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Luther on Baptism

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

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