Today is November 5th, and you know what that means! Countless social media references to the famous V for Vendetta line, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November.” Why remember the fifth of November? In 17th century England, a man named Guy Fawkes devised a plot to blow up London’s Houses of Parliament on November 5, 1605, which later John Milton wrote a poem about:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes’ goal was to remove King James I from the throne of England and restore England’s Catholic monarchy. He did not succeed. If he did, he would’ve killed all of London’s governing body as well as a plethora of London citizens. Fawkes was arrested for his plot, and as a result was tortured, tried, and executed. Some view him as a martyr, others view him as a terrorist. For those who view him as a martyr, today is considered Guy Fawkes’ Day. Originally, it was an anti-Catholic holiday. Today, it’s usually just another excuse to set off fireworks, make bonfires, and get drunk—no different than America’s Independence Day, really. Guy Fawkes’ actions inspired author Alan Moore to write his novel, V for Vendetta, which the novel and its film counterpart is where most of us are familiar with the famous line, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November.”
What does this have to do with Baptism? Aside from making a creative blog title, nothing. Except that as November 5th is a day in which some remember Fawkes’ actions as a martyr against the corruption in the Catholic Church, every day we as Christians should remember the extraordinary gift of our Baptism and what it entails as people of God.
Every day, we make a big mess of ourselves—wine on our shirt or carpet, grease on our jeans after working on our car, sweat on our backs after working all day, etc. What’s even worse is that sometimes our best efforts to clean up the mess aren’t enough. At times we even make messes in our own lives—something we said to a friend that we can’t take back, or something we did, whatever it may be. Or, for whatever reason, we just seem to be suffering for a while, whether for weeks, months, or even years. Even worse—and impossible—is cleaning up our grime of sin.
Job knows what it means to suffer. So, he asks, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing? There is not one” (Job 14:4). Likewise, Isaiah said, “Our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). I like how the KJV translates it, that our righteousness is “as filthy rags.” Job and Isaiah are theologians of the cross. They weren’t being pessimistic or cynical; they know what it means to suffer because this life of sin we live in means to suffer constantly because we are all born into sin. We cannot get ourselves out of it. As God has said, “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).
From the moment we are infants, our natural inclination is to sin, which is evident in our disobedience as infants, toddlers, children, and learning more ways to sin against God as we venture into adolescence and become adults. As Job points out, no one can clean an unclean thing. Although we try, we cannot clean ourselves. Does this mean we’re hopeless? Only if you continually rely on yourself and your own efforts.
Like King David, we can appeal to God’s mercy, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). David is also a theologian of the cross. He knew what it meant to suffer, which constantly drove him to prayer and dependence on God’s external Word (e.g. Psalm 13; 16; 119; etc.). David knew only God can clean up his life of sin. God cleans us for the sake of Jesus, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Moreover, God cleanses us from our sins in Baptism: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptised and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).
A common misconception of Baptism is that we have to “make a decision” for Christ, but we don’t do anything in our Baptism. How can we expect to clean ourselves when we have no power to clean up our sins? Only God has the ability to do that, which He does in Baptism because Jesus has promised to be with us in the Holy Spirit in Baptism (John 14:26; Matthew 28:18-20). Paul says we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). How can spiritually dead people cleanse themselves? Even David and the other saints in Scripture understood they could not cleanse themselves and needed something outside themselves to do it. So, they relied on and trusted in God. How anyone today can think they’re better than these saints before by “making a decision” to cleanse themselves is beyond me; it denies over 2,000 years of church doctrine. Our ultimate reliance is on God’s work in Baptism.
So today, remember the gift of your Baptism. Remember what God has done to you in it—that in it you were killed and rise as a new creation in Christ (Romans 6:1-4, 8-11). Baptised into the life of Christ, therefore, you have Christ Himself (Galatians 3:26-27). Whenever you begin to think you don’t have salvation, even after you’ve repented, remember that in your Baptism you have been clothed with Christ’s robe of righteousness. So, when God looks at you, He sees the righteousness of Christ clothed around you not because you somehow gained the power to do this, but because Christ Himself puts His righteousness on you.
Remember, remember, the Gift of your Baptism,
clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
There is no reason
in any season
to doubt our Lord’s sacrifice.