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What Luther Says

They'll 'Bless Pets' But They Won't Baptize Babies!?!

I was driving home from work the other day and saw another church sign promoting an upcoming type of worship service that just boggles the mind.

It resonated with me because I am one of those former Evangelicals who is now a Confessional LCMS Lutheran.

To put it another way, I was someone who used to believe that the Sacraments (like Baptism) was merely "symbolic" or "an outward profession of an inward faith" and something that WE DO for Jesus to show our appreciation, commitment, and love for Him as opposed to what the Sacraments (like Baptism) really are.

What do we Lutherans believe about Baptism then? Ok, I have a confession to make, which probably seems a little redundant coming from a Confessional Lutheran, huh?

My confession? As an ex-Evangelical convert to becoming a Lutheran, I'm ashamed to say that I couldn't even tell you the answer to that question myself as recently as only a year ago!

All I knew was that Lutherans believed something about Baptism that "wasn't good" (from what I was taught and told) and depending on who you talked to, it was perhaps even borderline "heretical" too.

Come to think of it, if I think back to the kinds of things I heard certain Bible teachers I respected say about the subject, they almost made it sound as if the Lutheran position on this particular topic was akin to Catholicism's un-Biblical creation of Purgatory!

The reality, or the truth of the matter, isn't even close though! In fact, we Lutherans are simply willing to believe what God's Word actually and quite clearly says about Baptism.  
I really can't believe I didn't see it before, but then again, maybe I couldn't (1 Corinthians 2:14). So, either I was a "false convert" all this time, or I preferred to "spiritualize" the Biblical text while refusing to accept His overwhelming grace found in the simplicity of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Either way, just because my eyes are now open to the truth doesn't automatically mean that my family members and friends will agree with me, which is why I wanted to write this today.

Some prefer to downplay -- if not ignore completely -- the importance of one's Baptism. And, yes, even when Christians can agree on the importance and necessity of Baptism, they will find deep disagreement when it comes to who should be baptized as well as the way a person is supposed to be baptized. The end result is always the same old Baptism wars that have been raging long before I was born, which is odd given the importance many people say they place upon "Sola Scriptura" or "Scripture Alone/The Word Alone."

That's why you can never talk about the fundamentals of our faith too much. These days, it's important to know not just WHAT you believe, teach, and confess, but WHY you believe, teach, and confess it.

That being said, I'm always on the look out for new material to help reinforce my new understanding of those fundamentals, especially since I'm still going through some "deprogramming" from my Evangelical/Non-Denominational days.

Here's an excellent explanation I found while trying to catch up on my reading at Worldview Everlasting of what we Lutherans believe about the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and why it's so important in our daily lives.

What Do Lutherans Believe About Baptism? 
First, what is Baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but water included with Christ’s command and combined with God’s Word, namely Matthew 28:19. Second, what benefits does Scripture say Baptism gives? It works the forgiveness of sins [Acts 2:38], rescues from death and the devil [Colossians 1:13-14], and gives eternal salvation to all [1 Peter 3:21 and Mark 16:16]. After all, to be saved, is to be forgiven, and delivered from death and the devil. But how can water do such great things, you may ask? I would respond, that it is certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water that does these things along with faith (which itself is a gift, Ephesians 2:8-9) which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without God’s Word, the water is plain water, and not a baptism at all. But with God’s Word, it is a Baptism, that is, a life giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-8). 
You see, it is God’s Word that is THE thing. Not the person vocalizing it or using his hands to Baptize, but God’s Word is truly powerful to give life, faith, and salvation. It is God’s Word and therefore God’s action. 
When we confess our sins, this is a good thing. We hear God’s Word, and say what it says about us, that we have sinned… but the saying is our word along with God’s Word. In fact, we could not confess our sins if it were not for the power of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us through His Word. So when Lutherans speak about what baptism then means to them right now, it is not simply that they got some water put on their head, but that God put His name on them through His Word, and in doing so made the all the promises that Scripture makes concerning Baptism. And it doesn’t stop there! That I am baptized means that daily repentance is part of my life, as, through contrition and repentance, that old Adam in me is drowned and that the new man in Christ arises (see Romans 6:3-6). 
Yours in Christ, 
Matthew Lorfeld, 
Pastor Messiah Lutheran Church La Crescent, MN 

Short, sweet, and to the point!

As another Pastor once explained: "The sacraments are of utmost importance to her because they are the place where God meets man with the forgiveness of sins accomplished by Christ. ... The sacraments are God’s delivery method, where God descends to mankind to deliver the forgiveness of sins in a personal and intimate way to sinners. ... In the words of Gerhard Forde, 'The sacraments pour Christ into the recipients,' and that is really, really good news."

Now that we have a firm foundation, let's look at this subject from one particular angle: About that whole "Infant Baptism" thing...

Here's another excellent piece that's worth sharing for anyone who is like I once was and who thinks that we Lutherans are wrong to baptize babies because "they can't make a decision for Jesus Christ yet!"

Why Do Many Evangelicals Find It Difficult To Accept Infant Baptism?  
During my past 9 years of pastoral ministry the discussion with Evangelicals that has resulted in the most confusion, tension, and conflict is most definitely the dialog over infant baptism. Otherwise stated, in my humble opinion there is nothing more offensive to our Evangelical brothers and sisters (those who believe that it is only proper to baptize those who are able to make a profession of faith) than the Lutheran view of infant baptism. Now, for you lifelong Lutherans you may find this hard to believe, how a precious gift from God can cause such strain, but it is true that it does. My wife and I have unfortunately lost friendships over 'the infant baptism' talk. Furthermore, at one point in time I too was very indifferent towards the sacraments and rather antagonistic towards those that boldly cherished them. But you may ask, "Why the offense? What could possibly be so threatening about sprinkling water on a cute and helpless baby?"

I sincerely hope you clicked on that link to read the rest and to answer that key question.

Personally, I found that piece to be profoundly insightful. Specifically, the part where Pastor Richard observes that "I believe that the reason for strain is due to infant baptism being the quintessential picture of divine monergism ... Monergism, as you know, is completely contrary to any and all free will theologies, thus the reason why infant baptism is so difficult for many Credobaptist Evangelicals to accept." I think he nails it.

I will just speak for myself and tell you that that was always my own personal hang-up, but even though I would've told you that I believe in Monergism I never connected the relationship between the two until recently. Thank you, Pastor, for following the Lord's lead and for writing that informative message!

Again, he hits the bulls-eye by identifying the truth of the matter for us (at least, as it was for me).

The most common criticism that I have heard against infant baptism is that it doesn’t allow for the baby to make a ‘decision’ for Christ or a ‘profession of faith.’ (At this point we could devote our time to show how the tenets of the Enlightenment have tainted this view of faith, but that can be saved for another time.) Many will protest that it is unjust to baptize a baby before the child can profess faith in Jesus and/or make a decision, therefore, one must wait until the baby reaches an older age. 
So, why would it be unjust to baptize a baby before they are able to make their decision? Generally speaking, it is unjust in credobaptist theology because infant baptism infringes upon, violates, and overthrows the doctrine of free will; it takes the child’s ‘choice’ in salvation away. To say that an baby is saved in infant baptism when no choice/decision/profession has been made comes across as extremely scandalous for theologies that embrace the doctrine of free will and it is very offensive towards the old Adam. The old Adam in all of us can’t stand monergism and he especially can’t stand the sacrament of infant baptism. The reason why, in infant baptism the old Adam has no room to play and exercise his supposed free will, but can only drown.

Boy, that's so true, isn't it?

I kinda alluded to it earlier, but this would've been an accurate description of me and my beliefs and feelings about Baptism (and Infant Baptism) for really my entire life until about roughly a year ago.

In another commentary by Pastor Matt Richard titled "There Are Two Perspectives On Delayed And Legalistic Baptisms" he sums things up quite nicely for us.

The sacraments of baptism and communion were instituted by Jesus. He calls the church to baptize in the great commission of Matthew 28:16-20 and He also calls the church to the Lord’s Table (i.e. communion) in Matthew 26:26-29 and Luke 22:14-20. We practice baptism and communion because Jesus said to. Simple enough, or not? 
In my circles of ministry when the issues of baptism and communion are brought up, a whole host of disputes come forth. Typically two topics emerge from my conversations. The first is the issue of whether or not to delay baptisms and the second is on the perception of Lutherans being legalistic with infant baptisms. 
In order to flesh these two topics out a bit further, I would like to pose a question to get us thinking, “Which way is the arrow aimed when it comes to the sacraments?” What? In other words, are the sacraments something that we do toward God as a way of showing our obedience OR are the sacraments the way that God shows His commitment to us and gives grace to us? Are the sacraments things that we observe in response to hearing the Gospel (i.e. fruits of faith) OR are the sacraments ways that God responds to our sinfulness with the Gospel; are they a result of His compassion and pursuit of sinners? Do the sacraments belong in our discussions on man’s obedience OR do the sacraments belong in the discussion of God’s justifying grace? Who does the verb in the sacraments? The difference between these two views are of paramount importance and do impact our interpretation of scriptural chair passages on baptism and communion! 
It seems to me that several things can happen when people discern the sacraments from these two different perspectives.

"Who does the verb in the sacraments?" is the penultimate question here and the one that destroys any position contrary to ours. It was the one question that I couldn't ignore no matter how much I may have wanted to.

Between the two articles written by Pastor Matt Richard on the subject of Baptism/Infant Baptism, the "There Are Two Perspectives On Delayed And Legalistic Baptisms" is the one you want to read if you're new to all of this.

Let me see if I can quickly hammer home the point though. Pastor Richard wrote, "...if baptism is an act of God upon us then the age and one’s cognitive obedience abilities are not the main issue but rather God’s, power, promise and faithfulness towards the individual." In other words, the non-Lutheran (a.k.a. non-Biblical) view of Baptism is that a person can't be baptized unless they can make a conscious decision for Jesus Christ due to the fact that they clearly understand Law and Gospel.

Really? Is that really what you believe God's Word teaches us about Baptism? Hear me out on this one please. If it is what you believe, then please keep in mind that, according to that belief system, ADULTS with learning/mental disabilities should never be baptized either, because they can't truly understand Law and Gospel properly enough to make a legitimate decision for Christ, right?

Please don't just ignore this subject or assume that it's not worth your time since Christians have been arguing about this since forever, especially if you're new to the Lutheran faith or have never really closely examined what you believe about Baptism (and why) compared to how it's actually presented and taught in the Bible.

Doctrine does matter, and we should want to get it right, especially when it comes to the Holy Sacrament of Baptism. After all, why are we willing to "bless pets" but we won't baptize babies? We believe in Baptism (and "Infant Baptism") not because it's "Lutheran" per se, but because it's Biblical.

You know, it's ironic too, because everyone these days is talking about wanting to have "A Personal Relationship With Jesus Christ" and about "Experiencing Christ" too, and yet, I can't think of a better, more Biblical way to personally experience the Person of Jesus Christ than through His Sacraments for us. So why would we ever want to delay and withhold these gifts from God's people?  

In a Lutheran layman's terms, yes, I have strong opinions on the doctrine of Baptism, which are due in large part to passages like Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:21 that make it clear for me what the truth is about this blessed Sacrament.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

1 comment

  1. Forgot to include this excerpt from one of Pastor Richard's articles...

    "So is infant baptism really that radical? One needs to keep in mind that infant baptism is not some rogue theology that is inconsistent with the rest of the scriptures. Take for example the miracles of Jesus. Individuals were not ‘mostly’ blind, but powerlessly blind from birth (e.g., Matthew 9). Individuals were not ‘kind of’ paralytic, but hopelessly and entirely paralyzed (e.g., Matthew 9). Individuals were not ‘partly’ leprous, but helplessly full of leprosy (e.g., Matthew 8). Individuals were not ‘almost’ dead, but dead-dead (e.g., John 11). These individuals are just like an infant, helpless. Yet in these miracles we see the power of the Word, a performative speech from Jesus, that speaks these miracles into existence. Jesus proclaims, 'Let it be done to you! Stand up and walk! Be Cleansed! Come out!' The individuals, like an infant, contributed nothing to their healing. Just as the world was spoke into existence in Genesis, Christ spoke these healing miracles into existence. Furthermore, God’s word still speaks faith into existence today (e.g., Romans 10:17). The Word is performative; the Word works faith and this is even true with infants.

    As Lutherans we believe, teach, and confess that infant baptism does not work regeneration apart from faith (e.g., Mark 16:15-16, Romans 4:20-25). With that said, we also believe, teach, and confess that faith is not a product of the man’s intellect, or a result of mankind’s will, or conjured up by a person’s arousing feelings. Faith is a gift, a gift worked by the Holy Spirit through the Word (e.g., Romans 10:17, Ephesians 2:8). Thus, Luther rightly taught that the Word is in and with the water making baptism’s efficacy entirely dependent on the Gospel promises, promises that are connected with the water (e.g. 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38). Otherwise stated, because the Gospel is attached to baptism, baptism is an effective means through which the Holy Spirit works faith and gives grace to infants, apart from any works of righteousness that they do or may do (e.g., Titus 3:5).

    So why do many Evangelicals find it difficult to accept infant baptism? It is difficult for many to accept because it is bad news for the old Adam and presents a difficulty for decision/free will theology. In infant baptism faith cannot be misconstrued into an act of the free will—faith does not make baptism but receives its. With infant baptism salvation is most clearly seen as a gift of God descending to a helpless baby, rather than the old Adam using baptism as a token of his obedience. Alas, it is now very understandable why conversations on this subject will result in confusion, tension, and unfortunate conflict.

    May we and our Evangelical friends grow ever more appreciative of this great gift."

    Grace And Peace,


Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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