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What Luther Says

'Baptism Is The Apex Doctrine' And 'Baptism Has Three Parts'

From the very beginning, and even to this very day, there are few things as divisive in Christianity as one's beliefs pertaining to the Holy Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

I've often wondered why that is when the Scriptures seem rather clear on both even if we mortal human beings cannot completely fathom the true mystery of both gifts of God to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).

It's only utter speculation on my part, but maybe the reason why there are so many different denominations that believe so many different things when it comes to Holy Baptism and Holy Communion is because Satan knows how powerful these two "Means of Grace" truly are to each and every believer, and so he does what he always does ("Did God really say...?" Genesis 3:1), and either casts doubt or outright perverts the truth about the Sacraments.

You've heard of an "Apex Predator" in Science class? Well, Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller recently pointed out how Baptism is the "Apex Doctrine" in this beautiful discussion on the Sacrament that so many seem to get wrong despite what God's Word clearly says about it.

What's The Big Deal About Baptism? 

That video is an excerpt form Cross Defense, a weekly radio show hosted by Pastor Wolmueller. Cross Defense talks about the joy of theology, the comfort of the Gospel, and the wisdom of God's Law for these darkening last days.

Look, I get it. Like Pastor Wolfmueller, I too was once firmly entrenched in the "Baptism-Is-Mainly-Symbolic-And-If-It-Is-Anything-More-Than-It-Has-To-Be-A-Good-Work-That-I-Do-Personally-And-Publicly-To-Demonstrate-My-Commitment-Devotion-And-Love-To-God" camp of believers.

Thanks be to God that He brought me to a true understanding of this beautifully comforting Sacrament! You might think that "baptism now saves you" (Peter 1 Peter 3:21) is pretty tough to argue against with when it comes to this subject, but that's precisely what I did back in the day!

Maybe I didn't "argue against it" as much as I simply ignored it as if that verse didn't exist at all. It's crazy to look back and to see how spiritually blind and misguided I really was at the time about so many things. My goodness, I even remember butchering the plain meaning of Ephesians 5:26 (which Pastor Wolfmueller also mentioned in the video) and said that it referred to husbands needing to "spiritually awaken/cleanse their wives by teaching them what the Word of God says" or something crazy like that. Lord, have mercy! It took a Lutheran Pastor to tell me to my face that that verse was explicitly pointing to Christ and talking about Baptism.

Imagine my horror when there I was making it mean something about teaching my wife what God's Word said when I had absolutely no idea what one of the Bible's simplest verses was teaching me to begin with! James 3:1 and the sobering words "not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" immediately came to mind. But I digress.

The point I'm trying to make is that Pastor Wolfmueller is absolutely right to say that what another Christian believes about Baptism is a pretty good indicator of how doctrinally sound they are. That's why I'm always looking to read more orthodox writings on Baptism to help me solidify and strengthen my faith and understanding of this incredible, mysterious gift.

That being said, I like what I read from Martin Luther about the "three parts of Baptism" in this morning's Treasury of Daily Prayer...

"Now, as I have often said, God's Word teaches us that the sacrament of baptism has three parts. The first is just natural water ... [Baptism] is water, but there is something more which is added to it, which makes this water glorious and holy, makes it in fact the real baptism, namely: 
The second part, God's Word beside and with the water, which is not something we have invented or dreamed up, but is rather the Word of Christ, who said, 'Go into all the world and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' [Matt. 28:19]. When these words are added to the water, then it is no longer simple water like other water, but a holy, divine, blessed water. For where the Word of God, by which he created heaven and earth and all things, is present, there God himself is present with his power and might. ... we must not look upon the water as simply water without the Word, but rather know that the Word with and beside the water constitutes the substance of baptism, as St. Paul says clearly in Eph. 5 [:26] that Christ washed and cleansed his bride, the church, by the washing of the water with the Word, which is quite a different bath and washing than that which occurs through natural water or human washing and bathing in a tub. For here, says St. Paul, is the Word of the living God which says, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; in other words, here not a man, but God himself is baptizing. For when it is done in his name it is done indeed by the holy Trinity. 
Then there is a third part which is necessary to make it a sacrament, namely, institution or the Word which institutes and ordains baptism; for two kinds of Word must be present in order that it be a baptism. One which is spoken with the water or baptizing, the second that which orders and commands us to baptize in this way, that is, to immerse in water and to speak these words. When these two come together, namely, the command and institution to do this and the Word with the water, which is used in accord with the institution and practices and administers the same, then this is called a baptism and is a baptism." 
-- Martin Luther

Baptism is not our so-called "First Act of Obedience" or even "An Outward Sign of Our Inward Grace" as so many believe (as I once believed)! No, Baptism is not our work at all! It's what Christ has done and is doing to us and for us!

In a Lutheran layman's terms, "Baptism has three parts" which are all essential and unique and "Baptism is the apex doctrine" too, because it is a work of Jesus Christ for me and for you, and it is the means in which He delivers to us the promise of His free gift of salvation that He won for us through His death and resurrection.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just your average everyday 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 Lutheranism" and one who recently escaped an American-Evangelical-Non-Denominational mindset a little more than 6 years ago now despite being a Christian my whole life. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way back 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 whole truth myself. With that in mind, 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 heavily 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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