Baptism of Eden

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Lord You have searched us and known us, and You understand our thoughts afar off. You covered each of us in our mothers’ womb, and our souls know that Your works are marvelous. Your thoughts toward Your children are precious, and more than we could number, but we ask now that You would unfold them to us as we seek to gain a better understanding of those thoughts as manifested in the sacrament of baptism. We ask for these blessings in the faithful name of Jesus Christ, whose name we bear, and Amen.
Of Man’s First disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.
These, the opening lines of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, beautifully summarize the course of History from Adam’s fall to the advent of Christ; and also serve to introduce the two elements of baptism that I will be highlighting today – the restoration of paradise through Christ’s reversal of the curse, and the covenant identity that is ours through baptism.
Milton’s words strongly evoke the many biblical passages that contrast the first “Adam” (the first man) with the last Adam, but let’s particularly look at Romans 5:19 – “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” And just as the sin of the first Adam, “Brought Death into the World, and all our woe”, even to the point of losing paradise; even so “One greater Man” (Christ, the second Adam) will “Restore us” to the blissful seat – regaining paradise for His people. But it’s important for us to understand the depth of Man’s fall before we can appreciate the greatness of Christ’s restoration. So pause for a moment, and just consider the gulf that separates the world that we know from a world free of sin and death. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of considering “the fall” and Adam’s sin in two different categories… as if “the fall” is some theological concept that we’ve read, accepted, and filed in the recesses of our mind in case we ever need it; and Adam’s sin of eating the forbidden fruit falls into a separate category of perfunctory children’s stories. But Paul tells us a few verses earlier in Romans 5 that “…Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men”. Thus the tale of Adam’s sin doesn’t end with his banishment from the garden; rather his banishment is just the beginning of many centuries filled with savage warfare and brutal torture, rape, incest, child abuse, and every grotesque sin under the sun. The loss of paradise was truly a precipitous fall.
But rather than give in to the temptation to think of Eden merely as what we lost in the Genesis narrative, let’s remember that, God be praised, there’s more to the story! In Paradise Regained, the lesser-known sequel to Paradise Lost, Milton opens with these lines:
I who erewhile the happy Garden sung,
By one man’s disobedience lost, now sing
Recover’d Paradise to all mankind,
By one man’s firm obedience fully tri’d
Through all temptation, and the Tempter foil’d
In all his wiles, defeated and repuls’t,
And Eden rais’d in the waste Wilderness.
Eden raised in the waste wilderness… Christ is not just the second Adam in terms of drawing a group of people unto Himself, or merely in the sense of pioneering the path of grace over against the path of sin – Christ is head gardener of the new Eden. As we sang a moment ago He is the “Fount of every blessing”; and He will, to quote another of my favorite hymns, “Make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” He is a faithful husbandman Who will assuredly see His garden, His people, His Eden reverse the effects of the curse by bearing much fruit, even as prophesied in Revelation 22:1-4, “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.”
We’ll talk more about “names on foreheads” in a moment. But given the way that Christ is set in stark contrast to Adam, it seems clear that we should first take care to know whose seed we are. Are we sons of the first Adam, or sons of the second Adam? Or, as phrased in Genesis 3, are we categorized with the seed of the woman or the seed of the serpent? One of the most obvious implications of these passages is that there is no middle ground. The Scriptures consistently, almost excessively, emphasize the dichotomy between the followers of Christ and the enemies of Christ. Whether it’s Joshua exhorting the Israelites to “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15) or Elijah setting up the showdown on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:21) “If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” God’s Word continually reminds us that there is enmity, there is war between His servants and His enemies.
So what does this mean for us and for our children?
Certainly, we should be sure that we are on the Lord’s side! We should be diligent to improve upon our own baptisms, bearing fruit unto righteousness by our good works, and manifesting our covenant identity to all with whom we come in contact. Christ, in baptism, has placed His name upon us, as it was prophesied to Israel in Isaiah 62:2, “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name.” And again in Revelation 3:12, to the overcomer, “…I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” We bear the name of Christ, the name which God has exalted above every name and before which every tongue will confess the Lordship of Christ.
A critical component of this naming process, is that naming involves ownership and authority. Adam’s naming of the animals betokened his superiority over them – only he was created in God’s image, and charged with taking dominion by placing names on each of the other creatures. If you’ve seen the movie Toy Story, you’ll recall that the toys know where their loyalty lies and who bears authority over them by virtue of the fact that Andy’s name is written on them! In much the same way, having a name chosen for them completely apart from their choice or control should serve as a constant reminder to our children of where their loyalties lie and who bears authority over them.
We, as parents, exercise this dominion over our children both by virtue of passing on our surname to them and by placing a particular name on each one of our children. By virtue of being born into the Ferrill clan, Eden inherits our family name and characteristics. The red hair and lovely eyes she gets from her mother, and she stands a pretty good chance of being tall, slender, and opinionated by way of her Ferrill genes. We trust that she will also grow up embracing other, non-physical aspects of her family heritage: love for Christ and His church, a passion for the truth, a strong Calvinist work ethic, and a joyful countenance are all qualities that, I hope, are synonymous with the name of Ferrill both now and into the future!
As she bears the name of Ferrill, we have also bestowed on her the particular name of “Eden”; the garden of God. The Hebrew word “Eden” literally means “pleasure” or “delight”, and is used quite frequently in the Old Testament, as in Psalm 36:8 “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” (the river of thy “Eden”) The significance of this name doesn’t end with the fact that her arrival has brought pleasure to us her family, or even in the hope that she will be a delightful daughter and sister, and eventually a delightful wife and mother. We also pray that she would delight herself in the Lord, that He might give her the desires of her heart (Ps. 37:4). As it says in Nehemiah 9:25, when recounting God’s blessing on Israel’s conquest of Canaan: “And they took strong cities and a rich land, And possessed houses full of all goods, Cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves, And fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and grew fat, And delighted (and “Edened”) themselves in Your great goodness.”
Eden’s name also provides a constant reminder of where we come from and where we’re going. Remember the thought we started with? “…All our woe, with loss of Eden…”? This intentionally dark reminder coincides with all of the curses reserved for those who are unfaithful to the covenant. We are, as we sang a moment ago, “prone to wander”. We need to remember that having access to every spiritual blessing in Christ comes at the price of devoted and unquestioning obedience, and dire consequences await those who fail to “Kiss the Son.” Yet even covenant warnings are a part of that grace which, “like a fetter”, binds our wandering heart to Christ. But more than that, as we’ve already noted, Eden’s name should also be a constant reminder of all that we stand to gain by remaining faithful to God’s commandments. As it says in Isaiah 51:1-3 “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him. For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.”
And just as she didn’t choose her own name or her family name, so Eden did not choose to have Christ’s name placed upon her; as we are about to do in baptism. While it’s true that only God knows the elect status of anyone for certain, we can say with confidence that Eden is numbered among God’s people here in the covenant community and has been predestined to that status from before the foundation of the world. Remember that there is no middle ground! Eden is clearly and objectively within the community of the second Adam, with His name about to be written upon her forehead as we’ve already seen in Revelation 3 and 22, and as Isaiah beautifully describes in verses 2-4 of chapter 62, “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the Lord delights in you.” The context of this passage clearly shows that the prophet is talking to God’s people Israel rather than exclusively to the coming Messiah – Which means that Israel collectively, children included, will be given a new name, and made a royal priesthood and a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9-10)!
In bearing Christ’s name and placing it upon our children in baptism we set ourselves apart as members of this kingdom of priests, servants of the second Adam rather than the first. We acknowledge His authority, ownership, and dominion over us; we commit to give Him our loyalty and faithfulness; and to train up our children in the way they should go. That is, to act in accordance with their family and covenant identity until the earth is as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the seas, and the new Eden is brought into delightful, fruitful reality. Paradise regained.