Faith which trusts this Word of God in the water

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.”

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • FW

    In general reformed end up having to trust in a moment of conversion. then then get to consider whether that conversion was real or had sufficient sincerity behind it.

    Lutherans point to Holy Baptism when someone is troubled by their sins or in doubt over their salvation.

    I, even as a Lutheran christian simply did not get Luther´s advice when troubled by satan to say simply “I am baptised!”.

    I get it now. In my baptism, God culled me out from the herd. Before I could even think to seek him, he sought me, and through the instrumentality of parents and pastor and church he put his mark on me. he branded me. he said “THIS one is mine for eternity.” He called me literally by name in my baptism and placed his name upon me. the name of the holy trinity. I after baptism had the name “christ-ian.”

    In that very baptism God placed faith into my heart and gave me everything he would ever give me.

    Now when I doubt my faith, or sincerity or salvation, I say to satan: “every accusation you level at me is true! I am a liar, dishonest, insincere, lacking in true faith and repentance, and in fact merit temperal and eternal punishment for the best of my repentance and faith” but satan, you are missing one thing important. I am a liar but God is true. he promised me that i am his in my baptism. I can prove that I was baptized and so those promises are mine. God, tenderly and fatherly, invites me to hold him to his words of forgiveness even ordering me to eat the body and blood of his dear son. me, an unclean thing. imagine that. He commands me to go to my pastor and hear that I am forgiven after telling the pastor my sins.

    So ok. whatever it is that is in me is suspect. worse. but God is true.

    I can fall away from trusting in God and his promises but those promises are always there for me. entreating me to come back and simply trust.

    I am baptized!

  • FW

    In general reformed end up having to trust in a moment of conversion. then then get to consider whether that conversion was real or had sufficient sincerity behind it.

    Lutherans point to Holy Baptism when someone is troubled by their sins or in doubt over their salvation.

    I, even as a Lutheran christian simply did not get Luther´s advice when troubled by satan to say simply “I am baptised!”.

    I get it now. In my baptism, God culled me out from the herd. Before I could even think to seek him, he sought me, and through the instrumentality of parents and pastor and church he put his mark on me. he branded me. he said “THIS one is mine for eternity.” He called me literally by name in my baptism and placed his name upon me. the name of the holy trinity. I after baptism had the name “christ-ian.”

    In that very baptism God placed faith into my heart and gave me everything he would ever give me.

    Now when I doubt my faith, or sincerity or salvation, I say to satan: “every accusation you level at me is true! I am a liar, dishonest, insincere, lacking in true faith and repentance, and in fact merit temperal and eternal punishment for the best of my repentance and faith” but satan, you are missing one thing important. I am a liar but God is true. he promised me that i am his in my baptism. I can prove that I was baptized and so those promises are mine. God, tenderly and fatherly, invites me to hold him to his words of forgiveness even ordering me to eat the body and blood of his dear son. me, an unclean thing. imagine that. He commands me to go to my pastor and hear that I am forgiven after telling the pastor my sins.

    So ok. whatever it is that is in me is suspect. worse. but God is true.

    I can fall away from trusting in God and his promises but those promises are always there for me. entreating me to come back and simply trust.

    I am baptized!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Good stuff, FW. Your 4th paragraph says it as well as anything I’ve heard.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Good stuff, FW. Your 4th paragraph says it as well as anything I’ve heard.

  • http://jameshagemanblog.blogspot.com James Hageman

    Thanks for the catechism posts.

  • http://jameshagemanblog.blogspot.com James Hageman

    Thanks for the catechism posts.

  • Cap Stewart

    As one who wants to understand Lutheranism better (I’ve pre-ordered my copy of the Lutheran Study Bible!), what would Lutherans say about people like the thief on the cross, who was converted without baptism?

  • Cap Stewart

    As one who wants to understand Lutheranism better (I’ve pre-ordered my copy of the Lutheran Study Bible!), what would Lutherans say about people like the thief on the cross, who was converted without baptism?

  • Trey

    @ #4 Cap Stewart

    We Lutherans (as Jesus stated) say that the thief on the cross is in heaven with God because it isn’t baptism that clings to God’s grace, but faith apprehends God’s grace. Faith is engendered not by us, but by the Holy Spirit who works with and in the Word to bring us to Christ. Jesus is clear that it is not the lack of baptism that condemns a person, but unbelief. However, contempt for baptism is tantamount to unbelief because it offers God’s gifts of forgiveness and life. FW astutely describes the power of baptism that God puts His Holy Name on us and confers on us forgiveness of sins and salvation. Therefore, we are no longer children of wrath, but children of God. Holy Baptism (along with the Lord’s Supper) is the visible Word, which God has bounded the Church by to offer us His gifts: forgiveness of sins and salvation. In the Sacraments, we receive the Gospel individually (opposed to collectively in public confession and absolution). I hope that helps.

  • Trey

    @ #4 Cap Stewart

    We Lutherans (as Jesus stated) say that the thief on the cross is in heaven with God because it isn’t baptism that clings to God’s grace, but faith apprehends God’s grace. Faith is engendered not by us, but by the Holy Spirit who works with and in the Word to bring us to Christ. Jesus is clear that it is not the lack of baptism that condemns a person, but unbelief. However, contempt for baptism is tantamount to unbelief because it offers God’s gifts of forgiveness and life. FW astutely describes the power of baptism that God puts His Holy Name on us and confers on us forgiveness of sins and salvation. Therefore, we are no longer children of wrath, but children of God. Holy Baptism (along with the Lord’s Supper) is the visible Word, which God has bounded the Church by to offer us His gifts: forgiveness of sins and salvation. In the Sacraments, we receive the Gospel individually (opposed to collectively in public confession and absolution). I hope that helps.

  • Billye

    As I get older and have grandchildren, baptism becomes more precious to me. I think of a day when I may have dementia or because of some injury be unable to worship, read scripture, or for that matter even ‘behave’ like a christian. But, God in His wisdom has marked me with baptism and despite the condition of my health or mind, my family has the reassurance that my faith present because of the wonderful gift of baptism.

    Yes, I am Baptized.

    Thank you for this series on the catechism. We can never get too much of it.

  • Billye

    As I get older and have grandchildren, baptism becomes more precious to me. I think of a day when I may have dementia or because of some injury be unable to worship, read scripture, or for that matter even ‘behave’ like a christian. But, God in His wisdom has marked me with baptism and despite the condition of my health or mind, my family has the reassurance that my faith present because of the wonderful gift of baptism.

    Yes, I am Baptized.

    Thank you for this series on the catechism. We can never get too much of it.


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