Are you baptized?
The call of repentance goes out to all mankind from God through His Church and HIs chosen preachers of His holy Word. To repent means to turn around and go the other way, to be of a changed mind and so be in agreement with God’s revealed will in Holy Scripture. Repentance is to realize that one is at odds with God in this life in our thoughts, desires, words, and deeds. We inherit this from our very first parents, Adam and Eve (Psalm 51:5; Romans, chapter 5). This spiritual disease renders us spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and therefore spiritual slaves (addicts) to sin and the devil. Even when we deny this reality, we still know and feel its impact on us. We do not, however, naturally trust God or believe His Word. We are conceived and born into this situation and therefore all human beings are on the road to physical death and eternal condemnation, much deserved. This is the universal human problem.
Yet in mercy, God spoke, made a promise, and kept it in sending His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to rescue us from sin and death. He is our only Savior. God raised Jesus from the dead to win for us eternal life in body and soul (for human beings are properly body and soul together). All who believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin and death have eternal life as their gift at Jesus’ expense (John 3:16). And in calling us to this way of thinking and to receive this gift of new life, the voice of God comes through His Church in this world and through His called and ordained ministers and says to all humanity to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. In those words and water of Holy Baptism the Holy Spirit is bestowed. Despite what some say, “water Baptism” and “Spirit Baptism” are one and the same thing. For God’s Spirit comes through His Word. We confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are one God and yet three divine persons, neither confusing the persons of the Trinity nor dividing the substance of the divine essence.
At the first Pentecost, the holy Apostles of Jesus preached a sermon of law and gospel to those gathered for the festival in Jerusalem. And a key part of this is heard from the mouth of Peter. Peter, by the working of the Holy Spirit, preached the law of God in such a way that the hearers struck with the conviction of shame and guilt and fear of God for breaking God’s commandments and offending Him. And so they cried out for help and answer:
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “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. 39 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.”
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized… [Acts 2:37-41a]
This was in keeping with the command of our Lord Jesus to His Apostles, just before His ascension (Matthew 28):
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 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.” Amen.
SHOULD EVERYONE BE BAPTIZED?
The call of repentance goes out to all. All are sinners in need of repentance and salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore Holy Baptism is part of that universal offer of salvation to all nations, male and female, young and old, rich and poor. The pattern we see in Scripture is that for adults, they would normally go through some basic instruction in the Word of God first, confessing sin, affirming the faith first, and for young children, thy would be baptized and then instructed in the faith as they grow older. But this gift is not restricted by age or ability to understand, but is given in the good order of the Lord’s church for making disciples (followers/learners) of Jesus unto salvation. Yes, babies too should be bapitzed! For of such is the kingdom of God (Acts 2:39; Luke 1:39-45; Mark 10:13-16). Babies can trust the Word of God and His mercy and recognize God’s gracious presence. And they also inherit sin as do we adults. Jesus call to child-like faith (trust).
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8)
What are the blessings of Holy Baptism?
They are many, but especially the forgiveness of sins from God, eternal life, and salvation. We are given God’s holy name as it is put upon us by the water and the Word. We are given the privilege and duty to pray in God’s Triune name as His children, and members of the royal priesthood of the baptized. We are joined to the fellowship of the Church, and as we are taught the faith thoroughly we then are prepared to receive the Lord’s Supper under the stewardship of the pastor of the congregation. We are covered with the righteousness of Christ as He lifts the guilt of our sin off of us. We are joined to Jesus in His death and His resurrection from the dead (Romans 6).
16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
21 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… (1 Peter 3:21)
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 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. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6)
Is Baptism magic or something that saves us without faith? Is it just a “hoop” you jump through and then never attend Divine Service?
Baptism is not something that should exist in isolation from the rest of Christian life. It is part of Jesus’ command to make disciples by “baptizing and teaching” together (see Matthew 28:16-20). Baptism should always be followed with the teaching of the Scriptures properly and learning them (on the part of the hearer).
When a baby is born, there is much more needed after birth, so also when we become Christians and are baptized (receiving the NEW birth), there is much more we need for continued life and faith in Christ. In other words, we can fall away from faith and salvation in Christ and reject the benefits of Baptism. (However, you cannot be “unbaptized.”) This doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or lacking in Baptism or that there is a reason to be rebaptized (which should not be done, unless the words were changed or water was not used), but if we have rejected the blessings of Baptism or refused to gather with the Church to hear God’s Word, we must repent and believe the Gospel once again and trust in the blessings of Baptism. Our Baptism, however stays put.
Christian parents need God’s grace and mercy through the Word and the Lord’s Supper just as much as do their children. Baptism isn’t just a thing to check off a list or to “get done” as a hoop to jump through. It is part of the ongoing life of faith in Christ:
3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3)
Of those who were baptized and learn of Jesus and are fed by His Word and Supper it is said:
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 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. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10)
18 For you have not come to the mountain that[c] may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness[d] and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned[e] or shot with an arrow.”[f] 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”[g])
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake[h] not only the earth, but also heaven.”[i] 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12)
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;[a] and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will[b] ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. (John 15)
Finally, consider the words of Martin Luther in His Large Catechism, writing on the sacrament of Holy Baptism:
But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. 29] But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure?
30] Now, they are so mad as to separate faith, and that to which faith clings and is bound, though it be something external. Yea, it shall and must be something external, that it may be apprehended by the senses, and understood and thereby be brought into the heart, as indeed the entire Gospel is an external, verbal preaching. In short, what God does and works in us He proposes to work through such external ordinances. Wherever, therefore, He speaks, yea, in whichever direction or by whatever means He speaks, thither faith must look, and to that it must hold. 31] Now here we have the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. To what else do they refer than to Baptism, that is, to the water comprehended in God’s ordinance? Hence it follows that whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us thither and binds us to Baptism.
32] In the third place, since we have learned the great benefit and power of Baptism, let us see further who is the person that receives what Baptism gives and profits. 33] This is again most beautifully and clearly expressed in the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. That is, faith alone makes the person worthy to receive profitably the saving, divine water. For, since these blessings are here presented and promised in the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart. 34] Without faith it profits nothing, notwithstanding it is in itself a divine superabundant treasure. Therefore this single word (He that believeth) effects this much that it excludes and repels all works which we can do, in the opinion that we obtain and merit salvation by them. For it is determined that whatever is not faith avails nothing nor receives anything.
35] But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God’s (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper’s baptism). God’s works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. 36] For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God’s command and ordinance, and besides in God’s name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.
37] Thus you see plainly that there is here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith. Therefore they do us violence by exclaiming against us as though we preach against faith; while we alone insist upon it as being of such necessity that without it nothing can be received nor enjoyed.