10. OF BAPTISM

We believe and teach

–   that God through Christ instituted Holy Baptism, through which he bestows the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to all who believe in baptism’s gifts;

–   that God in baptism drives out the devil and regenerates us by water and the Holy Spirit;

–   that the waters of baptism has its salvific power by God’s Word and promise;

–   that baptism is one and the same whether one is baptised as a child or adult;

–   that even babies need to be saved through faith and baptism;

–   that instruction in the Christian faith’s main articles shall precede the baptism of adults, and that the baptism of children should be followed by Christian instruction;

–   that children should not be baptised without the parents’ or sponsors’ promise of Christian nurture and education;

–   that baptism is necessary, but not in the sense that salvation is impossible where baptism has not been able to be administered;

–   that baptism is a sacrament for the whole of life.

Comments

We are all from the beginning in the power of sin, death and the devil and need to be rescued from this captivity. In baptism Christ drives out evil spirits that hold us captive, cleanses us from all sin, fills us with the Holy Spirit and makes us children of God.

God has instituted holy baptism and commanded that it be done with water. Any command that it shall be done only in a certain way, such as immersion, is not given. Even sprinkling or pouring can therefore be used for baptisms. In such a way they likely baptised the three thousand in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The Greek word for “baptise” covers all these aforementioned ways to use water.

What gives baptism its saving power is God’s Word and promise, which God allows to come to the water. Baptism shall be according to Christ made in the name of the Triune God. The words “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” is no magical formula that just works as it is pronounced, regardless of the meanings that are put into the words. It is only in connection with the Scripture’s teaching on the three persons in one God as the source of salvation by which baptism is empowered. If the church, or the priest by his confession or preaching adds anything else into the formula of baptism and this alters the meaning of the words, then it is no longer the Word of God which comes to the water. It is then not a Christian and saving baptism, but only an empty water ceremony, to which man can form beautiful but useless hopes. Baptism in churches who deny the Trinity – even if the Trinitarian formula is used – is not a valid baptism. In such case a re-baptism must be done at a conversion to a Lutheran church.

Since the command of baptism is offered to “all people” even infants shall be baptised. Baptism is the continuation and completion of Old Testament circumcision. If children were to be excluded from the new covenant baptism, that would certainly have been indicated. The fallacy that small children are not to be baptised is usually a result of two errors. One is that children do not need salvation, the other that they are unable to believe. But the Bible’s teaching on original sin shows clearly that infants have sin and need to be saved and brought into God’s Kingdom. When Jesus says “Let the little children come to me” and “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:13 ff.), He has thus expressly said that children need Him and can come to Him. And to come to Jesus and receive the kingdom of God is the same as believing (John 6:37). Jesus also lets the children’s faith– according to Luke 18:15 the infants or babes – stand as a model for the adults. The Lutheran Church teaches, therefore, that the early, unreflective childhood faith (fides infantium) is a true and real faith, the work of the Spirit of God. Nobody, neither children nor adults, is exempted from the rule of Scripture that the gospel must be received or believed to be of benefit and blessing. Baptism and faith are inextricably linked. This is also reflected in the Lutheran Church's baptismal rite, where questions about faith are directed to the person being baptised. The rite is the same for adults as for children, except that in the latter case, the sponsors respond to questions in the child’s place.

The fact that God wants “all nations” to be baptised does not mean that the church will indiscriminately baptise people. Neither John the Baptist nor the apostles did so. They baptised only those who confessed their sins and wanted to repent to God. Baptism is through the command to baptise linked to preaching and teaching. For adults, teaching and verbal affirmation of the Christian faith must go before baptism. At the baptism of young children, who still can not speak and understand teaching, these things come after baptism. There should always be a credible promise of Christian nurture and the teaching of the Church's faith from parents or from their sponsors. Requirements or requests for baptisms for reasons other than what it is ordained for must always be firmly resisted.

For the Lutheran Church the baptismal praxis is that the infant, early, without being hindered by extraneous reasons, is brought forward to holy baptism. Baptism should not be delayed for weeks, for example, for the sake of relatives and friends to attend. The command to baptise and care for the child, who urgently needs to be established in the kingdom of God, must always take precedence.

When the Lutheran Confessions say that “baptism is necessary for salvation” (AC IX, Trigl. p. 47), it is not meant thereby that baptism under all circumstances is absolutely necessary for salvation. The absolute necessity is baptism’s content, the gospel, and faith. We shall baptise because Christ has commanded it, but if we do not have time or cannot baptise someone because of events beyond our control, all is not lost, as if baptism were the only means of grace. Belief in the Gospel can still be present, as it was with the repentant thief on the cross, who went to paradise without baptism (Luke 23:43). On the other hand, by despising the command to baptise and baptism’s Gospel one is not saved, either with or without baptism.

All that is needed for our salvation God has once for all given us in baptism. Its beatific effect lasts a lifetime. Therefore, baptism is not repeated. However, what needs to be repeated is that we every day repent of our sins and are comforted by the grace of baptism. Baptism also works sanctification in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we daily die to sin and arise to a new life. So the whole of the Christian life is lived under baptism’s shimmering rainbow of promises, grace, Spirit and life.

What the Holy Scriptures say

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20)

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5‑6)

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins[a] of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Col. 2:11-12)

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:26-27)

Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27)

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:4-6)

Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4)

What the Lutheran Confessions say

Of Baptism they [our churches] teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptised who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace. They condemn the Anabaptists[1], who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.  (AC IX, Trigl. p. 47)

In these words you must note, in the first place, that here stand God’s commandment and institution, lest we doubt that Baptism is divine, not devised nor invented by men. For as truly as I can say, No man has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer out of his head, but they are revealed and given by God Himself, so also I can boast that Baptism is no human trifle, but instituted by God Himself, moreover, that it is most solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptised or we cannot be saved, lest any one regard it as a trifling matter, like putting on a new red coat. For it is of the greatest importance that we esteem Baptism excellent, glorious, and exalted. - - -

Comprehend the difference, then, that Baptism is quite another thing than all other water; not on account of the natural quality but because something more noble is here added; for God Himself stakes His honor, His power and might on it. Therefore it is not only natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water, and in whatever other terms we can praise it, – all on account of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, that no one can sufficiently extol, for it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do [since it has all the virtue and power of God comprised in it]. Hence also it de­rives its essence as a Sacrament, as St. Augustine also taught: Accedat verbum ad ele­mentum et fit sacramentum. That is, when the Word is joined to the element or natural substance, it becomes a Sacrament, that is, a holy and divine matter and sign. - - -

In the second place, since we know now what Baptism is, and how it is to be regarded, we must also learn why and for what purpose it is instituted, that is, what it profits, gives, and works. And this also we cannot discern better than from the words of Christ above quoted: He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved. Therefore state it most simply thus, that the power, work, profit, fruit, and end of Baptism is this, namely, to save. For no one is baptised in order that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare, that he be saved. But to be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and to enter into the kingdom of Christ, and to live with Him forever. - - -

In the third place, since we have learned the great benefit and power of Baptism, let us see further who is the person that receives what Baptism gives and profits. This is again most beautifully and clearly expressed in the words: He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved. That is, faith alone makes the person worthy to receive profitably the saving, divine water. For, since these blessings are here presented and promised in the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart. Without faith it profits nothing, notwithstanding it is in itself a divine superabundant treasure. Therefore this single word (He that believeth) effects this much that it excludes and repels all works which we can do, in the opinion that we obtain and merit salvation by them. For it is determined that whatever is not faith avails nothing nor receives anything. - - -

Therefore every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to practise all his life; for he has always enough to do to believe firmly what it promises and brings: victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, the grace of God, the entire Christ, and the Holy Ghost with His gifts. - - -

Therefore our Baptism abides forever; and even though some one should fall from it and sin, nevertheless we always have access thereto, that we may again subdue the old man. But we need not again be sprinkled with water; for though we were put under the water a hundred times, it would nevertheless be only one Baptism, although the operation and signification continue and remain. (LC, Trigl. p. 733 ff.)

We warn against

all kinds of false doctrines that contrary to the Scripture teach, for example,

–   that baptism is not an effective means of grace, but only a solemn ceremony that symbolises a person’s inclusion in the Church (Reformed error);

–   that no faith is needed in children, because baptism works regardless (Roman delusion);

–   that baptism is present only because a formula is used (magic);

–   that one needs to grow up and mature before one can believe and receive baptism (Baptist delusion);

–   that children have no sin and therefore need not be baptised (Baptist delusion);

–   that water baptism does not give the Holy Spirit, but the baptism of the Spirit with speaking in tongues must be added (charismatic delusion).

PRAYER

O Almighty, Eternal God, you who in thy strict and righteous judgement condemned the unbelieving world in the flood, but for thy great mercy saved the faithful Noah and his family, thou who drowned the hardened Pharaoh and all his army in the Red Sea, but brought thy people Israel dry shod through it and so typified holy baptism, thou who also through thy beloved Son’s, our Lord Jesus Christ's, baptism has consecrated and initiated Jordan and all water to be a healing river and an abundant washing of regeneration.

We pray thee, look with favour on this thy servant and give him a true faith. Renew him in spirit by this healing river, so that all his sins, which he has from Adam, be drowned and perish, and so that he is separated from the unfaithful crowd and become safely preserved in the ark, which is thy holy Church. Let him there serve thee, full of joy and hope in the Holy Spirit, and finally according to thy promise may partake of eternal life with all the saints. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“The Flood Payer” in the Church’s baptismal liturgy

 



[1] Anabaptists = those who baptise those who were baptised as children when they become older.