WHAT IS BAPTISM?
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In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Devotion from the Blessed Doctor Martin Chemnitz
224 What is Baptism?
Luther answers: It is not simple water only, but that which is included in the divine command and connected with the Word of God.
Philipp Melanchthon: Immersion in water was instituted by the Son of God with the declaration of the words: I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, testifying that since this testimony was divinely instituted, he who is immersed with the declaration of these words is reconciled to God for Christ’s sake and is sanctified by the Holy Spirit to life eternal.
225 What are the Essential Parts of Baptism?
I. The element of water (Jn 3:5; Eph 5:25–26; Acts 10:47).
II. The Word of God (Eph 5:26: Cleansing with the washing of water by the Word—namely the command of Christ regarding the conferring of Baptism, Mt 28:19, and the very promise of grace, Mk 16:16). For that word of the command and promise of God is a true consecration or sanctification by which Baptism becomes a clean water (Eze 36:25), in fact a water of life (Eze 47:9; Zch 14:8) and a washing of regeneration (Tts 3:5).
226 Is It Also Baptism When the Words of Institution are Spoken Over the Element of Water, and Yet There is No One Who is Baptized?
By no means. For when Christ says, Baptize them, He surely wants and commands that Baptism be an act in which someone is baptized with the water that is connected with the Word of God. And therefore Paul also calls Baptism a washing (Eph 5:26; Tts 3:5). But Baptism was not instituted that either bells or other creatures but that nations (Mt 28:19), that is, those who have been born of flesh (Jn 3:6), be baptized for remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
227 In the Administration of Baptism, Why is Not the General Statement (Baptize All Nations) Used, But: I Baptize Thee?
For this reason, namely, that this is distinctive of the Sacraments, that by them everyone is dealt with personally and specifically (Acts 2:38), so that in this way everyone of the believers might have in his heart as a sure testimony, pledge, and seal that the promise of grace is specifically offered and applied to him (Gl 3:27; 1 Ptr 3:21; Acts 2:38).
228 What is the Meaning of These Words: I Baptize Thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?
First, [this] is signified, that Baptism is administered in the name, that is, on command, of God the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Second, [this] is indicated, that we are baptized in the name, that is, in, or with, invocation, of the true God, or as the Greek words say, into the name, that is, into the knowledge and invocation, of the true God, who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Third, this above all is the thrust of those words, that in the administration of Baptism a minister does not function in his own name, but that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Himself present, deals through the outward ministry with the one to be baptized, so that God the Father, because of the merit of the Son, receives him into grace and sanctifies [him] by the Holy Spirit unto righteousness and life eternal, so that in the name is the same as in the stead and place of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Paul says in that same passage regarding the preaching of the Gospel and absolution (2 Co 2:10; 5:20).
229 Is God the Father Present in Baptism?
He certainly is present. And that not only in the mode of presence by which He is present everywhere and fills all things, but in such a way that through this washing, He saved us according to His mercy, that, being justified by His grace for Christ’s sake, we might be made heirs of eternal life through the Holy Spirit (Tts 3:5; 7). Likewise, God the Father is present in Baptism in such a way that in it He establishes a covenant of a good conscience between Himself and us through Christ (1 Ptr 3:21).
230 Is the Son of God Present in Baptism?
Paul clearly affirms that, saying in very beautiful words, Eph 5:25–26: Christ gave Himself for the church, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water by the Word. Likewise, he says that we are baptized into the death of Christ (Ro 6:3) and into the resurrection of Christ (1 Ptr 3:21). In fact, in Baptism we put on Christ (Gl 3:27). And this is what is said in Acts: to be baptized in the name of Christ.
231 Is the Holy Spirit Also Present in Baptism?
We are born again of water and the Spirit, that we might enter into the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5; Tts 3:5–7).
And on this basis people are to be instructed and taught, so that they do not consider and regard Baptism as only a human work, but as the work of God, namely that in it the entire holy Trinity is present and deals with the poor sinner through that outward ministry, so that He cleanses him from sins, delivers [him] from death, Satan, and eternal damnation, and instead gives [him] righteousness and eternal salvation.
232 What is the Benefit, Power, or Efficacy of Baptism?
The words of institution of Baptism and many other passages of Scripture show us this, e.g., Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Eph 5:25–26; Tts 3:5, 7; Jn 3:5; 1 Ptr 3:21. Hence Luther rightly says in his Catechism: Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words of divine promise declare.
233 But These Benefits Certainly Depend on the Merit of the Obedience and Passion of Christ. Are Men, Then, to Be Diverted from Christ and Brought to Baptism Instead of to Him?
If Christ is separated from Baptism, or Baptism from Christ (as the Sacramentarians do), then indeed the washing of water can of itself work or confer none of these things, but it is and remains only a simple sign. But since Christ is in and with the act of Baptism, so that we are baptized into His death and resurrection (Ro 6:3; 1 Ptr 3:21), in fact, in Baptism we put on Christ (Gl 3:27), and He Himself cleanses us by this washing (Eph 5:25–26), likewise, since God the Father imparts, presents, and seals to believers the merit of Christ through His Holy Spirit in Baptism and through Baptism (Tts 3:5–6), therefore neither water nor the act of the minister performs and works the things that are predicated of Baptism, but God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Himself, through Baptism, as through the ordinary means ordained and instituted by God Himself for this purpose. Therefore, far from being diverted from Christ by Baptism, we by it, as by the ordinary means, are led to Christ and grafted in [Him] (Ro 6:4–5; Mk 10:14). For salvation has indeed been procured and accomplished by Christ on the cross, but in Baptism and through Baptism it is distributed, applied, and sealed to believers (Mk 16:16).
234 How Long Does that Salutary Effect of Baptism and Fruit of Comfort Last?
Through a man’s whole life on this earth, in fact unto life eternal (Mk 16:16). Likewise, we are born again in Baptism, that we might be made heirs of eternal life according to hope (Tts 3:7); cf. Eph 5:26–27; this is indeed begun in this life, but finally completed in the life to come. And it is indeed a very sweet comfort that through all of this life Baptism becomes for us the figure of a very firm pact and public testimony that we have been made partakers of the merit of Christ in such a way that we can at all times seek and draw continual comfort from it, as Paul comforts the Galatians on the basis of Baptism once received, when they repented after falling (Gl 3:27).
235 But What If One Who is Baptized Rejects Repentance and Loses Faith?
The salutary fruits of Baptism, of which we have spoken, are apprehended, retained, and preserved by faith. Mk 16:16. Therefore, where there is no repentance, and no good but only evil fruits follow, there certainly is no true and saving faith, as was pointed out above. Likewise, he that either does not seek or does not retain the grace of God in Christ, but spurns and rejects it, he does not have true faith. And though such have been baptized, yet they are under this sentence of divine judgment: He that does not believe shall be condemned.
236 If, Then, Someone Fails Away from the Covenant of Baptism and Later is Converted Anew, is There No Longer Any Comfort Left for Him on the Basis of Baptism?
The papist teach that the ark of Baptism is so dashed to pieces and completely destroyed by sin against conscience that it cannot be repaired, and therefore those who repent are not to return to the covenant of Baptism, but are to seize a second plank, namely of repentance and our works, by which we might escape the depth of perdition. But God forbid that our unbelief make the faith of God of no effect (Ro 3:3–4; 2 Ti 2:13). And God does not want the basis of grace, entered with us by Baptism, to consist in this, that if we break faith He also will not keep faith, even if we repent and return to it. But, as the ancients have well said, Baptism is rather the door by which we are admitted and received to fellowship and participation in the merits of Christ, so that we might continue therein, or if we fall therefrom, that we might have access and a way back to that covenant of grace, in true repentance, through faith, continually, while it is still today. And Jeremiah describes in very comforting words in all of Jer 3 how much God commends His grace to us in this very thing.
237 Is Baptism, Then, to Be Repeated as Often as We Fall?
By no means. For the covenant that God made with us in Baptism is an everlasting covenant (Is 55:3). And Baptism is a seal that testifies that God will continually keep the covenant of grace once made with us whenever and as often as we return to it. It is therefore not necessary to repeat Baptism as often as we are converted after a fall, as also in the Old Testament those who fell did not repeat circumcision at conversion but returned in earnest repentance through true faith to the covenant of grace that God had made with them in circumcision. Thus Paul did not rebaptize the Corinthians and Galatians who were again converted to God after a fall, but directed them to the covenant and comfort of Baptism once received. 1 Co 6:11; 12:13; Gl 3:27. It is indeed written regarding the Lord’s Supper: As often as ye do this, etc. But no commandment like this is connected with Baptism: As often as ye are baptized, etc.
238 Does Baptism, Because of the Comfort Regarding Forgiveness of Sins and Salvation, Also Have More Effects and Benefits?
The chief benefit and comfort of Baptism is that of which we have spoken so far. But Paul mentions in addition also another effect of Baptism. For he says, Tts 3:5: Baptism is a washing, first, of regeneration, namely that we, who by nature were children of wrath, are reborn of water and the Spirit, so that, for Christ’s sake, we might be children of God. Second, he says that it is a washing of renewing of the Holy Spirit.
239 In What, Then, Does This Renewal Consist?
Paul indeed briefly but thoroughly covers and describes this whole process of renewal Ro 6:4 ff., where he says, first, that we, being planted by Baptism in the death of Christ, are also buried with Him into death, namely that the power and efficacy of the death of Christ not only forgives us sins, but also begins to crucify, mortify, and bury sin in the flesh, in the baptized, by the Holy Spirit, that it should not reign in our body, and we should not obey its lusts, but that the body of sin might be destroyed. Second, he says that through Baptism we are also made partakers of the resurrection of Christ, namely that through it the Holy Spirit renews the mind, that we put on the new man, who is created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph 4:24).
240 How are Exhortations to Newness of Life to Be Drawn from Baptism?
By the example of Paul, Ro 6:3–4, 6, 11–12. For just as God made with us a covenant of grace and a good conscience in Baptism, so we also, on the other hand, promised Him that we would die to sin and live to righteousness, for this reason the renunciation in the act of Baptism was given this form of question and answer: Do you renounce the devil? Answer: I renounce, etc. It is therefore a horrible sin impudently to violate that covenant. For thus we hinder and destroy the work of the Holy Spirit, who works renewal in us. But all believers can, in fact should, confidently implore and entreat the Holy Spirit by a certain right of Baptism, as it were, to mortify the works of the flesh in them and cleanse and renew their hearts more and more.
241 Are the Effects and Benefits of Baptism Immediately Complete and Finished in the Baptized?
Regeneration indeed, that is, adoption and the forgiveness of sins is complete and finished in believers immediately after Baptism, and yet it nevertheless extends through the whole life of a man. But renewal is indeed begun in Baptism and grows daily, but is finally completed in the life to come. For in this [present] life renewal is still imperfect and should grow and increase from day to day. 2 Co 4:16; Eph 4:22–23; Cl 3:10; 1 Ptr 2:1–2.
242 Are Infants to Be Baptized?
Yes. For baptism of infants was always observed in the Christian church from the time of the apostles and was defended and approved against heretics on the basis of the Word of God, as the very ancient writers Irenaeus, Cyprian, Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom testify.
Chemnitz, M., & Poellot, L. (1999). Ministry, word, and sacraments: an enchiridion (electronic ed., pp. 112–120). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Lord God, heavenly Father, it is meet and right that we should give thanks unto You, that You have given us a more glorious baptism than that of John the Baptist, and have therein promised us the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Your Son, Jesus Christ: Preserve us, we beseech You, in such faith in Your grace and mercy, that we may never doubt Your promise, but be comforted by the same in all temptations: and grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed upon us in baptism, until by Your grace we obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen.
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