Sunday, April 3, 2011
The Stuff of Jesus: Baptism.
Today, as in the day of Martin Luther, Christians have mistaken to whom the sacrament of Holy Baptism belongs. You will hear “I was baptized in a ___________ Church.” or “I was baptized as a witness to the world of my faith in Jesus.” These totally miss the point of who instituted baptism and the purpose of the sacrament. There is only one baptism in the Triune name of God. That is Christian baptism which does not depend on the name of the congregation in which it is administered.
In the first place, we must above all things know well the words upon which Baptism is founded, and to which everything refers that is to be said on the subject, namely, where the Lord Christ speaks in Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.*
Likewise in St. Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.*
In these words you must note, in the first place, that here stand God's commandment and institution, lest we doubt that Baptism is divine, not devised nor invented by men. For as truly as I can say, No man has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer out of his head, but they are revealed and given by God Himself, so also I can boast that Baptism is no human trifle, but instituted by God Himself, moreover, that it is most solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we cannot be saved, lest any one regard it as a trifling matter, like putting on a new red coat.*
In this section Martin Luther recaptures baptism and places it back in the realm of Jesus things rather than man’s things done for Jesus. This changes, of course, what one believes about baptism and its effectiveness as a means of grace. If it were merely the work of men we could not look at it for assurance of our standing as children of God.
Rather than looking for ways to wrestle with scripture to make baptism our work we should rather believe scriptures strong teaching. Leaving baptism to be the stuff of Jesus we can live in the peace and certainty it gives.
In the name of Jesus. Amen †
*Martin Luther’s Large Catechism