St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

Q. What did your sponsors [at Baptism] then for you?

A. They did promise and vow three things in my name: First, that I should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh…. 

Those who are Baptized are regenerate or born-again as children of God. Infants are presented by their sponsors or godparents, who then undertake certain obligations associated with Baptism in the name of their godchild. Some might object, saying it is unjust for one person to place another under an obligation. But these obligations in fact are required by God of all men in that they are created human, in God’s image. Thus, our humanity places us under these obligations whether we choose to accept them or not.

The first obligation is to renounce evil in all of its forms. To “renounce” means to give up or refuse to follow something. We are first called to renounce or refuse to follow the Devil or Satan. As the Scriptures tell us, the Devil is a personal being, the leader of a host of fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12:7-10); who tempted and led our first parents into to follow him into sin (Genesis 3:1-4; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14); and who continues to deceive mankind, especially with regard to matters of faith (1 Corinthians 10:20; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:13), pursuing the souls of men like a ravening lion (1 St Peter 5:8; see also Job 1:7; St Luke 22:31). The name Satan suggests that not only does he lead us to sin, but he also accuses us of those same sins before God (Job 1:9; 2:5; Zechariah 3:1; Revelation 12:10). Sin is referred to as the work or works of the Devil; and those who do the works of the Devil are said to be of the Devil and even children of the Devil rather than of God (1 St John 3:8; Acts 13:10). The Devil is associated in particular with the sins of pride (the root of all sin), lying, malice, envy & strife, and murder (1 Timothy 3:6; St John 8:44; Acts 5:3; 1 St John 3:10, 12; St James 3:14).

The Devil is also said to be, by God’s permission, the god or prince of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4; St John 12:31; 14:30: 16:11; Ephesians 2:21). Therefore, we must renounce the world as well. We know that the world was created very good (Genesis 1:31); but that since the fall of man, the chief under God of Creation, the world has been subject to the power of sin and the Devil as well (Romans 8:20-22). We do not, indeed we cannot, renounce the world that is the created natural order and the society of our human race; for this is our home as God had intended it to be. Rather we are to renounce the world or human society that is subject to vanity in that is not subject to the revealed will of God.

We are also to renounce the sinful lusts of the flesh. The Old English word “lust” simply meant “pleasure,” or later “desire.” The “flesh” refers to our animal nature; and the pleasures and desires of the God-created human nature are not necessarily evil in themselves. But “the flesh” in the New Testament refers primarily to that part of our nature, body & soul, that is not subject to the spirit, specifically the Spirit of God (Romans 8:5-14; Galatians 5:16-17; see also St John 6:63).

And so we are to renounce the world, the flesh, and the Devil. We are not to participate in the works of darkness, but rather to reprove and stand against them (Ephesians 5:11). We do this by putting on Christ, which we do first at our Baptism (Galatians 3:27); and this is to put on the full armor of God that equips us to stand in this, our spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:11-13). We must strive every day to make this renunciation made at our Baptism a reality in our lives; lest we fail to renounce the world, the flesh, and the Devil; and the Lord, who is merciful and just and holy, should renounce us along with the Devil at the Last Day (St Matthew 25:41; St Luke 13:27; 2 Peter 2:9).