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What Luther Says

Saved Not Dedicated

A few brief thoughts regarding Baptism today...

Of course, this is in response to the all-too-common Evangelical practice of "Dedication" as opposed to baptizing babies, which is weird when you consider what the divinely inspired St. Peter wrote.

1 Peter 3:21 (ESV) Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

And yet, we insist on getting the glory for ourselves by engaging in this "Dedication" practice, which shouts to the world, "I just saved myself by the decision for Christ that I'm making today!"

Now, I get that you might think that's a little too harsh, because Old Me would've responded to Current Me that way only a few years ago.

Here's the thing though...

On the one hand whether you are baptized as an infant or at 12 or at 30 or even 90 has no effect on the promise God gives in baptism. Yet, how one treats that promise is critical. If one tosses it aside and believes that baptism is his work and not God’s work he has trampled the promise underfoot. If one delays baptism because he believes that one must have achieved a certain intellectual capacity or character then again the promise is trampled underfoot. Salvation is a passive event on our part. Adam and Eve did nothing to earn God’s gracious response. God saved the Israelites while they stood passive in the face of the Egyptians. He even told them to be still and watch. God himself shut the door of the Ark to save Noah and his family. God is the actor in our salvation. He sees us as a dead corpse that must be given life. God’s sows salvation only where there is death. So, all praise, honor and glory goes to him alone. If you think you have some part in that, then you take glory away from Jesus, and his innocent, bitter sufferings and death for you. Baptism is a gracious act of God toward you. In it he saves you by joining you to Jesus on the cross and putting your sinful self to death, burying it with Jesus and raising you to new life with his resurrection. (Romans 6). On your own you have no will to die to yourself, but God does what you cannot do for yourself. 
-- Pastor Gary Hall

As Pr. Hall expresses in his response, to believe that Baptism is something that I do to show my dedication to God’s promise goes part and parcel with “accepting Jesus into my heart” and all other theology which require man to take some of the steps required to enter salvation. Is this view “faith-breaking”? We can’t quite say that, since faith comes from God alone. However, could not such a view eventually lead one to lose their faith and despair? (“How do I know my dedication and belief were enough? Perhaps I am not worthy of God after all.”). On the other hand, baptizing infants (or anyone of any age) is a manifestation of the Scriptural confession that it is not the sinner who invites Jesus in, but it is all Jesus from start to finish (“You did not choose me, but I chose you . . .” John 15:16) and the pastor doing the baptism is nothing more than a vessel being used by God for His purpose. When one comes to points of questioning the strength of their own will to believe in Christ and trust in Him fully, this theology allows us to confidently point them back to Christ and His promises alone (not back to their own acceptance of Jesus). “Yes, you are a sinner and you have failed God many times. But repent! For God is faithful and will not relent on His promise to you in Christ.” My accepting Jesus is irrelevant. God’s work on my behalf in Christ is everything; and is an unwavering source of comfort, especially in times when I myself might waver. 
-- Rev. Jeffrey E. Ries

This is most certainly true.

Yes, water saves! However, not merely water on its own...BUT WATER JOINED WITH THE HOLY WORD OF GOD!  Better yet, it's all about CHRIST FOR YOU and never You For Christ!

Baptism cleanses and raises us to new life. By God's grace and not our own well-meaning works, Baptism is a means of salvation through which the Holy Spirit produces faith (Ephesians 5:25-27).

We are forgiven and holy because of Christ. Yes, that forgiveness is applied to us in Baptism just as God says in His Word (and He does not lie!). Most importantly, the life we are given in Baptism was earned for us by Christ Himself.

Before I wrap this up, some final words in regards to my snarky title for this post.

I certainly do not mean to imply that anyone who has been "dedicated" instead of baptized is somehow not saved. That would be preposterous!

However, I definitely mean to get people thinking about what the Bible says rather plainly on this subject, and how it uses the word "baptism" and not "dedication" to communicate such simple yet profound truths to us.

I'll let Dr. Martin Luther help me out here...

Here a question occurs by which the devil through his sects, confuses the world, namely, Of Infant Baptism, whether children also believe, and are justly baptized. Concerning this we say briefly: Let the simple dismiss this question from their minds, and refer it to the learned. But if you wish to answer then answer thus: -- 
That the Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved from His own work, namely, that God sanctifies many of them who have been thus baptized, and has given them the Holy Ghost; and that there are yet many even to-day in whom we perceive that they have the Holy Ghost both because of their doctrine and life; as it is also given to us by the grace of God that we can explain the Scriptures and come to the knowledge of Christ, which is impossible without the Holy Ghost. But if God did not accept the baptism of infants, He would not give the Holy Ghost nor any of His gifts to any of them; in short, during this long time unto this day no man upon earth could have been a Christian. Now, since God confirms Baptism by the gifts of His Holy Ghost as is plainly perceptible in some of the church fathers, as St. Bernard, Gerson, John Hus, and others, who were baptized in infancy, and since the holy Christian Church cannot perish until the end of the world, they must acknowledge that such infant baptism is pleasing to God. For He can never be opposed to Himself, or support falsehood and wickedness, or for its promotion impart His grace and Spirit. This is indeed the best and strongest proof for the simple-minded and unlearned. For they shall not take from us or overthrow this article: I believe a holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. 
Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. This now is perhaps somewhat acute but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word.

Please read the rest of his writings on Baptism in the Large Catechism.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Baptism saves, and we are commanded to be baptized, not dedicated, and to let God save us rather than attempting to do anything to save ourselves.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. 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 inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. 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 they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I 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). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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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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