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Class 12

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Lesson 12 — Baptism

Catechism Questions 239-260 (OLD: 244-266); Koehler pp. 137-139


Its meaning. Baptize comes from a Greek word meaning "wash with water".

Luke 11:38
Mark 7:4

Baptism is a Means of Grace, that is, it rings spiritual blessings

Matthew 28:18-20 - makes disciples


Acts 2:38-39 — brings forgiveness and the Holy Spirit
Titus 3:5 — a renewal of the Holy Spirit
John 3:5 — spiritual rebirth

The essentials of baptism:


Water, the earthy substance, use of no other substance


Word of God, Jesus' words from Matthew 28, source of sacrament's power


A person to receive it; baptism is only for humans!


The method of baptism


Some (Baptists and other Protestants) insist on immersion


Matthew 3:16

Romans 6:3-4

Scripture does not mention any particular method, let alone insist on one!

Difficulties with insistence on immersion from the two passages above, as well as form:

Acts 2:41 — 3,000 persons baptized with no large body of water around.

Archaeology points out that early churches used shallow depressions in floor in which persons stood while water was poured over.


Our position is that any method that applies water to the person is accepted


The benefits of baptism:


Spiritual rebirth as God's child

John 3:5

Forgiveness of sins (contrary to Protestant teaching)

Acts 22:16
Acts 2:38

The Holy Spirit

Acts 2:38-39

Guarantee of salvation

1 Peter 3:21

Who should be baptized?


Baptists and many Protestants restrict baptism to adults


Scriptures command in general:

Matthew 28:19 — all "nations"
Acts 2:38-41 — crowd of 3,000 with no children?
Acts 16:15 — Lydia's whole family baptized
Acts 16:33 — whole family baptized

We specifically baptize infants and small children because


God's promises include little children

Mark 10:13-16
— children small enough to be held in arms
Matthew 18:1-6
— little children can believe, can sin and can be blessed

children need the blessings of baptism, including forgiveness

Psalm 51:5
— we are born in sin, separated from God
John 3:5-6
— spiritual rebirth is necessary for all

Children are included in Christ's command

Matthew 28:18-20
— all "nations" includes children
Colossians 2:11-12
— baptism corresponds to Old Testament rite of circumcision, which was performed on 8 day old babies!

Little children can believe

Matthew 18:1-6
Matthew 21:16 — even babies in mother's arms!

What happens to children who die without baptism?


Scripture does not directly answer this question, but we need to consider these things:


God is God of love and mercy. If Christ died for the sins of adults, would He ignore children's needs?


It is unbelief that damns, n simply lack of the sacrament


We are bound to baptism, not God. He can make exceptions though we cannot.

Examples of exceptions can be found in:

Jeremiah 1:5
Luke 1:15, 44

Christian parents pray for their children and God has promised to hear and answer the prayers of His believers.


Therefore we are confident that a loving, merciful God will do that which is loving and right in these exceptional cases. Generally we offer the comfort of salvation to grieving parents in these matters even though there is no clear Scriptural proof.


Baptismal Customs


Sponsors, witnesses




Involvement of Congregation, discouragement of "private" baptisms


Emergency Baptism


( From Luther's Large Catechism)


231. A question arises here with which the devil and
his band confuse the world; the question of the baptism of infants, whether they also have faith and can properly be baptized? To this we reply in brief: Let the simple and unlearned dismiss this question from their minds and refer it to those posted on the subject. But if you must answer, then say: that the baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ his own work demonstrates. He has sanctified many of those who had received this baptism, and today not a few can be found whose doctrine and life attest the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We also, by the grace of God, have received the power of interpreting and Scriptures and of knowing Christ, which is not possible without the Holy Spirit. Now if God did not approve infant baptism he would not have given to any of these the Holy Spirit, not even in the smallest measure. In short, from time immemorial to this day, no one on earth could have been a Christian. Now, since God has confirmed baptism through the gift of his Holy Spirit, as is plainly evident in some of the fathers St. Bernard, Gerson, John Huss and others and the Christian church will abide to the end of the world, it must be confessed that infant baptism is pleasing to God. For God can never be his own opponent, nor> support lies and knavery, nor bestow his grace and Spirit to that end. This is perhaps the best and strongest proof for the simple and unlearned people. For no one can take from us or overthrow the article of faith, "I believe in the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints."

232. Furthermore, we maintain that the vital concern is not the presence or the absence of faith inasmuch as the latter can not vitiate baptism itself; God's Word and command is the vital concern. This is perhaps a little strongly expressed, but it is based upon what I have already said, that baptism is simply water and God's Word in and with each other: that is, when the Word accompanies the water, baptism is rightly administered although faith be not present; for faith does not constitute baptism, it receives it. Now, baptism is now vitiated, even if it is not rightly received or made use of; because it is not bound to our faith, but to the Word of God.

233. Thus you see that the objections of the sectarians will not stand. As we said, even if children do not believe which is proven not be the case yet their baptism would be valid, and they should not be rebaptized. Just so, the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is not corrupted when one even partakes of it with an evil purpose, and it would not be permissible for him, because of that abuse, to partake of it again the same hour as if he had not received the true sacrament in the worst possible manner. How can we imagine that God's Word and ordinance should be wrong because we make a wrong use of them? Therefore I say, have you not believed, then believe now, and confess: The baptism was indeed right, but, alas, I received it in the wrong way. Now, I myself, and all who are baptized, must confess before God thus: I come here in my own faith and also in the faith of others, yet I cannot build upon the fact that I believe and many people are praying for me; what I build upon is, that it is thy Word and command. Just as I go to the Lord's Supper, not on the strength of my own faith, but on the strength of Christ's Word. Whether I be strong or weak, I commit myself into the hands of God. This I know, that he bids me go, eat and drink, and he gives me his body and blood, which will never lie to me nor deceive me.

234. We do the same in infant baptism. We bring the child with the conviction and trust that it believes, and pray God to grant it faith. But we do not baptize the child upon that; we do it solely upon God's command. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor, in fact, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err.

235. Therefore, only presumptuous and stupid persons argue and conclude that where there is no true faith, there also can be no true baptism. Likewise, I might argue, if I have no faith, Christ is nothing; or, if I am not obedient, father and mother and superiors are nothing. Is that a correct conclusion because one does not do what he ought to do, the thing which he misuses is of no consequence and of no value? My good friend, rather reverse the argument and conclude that baptism is valuable and right just because it has been improperly received. For if it were not right in itself, we could not abuse it or sin against it. Hence the saying: "Abusus non tollit, sed confirmat substantiam," Abuse does not remove the substance, but demonstrates its existence. Gold is none the less gold because a harlot wears it in sin and shame.

236. Therefore, let the conclusion be that baptism remains always good and its essence unimpaired, even though one be baptized without true faith; for God's ordinance and Word cannot be changed nor perverted by mankind. But the fanatics are so blinded that they cannot discern God's Word and command. They regard baptism as if it were but water in a brook or in a vessel, and magistrates only as ordinary people. And because they see neither faith nor obedience, they think the things themselves are also to be considered worthless. Here lurks a sly, seditious devil, who would gladly tear the crown from those in authority to trample it under foot, and would besides pervert and bring to naught all God's works and ordinances. Therefore, we must be watchful and well armed, and not allow ourselves to be turned from the Word or led astray, and so neglect baptism or regard it only as an empty sign, as the fanatics dream it is.

237. Lastly, we ought to know what baptism signifies and why God ordained just this outward sign and rite for the sacrament by which we are first taken into the community of Christians. The act or rite consists in being placed into the water, which flows over us, and being drawn from it again. These two things, the placing in the water and the emerging from it, signify the power and efficacy of baptism; which is simply the mortifying of the old Adam in us and the resurrection of the new man, both of which operations continue in us as long as we live on the earth. Accordingly, a Christian life is but a daily baptism, which, once entered upon, requires us incessantly to fulfill its conditions. Without ceasing we must purge out what is of the old Adam, so that what belongs to the new man may come forth. But what is the old man? Inherited from Adam, he is passionate, hateful envious, unchaste, miserly, lazy, conceited and, last but not least, unbelieving; thoroughly corrupt, he offers no lodgment to what is good. Now, when we enter Christ's kingdom, such corruption should daily decrease and we should become more gentle, more patient, more meek, and ever break away more and more from unbelief, avarice, hatred, envy and vainglory.

238. This is the right use of baptism among Christians, indicated by the act of baptizing with water. Now, where this amendment of life does not follow, but the old man in us remains unbridled and only grows stronger, there is not a proper use of baptism but a struggle against it. Those out of Christ cannot but grow worse every day; as the proverb says: Evil unchecked waxeth worse and worse. If one was proud and avaricious a year ago, today he is much more so. Vice thus grows from youth on, and it never ceases to grow. A young child, which has no special vice, becomes vicious and unchaste as it grows. When full manhood has been attained, the real vices set in and increase with time. Therefore, the old man follows unchecked the laws of his nature unless restrained and curbed by the power of the baptismal covenant. On the other hand, when we become Christians, the old man daily grows weaker, until at length he is altogether subdued. This is, in the true sense, to plunge into baptism and daily to arise again. So the outward sign has been appointed, not only on account of what it confers, but also on account of what it represents. Where faith abounds with its fruits, there baptism is not an empty sign, but the work of mortifying the flesh accompanies the sign. Where faith is waiting, there baptism remains only an unfruitful sign.

239. And here you see that baptism, both in its efficacy and its signification, includes what has been called the third sacrament, namely, repentance, but rightly considered it is nothing but baptism in its effects. For what does repentance mean but earnestly making front against the old man and advancing in the new life? Therefore, if you live a life of repentance, you advance in baptism, which not only signifies this new life, but effects it begins and inspires it. For in it is given grace, the Spirit and power, to suppress the old Adam and enable the new man to come forth and to grow. Therefore, baptism will always be valid. Although some fall from it and sin, we still have always access to it that we may again subdue the old man. But we ought never to be rebaptized with water; for although we were immersed in water a hundred times, it would be no more than one baptism. The effect and significance of baptism continue and abide. Thus repentance is simply a return and a re-entry into baptism, to resume the practice of what has been begun but abandoned.

240. I say this to correct the notion which has for a long time prevailed with us, that baptism is something of the past, which we could no longer avail ourselves of after falling back into sin. We have this notion because we regard it only in the light of a work accomplished once forever, a view which may be traced to the fact of St. Jerome's having written that repentance is the plank on which we must launch forth and pass across to the other shore after the foundering of the ship in which we embarked when we entered the community of Christians. These words deprive baptism of its value, making it of no further use to us. This utterance is not a true figure, for the ship never founders, since it is, as I said, God's ordinance and not our own device. But it may indeed happen that we fall out of it. And if one falls out, he should immediately make for the ship again and cling to it until he gets into it and sails on in it as he did at first.

241. Thus we see what a splendid thing baptism is, which rescues us from the very jaws of the devil, makes us God's own children, overcomes and takes away sin, daily strengthens the new man in us, and always continues with us until, snatched from the misery of the present, we shall have attained to the eternal glory beyond. Accordingly, everyone should treat baptism as a garment for everyday use. Every day he should be found in faith and amid its fruits; every day should witness the war against the old man and the growth of the new. For, if we wish to be Christians, we must practice the things that make for Christianity. If one falls from his baptismal covenant, let him return to it. For as Christ, the mercy-seat, does not retreat nor forbid us to return to him although we sin, so likewise all his treasures and gifts remain with us. When, therefore, we have once received in baptism the forgiveness of sin, it remains with us day by day as long as we live; that is, as long as we carry the old Adam about with us.




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