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.

All Lessons
  • Introduction to the life and theology of Martin Luther.

  • 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.