The next part in our blog series on Luther’s SMALL CATECHISM deals with Baptism. I have heard it said that Lutherans do not really believe in justification by grace through faith because Baptism is a WORK. I have also heard it said that Lutherans do not really believe in justification by faith because they think that if you are Baptized you don’t need faith. As if Luther were not the great theologian of justification by faith! Anyway, the catechism sets the record straight:
THE NATURE OF BAPTISM
What is Baptism?
Baptism is not just water, but it is the water used according to God’s command and connected with His Word.
What is that Word and command of God concerning Baptism?
Jesus says: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20.
THE BLESSINGS OF BAPTISM
What does Baptism give or profit?
Baptism effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, just as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God?
Christ our Lord says, Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
THE POWER OF BAPTISM
How can water do such great things?
It is not the water that does these things, but the Word of God which is in and with the water, and faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without the Word of God the water is simply water, and no baptism; but with the Word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says, Titus 3:5-8: “According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.”
THE MEANING OF BAPTISM
What does such baptizing with water mean?
Such baptizing with water means that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts; and that 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 6:4: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death, that just as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”