, gets the entire world cursed. His role on earth was to exercise dominion over the world. Now, the world will revolt back. Thorns. Thistles. Weeds. Drought. Death. All those things we look forward to in life. This is the world that Genesis 3 leaves us with. A world filled with people that need the benefits of Baptism.
3. What does the Catechism say are the benefits of Baptism? "It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this" (SC IV, II). First, Baptism gives us forgiveness of sins. First of all, original sin is forgiven. That inborn tendency to sin that each of us struggles with. That which has been passed on from generation to generation ever since Adam and Eve conceived and bore Cain. Adam was originally formed in God's image (Genesis 1:26). When Seth was born, Adam "fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image" (Genesis 5:3). Adam's "own likeness" was one of a sinner waiting for redemption. Waiting for his sin to be forgiven completely. That sin which would now infest all of humanity throughout history until the "seed of the woman" would arise to bruise the serpent's head. But it isn't the only sin. There is another kind of sin--actual sin--the thoughts, words and deeds that we ACTUALLY do that defy God's command. St. Paul takes this sin into account when he talks in our Epistle reading, "Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam" (Romans 5:14). He finishes the reading by saying, "for as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one mans' obedience the many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). That righteousness that is given to many through Christ's obedience comes to us through the forgiveness of sins that we receive in Baptism. Both types of sin--actual sin and original sin--are forgiven in this simple act of applying water. While this is the greatest gift that we receive from Baptism, there is another that comes from our forgiveness that continues throughout our lives as we strive to live lives worthy of our calling as Christians--rescue from death and the devil.
4. Why do we need to be rescued? Why is this so important? Because Baptism is a very personal thing. It gives faith that leads us through our struggle in our Christian walk. That faith is what God sees when He looks at us. It's either there or it isn't. No matter how much or little faith there is in your heart, as long as there is faith present you are under attack by the devil. Again you ask, "Why? Why doesn't he keep attacking the sorry state of society that's all around us?" My response is "Why beat a dead horse?" The devil already has the society around us under his power. That's what he tells Jesus in our Gospel reading, "Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me'" (Matthew 4:8-9). All the "glory" of the kingdoms of the world were Satan's to do with as he pleased. Why? They've bought into his lies. They think that we need to be rescued from an old-fashioned, intolerant, rigid set of rules so that we can feel the freedom of the liberty that the world provides. A freedom that will ultimately end with eternal imprisonment in the fires of Hell. Satan already has the world and its powers under his control. He need not worry about them. He worries about you, dear Christian. He worries that you'll really take this Christianity to heart and try to bring people out from under his control. This is why he attacks you. Maybe he'll find a weakness in you. Some chink in your Christian armor--a pet sin that no one else knows about or a secret that still plagues your heart years and years later. Anything he can use to break down your defenses. So how does Baptism give you a "rescue" from these attacks? It gives you something outside yourself to look at. When Satan comes around saying, "Ah! God's not going to like this! God's never going to forgive you for that!" You, dear Christian, have the opportunity to point back to your Baptism and say, "God has already forgiven me for that and there's nothing you can say that can change that!" Why does it work so well? Your Baptism gives you an external basis for your assurance. Baptism isn't a work that you did for God, but a work that God did to and for you. You were the passive recipient of all the benefits that He gives through this gift of Baptism. Everything revolves around the work of Jesus and the salvation that He worked to achieve for those who have been baptized.
5. As Jesus says, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). There are two variables in the equation of salvation: faith and Baptism. How does this work? Baptism gives faith and that faith leads to salvation. Without faith, we're condemned in our sins. Satan worked even in Adam and Eve to undermine their faith in God and that's how he succeeded in tempting our first parents. He tried the same tactics on Jesus and it backfired on him. By pointing to our Baptism, we can tell Satan when he comes to tempt us, "You've already lost. I have salvation because you couldn't stop Jesus. Oh, you did everything you could, even killing Him, but that wasn't enough. You didn't crush Him. You merely bruised His heel. And that was only when you saw that you were trapped with His foot coming down on top of you. Now, you're once again going about your old tricks." And Satan is up to his old tricks. He is the originator of the "If I'm going down, I'm taking as many people with me" mentality. He wants to remove as many people out of salvation as he can before Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. But you have no worries, dear Christian, because he cannot harm you. He can only tempt you and even that has its limit. St. Paul tells us, "God if faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape" (1 Corinthians 10:13). If you believe that statement about your life in Jesus Christ, Satan cannot touch you. That doesn't mean you won't falter. It simply means that the one who is in you is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4).
6. All this is yours through faith. The faith that you received in Baptism and also brings you to the threshold of your life's journey in Christ expectantly waiting for some great revelation. But you already have it: forgiveness of sins, protection from death and the devil and eternal salvation. All these things are yours because of Baptism and the promises that are connected to it. Those promises and benefits are all yours in Jesus Christ. Amen.