Skip to main content

God's Gift of Baptism

It's been a while since I've posted anything. This semester has been a hectic one. Below are some thoughts on baptism from Martin Luther's Large Catechism. The citations refer to the page and paragraph numbers in the Book of Concord.

Baptism’s necessity is an issue I have had to struggle with. In Palestine, while working with Muslims who wanted to follow Jesus, the question arose whether one could follow Christ without being baptized. We (who were not Lutheran at that time) concluded that it was not, yet today, I bump up against Luther’s teaching in the Large Catechism that the corollary to the Great Commission is “whoever rejects baptism rejects God’s Word, faith, and Christ…” (460.31). These adults were not rejecting it, but had not yet understood the need. It was not something we made an issue of. For one’s salvation it may not be essential, but to know the fullness of God in one’s life, to have the daily reassurance of God’s presence, to grow into all God has for us in Christ Jesus, it is absolutely necessary for us. This is demonstrated in Luther’s Large Catechism, the manual for pastors.

For Luther, baptism was essential because it was instituted by God and not by human beings. It was God’s idea not made up by the church (457.6). It was God’s command as well (461.38). If God had so ordained it, then such a command should be obeyed.God not only commands baptism, but God is the baptizer (457.10). God enacts what God decrees. What we are incapable of doing, God does for us. We do not have to worry about some mistake in the liturgy or our own doubts invalidating God’s activity. As well as God’s agency, even the very baptismal water is God’s as well (458.4).

Luther cites Jesus’ baptism to illustrate how God confirmed by miracles (459.21) the weightiness of baptism as the heavens opened and the Spirit descended. If the Son was baptized, then Christ’s followers should be if we follow his example. To reject God’s gift is to reject God.

Besides being baptized in obedience to God’s command, baptism brings a multitude of blessings. God desires to give good gifts to God’s children and baptism is that initial, chief means of grace. It is a gift of such magnitude that it is referred to as a “treasure” that God gives us (460.34, 461.37). The very image that conjures up in our minds can give but a glimpse of its true worth. Unlike earthly treasure, baptism is with us forever as a symbol of God’s grace (466.77).

Baptism is received by faith, not dependent upon it (463.53, 464.60). This is comforting that its benefits are independent of our understanding or goodness. God graciously gifts us. Baptism, bringing us regeneration and new life (460.27, 466.75) is like clothing which we can put on daily (466.84). By it we are made holy and blessed (462.46). Unlike some denominations, where it is simply a symbol, we may daily refer back to our baptism for comfort, strength, and reassurance (462.44). An ontological change was made in us, in God’s eyes, by this sacrament.

God gives us victory over the devil and death (461.41, 462.43) through baptism. It also aids us in the daily battle of faithfulness to God and sanctification. Our selfish nature still struggles to rule us, but our baptism helps us in the daily killing of said old nature (465.65).

Baptism is never invalid according to Luther. Even those baptized by priests that were drunkards, adulterers etc. were not required to be rebaptized. The sacrament depends upon God, not the one administering it, even if there is not complete faith present (464.60). This helps me appreciate my own infant baptism, even though we rarely attended church as a family.

On one level, baptism may not be essential to follow Christ, but one would be foolish to disregard this wonderful gift and means of grace, salvation, blessing, and communion with God. The issue of baptism was never promoted to our Muslim young adults, but those that committed themselves to follow Jesus as Savior, not just a prophet, each at some point, requested baptism. By their hearts' conviction, it was necessary as well.

picture from


Popular posts from this blog

If and If and If

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 10/1/17 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church and St. Mark Lutheran Church. The scripture text is Philippians 2:1-13

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of my favorites. It is full of positive, uplifting theology, like “RejoiceintheLordalways; again I will say, Rejoice (Phil. 4:4 ). It’s a feel-good kind of letter. Today’s passage from Philippians is chock full of great stuff and I could get at least 10 sermons out of

I'm Back & Giving Thanks

Sunday, 9/17, was my first Sunday back in the pulpit after 7 months. I am not completely healed from February's back surgery, but am mostly there. The doctor is letting me work only part time until our next visit. This is the sermon from Sunday, 9/17, preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church and St. Mark Lutheran Church.  based on Psalm 103 1:-13.
When I read today’s lessons, I couldn’t take my eyes of of Psalm 103. This psalm is an individual psalm of one who was struggling in a desperate situation, who called out to God and God delivered him.This is my story too.
As most of you know, I had back surgery in Feb. and I too, received God’s deliverance. Following the back surgery, I contracted an Ecoli infection that nearly killed me. I am here today to declare with the psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits…”
The odd thing about this psalm is that it isn’t a prayer. It is not ad…

Flying Rebukes

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 2/25/18 at St. Timothy. Lutheran Church. The text was Mark 8:31-38. 

Immediately before today’s gospel reading, Jesus had asked his disciples who people say that he is. This is where the light went on for Peter and he made the confession, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29). Peter certainly gave the right answer and was likely thinking of the attributes given to whoever would be the Messiah. The Messiah, people thought, would deliver them from the crushing rule of the Romans. The Messiah would fight their enemies. Basically, the Messiah was a strong king-like figure.
But, now Jesus fleshes out for Peter and others what that is going to look like. They were completely unprepared for the reality.
“Jesus began to teach them” (v. 31). Hadn’t he been teaching the disciples all along? Maybe, but this was different. This wasn’t teaching about miracles and healing. This is the turning point in Mark’s gospel, marking a new beginning.
“Jesus began to teach the…