The Rev. Robert Harting
2010 Synod Convention Essay
The little girl was raised in the Baptist church. Her mother had joined many different Baptist churches over the years and each church taught differently in regard to the mode of Baptism. Consequently, her mother was baptized seven different times, none of the churches recognizing the Baptism of the prior churches. Through it all the daughter was not baptized.
When the girl was ten, her family moved to a predominantly Lutheran community and she started attending the Lutheran school. As time passed she learned the biblical doctrine of Holy Baptism and her parents agreed that she should be baptized. Her mother also received some instruction, yet her mom retained reservations about infant Baptism, which often caused her daughter to question infant Baptism in the years to come.1
While attending a Lutheran college the girl continued to study Baptism and found great certainty about infant Baptism in the Bible. She came to see the reality of original sin, that babies need Baptism, and that Jesus wants babies brought to Him. She was assured Baptism is God’s work and not a work of man. She came to realize the wonders of God’s grace and the life God gives in Baptism.
After college she married a Lutheran man and in time they were happily expecting a baby. When the baby did not arrive well beyond the expected due date the doctors tried to induce labor. The baby struggled for life in the womb, and an emergency caesarian section was performed. Their newborn baby boy was born limp and blue as he was without oxygen for about 20 minutes in the womb. The baby’s life was slipping away.
There was no time to contact their minister. Therefore, the father asked the nurses to get water and the father baptized little Paul “…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
Paul continued to live with many health ailments and hospital stays, and then died suddenly after 13 months. The funeral was a time to mourn, but also a time to thank the Lord of Life, Jesus, for calling little children to Him, for regeneration by water and the Word, and for eternal life through Baptism into Christ.
The theme of this convention is “Baptized Into Christ”, based on Galatians 3:25–26. “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.” Throughout the remainder of this essay we will look at the role of Baptism in another person’s life, the father-in-law of this young lady. His name was Jake. Baptism will be described in the first part. In the second part we will see that Baptism gives eternal life. In the third part, we will see that Baptism has the power for life. Finally, in the fourth part, we will learn that Baptism is for daily living. May our desire and prayer be that of Dr. Luther who said:
Indeed if I had the matter under my control, I would not want God to speak to me from heaven or appear to me; but this I would want—and my daily prayers are directed to this end—that I might have the proper respect and true appreciation for the gift of baptism, that I have been baptized.2
I. What Is Baptism?
Baptism is Understood in the Context of Original Sin
In 1921 in a farm house about 20 miles outside of Chicago, Illinois, a mother gave birth to her son. He was named Jake. Sin was part of Jake’s life from the start. Jake was born of the sinful flesh and so was flesh. Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. …that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” (John 3:3,6). Jake could confess with David: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). He was born with only a sinful nature, “…the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22).
If left in this naturally sinful condition, Jake would have produced only evil deeds; for “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). He would confess later concerning this old sinful nature, “…I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). Our birth was no different from that of Jake’s. Before he was baptized, he was living physically, but his life was a spiritual death in sin.
Spiritually, Jake had no power but could only produce hostility and enmity toward God as a child born under the curse of sin and under the power of death and the devil. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). You would observe the little baby alive and kicking, eating, crying and screaming, yet at the same time know that he was “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
This truth of original sin is foundational to the understanding of Baptism. The Anabaptists of Luther’s time, the Baptists, Reformed and Roman Catholics today have this in common: they all deny or take lightly the truth of original sin.3 Dr. David Scaer explains how understanding original sin is the basis for understanding Baptism, “In Lutheran theology, Baptism is not only the antidote to original sin and prior actual sins, but remains the refuge for the sinner through life, … Baptism is first the foundation of the Christian life, and then also its perpetual content.”4 The Augsburg Confession addresses the significance of the doctrine of original sin in Article II:
It is also taught among us that since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.5
Jake’s birthday was celebrated 79 times in the years to come. But why celebrate this day considering the curse and death that sin had brought to his world? Baptism into Christ will change everything in life, for it gave him a new birth.
Baptism is Instituted by Jesus
Jake was brought by his parents to Jesus, just as the Lord commanded, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). On a snowy February day in 1921, at St. Peter Lutheran Church, in the midst of the congregation, the pastor poured water on the baby boy with the words of Jesus, as the Living Lord had authorized. What took place that morning is explained by Luther’s Small Catechism:
Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s word.
Which is that word of God? Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.6
Luther stressed this important truth: “Baptism is not simple water only.” This statement is ignored by those who persist in accusing Lutherans of putting their faith in mere water.
“…it is the water comprehended in God’s command…” Listen to this command: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all 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” (Matthew 28:18–20). Jesus wants us to understand that Baptism is water that is surrounded, enveloped, understood … comprehended by this command of the Son of God.7
The words of Jesus, “All authority,” bring to mind this verse: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11). The words in Matthew 28, “to the end of the age,” show us that this command is not just for the Apostles and the first century, but this command is given to the Church until the end of this world.
Therefore, Holy Baptism is not founded upon a mere man’s word or a person’s faith, but upon the Word and command of God. “What God institutes and commands cannot be useless. It is a most precious thing, even though to all appearances it may not be worth a straw.”8
In Jake’s early years, he began to learn more about Baptism through his father’s home devotions and in St. Peter Lutheran Church and School. His parents and teachers directed him again and again to this Bible verse from Matthew 28, which he learned to call “The Great Commission” and he learned that Baptism was instituted by the Son of God, Jesus, his Living Savior.
Now Christ, the sinless Son of God,
On sinners sends this saving flood,
This is the water which the Lord
Has joined unto His saving Word.
The Baptism by John the Baptist
John’s Baptism was the Baptism received by the Apostles and the Baptism which Nicodemus would know when Jesus said, “You must be born again of water and the Spirit.” John’s Baptism was a “Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3 and Mark 1:4).
Thus, John’s Baptism was a means of grace, bestowing eternal life on repentant hearts. John’s Baptism was instituted by God and a true sacrament: “I will send My messenger before Your face” (Mark 1:2). Jesus Himself sent John to baptize. Speaking of the time when John baptized Jesus, John said, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (John 1:52–53).9
We read of the necessity of John’s Baptism with these words, “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him” (Luke 7:30).
In Jake’s 79 years, God’s work through John the Baptist was kept before him throughout his Christian education and in his liturgical life.10
Our Lord’s Baptism became His commencement into His public ministry as the Christ, who is our Prophet, Priest and King. This Office of the Messiah was consecrated with the anointing of the Holy Spirit without measure and with the words of the Father, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). John saw the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus in the form of a dove.
John did not at first desire to administer this Baptism, but Jesus insisted, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Jesus is our substitute and fulfills all righteousness for us. Jesus becomes like us in every way, yet without sin, to take our place. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus’ Baptism became the foundation on which our Baptism rests.11 He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus is our righteousness. This is the righteousness which Baptism delivers to us.12
Luther, in the Large Catechism, directs us to recall the significance of the Baptism of our Lord:
… you should honor and exalt Baptism on account of the Word, since God himself has honored it by words and deeds and has confirmed it by wonders from heaven. Do you think it was a jest that the heavens opened when Christ allowed himself to be baptized, that the Holy Spirit descended visibly, and that the divine glory and majesty were manifested everywhere?13
When Jake attended worship with his parents and eight siblings over his first 14 years before he went to a Lutheran High School and College, he would see conspicuously placed in the stained glass at St. Peter Lutheran Church the scene of Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan.14 We observe this scene in the beautiful convention painting that is before us. Jake was reminded and we are reminded, day after day, of the importance of Jesus’ Baptism and its relationship to our own Baptism. Luther states this truth in the Baptism hymn he wrote:
To Jordan came our Lord, the Christ,
To do God’s pleasure willing,
And there was by Saint John baptized,
All righteousness fulfilling;
There did He consecrate a bath
To wash away transgression
And quench the bitterness of death
by His own blood and Passion.
He would a new life give us.
Baptism is Water and the Word
There are many customs that surround our liturgical order for Baptism but what is essential to a valid Baptism is this: the water and the Word. If one or the other is lacking there is no Baptism (John 3:23; Acts 8:36). The Smalcald Articles say,
Baptism is nothing else than the Word of God in water, commanded by the institution of Christ; or as Paul says, ‘…that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.’ (Ephesians 5:26), or, again, as Augustine puts it, “The Word is added to the element and it becomes a sacrament.”15
The Water: Water is the earthly element. John the Baptist used water (John 1:33). Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch with water (Acts 8:36). Cornelius had water used on him by Peter (Acts 10:47). Jesus calls Baptism a new birth of “water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Also, St. Paul says the church was made spotless by a water bath of the Word (Ephesians 5:26). It is a water bath “of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). We use no other liquid but simple water, or it is no Baptism. Why? Because, without water, it is not used as God commanded.
How that water is applied is not prescribed by God. It is a matter of adiaphora (an indifferent thing) whether the Baptism is by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling. The Greek word for Baptism and its related words mean any kind of applying of or cleansing with water.
There are some churches who legalistically insist that water be applied in a certain manner or they contend that there is no Baptism.16 In Hebrews 9:10 the word for Baptism is used to refer to washings that the ceremonial law demanded, and this law did not require placing the subject entirely under water but only required the application of water.17 Mark 7:4 says, “When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels and couches.” To wash, one does not need to immerse, especially couches. The washing of the Pharisees before they ate in Luke 11:38 also does not demand a total immersion of the entire body.
Concerning the mode of Jesus’ own Baptism we read, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water” (Matt. 3:16). This does not imply that Jesus was immersed but rather that he came ashore away from the water. The same would apply to the Baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:38–39.
Nowhere in the Book of Acts is immersion demanded as the only mode of Baptism. In the Didache—The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, from the late 1st century or early 2nd century, it speaks of the pouring out of water as an acceptable form of baptizing.18 Early Christian art also shows that Baptisms were not by immersion.19 What is wrong is to insist that only immersion is the correct mode of Baptism. Such a demand is legalism and must at all costs be refuted for the sake of Christian freedom as we read in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.”
A Baptist, seeking to defend immersion, may point out that by immersion a person can lie down as though in a grave and so comply with Romans 6:3–4, “Or 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 ….” However, we who pour and sprinkle, could easily respond: Baptism is also a “pouring” of the Holy Spirit upon the person as promised, “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…” (Joel 2:28). The Spirit was poured out on Pentecost on the disciples but also poured out on all who were baptized, “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).
Additionally, Baptism is also a “sprinkling” of the blood of Christ. Sprinkling brings to mind the sprinkling of Old Testament sacrifices and in Baptism our sins are forgiven as the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and will cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25-27). “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). [For you have come] “to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:26).
Water is the earthly element. The water may be applied in various manners and amounts but it must be applied because that is what Jesus instituted.20 Baptism is more than just water, for it is the Word of God united with the water.
The Word: The heavenly element is the Word of God. The Words of God are fixed for us as Jesus institutes the Sacrament: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). This Trinitarian formula must be used and it must be used in the Trinitarian sense. If the words are repeated but the sense or meaning of the words are denied (as done by anti-Trinitarians), there is no valid Baptism.21
In the New Testament, when it says that they baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ,” this does not prove that the Apostles used another formula of the Word, but these words are a reference to the Baptism Christ ordained (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27).22
What do the words “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” mean? The Name of the Holy Trinity does not just mean that God commanded Baptism but means so much more. Being baptized into the Name of the Triune God declares that we become His very own children and disciples (Galatians 3:26, 27). Being baptized into His Name is to be connected with the entire Gospel revelation that is connected with the Name of the Savior.23 We enter into a communion with the Holy Trinity receiving all His blessings and grace for life now and forever.
We are not to fall into the temptation of separating the water from the Word as some do. Luther warns, “But how dare you tamper thus with God’s ordinance and tear from it the precious jeweled clasp with which God has fastened and enclosed it, and from which he does not wish his ordinance to be separated?”24 It is similar to the marriage of a man and a woman, “Therefore, what God has so joined together, let not man separate” (Matt 19:6). We can’t rend apart what God has joined together as one.25 Baptism is a union of the earthly element of water and the heavenly element of the Word of God.26 It is truly a divine water on account of the Word of God.
Who is to be Baptized?
Throughout his life, Jake would be comforted with the truth that Jesus included him in the grace of salvation. But there were a few times when he wondered whether God had wanted him in particular to be baptized, especially as an infant. Whom does God want baptized? Over the years some well-meaning Baptist friends tried to lead Jake to doubt his Baptism, especially his Baptism as an infant.
However, the glorious truth from God’s Word is that Jesus died for all and wants all people to be saved and to be baptized. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…” (Matthew 28:19). “All nations” is a grand sweeping term that leaves out no person. No exceptions are given by the Lord. Our risen Savior “…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). All nations include all ages, “For the promise (Baptism) is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).
From the examples in Scripture, adults were first instructed from God’s Word and then received Holy Baptism. For Baptism is a seal of God’s grace, a true means of grace that gives to the person all of God’s treasures anew, as does the Lord’s Supper. We think of the thousands at Pentecost (Acts 2:41), the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26–40), and Cornelius (Acts 10:47–48), who were baptized as adults.27
Baptism was performed on whole households. Households would be extended families which would include all who reside there such as adults, children and servants and their children.28 Peter comes to the household of Cornelius and baptizes them (Acts 10:47). Paul arrives at the household of Lydia (Acts 16:15) and to the jailer at Philippi (Acts 16:27–34) and their households were baptized. Paul baptizes the household of Crispus at Corinth (Acts 18:8). The baptizing of entire households is corroborated in 1 Corinthians, where Paul says he baptized the household of Stephanus (1 Corinthians 1:16).
Parents are instructed by Jesus to bring their little babies to Him and will want to have them receive the gift of Baptism as soon as possible:
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, 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. And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:13–16).
Marriage is also God’s institution having the express purpose of teaching children about Jesus: “He seeks godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15).29 If our Lord wanted to exclude little children from Holy Baptism, He would have made an explicit prohibition.30
Yet even among Lutherans, there is found much ignorance, superstition, and many crude notions from a neglect of proper study of Baptism.31 In his book on pastoral practice, G. H. Gerberding remarks:
To some it is a mark of respectability to have their children baptized. They do not wish to be looked upon as heathen. They owe it to their children to give them this badge of decency. That is all there is in it for them. Others lay the stress on giving the child a name. Further than this it means nothing. Still others believe that it will make sick children well, and keep well children from becoming sick. It is a sort of a bodily charm. They have done their whole Christian duty when they have had the ceremony performed, complimented some old auntie by making her sponsor, feasted their friends, and fed the minister! They have now done their part, saved their reputation, and maintained their standing among their friends. Truly, the Old Adam is a formalist and a Pharisee. Oh, how much prayerful, patient and persistent instruction is often necessary to purge out the old leaven of rationalism and formalism!32
Jesus is angry when little children are kept away from Him.33 We read that “…He was greatly displeased” (Mark 10:14). Just because we can’t understand how babies believe is no reason to keep them away from Jesus. It is Christ our Lord who insists children come to Him. Jesus expressly tells us that little ones can believe. Jesus teaches us that infants can enter the kingdom of God. “…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” (Mark 10:15–16). Jesus tells us that little children can believe: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Just as we can’t understand how someone keeps their faith when they are sleeping or in a coma or how John the Baptist as a baby in his mother’s womb had faith and leaped for joy, so we cannot fully comprehend how anyone in any circumstance believes. Saving faith is totally the Spirit’s work in us through Baptism. We confess with Luther in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.”34 Hear our Lutheran Confessions speak on this important point:
Our Churches teach that Baptism is necessary for salvation, that the grace of God is offered through Baptism, and that children should be baptized, for being offered to God through Baptism they are received into his grace. Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who reject the Baptism of children and declare that children are saved without Baptism.35
From the Smalcald Articles we read,
As for infant Baptism, we hold that children should be baptized, for they, too, are included in the promise of redemption which Christ made, and the church should administer Baptism to them.36
During the Reformation, the main opponents of the doctrine of Baptism were the Anabaptists who denied original sin, baptismal regeneration, and the Baptism of infants.37 The Anabaptists taught what they called a “believer’s baptism,” meaning that Baptism is a good work of the regenerated man and performed for the purpose of one’s sanctification (narrow sense).38 In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession we say,
…in our Churches no Anabaptists have arisen [have not gained ground in our Churches], because the people have been fortified by God’s Word against the wicked and seditious faction of these robbers. And as we condemn quite a number of other errors of the Anabaptists, we condemn this also, that they dispute that the baptism of little children is unprofitable. For it is very certain that the promise of salvation pertains also to little children [that the divine promises of grace and of the Holy Ghost belong not alone to the old, but also to children]. It does not, however, pertain to those who are outside of Christ’s Church, where there is neither Word nor Sacraments, because the kingdom of Christ exists only with the Word and Sacraments. Therefore it is necessary to baptize little children, that the promise of salvation may be applied to them, according to Christ’s command, Matt. 28:19: Baptize all nations. Just as here salvation is offered to all, so Baptism is offered to all, to men, women, children, and infants. It clearly follows, therefore, that infants are to be baptized, because with Baptism salvation [the universal grace and treasure of the Gospel] is offered. Secondly, it is manifest that God approves of the baptism of little children. Therefore the Anabaptists, who condemn the baptism of little children, believe wickedly.39
To the extent that the Anabaptists robbed and plagued people by denying the grace given in Baptism, also to infants, Luther wrote quite extensively about infant Baptism in the Large Catechism. This denial of infant Baptism is prevalent today and so a quote from Luther should be helpful:
We bring the child with the purpose and hope that he may believe, and we pray God to grant him faith. But we do not baptize him on that account, but solely on the command of God. Why? Because we know that God does not lie. My neighbor and I—in short, all men—may err and deceive, but God’s word cannot err.40
It will be the overwhelming Scriptural teaching on the blessings and gifts that are bestowed in Baptism by the promise of God to all who are baptized which will make it difficult for someone to maintain a rejection of infant Baptism. This same use of Scripture is how we can help others who have been troubled by those who despise Baptism and deny that Baptism is totally the work of God and a work of grace.41
We can better understand the Sacrament of Holy Baptism by comparing it to circumcision under the Old Testament ceremonial law. Both are to be administered to infants, both are efficacious due to God’s promise, and both are accepted through faith.42 “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by the putting off of the body of the sins 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” (Colossians 2:11–12). As in the case of Old Testament circumcision (Genesis 17:9–14), those who have authority over their children are to bring the children to the Lord who places them into His Kingdom of grace.43
There are casuistry cases where the parents are not Christian yet still desire Baptism for their children. This situation would call for the instruction of the parents about Baptism and the importance of their children continuing in the Word of God. It is also important for the Church to always pray for the child. Who would rejoice at the birth of a healthy baby and then neglect to continue to feed it? Christian instruction throughout the life of every baptized child of God is vital to richly nourish us with His Word and to sustain us in the faith created by the Holy Spirit through Baptism.
In Jake’s years as a young man, there were times when others questioned him about the validity of his own Baptism as an infant. Jake found certainty in God’s Word, that Baptism is God’s work alone, and that God wants us all to be brought into the Kingdom by water and the Word. Jake’s appreciation grew for the doctrine of justification by faith alone and grace alone as he studied the doctrine of Holy Baptism. There is no greater picture of grace than infant Baptism.44 Whether we be an adult or a newborn, it is God’s work of baptizing us into Christ—for life.
Dearest Jesus, we are here,
Gladly Thy command obeying;
With this child we now draw near
In accord with Thine own saying
That of Thee it shall be given
As a child and heir of heaven.
Who is to Baptize?
Let us go back in time, to February 1921, to Jake’s Baptism as a little baby. A called and ordained minister of the Word baptized Jake one Sunday morning. The congregation of St. Peter called this minister to serve in this ministry. “It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.”45 Under most circumstances the called minister of the Word will administer the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.
In the case of an emergency, any Christian may baptize and it is a valid Baptism.46 If Jake had been dying and his pastor could not have made it to his house in time and a layman baptized him, it would be a valid Baptism.
If a particular denomination holds erroneous views concerning the blessings and power of Baptism, it is important to learn if the essence of Baptism (water and the Word) is present. Therefore we recognize a Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church and Reformed Churches since they confess the doctrine of the Trinity and administer the Sacrament according to Christ’s institution using water and the Word.47
The matter is different with regards to an anti-Trinitarian cult which does not baptize in the name of the Triune God. Here the very nature of Baptism is altered and it is not done according to Christ’s command. Though they may use the same words or formula, their words do not carry the same meaning. It is not the mere sound of the words as if they were magical words, for the Word of Christ may be spoken in any language as long as the meaning of the words are the same meaning as what Christ instituted.
In the case where someone was “baptized” by those who deny the Trinity such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons, it is no Baptism and that person should be baptized. We do not say they should be re-baptized, for they were never truly baptized into Christ in the first place. C.F.W. Walther puts it this way, “So the alleged Baptism of all preachers in anti-Trinitarian fellowships is not to be recognized as a true Baptism. It is no better than a Baptism for joking or mocking. Those who have allegedly been baptized by them are to be [actually] baptized for the first time.”48
If a person is unsure if they received Baptism, that person should be baptized. An unsure baptism gives no baptismal certainty.49 Jesus instituted Holy Baptism for our blessing, comfort, and strength and if we are unsure if we received a valid Baptism, where would the comfort be?50
God is the true minister in Baptism. We have no need to envy Abraham because God came directly to him for “we have God speaking to us in the Word, in Baptism, in Communion.”51 While we see a pastor administering the sacrament we know that God is “truly present, baptizes and absolves” through His servant.52 The Lord is behind the visible act,
For to be baptized in the name of God is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself. Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God’s own work.53 … [The ministers] are the faces of God through which he speaks with us and works in every person individually. He baptizes me, he absolves me … For God works salvation in Baptism, and this is the presence or form and epiphany of God in these means. (Luther)54
The Augsburg Confession speaks:
Again, although the Christian church, properly speaking, is nothing else than the assembly of all believers and saints, yet because in this life many false Christians, hypocrites, and even open sinners remain among the godly, the sacraments are efficacious even if the priests who administer them are wicked men…55
Baptism is God’s act. Just as at Jesus’ Baptism, we are reminded that, “where the voice of the Father is heard from heaven, the flesh of the Son is seen, and the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove. … In Baptism the voice of the Trinity sounds, and the words of Baptism must not be heard or received in any other way.”56
From the day Jake was baptized into Christ and throughout his Christian education, he was catechized with the Word of God, which included the doctrine of Holy Baptism. Throughout his days he would stand on this testimony of God against the many deceivers around him who would deny the essence of Baptism.
Jake would also live by faith in the promises of life that God gave him in his Baptism. For Holy Baptism is for life. It is for eternal life. It is the power for life. It is for daily living. The life Baptism gives is life in the fullest sense: “… the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
II. Baptism Gives Eternal Life
When Jake was baptized, he was given the blessings of the forgiveness of sins, was delivered from death and the devil and was given eternal salvation. Jake was given life. The Small Catechism describes the blessings of this gift of life:
What does Baptism give or profit?
It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are such words and promises of God?
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.57
Baptism Works Forgiveness of Sin
This great blessing of forgiveness of sins is that God declares the sinner forgiven on the merits of Christ Jesus. The gift of forgiveness is receive by faith alone. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). The blessings of forgiveness of sins bestowed through the Word of God through Baptism has been confessed by the Church throughout its years in the words of the Nicene Creed: “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.”
Peter, the Apostle of our Lord, wasted no time in directing his hearers to the water and the Word after the law had done its work. Peter preached to thousands in Jerusalem on Pentecost, and when they had felt the full sting of the law, Peter shined the light of salvation upon them and said, “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. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38–39).
Likewise, Paul, the Apostle of our Risen Lord, never seemed to pass up an opportunity to talk about his Baptism and direct us to our Baptism. In Acts 22, as Paul was being led away out of the Temple and into custody in the barracks of the Fortress Antonia, he again addressed his brethren at the Temple. He relates to them the events of his own conversion and refers to his meeting with Ananias. Ananias, through the power of Christ, gave back to Saul his sight and informed Saul that he was chosen to preach Jesus to all men. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Saul’s sins were washed away. Baptism is a washing, a water bath for sins (Ephesians 5:26). Sins are of the heart and soul and so Holy Baptism is a washing, not of the skin outwardly, but of the very heart. Your sins are gone. You are declared clean. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; …Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:16–18). What a blessing of forgiveness is given us in Baptism.58
For Jake and each of us, Baptism works forgiveness of sins. For we too have the word of Jesus, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). As Martin Luther said also of the Lord’s Supper: “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”59 Where there is salvation, there is also the blessing of being rescued from death.
Baptism Rescues from Death
Death has come to all men for all have sinned (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Since Baptism gives us forgiveness of sins, it also rescues us from everlasting death. By Baptism we go into a death, namely, we are buried with Christ into His death so that that now we are spared from the sting of death. We are joined with Him as He conquers death for us. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3). “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57). President Gaylin Schmeling gives this illustration,
People are trying almost everything imaginable to look and feel young. They don’t want to face the reality that they are moving closer to death each day. Think what people would give to stop the aging process: to find a fountain of youth. The search for a fountain of youth led one Spanish explorer, Don Juan Ponce DeLeon, half-way around the world to the Florida everglades looking for the fountain, and still he grew old and died. But in baptism there is a fountain which can counteract the death process. Oh, it is indeed true that our body may whither and return to the dust from which it was formed. Yet, because we have been united with Christ’s death and resurrection, we have the certainty that on the last day our body will break forth from the grave glorified, and so we will be with the Lord forever.60
In 1 Peter 3:19–21 we read,
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…
We are saved by Baptism. We are given the gift of life. Jesus’ death and resurrection give us life by bringing us into the ark of His Church and He saves us from the wrath of God upon the sinner. Just as the eight members of Noah’s family were spared and given life by grace, and by a miracle of God having been raised up upon the water, so the water of Baptism saves us by raising us up in the flood of Jesus’ merits (1 Peter 3:20–21).
Late in Jake’s earthly life, in the 1990s, he would read a devotion every night with his wife. In the last year of his life, his wife took notice of a common theme in his devotions and prayers. He repeatedly thanked God for the coming glories of Heaven. Jake was truly comforted to know that some day soon he would be in the glories of Heaven. This certainty was based upon God’s Word to him in the gift of Baptism. In the hour of Jake’s death, he was prepared and comforted by knowing he was baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Being rescued from death through Baptism, we also have Christ’s victory over Satan.
Baptism Rescues from the Devil
When Satan tempted our first parents to sin, and succeeded in doing so, he brought a total bondage upon us all. We are by nature the devil’s slaves and under his control. Christ has come to bring us victory over Satan and all his power and from our slavery to sin. Baptism delivers from the devil’s control over us.
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14–15).
In Jake’s vocation as a Lutheran school teacher, from 1944–1985, he would observe the wicked schemes of Satan in his students and in himself. The devil tempted and deceived and led them to sin and away from Christ and His Word. As a college professor, coach, and Dean of Students, Jake would acknowledge Satan’s mischief as students got into the most awful troubles and sins. As he guided and taught, he would lead his students to see their sin and to be repentant. Jake led them to look to Christ, the One who destroyed the power of the devil. How happy we should be to know that in Baptism, death and the devil have no power over us! Now we live for the Lord and are free to serve Jesus.
Baptism is a Means of Grace
When Jake and his family moved into their new home in 1966, Jake had a next door neighbor who was a medical doctor, as well as Reformed in theology.61 This neighbor would vehemently argue that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper do not bestow God’s grace since Jesus has already forgiven us at the cross. Jake would go back to his Small Catechism and find the question that was a great comfort and help to him in answering his neighbor according to the Bible. Here is the question in his catechism:
But has not Christ earned all these blessings for us?
By His suffering and death Christ has indeed earned these blessings for us; Baptism, however is a means by which the Holy Ghost makes these blessings our own. (Baptism is a means of grace.) “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26–27). “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).62
We can define the means of grace as “the instruments or channels through which God offers and gives the grace of His forgiveness—the Gospel and the Sacraments.”63 Baptism is also called a visible Word as the Apology states, “As the Word enters through the ears to strike the heart, so the rite itself enters through the eyes to move the heart. The Word and the rite have the same effect, as Augustine said so well when he called the sacrament “the visible Word.”64 The fact is that God ordained multiple means of grace. “Christ redeemed us once with a single work, but he did not pass out redemption with a single means.”65 Luther, in the Smalcald Articles speaks,
…because God is extravagantly rich in his grace: first, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world (which is the proper function of the gospel); second, through baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters. Matthew 18[:20]: “Where two or three are gathered…66
The reason why God has given us more than one means of grace is not that any one of them are lacking, but that God is rich in His mercy, wanting us to be comforted and strengthened. Baptism is called an individual application of the Word. God knows best what we need and has established the Word and Sacraments as the means of giving us His gift of life.
Baptism is our connection to the cross and resurrection.67 Baptism unites us with Jesus as he declares us victors with Him over all the powers that accuse, and condemn, and try to kill us. For Jesus “…wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14).
For Luther, Baptism is a trysting place. A tryst is a private, romantic rendezvous between lovers, and so Baptism is one of those places that God has appointed for us to meet him. From his lectures on Genesis, referring to Jacob’s ladder, Luther teaches:
…God governs us in such a way that wherever he speaks with us here on earth, the approach to the kingdom of heaven is open. This is truly extraordinary consolation. Wherever we hear the word and are baptized, there we enter into eternal life. But where is that place found? On earth, where the ladder which touches heaven and earth stands, where the angels descend and ascend, where Jacob sleeps. It is a physical place, but here there is an ascent into heaven without physical ladders, without wings and feathers. This is how faith speaks: “I am going to the place where the word is taught, where the sacrament is offered and baptism is administered.” And all these things that are done in my sight in a physical place are heavenly and divine words and works. That place is not only ground or earth; but it is something more glorious and majestic, namely, the kingdom of God and the gate of heaven. Here one goes to the stars, as it is stated by the poet. There is no reason for you to run to St. James or to withdraw into a corner or to hide yourself in a monastery. Do not seek a new and foolish entrance. But look in faith to the place where the words and sacraments are. Direct your step to the place where the word resounds and the sacraments are administered, and there write the title THE GATE OF GOD.68
Luther’s reference to “running to St. James” is to remind us that God is to be found where He wants us to meet Him and not places or ways of our own choosing such as monasteries or going on pilgrimages. We may like to choose the places ourselves, but in those places one does not have the promise of God.69
Such is the deplorable perversity of our nature that we do not keep what God commands or value it highly; but whatever the devil commands, this we receive and observe the utmost eagerness and deference; we erect altars, chapels, churches; we run to Rome and to St. James. But meanwhile we slight Baptism, the Eucharist, absolution, and our calling (Luther).70
If you wish to run to places of your own choosing you are opposing God’s chosen way, for He “…says, ‘Here you shall adore, worship and make offerings. In the Word, in the Lord’s Supper, in Baptism, you have the remission of sins. With these you will have to be satisfied if you wish to be saved’” (Luther).71
The means of grace do not have the appearance of glory.72 Many people have despised the means of grace, and thus Baptism, because they appear to be weak and because they do not see God work through His Word. “For they despised the Word, baptism, and the sacraments because these were less showy and did not strike the eyes of men” (Luther).73 We meet God at His chosen places with faith in His Word attached to these “lowly” visible means.
But we should look at the external places not only as the world does with the eyes of flesh and in the manner of beasts; nor should we think that the word itself is an empty sound. … In baptism water is water. For the flesh judges in no other way concerning all these matters … the flesh fixes its eyes only on the water, on the bread, on the wine, and on the ground where Jacob slept, but the spirit must see the water, the hand, the word of God, and God in the water. The flesh sees so keenly that it judges that water is water and it excludes God, as the Sacramentarians and the Anabaptists do.74
There were some dark moments in Jake’s life. He had difficulties in the 1960s with a couple of children, along with the common trials and tribulations of Christian cross bearing. As with any Christian, Jake himself was so very ashamed of his own sins. One time, as he was delivering newspapers with his son, a storm blew stacks of newspapers all over a huge park. He lost his cool and his son heard him speak a shameful word that he never heard him speak before or after that. He would repent of his sins each day.
The Baptism promises from God would always be there for Jake to return to and to grasp by faith. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Luther comments,
But [God] is conquered in this way as soon as he has surrendered himself to us, so to say, and revealed himself in the word, in promise, in baptism. It remains that you should conquer those things which want to take this God away from you … Or if he pretends that he is alien and wrathful, unwilling to hear and to help, then say, “Lord God, you promised me this in your word. Do not change the promise. I am baptized, I am absolved…”75
The Necessity of Baptism
Since our Savior has commanded us to be baptized, and promised us many blessings through Baptism, all Christians will want to receive this grace from God. Therefore we say that Baptism is necessary. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Saving faith cannot exist in the heart of one who refuses to be baptized. The Augsburg Confession says, “Our Churches teach that Baptism is necessary for salvation, that the grace of God is offered through Baptism…”76 Martin Luther also explains,
…we must respect God’s freedom by urgently calling every one to repentance, to faith, and to Baptism. With the same urgency we must warn against a contempt of Baptism. Whoever rejects Baptism rejects God’s Word, faith, and Christ, who directs us and binds us to Baptism.77
However, we say that Baptism is not necessary in the absolute sense. There may be a situation when someone does believe, yet for some reason, Baptism cannot be obtained at that time. The reason someone can still be saved when they have not had the opportunity to be baptized is because God is rich in His mercy to give us other means of grace. That would be the situation when a person comes to faith on his deathbed through the preaching of the Word, yet he dies before he has had the opportunity to be baptized. It appears that this was the situation with the thief on the cross. Christ’s promise to that thief should comfort many who die in the faith unbaptized.
Jesus says, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” It is unbelief only that damns as Jesus went on to say “He that does not believe shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). We see such unbelief in the case of the Pharisees and lawyers who “…rejected the counsel of God against themselves when they refused to be baptized by John” (Luke 7).78
In Jake’s middle age years, he needed to console his dear wife and also a daughter-in-law, at the miscarriage of their pregnancies. In each of these cases, these babies never received the second birth through Holy Baptism because they didn’t make it to the first birth. He assured them of the mercy of our Lord and that God, while binding us to Baptism for those who are born, can create faith and the new birth in a child through the Word that was present in their lives as unborn children. We witness this miracle of regeneration and faith in John the Baptist, while he was still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41). As the angel Gabriel said, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). People may want to say more about this situation but we cannot speak where God has not revealed His will.
We now turn to the question of the power of Baptism, for there are many who deny its power as well as the role of faith to believe the power of the Word in the water.
III. Baptism Has the Power of Life
The question at issue is posited by Luther in his third part of the Small Catechism:
How can water do such great things?
It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter third: [According to His mercy He saved us] By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.79
Baptism is the Power of the New Birth
God promises that in this water, due to the Word of God attached to it, the water is a life-giving water, a water of regeneration, a water of new birth and a whole new life. Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God … unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God … that which is born of the Spirit is spirit … you must be born again …” (John 3:3–7).
In Jake’s busy and challenging life, his thoughts often went back to the day he was baptized. That day was the day of a new birth, a day to really celebrate. It is the real reason we can celebrate the first birth day. Christians can truly rejoice at all their birthdays because of the second birth in Holy Baptism.
God directs us to the truth of regeneration or new life that takes place in the washing of Baptism: “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…” (Titus 3:4–5). New life means Jake was given faith in Jesus and thus has eternal life, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14–15). “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
Whether we were baptized as an adult or as an infant, we did not come to trust God’s love and kindness by any works of righteousness which we did, but according to his mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration. God has worked in us saving faith, which is a new life.80 Such faith is not to be equated with conscious knowledge only.81 Whether we are asleep or awake, in a coma or alert, at the job site or at home, we are in Jesus by faith. Such faith is God’s miracle and creation through the washing of regeneration, the water bath of new birth.82 It is also true that the Baptized can reject this faith, either immediately or at any time in the future. Thankfully, God provides us the means of grace to keep us in the true faith which he worked in us. We are heirs “…who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). We have “…the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
In Luther’s Baptism hymn he teaches this truth concerning baptismal regeneration, “There he did consecrate a bath; to wash away transgression, to rescue us from bitter death; by his own blood and passion, new life for us creating” (ELH 247:1). Luther also taught,
You can see the water of baptism as you can see the dew … but you cannot see or hear or understand the Spirit, or what he accomplishes thereby: that a human being is cleansed in baptism and becomes a saint in the hands of the priest so that from a child of hell he is changed into a child of God. Nevertheless this is truly and actually accomplished. One has to say, in view of the power which attends it, that the Holy Spirit was present at the event and was making believers by means of water and the word.83
Jake would know every day of his long life that, since he was baptized, he had a new birth, had a new man, had a new spiritual nature, and was in possession of saving faith. All of these gifts of life are through the power and work of the Spirit.
Baptism is the Power of the Life-giver, The Holy Spirit
Jake had the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, for Baptism is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was in that upper room on Maundy Thursday before he went to the cross he said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). As Joel prophesied, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17).
Baptism is a Baptism into Christ and also a Baptism into the Holy Spirit. “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). “…but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
These passages speak of Baptism and the work and power of the Spirit as one act.84 The Holy Spirit baptizes us all into one body. The Spirit regenerates and renews us through Baptism. Baptism is in the name of Jesus and at the same time a Baptism by the Holy Ghost. “To be ‘in Christ’ and to be ‘in the Spirit’ are the same thing for Paul” (Romans 8:4 and 14:17).85 Schlink comments,
…the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was not a onetime event. Rather, it was an initial event followed by further outpourings of the Spirit, and this not only on additional people who had not yet received the Spirit, but also on the same people on whom He had already been poured out. … The coming of the Holy Spirit is a constantly new divine coming and working. The same is true of every baptized person. Even though the Spirit has been poured out on him through Baptism, he must continue to depend on the Spirit’s coming.86
In the book of Acts, Luke records for us the spread of the Gospel and the Spirit’s work across the world. New areas and new nations were coming to faith by the power of the Spirit and thus the power of Baptism. Luke follows these steps as the Gospel comes to Samaritans and to the Gentiles and to the ends of the earth.
In a person’s life, the Spirit, which comes in Baptism, is always working through the Word in the water, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), “Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1). The Holy Spirit is the “Comforter” whom Jesus promised and sends to us. The Spirit’s work in us through Baptism is not just a one-time event. Through Baptism He dwells in us and comes again and again to bestow His gifts through the Word and Sacraments, the means of grace.87
During the 1970s and ’80s Jake could clearly observe that some Lutheran churches in his area went in heterodox directions.88 Some called themselves “charismatic.” These congregations were looking for the Spirit to operate and come to them in ways that God had not promised.89 Jake took great comfort in returning to the specific trysting places where God’s gifts of the Spirit are promised, in the Word and Sacraments … including Baptism and its power which truly is a Baptism and new birth of the water and the Spirit (John 3:5). “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
Baptism’s Power is Received by Faith
In the Small Catechism, the question is raised and answered, “To whom does baptism give all these blessings?” The answer? Baptism gives these blessings to all who believe, as the words and promises of God declare, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; But he that believeth not shall be damned.”90
Saving faith is “not only to historical knowledge but also to trust (fiducia) in the mercy promised for the sake of the Son of God.”91 It is important to note that the treasure of Baptism is received, grasped and held fast in faith but the treasure itself does not depend upon faith. Faith does not make it a Baptism, but faith receives its blessings. Thus, Baptism is not invalid in the absence of faith, but one needs to return to one’s Baptism and trust—by the Spirit’s power—in God’s promises (Mark 16:16–17).92 Those sects which make Baptism itself dependent upon the faith of the person commit the same error of the Anabaptists.
Luther admits that it is a common temptation to put our faith and trust in the quality of our faith rather than to the truth and power of God’s Word in Baptism.
We are so constructed by nature that we desire to have a conscious faith. We’d like to grasp it in our hands and shove it into our bosoms, but that doesn’t happen in this life. We can’t comprehend it, but we ought to apprehend it. We should hold to the word and let ourselves drag along in this way.93
… the Anabaptists claim that baptism is nothing if one is not previously sanctified. They do not want to acquire holiness through and from baptism, but by their piety they want to make baptism holy and wholesome. As I see it, this is to lose the Cornerstone completely and to be justified, not through the grace of Christ in baptism but through one’s own self, so that baptism gives nothing, creates nothing, brings nothing. Instead we bring everything to baptism beforehand, so that it is nothing but an unnecessary symbol by which one is supposed to be able to recognize such pious folk.94
We should want to remain in the ship of Baptism, but if we should ever fall out of faith and out of the ship, we simply go back to the ship of Baptism. In fact, the Christian keeps returning to his Baptism his whole life and does not need to seek some other “plank” to grab as Rome directs.95 There is no need of rebaptism, rather return to one’s Baptism for God’s Word never fails.96 To think of being rebaptized is the highest insult to God’s Word and His promises to us in our Baptism.97
Luther likens it to the case of a girl married without love. After a few years when the affection from her husband finally arrives, she need not be remarried, but now all is complete and in order for her. The same is true for us and our Baptism. It isn’t necessary to be rebaptized, but rather we are to put our trust in God’s Word in the water. The saying is true: “The abuse of a thing does not negate it but confirms its substance.”98
In this way, Baptism is to be used constantly by faith. By faith one must constantly “crawl back” to Baptism (Luther) in order to find there deliverance from the onslaughts of the powers of perdition. The Christian’s repentance is to be performed by thinking back to one’s Baptism in which “forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation” were imparted.99
When Jake was in his 50s and 60s he served his Lord and congregation as a church elder. He recalled his pastor at one point in time, asking for advice concerning a request for rebaptism from an evangelism prospect. The situation was that these people were grandparents who baptized their two grandsons. Now they wanted them baptized again by a pastor. Jake agreed with his pastor that it was important to explain to the grandparents that the grandsons were already baptized and that the power is in the Word of God and not in the person who administers the water and the Word.
Jake had the ability to explain these simple, yet divine truths because his Baptism was not merely an historical act with little meaning for his life. This Christian man was often reminded of the work of God in Baptism.100 Throughout his life, Jake would daily put his faith in God’s act, God’s blessings, and God’s power in Baptism.
IV. Baptism is for Daily Living
Many Lutherans who have had at least a basic education in the Small Catechism know that their Baptism is important. Yet many have a difficult time seeing any value in Baptism for daily life.101 Luther has a strong pastoral concern when teaching about Baptism. Baptism becomes a fortress against all spiritual trials (Anfechtungen) and Baptism is to help us in our struggle for assurance of the graciousness of God. Martin Luther writes in the Large Catechism, “In baptism, therefore, every Christian has enough to study and to practice all his life.”102 And again he writes, “No greater jewel, therefore, can adorn our body and soul than Baptism, for through it we obtain perfect holiness and salvation, which no other kind of life and no work on earth can acquire.103 The Small Catechism speaks of Baptism’s daily use and meaning (significance) for us:
What does such baptizing with water signify?
It signifies that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?
St. Paul writes, Romans, chapter sixth: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.104
Dr. Scaer writes, “Baptism occurs once, but it provides the foundation for all of the Christian life and is coterminous with it. The baptized in the act of Baptism confesses himself as sinner, and in turn God acknowledges him as saint, simul iustus et peccator.”105 Scaer continues, “Baptism for Lutherans is more than the sacrament of entrance into the Christian community, but is what being a Christian is all about.106 It continually calls the baptized to respond in faith, and so it belongs to the present and the future as it does to the past.”107
The Daily Drowning of the Old Adam
We remember our Baptism in daily life for the power of Baptism is needed as we still have our Old Adam, our old sinful nature, clinging to us—a real nuisance and source of trial until we shake it off completely when we enter into the glory of Heaven.
“Remember your baptism,” St. Paul urges in his letter to the Roman Christians, the sixth chapter. To remember is to think about it, to dwell on it, to treasure it, to value it and to consider all God has given us by grace in the water and the Word.
Our Old Adam is like a snake molting off its old dead skin. That clear skin that takes days to finally leave the body completely is like our Old Adam, in that it is no longer really a part of us and our New Man. We who have new life in Christ do not need it, do not want it, and it is really not who we are anymore before our God. “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:17). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new. … I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:5,6).
Do we recognize the battle within us? The new person of the Spirit has a real enemy in its midst. The sinful nature desires the wrong and the sinful thing. In weakness, the Old Adam often gets the upper hand. Even the Apostle Paul confessed “As it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me” (Romans 7:19). James says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” There is so much bickering and discord within us. “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (2 Peter 2:11).
The law slays our Old Man when we come to know that we cannot be justified by the law (Romans 3:20). In Baptism this Old Adam is then drowned and dies as our sins are washed away. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? … knowing this, that, our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:3, 6). No longer do we need to obey the dictates of our Old Adam. We are no longer slaves to sin. The Old Adam is drowned in Baptism and we are to remember and believe this each day. Jake was daily reminded of this and of God’s further work in him through Baptism: the gift of the New Man, his new nature which arises daily “to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
The Daily Rising of the New Man
We have often heard the following words when the divine service begins in our home congregations, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” This invocation reminds us of the words of Jesus, by His institution and decree, which were spoken at our Baptism. As we began a new life in Christ at the hearing of these words of Jesus so we begin a new worship service in order to return to the promises of Baptism for renewal and growth in our Christian lives.
After the invocation of the Holy Trinity, the divine service moves on to Confession and Absolution. In Holy Absolution the keys of heaven are used by Christ’s authority to open heaven anew for us. The pastor says, “I … announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”108 Absolution is a continuation of Baptism’s blessings and power.
Absolution is a renewal of that promise to you, again and again, your whole life long. You return to that promise of your death and resurrection with Jesus in Baptism. Absolution is the very replaying of the Easter event bringing that very same power to you anew (Romans 6:4).
As we hear the words of Absolution, we know these words are for us. One by one, each of us can be assured that as we were baptized into Christ we died and rose with Christ.109 Absolution is life giving. It washes. All your sins are tossed overboard from the ship into the flood waters of Baptism. You are brought anew into the ship of the Church of Christ. You are renewed to live for Christ in your daily life. We are truly renewed by the Gospel of Baptism.110
Jake hated sin and resisted it more and more as he grew in sanctification. This is not easy. In fact it can be most difficult. But now we have strength to avoid pampering the flesh and saying, “I can’t help it. It is me. It is who I am. I can’t change, grow or be renewed.” When beset by temptation, Jake would remember his Baptism, and the fact that all of his sins were nailed to the cross.111 In Baptism, Christians have the power to fight and overcome temptation. We have victory over sin and a whole new life. Every Christian can say with confidence along with Luther, “But I am baptized! And if I am baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.”112
Absolution was a frequent application of the Word of God to Jake. Absolution was a divine key that unlocked heaven for him and returned him to his Baptism. Absolution was the pronouncement of God’s forgiveness of sins. Absolution was a drowning of the Old Adam and a rising of the New Man. After each worship service, Jake could go to his home justified by God. Jake had gone to church and truly heard his Savior give him what he needed for the days to come. He was freed from the power of sin and death. Jake was “… 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” (Colossians 2:12).
The Daily Putting on of Christ
Jake never had the ability to pick out matching clothes when he got dressed for work. Jake’s wife would have to send him back to the closet to put on a different tie or shirt so that they matched. As a professor’s wife, she wanted him to dress appropriately. We all try to dress for the occasion. You might have a bad memory of being extremely underdressed or overdressed. There are even times when it appeared rude or insulting.113
When Adam and Eve sinned they immediately felt underdressed. They were aware of their sinfulness and nakedness and so hid from God. This was more than a slight breech of dress code. Nakedness or stains are pictures of our sin and inability to stand before God justified (Ephesians 5:27).
I have spent more time than I have liked in clothing stores over the years. There are stores that sell suits, stores that sell sporting clothes, and stores that sell casual clothing. But until recently, I had never been in a bridal store that specializes in wedding garments for the whole wedding party. I was amazed at the variety of the materials and the styles and the stunning beauty of the many gowns, dresses, tuxedos and suits.
But this should not surprise us. The Bible frequently refers to garments when making its most important points. From our main text for this convention in Galatians 3:26–27, Christ is to be “put on”: “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.” The words “put on”, have the meaning of putting on a garment, to dress or clothe.114 Dr. Martin Luther has this to say about our topic in the Large Catechism: “Therefore let everybody regard his Baptism as the daily garment which he is to wear all the time.”115 In Baptism you daily put on the garments of salvation. That is why Baptism is called a putting on of Christ. Baptism is God coming to you and dressing you with Jesus, with the garments of righteousness. This was the text used at Jake’s wedding:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10-11).
Baptismal Customs to Help Us Remember Our Baptism in Daily Life
At the Baptism of his five children and six grandchildren, and at the hundreds of other Baptisms Jake attended, he would be reminded again and again of the wonderful promises of God in Baptism, as testified by these customs. These liturgical actions would help him consider his Baptism from many angles.
A Baptism is water being applied in the name of the Triune God. This is a valid Baptism. This is the essence of Baptism. Everything else in the Baptism rite is adiaphora, things that are neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture.
There are many baptismal customs that have come into use through the history of the church. These should not be considered on the same level as what was instituted by God, for these are added by men. These customs may be used or omitted without invalidating the baptism. Yet we heed the advice of Dr. C.F.W. Walther,
But they may be removed and changed in an orderly way, with the agreement of the church, especially if they cease to be useful, do not attain their beneficial purpose, or degenerate into misuse and superstition. But in removing them, offense is to be avoided, and so changing these customs is not to be permitted to the frivolous arbitrariness of every private person, but it should be left up to the public opinion of the church.116
We shall now look at some of these customs which we find used in our fellowship, that we may have a better understanding of their purpose and meaning for our daily living in our Baptism.117
The Reference to Original Sin: In our liturgies the pastor says something like this,
Dearly beloved, just as through one man’s sin, sin entered the world, and death through sin, and also death spread to all men, because all sinned; therefore, because of one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation. For which reason we are all by nature the children of wrath, and have come short of the glory of God. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, … In order then that this child which is conceived in sin and born in iniquity, may see the kingdom of God…118
By this clear teaching about original sin, we are all reminded of the need for Baptism.
The Giving of the Name: When the name of the child is given, it can be instructive and comforting, for it reminds the one being baptized that God has made a covenant with him personally.119 The baptized has a new life, a new identity as a child of God, through the washing of the water and the Word. “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine’” (Isaiah 43:1).120 When we think of our names and when they were given, we may think of our Baptism and the covenant entered into by grace. We join Paul and the rest of his fellow workers, “whose names are in the Book of Life” (Philippians 4:3).
In some orders, the Pastor specifically asks, “Who brings this child to be baptized?” and then the parents answer, “We do.” Then the pastor asks, “How is this child to be named?” The child’s name is spoken, immediately followed with the Baptism.121
The Sign of the Cross: “Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon your forehead and upon your heart, in token that you shall believe on the crucified Lord Jesus Christ.”122 J. Gerhard remarks,
The sign of the cross is made on the forehead and on the breast, which was already customary in Baptisms at an earlier time, as Tertullian testifies in his book on the resurrection of the flesh. That is not done out of superstition, or because of some supernatural effect, but as a testimony that being received into the grace and being regenerated, everlasting life is established for the baptized child only by virtue of the merits of Christ crucified. It is also a reminder that the child has been received into the number of those who believe in Christ crucified; that the old man in him is to be crucified in Baptism (Rom. 6:6); and also that he himself will be subject to the cross in this life.123
When Jake led his class or family in devotions, he made use of Luther’s suggestion in the Small Catechism of making the sign of the cross during the morning and evening prayers.124 Using this sign can aid the Christian to remember his Baptism.
A Prayer and Benediction and the Lord’s Prayer: There are benedictions and prayers added to the Baptism order. One is called the “Davidic Benediction” from Psalm 121:8, “The Lord preserve your coming in and your going out from this time forth, and even forevermore. Amen.” This benediction is usually very early in the liturgy “…where the church opens itself with the Baptismal covenant to the one to be baptized.”125 The newly baptized is joined to the body of Christ. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13). A brief prayer is sometimes spoken imploring God’s grace upon the person to be baptized.126 The prayer which embodies all that we can ask for and need is the Lord’s Prayer.
The Reading of Mark 10:13–16 in the Baptism Liturgy: Early in the rite, the pastor often reads this text:
And they brought young children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘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.’ And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.
The prominence of this passage, due to its importance for the understanding of Baptism, cannot be overstated. The teaching of Jesus’ will for little babies is clearly given to the Church even when there is much opposition in the world of children coming to Jesus, such as the disciples’ objection at the time Jesus spoke these words. The same truths also have great impact for adult Baptisms, as all who enter the kingdom of God enter with the faith as a little child. What a winning invitation and command for us to bring our babies to Jesus to receive His blessings and His kingdom with them! “Repent and let every one of you be baptized … for the promise is to you and to your children…” (Acts 2:38).
The Renunciation and the Apostles’ Creed: “Dear Christian friends (parents) and sponsors: I now ask you to answer, in the name and in the stead of this child, the questions which I shall now address to him to demonstrate what God in and through Baptism works in this child.
- N________, do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways?
- Do you believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?
- Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord…?
- Do you believe in the Holy Ghost…?”
The purpose of these questions is “to signify thereby what God in and through Baptism works in him.” The baptized is brought from Satan’s kingdom and into the Kingdom of God. Satan is renounced and the Holy Trinity is confessed. This is the faith of the saved. This is the faith God works through the water and the Word.
These questions and answers are a public confession that infants are given faith. Luther explains that we bring little children to Baptism upon the command of our Lord, no matter whether they believe “either before or in Baptism”.127 These questions are put to the child to emphasize the truth that Baptism is a means of regeneration by which faith is born.
The Use of Sponsors: Sponsors at baptisms are also non-essential, but serve a godly purpose.128 Sponsors serve as witnesses of the sacrament and give the child encouragement in his Christian life. Sponsors promise to aid the child with a Christian education in the true faith, and may even be called upon to raise him, if he should lose his parents. They are to remind the child of his Baptism and to at all times, pray for the child.129
Because of these important duties, we will want sponsors to be of our own fellowship.130 Pastors try to make the importance of church fellowship clear to the church members so that they ask qualified people to serve as sponsors. In the cases where the parents have already asked someone not qualified to be a sponsor, it is common practice to allow them to serve as witnesses of the Baptism, but not as sponsors. A witness does serve an important purpose. “…by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matthew 18:16). Two or more people should be used as witnesses of the Baptism. There is little comfort in Holy Baptism if a person, later in life, questions if he was ever baptized. Witnesses can give that assurance.131
Jake served as a sponsor a couple of times in his younger years and needed to think about these important questions and his responsibilities. He took that role seriously. We now turn to the end, the end of Jake’s life here, and the continuation of the life Baptism gave him.
Seventy-nine years after Jake was born and then reborn in Holy Baptism, late December in the year 2000, Jake suddenly had a stroke, a bleeding deep in the brain that could not be stopped. In a couple of weeks, the Lord’s angels took him to his home in Heaven. Back here on earth, in a Michigan snow storm, many gathered at the church for the funeral of Jake. At the back of the church a pall was placed over the casket as the minister confessed these words from Romans 6: “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death…”
Since Jake was to be buried in Illinois next to the grave of his parents and infant son, his family and some friends and relatives drove to Illinois and regathered at the graveyard for the committal. At the committal words were then spoken:
May God the Father, who created this body, may God the Son, who by his blood redeemed this body, may God the Holy Spirit, who by Holy Baptism sanctified this body to be his temple, keep these remains to the day of the resurrection of all flesh.132
Jake is now and forevermore a saint in Heaven and stands before God in a white robe. It is the white robe we also, dear baptized believers, have been given and wear even now. We have “put on Christ,” and this gift given in Baptism is worn into eternity.
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:13–14).
This great homecoming is the result of God’s promise to us all in our text from Galatians chapter 3: “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.” We have been Baptized into Christ—for life. Baptism is given to us by the Living Lord. Baptism gives to us eternal life, Baptism is the power for new life, and Holy Baptism is to be remembered each day of our lives.
To God be the Glory
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1 David Scaer, Baptism. (Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series. St. Louis: The Lutheran Academy. 1999) comments: “This Reformed and particularly Baptist influence leads many to believe that for their salvation they cannot rely on their Baptism, especially if it was administered during infancy. Modern problems with Baptism are not substantially different from those raised at the dawn of the Reformation by the Anabaptists and by Ulrich Zwingli.”, pp. 2-3.
2 Luther’s Works, Vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press), p. 165.
3 Some Baptists deny original sin. The Reformed soften the doctrine of original sin, and so speak of children of Christian parents not needing Holy Baptism since they were born “in the covenant”. They believe that Baptism does not truly convey grace and forgiveness to a child. Rome teaches that original sin is something that can be amended by our own good works.
4 Scaer pp. 3-4. Scaer also comments: “For Lutherans, Baptism initiates not a substantive change, but a new relationship with God whereby the believer is brought into the realm of salvation (Ap. II. 35-37). …it is the continued and permanent promise of God to the believer. “Therefore Baptism remains forever” (LC. IV. 77). And also Scaer writes: “Historically, where the article on original sin is compromised, Baptism loses its value and soon falls into disuse, as happened in Enlightenment Europe.”, p. 16.
5 Tappert, Theodore. The Book of Concord, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press), AC II 1-2, p. 29.
6 Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House), SC IV, p. 16.
7 Though it is commanded, Baptism is not “law” in the sense of a work we do to merit anything from God. Baptism is pure Gospel. The command is a Gospel imperative that speaks to us how we receive life from God through Jesus Christ. “A legalistic understanding must be excluded from the teaching of what Jesus has commanded. We are dealing with the transmission of His imperious summons by means of which He has at once expounded, broken through, transcended, and fulfilled the Law.” (Schlink, Edmund. The Doctrine of Baptism. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House), p. 10.
8 Tappert, LC IV 8, p. 437.
9 Some might question the efficacy of John’s Baptism in light of Acts 19. Here it is recorded for us that St. Paul met twelve disciples in Ephesus who did not know about the Holy Spirit and yet they had been baptized into John’s baptism. It says, “When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). Clearly, Paul calls the Baptism of John a “baptism of repentance” (Acts 19:4). The event of Acts 19 has been explained in various ways. First, is that that they had kept on with a sect under the name of John and did not follow Christ as John directed them and thus underwent another kind of baptism other than what John had administered. A second possibility is that they simply did not yet receive the special gifts of the Spirit as was on occasion given through the Apostles such as speaking in tongues and this is what they did not receive yet. Thirdly, John Gerhard suggests for us to understand the text in this way, “St. Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they [the people John preached to back then] heard this [John’s preaching] they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.’” St. Paul then laid his hands on them so that they would receive the special manifestation of the Holy Spirit that gave confirmation of the Spirit’s work in those early days…they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Gerhard, Johann. A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Malone, TX: Repristination Press, p. 50.
10 During Advent and Epiphany and even on the 24th of June which is the “Feast of John the Baptist” or “The Nativity of St. John the Baptist” Jake was reminded of God’s work through John. Jake was made well familiar throughout his boyhood of the “Visitation” (when Mary met John’s mother and John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb) and the canticle we often sing called “The Benedictus,” (the song of Zacharias, the father of John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.)
11 Jesus is the Christ who goes on with His ministry of being our substitute. His active obedience (His keeping the Law perfectly) also led to His passive obedience (His suffering and death for us) as he undergoes a baptism of the crucifixion. “I came to send fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:49-50). This complete obedience is for our righteousness which Jesus fulfills for us. He is our Christ: our Prophet of whom the Father says to us, “Hear Him!”, our Priest who goes to the sacrifice as the Lamb on the Cross, and our King who now rules all things by the power of His Resurrection.
12 Luther’s sermon on the Baptism of Jesus: “That was to be a comforting paradigm for us, that God’s Son lets himself be baptized – though he was without sin – and performs what he was not obligated to do. We in contrast never do anything above and beyond what is necessary, for we are such wicked louts who don’t even do what is our duty. Christ, God’s Son, is holier than baptism itself, and yet he allows himself to be baptized. He institutes and ordains holy baptism, and moreover commands that such baptizing, henceforth, continue within Christendom, so that all who desire to be saved might be baptized.” Klug, p. 217.
13 Tappert, LC IV 21, p. 439.
14 Likewise, the same Biblical event is front-and-center in Bethany’s Trinity Chapel as we see the descending Spirit in the form of a dove and also the Baptism of our Lord in this beautiful painting at our convention.
15 Tappert, SA III. V, p. 310.
16 During my seminary years I would work as a referee for basketball games. At one basketball tournament between a number of Baptist and Reformed schools I noticed that one girls team wore skirts for uniforms and others wore different styles of uniforms. The differences in appearance were so stark that I presumed that there might be a difference of theology of the schools who were playing that day. During the halftime I asked the other referee what the difference was between the schools. He responded that one was “three forward and three back” and the other just “one forward”. I was confused and asked what he meant. He explained to me that each church group demanded that Baptism be by a specific mode.
17 “…concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.”
18 Didache – The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, (Willits, CA: Eastern Orthodox Books) “… baptize in running water. … If you have no running water, baptize in other water, and if you cannot use cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water on the head three times, ‘in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.’”, p. 7, 13.
19 Lange, God So Loved the World, p. 494.
20 In a bookstore I got into a friendly discussion with an elderly gentleman who made the comment: “If you were on fire, would you want to be immersed or sprinkled?” The false logic of this comment is that Baptism is more effective if you use more water. “Even if we were immersed in water a hundred times, it would nevertheless be only one Baptism and the effect and signification of Baptism would continue and remain.” LC IV 78, Tappert, p. 446.
21 The three names of the persons of the Trinity refer to the three persons and at the same time are one God, one name and is one activity of God. Conversely, to reject the name of Christ is to reject the Father who sent Him and to reject salvation. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:8). “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). See also 1 John 2:23. If your missing one person of the Godhead, you’re missing the entire Godhead.
22 Schlink: “From what happens in Baptism in the name of Christ, according to the New Testament, the trinitarian understanding of the name of Christ follows so cogently that a rejection of the trinitarian name would also mean rejection of the name of Christ.”, p. 87.
23 In 1 Corinthians 10:2 the children of Israel are said to have been baptized “into Moses.” It was not at Moses’ command that is the point but rather they now entered into a fellowship with Moses. The reformed groups emphasize that “in the name” merely means “at Jesus’ command”.
24 Tappert, LC IV 16, p. 438.
25 Luther: “I admonish you not to be deceived by the fallacies of the Anabaptists, who say that baptism is external water and nothing but water since they omit the words of God connected with the water.” Luther’s Works, Vol. 17,(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House), p. 113.
26 Luther: “The Anabaptists and fanatical spirits today say that baptism is nothing more than ordinary water. May the devil take these slander mouths! Dogs, sows, and cows also see nothing in the water but its taste. But a Christian ought not go by the taste, but by the Word.” Klug, p. 221.
27 Walther’s advice is helpful here, “Here in America, where so many reach a certain age without Baptism, it is especially important to ask up to what age children can be baptized without first being fully instructed as is required with adults. Here it is not possible to indicate the year [of age] for all cases. In general, it may be said that smaller children who can understand some but not all instruction in the chief parts [of Christian doctrine, the catechism] should be instructed about the meaning of Baptism to the extent that they can grasp it and should be baptized if they are not already openly malicious. In that case the questions are to be answered by the sponsors in place of the children.” Walther, C. F. W. Pastoral Theology, (New Haven, MO: Lutheran News, Inc.), p. 98.
28 Scaer: “Consider that Dale Moody’s reference sheepishly points out that “house” in 1 Sm 22:16 mentions “oxen, asses and sheep” along with men, children, and sucklings. Appreciating Moody’s humor, it can be pointed out that the New Testament households were urban. If the New Testament were written to a rural audience, we can assume that the barnyard animals would have been exempted from the Baptism.”, p. 129.
29 Scaer, “Where the doctrine of original sin and universal depravity is discredited, other reasons for infant Baptism have been adduced to support its continued practice; however, the fundamental definition of Baptism as forsaking of sin and entering God’s kingdom is lost.”, p. 16.
30 In the Reformation, infant mortality was much higher and the possibility of children reaching adolescence was much slimmer than today. “Depriving children of Baptism was, for the Lutheran Reformers, nothing less than consigning them to damnation. ….This practice might be compared to one in the modern secular world in which children are deprived of life through abortion.”, Scaer, p. 19.
31 Many Lutherans do not know why we baptize babies. A mighty conflict can rage over this subject of infant Baptism. If we try to maintain infant Baptism yet do not know the Bible’s teaching on it, then we are helpless against the bitter, even hostile, and aggressive attacks upon it from the Baptists.
32 Gerberding, G. H. The Lutheran Pastor, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House), pp. 298-299.
33 St. Luke mentions that the little children were arm held infants (Luke 18:15).
34 Luther’s Small Catechism, (CPH 1943), p. 11.
35 Tappert, AC IX, p. 33.
36 Tappert, SA III.IV 4, p. 311.
37 The modern Baptist is to make a decision for Jesus which is synergism.
38 Luther acknowledged that if little children could not believe he too would not Baptize them. But since Jesus says they do believe, we do not keep them from this blessed Sacrament. However, a valid Baptism is not dependent upon a person’s faith, “Everything depends upon the Word and the commandment of God.” Tappert, LC IV 53, p. 443. In the Large Catechism, Luther holds that the best proof for baptizing little children is that the Holy Spirit is given to them. “This is the best and strongest proof for the simple and unlearned.” Tappert, LC IV 51, p. 443.
39 Triglotta, Ap AC IX 2, p. 245.
40 Tappert, LC IV 57, p. 444. In my interview with a local Baptist minister, he confirmed that in his Baptist denomination, the believe that young children cannot have faith and if they die as children, they are left to the mercy of God.
41 Hear Luther in the Large Catechism: “Thus you see plainly that Baptism is not a work which we do but is a treasure which God gives us and faith grasps, just as the Lord Christ upon the cross is not a work but a treasure comprehended and offered to us in the Word and received by faith.” Tappert, LC IV 37, p. 441.
42 Romans 4:11 speaks of circumcision as a means of grace, “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised,…”
43 The Old Testament divine institution of circumcision was God’s chosen place or way to make his promise known and received. It was a means of grace, as Baptism is, yet circumcision was for a specific time period before the coming of Christ and pointed to the promise. Luther: “the sign or covenant was entrusted to Abraham as to a standard-bearer, in order that through circumcision all nations might have a definite place and a definite person in whom God would appear visible and in association with whom they would find the true God, who was to be found nowhere else in the entire world.” Luther’s Works, Vol. 3, p.126. More Luther: “it follows not only that the little boys who were circumcised were received into the people of God and justified, but also that, because of the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, the little boys have faith.” Luther’s Works, Vol. 3, p. 102.
44 Schlink has a good discussion of the early church and infant Baptism. He examines Irenaeus (ca. 180), Hippolytus (ca. 215), Tertullian (who had some reservations on the practice yet still acknowledged infant Baptism as valid and in common use, ca. 200), and Origen (ca. 240). “Thus infant Baptism from ca. 200 has been documented from greatly different areas of the church. It is remarkable how much this practice is regarded as self-evident. Nowhere is there a reference to the counter argument that infant Baptism was an innovation.”, p. 133.
45 Tappert, AC XIV, p. 36. In the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope we read, “For wherever the church exists, the right to administer the Gospel also exists. Wherefore it is necessary for the church to retain the right of calling, electing, and ordaining minsters.” Tappert, Tr 61, p. 331.
46 Calvin denied such a concept as “emergency Baptism” since he taught that the child of Christian parents was already adopted by God by means of a covenant and did not need Baptism. Schlink 107. Calvin also denied a Baptism by anyone who was a layman. He “demonstrated a more exclusive understanding of office than the Roman Church.” Schlink, p. 118.
47 If someone denies the power of a medicine yet still takes the medicine, the medicine will still have the benefit to heal.
48 Walther, p. 93.
49 The certainty is so important as Luther comments, “Foundlings should be treated the same (that is, be baptized). Even though a note is included, reporting that the child has been baptized, such a Baptism, administered without witnesses of the church, is still not a public sign or Sacrament. Also, it cannot be believed with certainty because it cannot be proven.” Walther, p. 96. Walther gives this practical advice to the pastors, “As soon as he has been asked to perform a Baptism, the preacher should neatly enter the relevant data into the church book: day and time of birth; name or names of the child to be baptized; names, status and current residence of father and mother; and the names of the sponsors. He should leave blank the time of the Baptism, which is to be added only after it has been performed. A preacher who is not careful in this matter is loading himself with a serious responsibility, for after some time the church book can be the only certain documentation that the child has really received Baptism.” Walther, p. 99.
50 A person is not be be baptized, as in the Roman Catholic Church, “If thou, (name) , hast not been baptized, I baptize thee in the name, etc.” For that is not according to Christ’s institution but on some condition. Walther, pp. 95-96.
51 Luther’s Works, Vol. 3, p. 155. In the case where one finds out later in life that the minister was a hypocrite, does this make one’s Baptism invalid? No. It is a valid Sacrament if it was administered according to the command of Christ in the name of the Triune God.
52 Luther’s Works Vol. 3, p. 220.
53 Triglotta, LC 10, p. 735.
54 Luther’s Works Vol. 8, p. 145.
55 Tappert, AC VIII 1, p. 33.
56 Luther’s Works, Vol. 8, p. 145.
57 Luther’s Small Catechism, (CPH 1943), p. 16.
58 The means of grace are roads that come to the cross of Jesus for forgiveness. If it is the preaching of the Gospel, if it is the Lord’s Supper and if it is Baptism, forgiveness of our sins is the gift, the blessing of Christ’s Word and Sacraments. Baptism is how the full and complete forgiveness of the cross is brought to us, even now in the 21st century.
59 Luther’s Small Catechism, (CPH 1943), p. 21.
60 Schmeling, Bread of Life From Heaven: “Baptism, The Fountain of Life,” p. 11. Luther: “For consider, if there were somewhere a physician who understood the art of saving men from dying, or, even though they died, of restoring them speedily to life, so that they would thereafter live forever, how the world would pour in money like the snow and rain, so that because of the throng of the rich no one could find access! But here in Baptism there is brought free to every on’e door such a treasure and medicine as utterly destroys death and preserves all men.” Triglotta, LC IV 43, p. 743.
61 Schlink comments, “… Calvin went beyond Augustine and loosened the connection between the baptismal event and the divine activity…in the great majority of his statements the activity of God through Baptism is restricted to a “signifying” (signiicare), a “promising” (polliceri), a “sealing” (obsignare), a “representing” (figurare), a “showing” (ostendere), a “testifying” (testificare), and the like.”, p. 99.
62 Luther’s Small Catechism, (CPH 1943), pp. 175-176.
63 Luther’s Small Catechism, (CPH 1943), p. 218.
64 Tappert, Ap XIII 5, p. 212.
65 Luther’s Works, Vol. 28, p. 269.
66 Kolb, Wengert, The Book of Concord, SA III IV 1, p. 319.
67 Through Holy Baptism, God has joined you to Jesus on Easter morning. You are not a spectator of Jesus merely sitting in the stands or on the sidelines. You are not a disconnected reporter of events. You are raised with Christ, alive with Jesus, eternal with Hm through your Baptism. By faith you are united with, and receive the blessings of, Jesus’ death and resurrection.
68 Luther’s Works, Vol. 5, p. 247.
69 Scaer, “For Calvin, the Spirit works separately in an actin parallel to Baptism but not in Baptism itself. Calvin uses the word “illumination” to describe the Spirit’s activity. …In utter contrast, and to the relief of our souls, the Lutheran Confessions locate the benefits of salvation in Baptism., p. 67.
70 Luther’s Works, Vol. 4, p. 179.
71 Luther’s Works, Vol. 6, p. 129. In Luther’s comments on Cain and Abel he can’t help but refer to Baptism and the trysting places God has appointed in the Old Testament. “Did Cain and Abel have a divine command to offer sacrifice? …Yes. For all the sacred accounts give proof that by his superabundant grace our merciful God always placed some outward visible sign of his grace alongside the word, so that men, reminded by the outward sign and work or sacrament, would believe with greater assurance that God is kind and merciful. Thus after the flood the rainbow appeared in order to serve as a convincing proof that in the future God would not give vent to his wrath against the world by a similar punishment. To Abraham, as we shall hear, circumcision was given, so that he might firmly believe that God would be his God and that he would give him the seed in whom all the nations would be blessed. To us in the New Testament, baptism and the eucharist have been given as the visible signs of grace, so that we might firmly believe that our sins have been forgiven through Christ’s suffering and that we have been redeemed by his death. Thus the church has never been deprived to such an extent of outward signs that it has become impossible to know where God could surely be found.” Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, p. 248.
72 Luther uses the example of the parental estate and civil authority. Parents and governmental officials may not look any different from Turks and heathen. However, since God’s commandment is added, “you shall honor your father and mother”, Luther says, “ I see another man, adorned and clothed with the majesty and glory of God.”, Tappert, LC IV 20, p. 439. Water is what our eyes see in Baptism but we also know by Jesus’ institution that His promises are attached to the water bath.
73 Luther’s Works, Vol. 7, p. 344.
74 Luther’s Works, Vol. 5, p. 247ff.
75 Luther’s Works, Vol. 6, p. 141.
76 Tappert, AC IX 1, p. 33.
77 Schlink, p. 108.
78 Luther’s sermon on the Baptism of our Lord: “That is the reason why wicked people come into the abyss of hell, because they despise or disdain baptism. Satan has ravished and blinded them, so that their eyes and ears are closed and they don’t see or hear what is happening here. Why aren’t you baptized, or your children? If Christ permitted himself to be baptized, how can you be so haughty, so blind and foolish, as to despise baptism? Even though baptism were worth nothing, ought you not regard it with respect because of what this text is saying, that the Son of God himself was baptized, and that you, too, should be baptized, for no other reason than to honor him, even though it were of no benefit to you?” Klug, pp. 217-218.
79 Luther’s Small Catechism, (CPH 1943), p.17.
80 Scaer: “Article V.2 of the Augsburg Confession could not be more clear in claiming that the Spirit is given in the sacraments to create faith. (For through the Word and the sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, and the Holy Spirit produces faith,…) …Even when an unbeliever receives Baptism and is later converted, he is not rebaptized. The Baptism remains the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Immersion in water one hundred times grants nothing! Luther argues that unbelief no more destroys Baptism than it can destroy Christ: “Therefore only presumptuous and stupid persons draw the conclusion that where there is no truth faith, there can be no true Baptism. Likewise I might argue, ‘If I have no faith, then Christ is nothing.’”, p. 113.
81 The common Baptist error.
82 Jesus describes this miracle to Nicodemus in John 3:1-15.
83 Luther’s Works, Vol. 13, p. 303.
84 Scaer: “In the Reformed and Baptist theologies the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the inner Baptism, refers to an inner experience not equated with what is called water Baptism, that is trinitarian Baptism. Baptism in Lutheran theology is both an affirmation and revelation of the Holy Trinity whom Christ reveals: “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt 11:27).”, p. 102
85 Schlink, p. 60.
86 Schlink, p. 63.
87 Scaer: “Baptism in the name of Jesus or the Trinity is baptizing in the Holy Spirit. So the New Testament can speak of the Spirit being given before, during, or after Baptism. Locating one time for the Spirit’s action does not rule out other times. The Spirit brings the believer to Baptism, works on him in Baptism, and renews him after Baptism. Concerning infant Baptism, Lutherans may commonly attach the activity of the Holy Spirit solely to the pouring of the water. This is hardly right! Water does not activate the Word, but the Word activates the water. The water of Baptism is in the midst of the entire proclamation of the Word which comes to a pinnacle in the reciting of the name of God: Father-Son-Spirit. Still the Spirit is attached to the entire service of the Word which surrounds Baptism, and not to certain words to the exclusion of others. That would be magic! Where the Word is, there the Holy Spirit must be present!”, p. 110.
88 These congregations, district, and synod were not among our fellowship at that time.
89 Neo-Pentecostalism, which sees “water baptism” as inferior to “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”, has infiltrated many Lutheran churches in America. Scaer: “This invalid distinction first became an issue in the Reformation, when the Anabaptists claimed for themselves a special Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Luther strongly opposed the Anabaptists and insisted on attaching the person and work of the Spirit to the Word and specifically to Baptism (AC II 2).”, p. 107. Augsburg Confession Art. II.2: “…Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.”, Tappert, AC II 2, p. 29.
90 Luther’s Small Catechism, (CPH 1943), p. 17.
91 Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, Part II, p. 898. This definition is Melanchthon’s test. Chemnitz says, “Faith is the unique means and instrument through which we lay hold on the righteousness of Christ receive it, and apply it to ourselves, as it says in Heb. 4:2: ‘The message which they heard did not benefit them, because with faith was not mixed.’”, p. 906.
92 Scaer: “So important is faith for receiving Baptism, that if Luther were convinced that children did not believe, he would no longer baptize them. Luther makes it clear in the Large Catechism that Baptism lasts forever, even where faith fails or was never present to begin with. The Baptism of a hypocrite or unbeliever is as valid as the Baptism of a believer. Still, without faith Baptism does not reach its intended purpose of placing the baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ.”, p. 115. Recall the young pastor in “The Hammer of God”, Fridfeldt, whose friend, Conrad, had a second baptism and led Fridfeldt to question his own. Conrad falsely believed his Baptism was not a true Baptism since he still at times had evil thoughts, pride and vanity. Fridfeldt was counseled by a parishioner named Olsson with the words, “…I would consider it wrong against God if I should put my baptism in question. I accept God’s Word and sacraments with reverence, but I pass not judgment upon them.” In a small Bible study group on Baptism Fridfeldt says, “But today I have come to understand that the saving foundation does not lie here” (he beat upon his chest), but in Jesus only.” Later he says, “Faith does not dwell in our brain or in our thoughts. Faith is not a work which we accomplish; it is not a gift that we give to God. Being made righteous by faith does not imply that faith is some kind of payment that will serve as well as our almsgiving and good works. Is it not written that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit? Faith is, then, a poverty of spirit, a hunger and thirst, a poor, empty heart opening toward God so that He can put His grace into it. When God bestows His grace upon us, we are born anew and become partakers of the new life.”, Giertz, The Hammer of God, p. 183-217.
93 Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, p. 453.
94 Luther’s Works, Vol. 14, p. 39.
95 Jake’s son married a Roman Catholic woman. When discussing Baptism, Jake would explain to her that the power of Baptism was not in our act of just “doing the work” or magic but that our faith grasps and receives this Word of God in the water. Rome also sets aside Baptism after the Sacrament is given and from then on offers the sinner penance through which he is to then make satisfaction for his sins.
96 Naaman the leper took offense to the idea of washing in the Jordan even though such a bath had God’s promise attached to it. Naaman eventually partakes of the promise and is washed and cleansed of leprosy and faith is created and grows (2 Kings 5:1-14). We can speak of faith’s role on a number of levels: faith is created in Baptism, faith receives the gifts of Baptism, faith is strengthened by Baptism, and faith continues to lay hold of all the blessings of Baptism throughout life.
97 If one gets “re-baptized” it is because the person is basing their Baptism on their faith and not on God’s Word. This kind of faith is not directed to Christ but to one’s own self. Faith must not be bent back to yourself. Saving faith, is by its very nature, directed to God and His work and promises in Baptism. The devil is very apt to undermine one’s second, a third, and any more baptisms based on faith.
98 Abusus non tollit sed confirmat substantum.
99 Schlink, p. 126.
100 “Thus you see plainly that Baptism is not a work which we do but is a treasure which God gives us and faith grasps, just as the Lord Christ upon the cross is not a work but a treasure comprehended and offered to us in the Word and received by faith”. Tappert, LC IV 37, p. 441.
101 Schmeling, Bread of Life From Heaven: “Baptism, The Fountain of Life,” p. 20.
102 Tappert, LC IV 41, p. 441.
103 Tappert, LC IV 46, p. 442.
104 Luther’s Small Catechism, (CPH 1943), p. 17.
105 Scaer, p. 15.
106 Scaer: “The Reformed move quickly from water Baptism to the inner Baptism or Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Roman Catholics properly see Baptism as regenerative, but move to Confirmation and Penance to find grace for living. Charismatics may allow for Baptism even of infants, but take their focus off Baptism and put it on their spectacular gifts. Calvin and Barth stress Baptism as a pledge of obedience.”, p. 114.
107 Scaer, p. 15.
108 The Lutheran Hymnal, p. 16.
109 The day you were baptized was your Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter all in one act through the water and the Word of God. “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5). All our sins at Baptism and Absolution are washed into the depths of Jesus’ blood. All our sins are tossed into the font and drowned.
110 In this life, we can never completely return to the perfect created image of God. In believers, a beginning or the renewal of the image of God is made. Complete renewal will be on the day we go to heaven which we will have a return to the image of God, having perfect knowledge of God and perfect holiness. We will no longer have our sinful nature as we now have.
111 Luther uses the illustration of the Good Samaritan who applies the oil and wine on the wounds. In Baptism the gifts of the Holy Spirit have come but baptismal healing of a person is a daily, lifelong process, a continual return to the promise. Baptism is not a closed event of the past but God’s promise to be in force your whole life long. So if you fall from faith you can return to your Baptism and believe once more what God’ promises to you. Baptism renewal or regeneration does not imply that the new birth is over when the rite is ended.
112 Tappert, LC IV 44, p. 442.
113 In ancient times, when a king had a feast, he would provide clothing for the guests so that the occasion, say a wedding of his son, would have a hall full of properly attired guests. You may recall the parable of Jesus in which a man entered the hall without the wedding garments and the king was furious. The enraged king had him thrown out. This was a picture of us trying to enter Heaven in our own way, in our own garments, and in our our own righteousness. If we try that, we will be cast out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
114 Kubo, A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 177. Lenski comments: “He who puts on Christ becomes partaker of his salvation… To put on Christ is to receive justification.” Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians to the Ephesians and to the Philippians, pp. 185-186.
115 Tappert, LC IV 84, p. 446
116 Walther, p. 101.
117 Besides the customs listed here, there are many more, such as the custom of an exorcism, which teaches that this person now is in the Kingdom of Christ and no longer under the power of Satan. There is the custom of using a white gown showing that Christ’s righteousness is put on in Baptism. Many make use of a candle which symbolizes that the baptized now lives in the light of Christ.
118 ELS, Handbook of Ministerial Acts, p. 1
119 Dr. Walther advises pastors to be extra careful with the name, for pastors can easily get confused with this detail and new name to this new person. Walther recommends for pastors to write the names of the child on a piece of paper so that he can easily read them off especially if there are multiple Baptisms that day. (Fritz. Pastoral Theology, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House), p. 102. Dr. John H. C. Fritz has some interesting suggestions on selecting names that benefit us all, “It is therefore really self-evident that children should not be given names that are notoriously anti-Christian in their connotation nor names that are in themselves ridiculous or otherwise objectionable. Also such names as are, or appear to be, outlandish had better not be given, since the child, after it is grown, will not thank its parents for such a name and may even be compelled to refrain from using it.”, Fritz, p. 113. The giving of our name at our Baptism is a beneficial custom to be retained for it brings us the comfort of knowing we have a new identity and it is in Christ. We are now His and He is ours. Just as a bride takes the name of her husband so we are now the bride of Christ. We take his name which describes who we now are.
120 In the past, the name was given at the circumcision of a boy. Recall John the Baptist was named, when he was circumcised on the eighth day. Visitors to Zacharias and Elizabeth thought he should be named after his dad, but Elizabeth said, “No; he shall be called John” (Luke 2:59). His name was given to him by God, and John has the identity God gave him, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways” (Luke 2:76). Jesus, likewise, was circumcised on the eighth day and given the name “Jesus”. We think of his work and identity, “…for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
121 Lutheran Worship Agenda, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House), p. 95.
122 Ministerial Acts, p. 2
123 Walther, p. 102.
124 “In the morning, when you rise, make the sign of the cross and say, “In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”, Tappert, SC VII 1, p. 352.
125 Walther, pp. 102-103.
126 Luther’s Flood Prayer has also been used by some: “Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. You drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, yet led Your people Israel through the water on dry ground, foreshadowing this washing of Your Holy Baptism. Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin. We pray that You would behold this child according to Your boundless mercy and bless him with true faith by the Holy Spirit, that through this saving flood all sin in him, which has been inherited from Adam and which he himself has committed since, would be drowned and die. Grant that he be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, he would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN.”, Lutheran Service Book, pp. 268-269.
127 Mueller, J.T., p. 503.
128 To carry out these responsibilities a sponsor must not be an excommunicated person, a blasphemer, an enemy of the Church, a notorious unbeliever, or a person living in open sin. “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:11).
129 Sponsors answer on behalf of the child the questions asked in the Baptism rite. This is the faith that the child is given and has in Baptism.
130 Church fellowship is the confession of the truth for the sake of all. Church fellowship is a wonderful doctrine and is based on the love of God, and of His Word. “We will want sponsors to be, first and foremost, of the household of faith. That they are of our physical family is a secondary consideration.” Lange, p. 501.
131 Walther, pp. 95-96
132 Lutheran Worship Agenda, p. 194.