Martin Luther - Lesson 15

Luther on Baptism

Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.

Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Lesson 15
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Luther on Baptism

Luther on Baptism

Luther, the Pastor: John 1:32


I. The Starting Point of Luther's View -Applies Theology of the Cross to the Sacraments.

A. The break with Scholasticism

- Luther's early 1515 Roman's Commentary: For they are baptized into death, for they are baptized into eternal life

B. Lohse's 6 points

1. Luther did not begin with a sacramental doctrine from which to derive the interpretation of each sacrament. He rather developed his view of each sacrament by recourse to the New Testament.

2. For a time, this, in 1519/1520, Luther still gave his own particular definition to the 'sacrament' that is, by way of the terms "sign," "meaning," and "faith." After 1520, he no longer held to such a definition, though he returned to the juxtaposition and union of Word.

3. After 1520, in statements on baptism and the Lord's Supper, as well as in treating other sacraments taught by the church in this period, Luther gave centrality to the duality of 'promise' and 'faith'.

4. Due to Anabaptist resistance to infant baptism, as well as to the various symbolical interpretations of the elements in the supper on the part of Karlstadt, Zwingli, and others, Luther emphasized the institution or establishment of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

5. We should note that Luther employed the term sacramentum (sacrament) in a narrower as well as in a broader sense. Particularly in his early period he could use sacramentum synonymously with signum (sign). In addition, sacramentum could also express the entire activity of Baptism or the Lord' supper. In such twofold usage Luther was following Augustine.

6. When Luther at times used the Word "sign"...


II. The Institution and Nature of Baptism

A. Baptism is instituted by God. Not a human action.

B. Baptism is water plus the Word.


III. The Blessings of Baptism Matthew 28, Mark 16

A. The purpose of baptism is to save.

B. It is a divine and gracious water.

- Larger Catechism in the Book of Concord

"Where God's name is there..."

Words of promise attached to baptism.

"Because God alone...gospel comes to us in different modes.."


IV. Who receives these Gifts?

A. The proper use of baptism

B. The ongoing significance of baptism

1. Baptism is used properly by faith

2 . Luther in his times of struggle with Satan, he would yell out "I have been Baptized."

3. Baptism is the word given and it is properly received by faith.

4. The believer not so much needs to be washed but to die until the last resurrection.

5. Baptism is in the center of the Christian life. Baptism is a summary of the gospel.

6. Perfect sacrament that illustrates...

7. It also embodies the doctrine of justification by faith.


V. Luther's Arguments for Infant Baptism

A. The arguments from Scripture

1. We should not discard or alter what cannot be discarded or altered by scripture, provided it does not violate Scripture. Opposite of the regulative principle.

2. We have this tradition, nowhere does the scripture prohibit this, therefore it is ok.

3. Matthew 19, Luke 8 - Little one's come to me. We cannot deny children admittance into the covenant community

4. Command to baptize all which include children

5. In Acts households were baptized.

B. The doctrinal arguments

1. The sacrament is not validated by ones faith but by God.

2. The Anabaptist cannot be sure of their baptism because one's faith wavers

C. The appeal to tradition

Think out loud - The possibility of infant faith. Faith a matter of the receptacle of God's word and something other than simple cognitive work.

What then is the age of accountability? How can this be determined? SBC age gets lower and lower.

Saving aspect of baptism in infant baptism? Extended to the persons of the community of faith. To believers and their children.

Luther says baptism is a promise not a command. Not a law.

Lull page 351. Here with...

How does Luther know that the baptized is for the elect? Ultimately, we have to hold in suspension the tension of the elect and non-elect. For Luther the church is made up of wheat and tares. We must focus on what/how God has revealed himself to us. Our job is to point to what He has revealed to us in the word.

  • Dr. Isaacs summarizes the course objectives and lists the recommended textbooks.
  • Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.

  • Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.

  • When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.

  • Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.

  • Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.

  • The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.

  • Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).

  • Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.

  • Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.

  • Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.

  • Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

  • Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.

  • The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.

  • Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.

  • Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.

  • The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.

  • Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

  • Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

  • Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.

This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Dr. Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Luther on Baptism
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:02] As is our custom. We'll start out with a reading from Luther. John. Chapter one, verse 32 reads in the following manner. And John testified, I saw the spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. Since baptism is a divine act in which God Himself participates, and since it is attended by the three exalted persons of the Godhead, it must be prized and honored. One must agree that baptism was not invented by any mortal, but was instituted by God. It is not plain water, but has God's word in it and with it. And this transform transforms such water into a soul bath and into a bath of rejuvenation. Thus, we have seen from this text what a glorious thing baptism is and that we are to esteem it highly. For John hears the voice of the Father proclaiming The son. The son in human form is standing in the Jordan. The Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. Consequently, exalted persons are in attendance. From this you may gather that baptism is not a work of mortals, but of God. The Heavenly Father, whose voice is heard from above, saying, This is my beloved Son. It is also the work of God, the Holy Spirit, who over who hovers over the scene in form of a dove, and also the work of God, the son who accepts the baptism of John in his person. And we have the same glorious company at our own baptism, which means that it is not the work of mortals, but solely of God. The sublime majesty of the three persons in the Godhead who are one, in essence.

[00:02:09] Power and Majesty. Let's pause for prayer. Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You have regenerated us through water and the Holy Spirit. And you have forgiven us all. Our sin strengthened us with this grace so that we might come to esteem and highly prize our baptism and use it rightly. That is in faith every day of our lives. Amen. Okay. Today we are going to be talking about Luther's view of baptism. And I've entitled this The Gracious Waters of Baptism. There's a passage in the larger catechism in which Luther describes baptism as a divine blessing, a gracious waters in which the power of God is shown. So that's the title. So if we just start out right here, let's talk about the starting point of Luther's view. One of the things that we need to say about Luther is that he made his initial break with Scholasticism, and by so doing, he set the stage for a new understanding of this doctrine. Now, last time in our session, we talked a little bit about some of the motive forces that stand behind Luther's view of baptism. Luther's view of baptism really represents the theology of the cross applied to the sacrament of baptism. Theologies A cross, of course, focuses on the fact that of the old Adam must die so that the new life of faith can come alive. And so that's what baptism really is all about for Luther. So the starting point is a theology of the cross. Further, we said in our last session, where we were describing the starting points for Luther's sacramental theology. One of the things that Luther's attempt to do is to set forward an understanding of the sacraments, which helps to objectify the whole religious well, to objectify the truth of the Christian faith so that the Christian faith is kept from becoming an internal journey within, spiritually speaking.

[00:04:34] And one can say this is the sign of God's work. Here it is. And here it remains. And so it's a sign also of the alien work of God that comes to us. So the formation of a new Reformation Theology of baptism went hand in hand with Luther's entire theological development, particularly during his first lectures on the Psalms and Romans. So this is very early in Luther's career. He wrote his Romans commentary, as you might know, in the year 1515. So this is before the posting of the 95 theses, and we've touched on the 95 theses earlier on in the semester. So already at that time, Luther had parted company with Scholasticism which understood the. Nature of sin and not a very radical way, or at least not as radical as Luther had. And in Scholasticism, it was believed that baptism purged one from inherited sin, and that all that remained was a mere tinder of original sin. And against this tinder, the Christian could work and fight with all their might and main and indeed they might indeed be successful in resisting sin in their lives. Luther thought. That really doesn't sound true to experienced nor true to the texts of Scripture. And so in his own formulation of baptism, he says it like this in his Romans commentary, for they are baptized into death. That is toward death, which is to say they have begun to live in such a way that they are pursuing this kind of death and reach out toward this. Their goal for although they are baptized unto eternal life and the kingdom of heaven. Yet they do not all at once possess this goal fully, but they have begun to act in such a way that they may attain to it.

[00:06:37] For baptism was established to direct us toward death and through this death to life. So this statement really contains the quintessential Luther on the matter of baptism. It is a matter of death and life. And so thus mirrors his understanding of the theology of the cross in which we as Christian believers follow after Christ in a cruciform fashion. So one of the things that we could say is that Luther really begins his understanding of the nature of baptism very early on in his career and in his break with Scholasticism Bernard Law, the premier Luther interpreter has six points to say about this presentation of Luther's. First of all, Luther did not begin with a sacramental doctrine from which to derive the interpretation of each sacrament. He rather developed his view of each sacrament by recourse to the New Testament. In other words, there were there was a lot of talk about the sacraments, and quite often the discussion of the sacraments proceeded along very different lines than what you and I might expect. What the interpreters quite often did is they took the understanding of the Lord's Supper that was presently in place and then would describe that and elaborate on that. And in many cases it was an allegorical extrapolation of an already established doctrine of the sacrament. Luther went back to the text in order to reestablish the meaning of baptism in the Lord's Supper from the texts of Scripture. Point two for a time this in 15, 19 and 1520. Luther still gave his own particular definition to the sacrament. That is, by the way, by way of the term sign, meaning and faith. And after 1520, he no longer held to such a definition, though he returned to the juxtaposition and union of word and sacrament.

[00:08:44] One of the things that's true about Luther is that he derives some of his understanding of the sacraments. At least he works rather closely with some of the concepts that come down to him from Augustine. And so he works with some of these terms. And you, in his earlier writings especially, you'll find some of these terms. And in our assigned reading for last week, there was a selection from early in Luther's career where you ran across some of these terms point three from laws that after 1520 in statements on Baptism in the Lord's Supper, as well as in treating other sacraments taught by the church in this period. Luther gave centrality to the duality of promise and faith. This is critically important and no doubt already in your reading in Luther, you've identified this kind of tendency in Luther. What he'll say is this There is word and there is faith or there's promise, and there is faith. And faith has its appropriate object in the promise. The promise is given. There's only one way to receive a promise, and that is through faith. Works do not correspond with the word works, Do not correspond with the promise that is given. You simply receive it. If if any of your parents and you promise your child that you'll go and get an ice cream cone, do you know that the child is going to hold you to it? But there's only one way for the child to receive that, and that is by holding out their hand, receiving the cone. There you go. The deal is done. You know, there is promise and there is faith. And those things go together. You soup and sandwich, go together, you know, horse and carriage go together. What Luther is saying is promise and word goes together.

[00:10:30] That's the only way. It's not promise and works. And so you see, Luther, even in his sacramental theology, is holding very clearly to salvation as coming from God alone. And so promise and faith form the heart of his understanding. Now, on point for that, those are sets forward. He says that's due to Anabaptists resistance to infant baptism, as well as to the various symbolical interpretations of the elements in the supper on the part of Karl that Zwingli and others Luther emphasized the institution or establishment of the sacraments of Baptism in the Lord's Supper. The accent, the accent on faith is preserved throughout. It does not compete with the character of baptism as instituted. It's clear that the formulation of Luther's view of baptism is is not formulated in a vacuum to begin with. Luther speaks about baptism in relationship to the Roman Catholic Church and in our selection of Luther's writings in the law. We don't have the full edition of Babylonian captivity of the church. But in that treatise written in 1520, there's a marvelous little section there. Brief, though, it is on baptism. And there you find Luther fighting against what he sees going on in the Roman Catholic tradition with respect to baptism. But of course, that's not the only word in the 16th century, because in 15, 24, 15, 25, you have the development of an a baptism, particularly in Zurich and in actually quite a number of areas, almost simultaneously it emerges. And the Anabaptist basically said, look, infant baptism is invalid. It's not spoken of in the New Testament and therefore we ought not to do it. And they were urging Zwingli to say, listen, you need to give us leadership here in Zurich and break with accepted tradition.

[00:12:31] So that we as parents don't have to baptize our infants and we can follow a New Testament pattern of baptism, which they would understand to be that a believer baptism. And so this this movement, which gained a lot of ground rather rapidly, is also the historical context in which Luther is doing his work on this doctrine. So against the Anabaptists, what you find is Luther setting forward the objectivity, the validity of baptism as established. But he also retains within his discussion of baptism the need for faith. Point five from LaSalle. We should note that Luther employed the term Sacramento in the sacrament in a narrower sense, as well as in a broader one, particularly in his early period. He could use Sacramento synonymously with sign. In addition, Sacramento could also express the entire activity of baptism or the Lord's Supper in such twofold usage. Luther was following Agustin, so we have those that simply making comment on a more technical side of Luther's use of terminology within his discussion of the Lord's Supper and baptism. And for those of you that are particularly interested in this area of Luther, those kinds of distinctions will perhaps be important for our purposes. It's perhaps not so important for understanding the basic contours of Luther's teaching. And 2.6, as I said, when when Luther at times used the word sign, particularly in his doctrine of the supper, that use may not be construed in zwingli in terms Luther never intended the term to be merely symbolic. And here we come upon a point which I think is perhaps important to highlight just for a moment or two. In our Enlightenment context, sign and symbol means something which is empty. You point away from something to a sign, and that's just a mere sign.

[00:14:38] The reality is to be found elsewhere. But you have to understand that in a 16th century mindset, that is simply not the case. For Luther, the sign is not an empty sign, but the sign is one filled full of meaning. As a matter of fact, it is precisely the sign which conveys that which it signifies. So it's not an empty sci in our enlightenment way of thinking, but it is a sign filled full of meaning. So there's one theologian in commenting on Luther Sacramental theology, says, where the sacrament is held in disdain or disregard there. The gospel is held in disregard or disdain for Luther. The sign and the meaning of baptism or the Lord's Supper are interwoven even as there's an inner life and an outer life in any human being that you might meet. So all of these points are helpful in terms of giving us some clue as to Luther's view of things here. Okay. Now, if you check out if you check out Luther on you know, if you take a look at his the small catechism, which you have a copy of in your law edition of law, or if you turn toward the the larger catechism, what you'll find is that Luther strikes out on a description of baptism. And one of the places that he he moves to rather quickly is to speak about the nature of baptism, the institution and nature of baptism. One of the first things that Luther says in his larger catechism is that baptism is a marvelous sign in which we have the great gift and treasure of God given to us to be received in faith. Baptism is from God and not man. And that's something which was reiterated in the reading that that's stood at the beginning of our class time.

[00:16:59] Baptism is no human plaything, but is instituted by God himself. So says Luther, because God has instituted baptism, it's to be taken seriously. It's incomprehensible to Luther that many sects of his day disdained baptism, claiming that it was merely an outward sign from his special point of view. Luther could declare whatever God institutes and commands cannot be useless. It is most precious, even if in appearance it is not worth a straw. He admits that the works Dunbar, a Carthusian monk, present a finer appearance. But this, in reality, is the devil leading us from God's work to our own work to look at it. Baptism seems to be a human action, but this is not the case. Luther says it this way. To be baptized into God's name is to be baptized not by a man, but by God himself. To be sure, a priest is present. And in our settings, you know, in our evangelical settings, a pastor is present. But nonetheless, the words which are spoken are words which convey the promise that comes from God himself. So what is baptism? Luther points out that Luther or that baptism is not simply common water, but the water comprehended in God's Word and commandment and sanctified by them. It's none other than the water of God, a divine water. Not because the water itself is better than other water, but because the word and commandment of God are connected with it. Luther's concern is to maintain the clear association between word and sign. I admonish that these two, the word and the water be by no means disunited and considered separately for when the word is taken away. The water is no different from that which the servant uses for cooking purposes. So baptism is to be held in high esteem because of the Word of God.

[00:18:56] It's instituted by God. After discussing the institution of baptism and the word that's associated with it, he moves on to talk about the blessings of baptism and really the blessings of baptism are included in the scriptures that Luther works with always when he's dealing with baptism. The first of those scriptures comes from the Great Commission. Matthew 28. Go therefore make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And then the further Scripture that comes in, Mark 16 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. But he that does not believe shall be condemned. So these are the scriptures that Luther points to in terms of establishing the nature of baptism and its institution. After that, he begins a discussion of the blessings that baptism confers. The first, he says, the purpose of baptism is to save. Now, how do we know this? Luther says in the small catechism, This cannot be learned in a. Better way than by the words of Christ cited above. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. So what does baptism give a prophet? It works. Forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare. The power and purpose of baptism is to save. And so Luther describes this in terms of deliverance from sin, death and Satan. In terms of entrance into Christ's kingdom. And therefore. And there we shall live with him forever. So Luther maintains that baptism is a strong blessing. Its purpose is to save. It is a divine and gracious water. Let's see if we can find that passage in the larger catechism that talks about that.

[00:20:52] Yes. For those of you who are not familiar, the Book of Concord is a collection of the Lutheran confessions, and the large catechism is a part of this. You'll not find it in your collection of law and you'll not find it in the American edition of Luther's works. Interestingly enough, it's held in the Book of Concord. Here he says this. You know, there are some many of the anabaptists. You see, they were just absolutely stunned and unconvinced by Luther's presentation. They said, well, this is nonsense. This is just received tradition from the Roman Catholic Church. What do you mean to tell me that water saves That's that kind of baptism for an infant. That's just an external sign. It's nothing more than a dog's bath. So why should we believe that this is a saving event? And Luther comes back and says, No, no, no, no, no. Baptism is a precious and marvelous treasure because in and with it, there is the word of God. And his promise abides. He says where God's name is. There must also be life and salvation. Hence, it is well described as a divine, blessed, fruitful and gracious water, for through the word baptism receives the power to become the washing of regeneration, as Saint Paul calls it, in Titus three five. And then you remember that passage that we dealt with last time. He says, Ah, no. It was. The new spirits assert that faith alone saves the works and external things contribute nothing. To this end, we answer. It is true. Nothing that is in us does it but faith, as we shall hear later on. But these leaders of the blind are unwilling to see that faith must have something to believe, something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand.

[00:22:41] Thus, faith clings to water and believes it to be baptism, in which there is sheer salvation in life, not through the water. As we have sufficiently stated, but through its incorporation with God's Word and ordinance and the joining of His name to it. When I believe this, what else is it but believing in God as the one who has implanted his word in this external ordinance and offered it to us so that we may grasp the treasure it contains. So you see, Luther asserts, then that baptism is a divine and gracious water. The blessings of baptism are found in the word of promise that's attached to baptism. So in response to the Anabaptists who ask, Why do we have to participate in these external rites? Luther's reasons were founded in his belief that God does not deal with us apart from the external world. And He says that this way, because God has ordained baptism and has connected His Word with the water. This alone should be sufficient motive for its observance, even though baptism were altogether an external matter for anyone to reject. The external sign of baptism is to reject the God of Scripture and the one who stands behind baptism. For Luther believed that God had ordained that the Gospel should come to us in different modes, such as preaching the supper and baptism. The Incarnation is a condescension of Christ into the physical realm. Thus, the gospel itself is wrapped in the most elemental signs. Faith must have an external object that can be perceived by the senses so that the truth conveyed by the Spirit can gain access to the heart. In this way, the Gospel itself comes by an external method, namely by oral proclamation, baptism, by washing with water.

[00:24:34] Very interesting kind of argument that Luther participates in. So then who receives these gifts? According to large catechism, these gifts are received by those who use the baptism properly in faith. One might get the idea that there's a one sided approach in Luther that means that it's mainly just a commandment we are commanded to baptize and therefore we baptize. But Luther also talks about the fact that we who are in great need must receive this sign as well in the large catechism. After we learn about the great benefit and power of baptism, we need to recognize that it baptism namely is created and established and given for the people of God. These blessings are offered and promised in the words which accompany the water. They cannot be received unless we believe them wholeheartedly. So this divine treasure is established and given to the people of God so that we might use it well, use it rightly, and allow this baptism to work its work in our lives. The proper use of baptism is in faith. See the whole point, isn't it, in terms of the theology of the cross to create people of faith where there was unbelief before. A faith is meant to be established, so the word goes out. The word enters the year. The word is applied to the life of the believer, and baptism is thus used properly by faith. Baptism is not something that one merely does once and forgets. It is something that one constantly believes. And this is true because baptism is nothing other than the Word of God in water. It is said that when Luther was severely tempted, he would defy the devil with a cry. I have been baptized. So when he found himself in turmoil in what he would call on fact to great trials where the devil was simply saying, You're not a Christian.

[00:26:50] No. Take a look at what you've done. He would cry out. I have been baptized. It was an external word. It was the sign that he could cling to, to keep from being sucked into the great slew of despair in which there is only the inward journey. So you see how sacrament works for Luther. It's an external sign. It is something that faith can cling to. And if you want to use the the imagery that they used in the Middle Ages, they said that baptism was was the arc of God in which one was traveling. That if you said you fell out of the Ark of God and that you needed to get back to your baptism. And in the medieval church, they they said that, well, the way that you get back to your baptism is through penance. The second plank, because in the medieval church, they claimed baptism is not a form of repentance. And so the need for the sacrament of penance, Luther says no, baptism is actually when rightly understood. It is a life of repentance, lifelong repentance. And so we use our baptism rightly when we use it in faith. Now, you might think that this this phrase, the use of baptism, might sound odd to your ears, but really what Luther's trying to do is he's trying to establish two things. First of all, baptism is valid in and of itself. It is water plus the word. It's not our faith that validates baptism, but baptism is received by faith so that it might be possible for someone to be baptized and for them not to be a person of faith. They haven't used their baptism rightly, therefore, they haven't attached their faith to the word which comes in with the sign and seal of baptism.

[00:28:48] So what Luther is he's making a distinction between the validity of baptism, which is valid objectively on its own, by virtue of the fact it's been established by God. And secondly, he's talking about a proper use of baptism, namely in faith, because baptism is that which allows us to turn back to God in those moments when we need it. In terms of Romans six. Luther demonstrates the continuing significance of baptism throughout life. Like Paul, he begins with the external rite of baptism, including the immersing in the raising of the one who is baptized in this action. The one baptized is incorporated into Christ through the drama of redemption that includes both death and resurrection. The meaning of this is that the old man is put to death and the new man is raised from the dead. Although this death is achieved once and for all, it nevertheless must be reenacted as a daily event. This is precisely what Luther is getting at when in the small catechism, he says, that baptism signifies that the old Adam in us should, by dazzling contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts. And again, a new man daily come forth and arise who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever. You will understand, therefore, that whatever we do in this life, which modifies the flesh or quickens the spirit has to do with our baptism. So it's a very interesting way of speaking. I don't know about your own traditions, in your own experience in the church, but I know that in the church tradition in which I grew up, which is a believer, baptism tradition, there was never any talk about the ongoing significance of baptism. And so this is one place where I find Luther very, very interesting.

[00:30:36] Perhaps some of you might think this is somewhat curious, but nonetheless, I think this is a really very interesting point that Luther's trying to make, that baptism has an ongoing significance in the life of the believer. And this really, it seems to me, goes back to the heart of a theology of the cross. Luther is convinced that the believer does not need to be washed so much as he needs to die. This is a quote from Luther. Here again, you see that the sacrament of baptism, even with respect to its side, it's not a matter of the moment, but something permanent. Although the ceremony itself is soon over, the thing it signifies continues until we die. Yes, even till we rise on the last day. For as long as we live, we are continually doing that which baptism signifies. That is, we die and rise again. For Luther, the sanctification of the believer is nothing else than a completion of baptism. The entire Christian life then is lived under the obligation or under the sign of baptism. I find this this kind of quotation really fascinating because we see once again Luther here dealing with the two eons. We through the Gospel have been ushered into the new eon with Christ. We live with Him. Yet insofar as we are still old creatures, the old Adam. We need that death dealing a stroke at the hand of God so that the old Adam, that old rascal, that old sinner which continues to cling to us, should finally be laid to rest. Interesting stuff. And here he connects baptism, interestingly enough, with the moment when we will rise on the last day. And I find this a fascinating thing here because you find what Luther is able to hold together, The inner and the outer life and the promise of the resurrection of the body is something that all too often we as evangelicals have sundered apart.

[00:32:42] So I think there's a wonderful possibility for talking about a renewed understanding of the nature of baptism, precisely embedded in the theology of someone like Luther. Okay. Luther Place is baptism, then in the center of Christian life. It is like the supper, a summary of the gospel. This is an interesting little phrase that Luther uses, particularly in Babylonian captivity, the church. He says Baptism is a summary of the gospel. So death of the old Adam. And it's a raising up to new life of the life of faith. It's a summary of the gospel. We could also say that it's a perfect sacrament, which represents to us this notion of the bondage of the will. We are bound in sin, and it takes someone who is coming after us, taking the first steps. The initiative is on God's part and He comes to us and he says, I love you. I always have. I promise to drive all sin from your life and bring you full and complete into the kingdom. That's the promise we receive in baptism. And that comes in and with the word which is comprehended in the water as an external sign. So it's a very interesting kind of thing where Luther says, This is the summary of the gospel. He also says that baptism exactly expresses the doctrine of justification by faith so that you see what Luther is dealing with here. Through baptism, our sins are forgiven and we put on the righteousness of Christ, thereby, thereby we become children of grace and justified persons. God now wills to take us, who still remain centers throughout our lives and actually begins to make us what we already are in his gracious judgment. He does this through the continual drowning of the old Adam.

[00:34:26] Baptism. We receive the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ. We cling to the totality of this truth and faith and daily through the enabling power of the Spirit. We continue to move toward that purity which is set out for us in the Gospel. Now then, let's move to the last and perhaps most controversial of Luther's positions with respect to baptism, particularly when set out in an evangelical context, which majority of our traditions, you know, a majority of evangelical traditions are Baptist sticking in their orientation. And thus Luther stands in sharp contrast to this, this kind of thinking. So how do we know that infants can be properly baptized? That's one of the big questions. How can we know that infants can be properly baptized? Luther answers this question is large catechism and elsewhere, by pointing to the work of Christ, God himself validates infant baptism, thus through God's work and evidences. Infant baptism has been established. One of the things that we'd have to say is that there are three ways in which Luther makes his argument for infant baptism. One is from an argument of Scripture. Another is the doctrinal arguments. And thirdly, an appeal to tradition. If we talk about Luther's arguments from Scripture, we can begin here. He says this We should not discard or alter what cannot be discarded or altered on clear scriptural authority. Let me repeat that we should not discard or alter what cannot be discarded or altered, unclear scriptural authority. This is an important line of argumentation for Luther, because basically you have to understand he has received from the medieval tradition the the practice of infant baptism. It's an established practice that's been going on for four centuries. And so he's saying, look, for us to overturn infant baptism, we have to have a clear word from scripture that says we ought and must overturn it if it's allowable.

[00:36:45] Luther will allow it. Now, notice this is very different from the more restrictive, reformed tradition that is sometimes referred to as the regulative principle, which says we cannot do anything positive positively unless it is urged upon us by Scripture. So you see the difference between these two approaches and the one the conservative approach is to say that we're all conservative. I'm not sure that that's the proper term, but the the regulative principle says our worship must mirror that of what we find in the New Testament. And only those clear commands from Scripture should be a part of our worship. Luther has a broader interpretation which says whatever comes to us in terms of tradition, provided it does not violate unknown command in scripture should be allowed. So there's a much broader room for allowance, and it's on that basis that Luther argues his case. Now, Luther was candid as he approached the scriptural question. He admitted that there was no clear and convincing scripture to validate infant baptism. In other words, there wasn't any Scripture that says you shall baptize babies. I mean, you don't find that in the New Testament. So and he was clear about that. And further, if it were a matter of initiating infant baptism as a new right in his day, something which had no precedents. Luther would not be able to do so on the basis of the Scriptures of the New Testament. However, given the weight of tradition and the ambiguity of Scripture on the subject, he was able to say that in our day, no one may reject or neglect the practice of child baptism, which has so long a tradition since God actually not only has permitted it, but from the beginning, so ordered that it has not yet disappeared.

[00:38:44] So in other words, what Luther is saying is, Look, we have this tradition. I don't see any clear scripture in the New Testament that says you shall not baptize a baby, and we should go with the fact that baptism, even for infants, is allowed on the basis of tradition. Now, this is this is just to orient you toward the question of Scripture and how Scripture is going to be used. It's going to be used very differently for the anabaptists and from some more more narrowly defined, reformed traditions. But Luther is saying is, look, there is nothing in Scripture which says this is an absolutely wrong practice. We've received it through centuries of of tradition. Therefore, it can be admitted further. Luther reduces the gospel of the children in Matthew 19, Mark ten, and Luke eight to show that Christ allowed the children to come to him. Now, clearly that Scripture is not about baptism per se. But what it does establish is that Christ maintains that these little ones are a part of the Kingdom of God and they must not be turned away. Luther says it this way Who can exclude the children? If the old covenant and the sign of circumcision made the children of Abraham believe that they were and were called the people of God, according to the promise. Then this new covenant and sign baptism must be much more effectual and make those the people of God who receive it. Since the words of our Lord forbid us to exclude children from the covenant community. They are in essence a command to bring the children to him. Only in this way are the Lord's words fulfilled. See that you do not despise one of these little ones. Secondly, in terms of Scripture, Luther emphasizes the command to baptize.

[00:40:37] The command is explicit, and although children are not expressly included in the command, neither are they excluded. No distinction as to sex or age is given. The order is to baptize all nations, and this includes children. In acts, we are told how whole households were baptized. And children are surely a good part of the household, says Luther. Since the Apostles write so much about there being no respect or difference of persons among Christians, then they surely would have explicitly mentioned it if there was a differentiation of persons in the matter of baptism. So Luther aligns certain arguments from scriptures to show that this is allowable. And while he is well aware of the fact that he doesn't have a text on his side that says you must baptize babies or infants, he understands that these texts point in the direction that children are a part of the covenant and ought not to be excluded. And therefore, it's appropriate to baptize because the primary basis upon which we baptize is on the command of God, go into all the world making disciples baptizing in the name of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. Now, this is one place, whereas evangelicals, it might be hard for us to wrap our heads around Luther's point of view. I remember going to a baptism. The pastor went down into the waters and the the candidate was right next to them, right next to the pastor. And the pastor said, I bet on the basis of your confession of faith, on the basis of your confession of faith, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It's interesting, isn't it? On what basis do we baptize? Luther says it's on the basis of God's command, not on the basis of the confession of faith.

[00:42:26] How do we as pastors know what the heart condition of the person to be baptized is? If we baptize based on a confession of faith, that's an uncertain basis upon which to baptize, and you would always be uncertain in that regard. So you see, it's it's at this point that I think it's kind of difficult from an evangelical perspective. To understand what Luther's getting at. Unless you understand that one of his pastoral concerns is to say this The sacrament is not an expression of my faith. The sacrament is a promise given by God. It's received in faith. Yes. And faith is necessary in the baptism. But baptism is not validated by our faith, nor made appropriate there by. And we don't baptize on the basis of the confession of someone's expression of heartfelt religion or their faith. But we baptize on the command of God. So that's one place where Luther is very, very different than our evangelical traditions. The mistake of resting the validity of baptism on faith is a great presumption for if they fall. This is what Luther says in the large catechism, for if they follow this principle they cannot venture to baptize before they are certain that the one to be baptized believes. How and when can they ever know that for certain? Have they now become gods so that they can discern the hearts of men and know whether or not they believe to base the validity of baptism on faith is to rest the sacrament on an uncertainty for faith is unseen and is in constant peril. Thus, neither the priest baptizing nor the one being baptized can be certain that faith is present. All men are liars and only God looks upon the heart. Luther says this The Anabaptist cannot be sure their baptism is a right one, since they base their re baptizing on a faith of which they cannot be sure.

[00:44:28] So you see, there is an altogether different orientation in Luther with respect to the validity and place of baptism. And that's one place where it's. It's very interesting to to be confronted with someone like Luther who comes from such a very different direction on this matter. This is an interesting little pastoral point. What would you do if you were pastor of a church and someone came to you and said, you know, I've really this last year I've come to a deep knowledge of of the Lord and my faith has been revived. I used to go to church when I was a kid, but I fell away from it for a number of years. And now I've really come to appreciate my faith in a brand new way. I want to be baptized. And then in your pastoral conversation, you said, Well, were you ever baptized earlier on in your life? And they said, Yes. What would you do? Would you be baptized them? That happened to me when I was in the pastorate. And no doubt there are a number of different ways to handle this issue, and I'm not sure that there's any one right way to do it. I, I counseled with this woman and she was an active part of our congregation was and she was delightful. And our kids were, too. But I said, you know, I said, if I was to baptize you again, what would that be saying about your first baptism? Would we be saying that it wasn't valid, that God hadn't spoken over your life then in that moment said, I'm not sure that we ought to do that because God has spoken over you in baptism, even though you didn't use your baptism rightly through faith.

[00:46:06] Nonetheless, that does not invalidate his promise to you, and it does not invalidate the truth and the strength of baptism itself. Now, after some period of time, you're beginning to use your baptism rightly, and that is a great thing. So what I'd like to invite you to do is to witness to the fact that God is doing a work in your life and He's doing a work on your kids. That would be a wonderful encouragement to our congregation. And so that's finally what we decided to do. She was a little bit reticent to stand up in front of the congregation to speak, but that's how I handled that, because my concern from a pastoral point of view is to say, Look, baptism has validity because it is water plus God's word. That's the truth of baptism. And baptism is a promise that God gives. And I didn't want to I didn't want to to re give it a re baptize because in some ways and I'm saying, well, your first baptism didn't take or some such thing. Now, I know that there are a lot of traditions in which there are folks who get re baptized and there are some folks that get re baptized four or five or six times during their lives, you know, and so it becomes something of a deal. But you notice how for Luther, that would be altogether unthinkable. And so in reading that little treatise on re baptism, you find Luther's arguments, and they're very interesting. We can't do that because it would be as much as if to say God was a liar the first time. We're not going to do that, but we are going to allow the individual now to use their baptism rightly in faith after the fact.

[00:47:41] Now, then, this connects up. We're talking about Luther's arguments for infant baptism. We've only just begun on this. We still have a couple more things to go here, but this helps to elucidate. Then what is common practice in in the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Covenant, and some other churches that have confirmation. So you're baptized as an infant. You're raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and then you come to, you know, age 12, 13, 14. That's usually when confirmation takes place. And in confirmation you go through a series of of classes where you learn about the tradition of the church, you learn about hopefully the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and a little something about the sacraments. Because without that knowledge, there one cannot be a Christian. Then. You know, as this 12 or 13 year old. Then you confirm that which God has spoken over you in baptism as an infant. That's the purpose of confirmation. So that now this event which took place in the arms of their parents, now they take ownership for. Well, it's it's similar to the Jewish tradition. On the eighth day, a Jewish boy circumcised and then later on in his life, he comes to his bar mitzvah. He becomes a son of the covenant that time. So that's how this operates within the context of infant baptism. Now, I suppose one could say, let me just think out loud here, and this is not really a prepared part of my lecture here, but let's just think out loud just for a moment. Now, I suppose one point one's finger at Luther's line of argumentation here to say, well, now isn't this just a little bit iffy? Isn't this just a little bit iffy if he's talking about the possibility of infant faith? Maybe so.

[00:49:33] Maybe so. But faith is something other than pure human reason. Faith really is a matter of the the receptacle for God's word. And so Luther is really talking about the initiative of God here when he's talking about infant faith. One could say, I suppose that, you know, there's something just a little bit maybe iffy about this idea of infant faith. On the other hand, if you go to believer baptism and the construct there and you talk about different starting points, very different starting points, aren't they? I mean, this is this is a wild exercise in theology when you begin to think about this. But part of the paradigm for believer baptism, ultimately you have to deal with it, however peripheral it might end up being in terms of your final doctrine of baptism is you have to determine the age of accountability. When do you start to baptize children? You know, is it nine? Is it eight? Is it seven? In the Southern Baptist tradition, it keeps getting lower and lower. And what does that say? The other question that you have to ask is what does it say about those children who are not baptized? Maybe we could say they're dedicated to the Lord. And so thus in some ways, you know, experience protection under the larger umbrella of the church, but they don't receive the full the full acceptance into the tradition until they're allowed to be baptized. I think that's just as iffy as talking about infant faith. So I think there's some kind of interesting things and we can talk about different starting points. Let's turn to that. In in your lull in the promise of the Sacramento section, beginning 341, you have this interesting little treatise entitled Re Baptism. I want to refer your attention to page 351, Page 351 thou.

[00:51:54] Let's see the first full paragraph. The second full paragraph here with I have sufficiently proved that no one ought to have doubts as to his baptism, as if he did not know that he is baptized. He sends against God who will not believe it, for he is much more certain of his baptism through the witness of Christians than if he himself had witnessed it. For the devil could easily have made him uncertain so that he imagined he had been dreaming or had an hallucination instead of being properly baptized so he would have to fall back. Finally, on the testimony of Christians to be at peace, this kind of testimony the devil cannot confuse or make dubious. Now, on the one hand, we might say, Well, this is really a weak argument, Luther. You mean to tell me I'm going to hallucinate about my own baptism? He's saying, Well, it might happen, and we never know how we might end up in our lives hallucinating or in Alzheimer's. And then we have to have someone who can come up to you and say, But you've been baptized. You are Christ. So now that's an extreme example. But what he's you saying, one of the other things that he's getting at here is that baptism is undertaken in the context of the community. And so it really is a joint venture in which the the congregation enters in, as it were.