For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27)
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3, 5)
According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration,
and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5).
Again we rejoice, dear brothers and sisters, in the immeasurable goodness and wisdom of God, Who has wondrously established our rebirth in the waters of the Jordan, through the immersion in them in the flesh of the Lord of Glory Himself, Who sanctified the waters, restoring and giving us the image and means of our mysterious renewal. Deep and miraculous is this mystery! As miraculous and life-creating is the sacrament of Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ—in which He totally abides, and through which He also sovereignly works the cleansing of our sins and our enlightenment and deification—so is Divine Baptism just as miraculous and effective for the salvation of mankind perishing from sin. One sacrament aides the other, and both are necessary for our salvation. O the unspeakable wisdom and mystery of God, which only faith can accept and understand—and not the inquisitive, myopic mind, darkened by the passions!
Just as our being created by God is a most great mystery of God’s goodness, wisdom, and omnipotence, so also is the mystery of our rebirth in Baptism a sacrament before which human reason must reverently lower its head. Only the infinite Wisdom of God could conceive of and offer a reliable means to cleanse and regenerate the human race corrupted by sin to the marrow of its bones and the innermost depths of its heart, and restore completely alienated and perishing man to God. Neither the mind of man or even of angels could have found such means.
The Holy Church, theologizing by the Holy Spirit about the mystery of our Lord’s Baptism, says that having been baptized in the waters of the Jordan, the Lord drowned human sin by His immeasurable righteousness, sanctified the waters and gave them the power of sanctification for the ages, in order to grant us the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit; to open the heavens to us, to Adam imprisoned by the fall, and bring down to earth the Holy Spirit Who had no place on earth to lay His head due to the human race’s extreme depravity; in order to cleanse Adam from defilement and raise him up justified after his five thousand year punishment in hell.
“That Thou mightiest fill all things with Thy glory, Thou hast lowered Thyself even to the form of a slave. Now as a servant Thou dost bow down Thy head beneath the hand of a servant, granting me restoration and cleansing,” says the Church in the services to this feast.1 “At Thine appearing in the body, the earth was sanctified, the waters blessed, the heaven enlightened, and mankind was set loose from the bitter tyranny of the enemy.”2 “O Creator, Who art the New Adam, Thou makest new those born on earth, and Thou bringest to pass a strange regeneration and a wonderful restoration by fire and Spiirt and water: without destruction or melting pot Thou dost renew mankind through the holy sacrament of Baptism.”3
Glory to the Lord Jesus, Who was baptized in the Jordan for our salvation and granted us regeneration, renewal,4 adoption by God, and eternal life, destroying the former barrier wall of enmity, curse, and God’s righteous rejection of us.
As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ; that is, as many as have been baptized in the name of Christ and the Holy Trinity have spiritually put on Christ: His righteousness, holiness, meekness, humility, obedience, patience, temperance—in a word, Christ-like perfection, the image of Christ, in all of Christ’s grace—and the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph 4:24).
Have we put on Christ? Let us ask ourselves and think about this sincerely. And if we have not put Him on, then we are not of Christ. For the apostle says that, If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His (Rom. 8:9).
If one is not born of water and the spirit, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Amen.
From the Complete Works of the Rector of the St. Andrew Cathedral, Archpriest John Ilyich Sergiev. A New Homily, given in 1902. 1st edition, edited by the author. (Kronstadt, Kotlin: 1903) 5-8.