Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Few Thoughts On Holy Baptism


Dear Christian,
May grace and peace be yours through the knowledge of Christ Jesus!

I have received your letter concerning Baptism. I am happy to speak to this issue, as those writings I have sent out are for the purpose of encouraging and engendering a study of the Scriptures by which to examine, in minutia I hope, the foundation of our Apostolic Lutheran Fellowship. This, of course, leads to discussion of doctrine which I wholeheartedly embrace.

Please allow me to again lean heavily upon the writings of the elders as they expounded Scripture. As Laestadius did not write any new doctrinal theses but rather relied upon those written by the Reformers, neither need I write anything new, but as Laestadius wrote so many times, Our Lutheran doctrine teaches thus, and, As Luther wrote, etc, so do I also use the Reformers, and Luther in particular, as a teacher and elder manifestly used by God to clearly state the doctrines of Christ. I offer this quotation of Laestadius from the New Postilla, sermon 52, Fifth Sunday after Trinity, page 300, “Arise from sleep, and consider how this dark time is passing! The old Lutheran faith is being destroyed from the earth; man’s intellect is being made master!” As I have raised questions about the doctrines of our fellowship, whether they be Lutheran or not, some have suggested that perhaps we are a movement not tied to Luther. Let none doubt that the awakening movement seen in the north country at the time of Laestadius was indeed precipitated by the Holy Spirit with the proclamation of Lutheran doctrine. Laestadius was bold to proclaim Lutheran doctrine as being according to Scripture, and was well learned in it as he was an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church of Sweden. While I recognize the following example is not such as comprehends all of Luther’s teachings, let me offer this quotation of Laestadius from the New Postilla, sermon 87, Second Rogation Day, Evening Sermon “How is it you penitent souls? Is the gospel of Luther a true gospel? Are you able to believe that such a one is a Christian who commits adultery and murder a thousand time a day? I believe that all whores and murderers who believe this gospel shall be saved, but they who do not believe this gospel of Luther will fall into hell, even though they had not committed adultery nor murdered even once.” Again, I think this points out the willingness of Laestadius to boldly present the doctrines of Luther as being true. Finally, consider this description Laestadius gave of Luther, “Luther was one angel who cried from the ascending of the dawn.” New Postilla sermon 40. Laestadius was Lutheran.

I will in response to your inquiry first state that the language of Christ in calling little children unto himself and in describing His kingdom as being populated by such is not solely parabolic, but there is a real and evident physical meaning to His words. We read in Luke 18:15, “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” A plain reading of the text shows that Jesus would have us to bring our infants unto Him, as He here uses the word “children” in a real and literal sense.

Again in regard to the word “children”, consider Acts 2:38,39 where Peter preaches thus, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Peter here calls the Jews to repentance and baptism, and includes children in both. The words, “every one of you,” excludes no one, and the words, “the promise is unto you, and to your children,” includes children. Here the word “children” does not mean offspring in the generational sense, but the Greek word in the text means the little children of the household.
I would go further to examine the blessings Peter here attributes to baptism; the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is New Birth. However, I will let Luther speak.

Luther in the Fourth Part of his Large Catechism examines the doctrine of Baptism, stating that baptism is that “by which we are first received into the Christian Church.” He uses the words of Christ from Mat. 28:19 to establish the command to baptize: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” He uses also St. Mark last chapter v. 16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Luther then writes, “In these words we must notice, in the first place, that here stands God’s commandment and institution that we shall not doubt that baptism is divine, and not devised and invented by men.”

Luther teaches that when the Word is joined to the element, it becomes a sacrament. Christ specifically and clearly teaches that this sacrament is unto salvation, for to be baptized is to be brought under, into union with, and to be made a partaker of that which is there offered, even as the children of Israel were “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, etc.” I Cor. 10:2. When the word of Christ preached in baptism is believed, life is engendered. Therefore to deny life, or New Birth in baptism, is to deny both the Word and faith. Rather let us give all honor and strength unto the Word by which we are regenerated when faith in the Word is engendered within us by the Holy Ghost. This accords with the Apostle Paul as he writes of this “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), and what is regeneration but to be born of new Parentage?

Consider what Christ means when He commands us to “teach”, in light of His command that disciples be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. We do not separate teaching and baptism, but the Word always accompanies the sacrament, for without the Word the sacrament is no sacrament. Herein the mystery is revealed and made plain, and here we see which words of promise are spoken, for in Baptism are proclaimed the will and nature of God, and man’s relationship to Him; also Christ is proclaimed, and His office concerning God and man; and also taught is the Holy Ghost, and how He makes effectual these matters in the heart of man. Therefore, when Christ commands us to teach, we must teach of sin and grace, death and life, the fall and the redemption. These matters, comprehended in the three articles of the Apostle’s Creed, are they which Christ commands us to teach in union with baptism, and comprehended in these are all the promises of God to sinner man through Jesus Christ. No greater words of promise are extant in heaven or on earth, than those which unite and reconcile God with sinner man, and when we consider the word “baptism” in this light, we see that we are by this sacrament made partakers of and united with the Father through Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Ghost, thereby comprehending each in His office. And who would dare say that when the Godhead is present, new life cannot be engendered.

Luther states also in this article, “Thus, and much more even, we must honor baptism, and esteem it glorious, on account of the Word, as being honored both in word and deed by God himself, and confirmed with miracles from heaven. For do you think it was a jest that when Christ was baptized the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descended visibly, and there was nothing present but divine glory and majesty?” And we remember that Christ our Forerunner was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” Mt. 3:15.

Let us also take a brief look at the Augsburg Confession as it treats of infant baptism. The Confession states, article IX, “Of Baptism, they teach, that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God; and that children are to be baptized, who, being offered to God through Baptism, are received into His grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who allow not the Baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.” The Apology then states, “The ninth article has been approved, in which we confess that ’baptism is necessary to salvation,’ and that ’children are to be baptized,’ and that ’the baptism of children is not in vain, but is necessary and effectual to salvation.” “For it is very certain that the promise of salvation pertains also to little children. Neither indeed does it pertain to those who are outside of Christ’s Church, where there is neither Word nor sacraments, because the kingdom of Christ exists only with the Word and sacraments. Therefore it is necessary to baptize little children, that the promise of salvation may be applied to them, according to Christ’s command (Matt. 28:19): “Baptize all nations.” Just as there salvation is offered to all, so baptism is offered to all, to men, women, children, infants. It clearly follows, therefore, that infants are to be baptized, because with baptism salvation is offered.”

Listen all you children of the last time! Turn to God’s word in earnestness and prayer that He would shield you from the strong waves of confusion now sweeping over Christiandom. God gives unto us in His word all that we need for our soul’s salvation: the Gospel, which is the true forgiveness of all our sins in the name and blood of Jesus, and this promise poured out upon us abundantly by the Spirit in Holy Baptism, and affirmed again in the Lord’s Supper. We need nothing more than to hear and believe this word and promise, both of which are bound together in the sacraments. Flee the preachers of re-baptism, for they would have you to doubt the gracious promises of God given you even in your infant baptism. Look only to the simple words of Christ, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Jn. 11:25. Behold Him on the cross when He cries, “It is finished.” Only believe the record God has given of His Son, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” “Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Is. 55:3. The word does not say “do this or that work” and your soul shall live, neither “be rebaptized” and your soul shall live, but rather “hear” and your soul shall live. Know that God has already drawn nigh unto you in the Word and sacraments, and you lack nothing. Let us add nothing to that which God has Himself given unto us in His word, and let no man take away anything from it.

Hear, heavenly Father, the prayers of your poor sheep, and open our ears that we may hear and live.

God’s peace,
Steven E. Anderson

No comments:

Post a Comment