Matthew 3:13-17

Baptism. Such a word can invoke many things to many people. Some think it’s an act we do for God, that it is just to show our obedience, that it is an outward sign of an internal faith. Others just believe what the Bible says about baptism.

What is interesting is that Jesus was baptized. Now, you might say they He was baptized as a model for us to follow, as if Jesus was the ‘New Moses’ giving us new laws to imitate, but you would be wrong. Check out this post on Armourofchrist.org on the baptism of Jesus. If you like it, subscribe, and even if you don’t then feel free to let me know in the comments or Contact page. You can also subscribe to Onthepilgrimroad.com and follow the wonderful authors on there. God’s peace and blessings to you all.

Armour of Christ

When we think of baptism, we often think of our own baptisms or a new baptism in the church. We even reflect on our baptisms in our morning and evening prayers, in the Divine Service, or whenever we make the sign of the cross on ourselves. Yet how often do we think of the Baptism of Jesus? Today we will be looking at just that.

Matthew 3: 13-17

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordanto John, to be baptized by him.14But John would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”15But Jesus, answering, said to him,“Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.”Then he allowed him.16Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the…

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11 thoughts on “Matthew 3:13-17

  1. Jock McSporran

    ….. well, I think your Lutheran view of baptism (they do infant baptism) misses one very important issue: that of witness.

    I was baptised in the early 1990’s, at the Baptist church I was attending at the time, while I was working in the Republic of Ireland. The next day, everybody (including my secretary) seemed to know about it. I hadn’t said anything about it – and I was surprised by this.

    Those people coming forward to be baptised by John the Baptist were making an incredible statement – and now doubt the eyes of the Sanhedrin were on them.

    I’m not sure if you have made enough of the distinction between Baptism in the sense of what the Holy Spirit does to us and the sign with water. The two things are different.

    I don’t think that my grandfather (born 1890’s, died in the 1970’s) was baptised. He came to faith in the mid 1920’s and, as a result, gave up smoking and drinking. (So when you posted about addiction, I got the impression that you might have something of a Salvation Army background yourself). There was a strong Salvation Army influence there – and they don’t do baptism. He sent my mother to the Salvation Army Sunday school. I have no doubt that my grandfather was saved and the same is true of my mother. Being Salvation Army types, baptism simply wasn’t an issue, but there is no doubt in my mind about their salvation.

    So I do see the outward ceremony more as an issue of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s rather than something that is of fundamental importance.

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    1. We baptize in the church and the whole congregation is a witness as well as a baptismal record.

      I’m not entirely sure I understand your view that what the holy spirit does to us and the sign with water are different…

      Baptism is a means of grace because it had Gods gospel promise attached to it. It’s not that baptism is the only way that God saves but one of many due to the Gospel promise attached. So just as the word is in the water that saves, so is the word in the Gospel that saves because where God’s word is faithfully spoken and taught faith and the holy spirit are present.

      I’d recommend Luther’s Large Catechism on baptism for a great explaination on this.

      Small catechism is as follows:

      The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

      As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
      First.
      What is Baptism?–Answer.
      Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.
      Which is that word of God?–Answer.
      Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
      Secondly.
      What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer.
      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.
      Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.
      Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

      Thirdly.
      How can water do such great things?–Answer.
      It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

      Fourthly.

      What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.
      It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily 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.
      Where is this written?–Answer.
      St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

      Large Catechism is as follows:

      Holy Baptism

      1] We have now finished the three chief parts of the common Christian doctrine. Besides these we have yet to speak of our two Sacraments instituted by Christ, of which also every Christian ought to have at least an ordinary, brief instruction, because without them there can be no Christian; although, alas! hitherto no instruction concerning them has been given. 2] But, in the first place, we take up Baptism, by which we are first received into the Christian Church. However, in order that it may be readily understood, we will treat of it in an orderly manner, and keep only to that which it is necessary for us to know. For how it is to be maintained and defended against heretics and sects we will commend to the learned.
      3] In the first place, we must above all things know well the words upon which Baptism is founded, and to which everything refers that is to be said on the subject, namely, where the Lord Christ speaks in Matthew 28:19:
      4] Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
      Likewise in St. Mark 16:16: 5] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
      6] In these words you must note, in the first place, that here stand God’s commandment and institution, lest we doubt that Baptism is divine, not devised nor invented by men. For as truly as I can say, No man has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer out of his head, but they are revealed and given by God Himself, so also I can boast that Baptism is no human trifle, but instituted by God Himself, moreover, that it is most solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we cannot be saved, lest any one regard it as a trifling matter, like putting on a new red coat. 7] For it is of the greatest importance that we esteem Baptism 8] excellent, glorious, and exalted, for which we contend and fight chiefly, because the world is now so full of sects clamoring that Baptism is an external thing, and that external things are of no benefit. But let it be ever so much an external thing, here stand God’s Word and command which institute, establish, and confirm Baptism. But what God institutes and commands cannot be a vain, but must be a most precious thing, though in appearance it were of less value than a straw. 9] If hitherto people could consider it a great thing when the Pope with his letters and bulls dispensed indulgences and confirmed altars and churches, solely because of the letters and seals, we ought to esteem Baptism much more highly and more precious, because God has commanded it, and, besides, it is performed in His name. For these are the words, Go ye, baptize; however, not in your name, but in the name of God.
      10] For to be baptized in the name of God is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself. Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God’s own work. From this fact every one may himself readily infer that it is a far higher work than any work performed by a man or a saint. For what work greater than the work of God can we do?
      11] But here the devil is busy to delude us with false appearances, and lead us away from the work of God to our own works. For there is a much more splendid appearance when a Carthusian does many great and difficult works; and we all think much more of that which we do and merit ourselves. 12] But the Scriptures teach thus: Even though we collect in one mass the works of all the monks, however splendidly they may shine, they would not be as noble and good as if God should pick up a straw. Why? Because the person is nobler and better. Here, then, we must not estimate the person according to the works, but the works according to the person, from whom they must derive their nobility. 13] But insane reason will not regard this, and because Baptism does not shine like the works which we do, it is to be esteemed as nothing.
      14] From this now learn a proper understanding of the subject, and how to answer the question what Baptism is, namely thus, that it is not mere ordinary water, but water comprehended in God’s Word and command, and sanctified thereby, so that it is nothing else than a divine water; not that the water in itself is nobler than other water, but that God’s Word and command are added.
      15] Therefore it is pure wickedness and blasphemy of the devil that now our new spirits, to mock at Baptism, omit from it God’s Word and institution, and look upon it in no other way than as water which is taken from the well, and then blather and say: How is a handful of water to help the soul? 16] Aye, my friend, who does not know that water is water if tearing things asunder is what we are after? But how dare you thus interfere with God’s order, and tear away the most precious treasure with which God has connected and enclosed it, and which He will not have separated? For the kernel in the water is God’s Word or command and the name of God, which is a treasure greater and nobler than heaven and earth.
      17] Comprehend the difference, then, that Baptism is quite another thing than all other water; not on account of the natural quality but because something more noble is here added; for God Himself stakes His honor, His power and might on it. Therefore it is not only natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water, and in whatever other terms we can praise it,-all on account of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, that no one can sufficiently extol, for it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do [since it has all the virtue and power of God comprised in it]. 18] Hence also it derives its essence as a Sacrament, as St. Augustine also taught: Accedat verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum. That is, when the Word is joined to the element or natural substance, it becomes a Sacrament, that is, a holy and divine matter and sign.
      19] Therefore we always teach that the Sacraments and all external things which God ordains and institutes should not be regarded according to the coarse, external mask, as we regard the shell of a nut, but as the Word of God is included therein. 20] For thus we also speak of the parental estate and of civil government. If we propose to regard them in as far as they have noses, eyes, skin, and hair, flesh and bones, they look like Turks and heathen, and some one might start up and say: Why should I esteem them more than others? But because the commandment is added: Honor thy father and thy mother, I behold a different man, adorned and clothed with the majesty and glory of God. The commandment (I say) is the chain of gold about his neck, yea, the crown upon his head, which shows to me how and why one must honor this flesh and blood.
      21] Thus, and much more even, you must honor Baptism and esteem it glorious on account of the Word, since He Himself has honored it both by words and deeds; moreover, confirmed it with miracles from heaven. For do you think it was a jest that, when Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost descended visibly, and everything was divine glory and majesty?
      22] Therefore I exhort again that these two, the water and the Word, by no means be separated from one another and parted. For if the Word is separated from it, the water is the same as that with which the servant cooks, and may indeed be called a bath-keeper’s baptism. But when it is added, as God has ordained, it is a Sacrament, and is called Christ-baptism. Let this be the first part, regarding the essence and dignity of the holy Sacrament.
      23] In the second place, since we know now what Baptism is, and how it is to be regarded, we must also learn why and for what purpose it is instituted; that is, what it profits, gives, and works. And this also we cannot discern better than from the words of Christ above quoted: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. 24] Therefore state it most simply thus, that the power, work, profit, fruit, and end of Baptism is this, namely, to save. For no one is baptized in order that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare, that he be saved. 25] But to be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and to enter into the kingdom of Christ, and to live with Him forever.
      26] Here you see again how highly and precious we should esteem Baptism, because in it we obtain such an unspeakable treasure, which also indicates sufficiently that it cannot be ordinary mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing, but the Word does it, and (as said above) the fact that the name of God is comprehended therein. 27] But where the name of God is, there must be also life and salvation, that it may indeed be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water; for by the Word such power is imparted to Baptism that it is a laver of regeneration, as St. Paul also calls it, Titus 3:5.
      28] But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. 29] But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure?
      30] Now, they are so mad as to separate faith, and that to which faith clings and is bound, though it be something external. Yea, it shall and must be something external, that it may be apprehended by the senses, and understood and thereby be brought into the heart, as indeed the entire Gospel is an external, verbal preaching. In short, what God does and works in us He proposes to work through such external ordinances. Wherever, therefore, He speaks, yea, in whichever direction or by whatever means He speaks, thither faith must look, and to that it must hold. 31] Now here we have the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. To what else do they refer than to Baptism, that is, to the water comprehended in God’s ordinance? Hence it follows that whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us thither and binds us to Baptism.
      32] In the third place, since we have learned the great benefit and power of Baptism, let us see further who is the person that receives what Baptism gives and profits. 33] This is again most beautifully and clearly expressed in the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. That is, faith alone makes the person worthy to receive profitably the saving, divine water. For, since these blessings are here presented and promised in the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart. 34] Without faith it profits nothing, notwithstanding it is in itself a divine superabundant treasure. Therefore this single word (He that believeth) effects this much that it excludes and repels all works which we can do, in the opinion that we obtain and merit salvation by them. For it is determined that whatever is not faith avails nothing nor receives anything.
      35] But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God’s (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper’s baptism). God’s works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. 36] For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God’s command and ordinance, and besides in God’s name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.
      37] Thus you see plainly that there is here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith. Therefore they do us violence by exclaiming against us as though we preach against faith; while we alone insist upon it as being of such necessity that without it nothing can be received nor enjoyed.
      38] Thus we have these three parts which it is necessary to know concerning this Sacrament, especially that the ordinance of God is to be held in all honor, which alone would be sufficient, though it be an entirely external thing, like the commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother, which refers to bodily flesh and blood. Therein we regard not the flesh and blood, but the commandment of God in which they are comprehended, and on account of which the flesh is called father and mother; so also, though we had no more than these words, Go ye and baptize, etc., it would be necessary for us to accept and do it as the ordinance of God. 39] Now there is here not only God’s commandment and injunction, but also the promise, on account of which it is still far more glorious than whatever else God has commanded and ordained, and is, in short, so full of consolation and grace that heaven and earth cannot comprehend it. 40] But it requires skill to believe this, for the treasure is not wanting, but this is wanting that men apprehend it and hold it firmly.
      41] Therefore every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to practise all his life; for he has always enough to do to believe firmly what it promises and brings: victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, the grace of God, the entire Christ, and the Holy Ghost with His gifts. 42] In short, it is so transcendent that if timid nature could realize it, it might well doubt whether it could be true. 43] For consider, if there were somewhere a physician who understood the art of saving men from dying, or, even though they died, of restoring them speedily to life, so that they would thereafter live forever, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain, so that because of the throng of the rich no one could find access! But here in Baptism there is brought free to every one’s door such a treasure and medicine as utterly destroys death and preserves all men alive.
      44] Thus we must regard Baptism and make it profitable to ourselves, that when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body. 45] For that is the reason why these two things are done in Baptism, namely, that the body, which can apprehend nothing but the water, is sprinkled, and, in addition, the word is spoken for the soul to apprehend. 46] Now, since both, the water and the Word, are one Baptism, therefore body and soul must be saved and live forever: the soul through the Word which it believes, but the body because it is united with the soul and also apprehends Baptism as it is able to apprehend it. We have, therefore, no greater jewel in body and soul, for by it we are made holy and are saved, which no other kind of life, no work upon earth, can attain.
      Let this suffice respecting the nature, blessing, and use of Baptism, for it answers the present purpose.

      Of Infant Baptism.

      47] Here a question occurs by which the devil, through his sects, confuses the world, namely, Of Infant Baptism, whether children also believe, and are justly baptized. Concerning this we say briefly: 48] Let the simple dismiss this question from their minds, and refer it to the learned. But if you wish to answer, 49] then answer thus:-
      That the Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved from His own work, namely, that God sanctifies many of them who have been thus baptized, and has given them the Holy Ghost; and that there are yet many even to-day in whom we perceive that they have the Holy Ghost both because of their doctrine and life; as it is also given to us by the grace of God that we can explain the Scriptures and come to the knowledge of Christ, which is impossible without the Holy Ghost. 50] But if God did not accept the baptism of infants, He would not give the Holy Ghost nor any of His gifts to any of them; in short, during this long time unto this day no man upon earth could have been a Christian. Now, since God confirms Baptism by the gifts of His Holy Ghost, as is plainly perceptible in some of the church fathers, as St. Bernard, Gerson, John Hus, and others, who were baptized in infancy, and since the holy Christian Church cannot perish until the end of the world, they must acknowledge that such infant baptism is pleasing to God. For He can never be opposed to Himself, or support falsehood and wickedness, or for its promotion impart His grace and Spirit. 51] This is indeed the best and strongest proof for the simple-minded and unlearned. For they shall not take from us or overthrow this article: I believe a holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.
      52] Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. 53] This now is perhaps somewhat acute, but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is, when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word.
      54] For even though a Jew should to-day come dishonestly and with evil purpose, and we should baptize him in all good faith, we must say that his baptism is nevertheless genuine. For here is the water together with the Word of God, even though he does not receive it as he should, just as those who unworthily go to the Sacrament receive the true Sacrament, even though they do not believe.
      55] Thus you see that the objection of the sectarians is vain. For (as we have said) even though infants did not believe, which, however, is not the case, yet their baptism as now shown would be valid, and no one should rebaptize them; just as nothing is detracted from the Sacrament though some one approach it with evil purpose, and he could not be allowed on account of his abuse to take it a second time the selfsame hour, as though he had not received the true Sacrament at first; for that would mean to blaspheme and profane the Sacrament in the worst manner. How dare we think that God’s Word and ordinance should be wrong and invalid because we make a wrong use of it?
      56] Therefore I say, if you did not believe then believe now and say thus: The baptism indeed was right, but I, alas! did not receive it aright. For I myself also, and all who are baptized, must speak thus before God: I come hither in my faith and in that of others, yet I cannot rest in this, that I believe, and that many people pray for me; but in this I rest, that it is Thy Word and command. Just as I go to the Sacrament trusting not in my faith, but in the Word of Christ; whether I am strong or weak, that I commit to God. But this I know, that He bids me go, eat and drink, etc., and gives me His body and blood; that will not deceive me or prove false to me.
      57] Thus we do also in infant baptism. We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err.
      58] Therefore they are presumptuous, clumsy minds that draw such inferences and conclusions as these: Where there is not the true faith, there also can be no true Baptism. Just as if I would infer: If I do not believe, then Christ is nothing; or thus: If I am not obedient, then father, mother, and government are nothing. Is that a correct conclusion, that whenever any one does not do what he ought, the thing in itself shall be nothing and of no value? 59] My dear, just invert the argument and rather draw this inference: For this very reason Baptism is something and is right, because it has been wrongly received. For if it were not right and true in itself, it could not be misused nor sinned against. The saying is: Abusus non tollit, sed confirmat substantiam, Abuse does not destroy the essence, but confirms it. For gold is not the less gold though a harlot wear it in sin and shame.
      60] Therefore let it be decided that Baptism always remains true, retains its full essence, even though a single person should be baptized, and he, in addition, should not believe truly. For God’s ordinance and Word cannot be made variable or be altered by men. 61] But these people, the fanatics, are so blinded that they do not see the Word and command of God, and regard Baptism and the magistrates only as they regard water in the brook or in pots, or as any other man; and because they do not see faith nor obedience, they conclude that they are to be regarded as invalid. 62] Here lurks a concealed seditious devil, who would like to tear the crown from the head of authority and then trample it under foot, and, in addition, pervert and bring to naught all the works and ordinances of God. 63] Therefore we must be watchful and well armed, and not allow ourselves to be directed nor turned away from the Word, in order that we may not regard Baptism as a mere empty sign, as the fanatics dream.
      64] Lastly, we must also know what Baptism signifies, and why God has ordained just such external sign and ceremony for the Sacrament by which we are first received into the Christian Church. 65] But the act or ceremony is this, that we are sunk under the water, which passes over us, and afterwards are drawn out again. These two parts, to be sunk under the water and drawn out again, signify the power and operation of Baptism, which is nothing else than putting to death the old Adam, and after that the resurrection of the new man, both of which must take place in us all our lives, so that a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be practised without ceasing, that we ever keep purging away whatever is of the old Adam, and that that which belongs to the new man come forth. 66] But what is the old man? It is that which is born in us from Adam, angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, yea, unbelieving, infected with all vices, and having by nature nothing good in it. 67] Now, when we are come into the kingdom of Christ, these things must daily decrease, that the longer we live we become more gentle, more patient, more meek, and ever withdraw more and more from unbelief, avarice, hatred, envy, haughtiness.
      68] This is the true use of Baptism among Christians, as signified by baptizing with water. Where this, therefore, is not practised, but the old man is left unbridled, so as to continually become stronger, that is not using Baptism, but striving against Baptism. 69] For those who are without Christ cannot but daily become worse, according to the proverb which expresses the truth, “Worse and worse-the longer, the worse.” 70] If a year ago one was proud and avaricious, then he is much prouder and more avaricious this year, so that the vice grows and increases with him from his youth up. A young child has no special vice; but when it grows up, it becomes unchaste and impure, and when it reaches maturity, real vices begin to prevail the longer, the more.
      71] Therefore the old man goes unrestrained in his nature if he is not checked and suppressed by the power of Baptism. On the other hand, where men have become Christians, he daily decreases until he finally perishes. That is truly to be buried in Baptism, and daily to come forth again. 72] Therefore the external sign is appointed not only for a powerful effect, but also for a signification. 73] Where, therefore, faith flourishes with its fruits, there it has no empty signification, but the work [of mortifying the flesh] accompanies it; but where faith is wanting, it remains a mere unfruitful sign.
      74] And here you see that Baptism, both in its power and signification, comprehends also the third Sacrament, which has been called repentance, 75] as it is really nothing else than Baptism. For what else is repentance but an earnest attack upon the old man [that his lusts be restrained] and entering upon a new life? Therefore, if you live in repentance, you walk in Baptism, which not only signifies such a new life, but also produces, begins, and exercises it. 76] For therein are given grace, the Spirit, and power to suppress the old man, so that the new man may come forth and become strong.
      77] Therefore our Baptism abides forever; and even though some one should fall from it and sin, nevertheless we always have access thereto, that we may again subdue the old man. 78] But we need not again be sprinkled with water; for though we were put under the water a hundred times, it would nevertheless be only one Baptism, although the operation and signification continue and remain. 79] Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practise what we began before, but abandoned.
      80] This I say lest we fall into the opinion in which we were for a long time, imagining that our Baptism is something past, which we can no longer use after we have fallen again into sin. The reason is, that it is regarded only according to the external act once performed [and completed]. 81] And this arose from the fact that St. Jerome wrote that repentance is the second plank by which we must swim forth and cross over after the ship is broken, on which we step and are carried across when we come into the Christian Church. 82] Thereby the use of Baptism has been abolished so that it can profit us no longer. Therefore the statement is not correct, or at any rate not rightly understood. For the ship never breaks, because (as we have said) it is the ordinance of God, and not a work of ours; but it happens, indeed, that we slip and fall out of the ship. Yet if any one fall out, let him see to it that he swim up and cling to it till he again come into it and live in it, as he had formerly begun.
      83] Thus it appears what a great, excellent thing Baptism is, which delivers us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God’s own, suppresses and takes away sin, and then daily strengthens the new man; and is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory.
      84] For this reason let every one esteem his Baptism as a daily dress in which he is to walk constantly, that he may ever be found in the faith and its fruits, that he suppress the old man and grow up in the new. 85] For if we would be Christians, we must practise the work whereby we are Christians. 86] But if any one fall away from it, let him again come into it. For just as Christ, the Mercy-seat, does not recede from us or forbid us to come to Him again, even though we sin, so all His treasure and gifts also remain. If, therefore, we have once in Baptism obtained forgiveness of sin, it will remain every day, as long as we live, that is, as long as we carry the old man about our neck.

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      1. Jock McSporran

        …. well, I’ve never really understood Luther on this – Scripture is quite clear; the command is `believe and be baptised’ and it is presented in that order.

        In Romans 6 (which you quote in the blog) baptism is seen as a burial; through belief we have died to sin and baptism is equated with burial – namely, disposing of the corpse in an appropriate manner (it is unseemly to leave a dead corpse lying around unburied).

        So I don’t really understand what you mean by a `means of grace’ in this context. It was grace pure and simple that brought me into the number of the Saviour’s family; baptism was simply my obedient response to this.

        The `means of grace’ in my case was believing grandparents and believing parents – and I can see that this gave me a good push in the right direction.

        But whatever one’s background, belief is, ultimately, a gift of God. I think it was Nygren who said something along the lines of `faith is when one hears the gospel and is conquered by it’.

        My baptism has served as a sign for me ever since I was baptised; it is something I look back on; `I was baptised’ and the circumstances are important to me as a Christian.

        I like much of Luther, but I think he was wrong on this one.

        What I mean by the distinction: I’m convinced that whatever Spiritual blessing came to me through being baptised also (in some sense) came to my grandfather even though he wasn’t baptised with water (since the Salvation Army didn’t do that – at least not in his time).

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      2. Means of grace is ways that God saves through the Gospel. Faith saves because it comes from the promise of salvation, baptism saves because it too contains the promise of salvation.

        All of the passages that talk about baptism are all describing a work done to us, not a work that we are doing for God. Keep that in mind as you read passages that discuss our baptism.

        God is so overflowing with love and mercy that He gives us many means in which to receive His grace, always with the Word and never apart from the Word as faith comes by the Word and baptism and the Eucharist are not just water, bread, wine, but also have His word attached with the Gospel promise of forgiveness of sins.

        Believing (faith) and baptism are both means by which God saves, baptism is received by faith this is why it we don’t just go town to town with a firehose baptising people. Either way, every baptismal passage shoes God giving to us not us doing something for God.. check that out it’s great stuff.

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  2. Jock McSporran

    Douglas – now I am no longer sure what you believe.

    John 3v 16 states: `For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ‘

    and John 3v 18 `Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.’

    So your statement `baptism saves’ is not in line with Scripture – it is not what the gospel says.

    Scripture always says `believe and be baptised’ and always puts it in that order. Firstly you believe (and hence are saved). After that, you are baptised – baptism (in the sense of the ceremony with water) is for people who are already saved; it does not save. Scripture is quite clear on this.

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    1. Jock McSporran

      …. and (in this context) belief ultimately comes by the grace of God.

      But baptism (ceremony with water) does not save; in Scripture, it comes after the person is saved.

      In Scripture, the baptism ceremony comes immediately after belief;

      Acts 16v 33, 34 ` …… then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 ….. he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.’

      Note that the whole household had come to believe and therefore the whole household were baptised.

      They were already saved when they were baptised.

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      1. A descriptive text is not a prescriptive text. Yet what we know is that the entire household which includes children were baptized, we also know that baptism saves and brings faith but it isn’t the only way I which we are saved, or have saving faith.

        Your, mixing and confusing that there is only one way to be saved, which in a broad sense is correct as in faith, yet faith in a narrower sense comes from the Gospel promise attached to physical things. This Gospel promise is given in the Word, which is attached to 1. The reading and hearing of The Gospel 2.Baptism. 3. The holy Eucharist also strengthens faith and forgives sins as it also has the Gospel promise attached to it.

        God saves in many ways, yet, always with the word of the Promise and never without it.

        To believe as you do you have to do away with all of the texts that tell you what baptism brings and does and also disregard that it is God’s work to you, also that you would have to have a prescriptive text that says that baptism is your work of obedience, that it does nothing other than an outward showing that you are a Christian.

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      2. I think Jock doesn’t believe in any form of Baptismal regeneration. I just checked the LCMS website and it appears you guys have some understanding of it. It makes sense from the context of your guys’ conversation here. Naturally, I think this stems from John 3. However, the LCMS website also makes clear that water baptism is not necessarily needed for salvation but rather the ordinary means. There is an understanding of this in the Catholic Church as well. The lingo in the Catholic Church is Baptism by Desire and Baptism by Blood. Although the LCMS may only believe in regeneration for babies by the text here. Douglas would have to explain more on it.

        The idea in the Catholic Church of the necessity of Baptism for salvation is called Feeneyism and has been condemned. However, as the Council of Trent made clear—Baptism by water is the only means for infants for salvation because they cannot assent to the faith.

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      3. Agreed in most of what you said. Lutherans do hold that faith comes, regenerates, through baptism yes but only because it contains the Word of God. We hold that infants can have faith, as scripture is clear that John had faith in the womb, etc. This is because the Word brings, gives, and bestows faith. The rationalistic view that some hold is to try to explain away the scripture, that faith isnt a gift, it’s an act of will, one must “know”, which isn’t Scriptural and provides no comfort at all. It excludes the disabled, children, the elderly with brain disease, and honestly how much knowledge is enough? Most lay Christian’s would be excluded. Yet simple childlike faith is what God gives and it can grow stronger but ones weakness of faith is not in question, it’s just simple faith.

        I had time so I wanted to try and explain a bit in detail.

        Trying to help Jock. I’ve posted some of Mueller’s Dogmatics (which is short form Piepers Dogmatics). I would refer you to that for a longer in depth view on what I’m about to say. You’re view of baptism being our work isn’t coming from scripture, it’s coming from your worldview that you have before you come to scripture. If you look at all the baptismal passages, setting that worldview aside, letting Scripture speak for itself, you will see that God is the one doing the work. I think reading baptism as a work we do is because we are consenting to it, doing it to someone else, is like reasoning that we are doing something. that’s like saying I’m saved because I heard the Word, I read the Bible, placing faith based on your ability to hear or read and reason rather than the gift of faith given. Hope this helps.

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  3. Jock McSporran

    Douglas – I’m not doing away with any texts.

    You are the one who fails to see that Scripture always says `believe and be baptised’ in that order.

    The reason I pointedly chose the Phillippian jailer passage was not because I was drawing a principle from a descriptive, but rather because that is the passage which the Westminster confession fraudulently abuses to justify infant baptism (in the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian).

    In every passage the message is `believe and be baptised’, it is always given in that order, in the Romans 6 passage you quote baptism is regarded as a burial after we have `died to sin’ which we do through belief. I see no reason to take Paul as having a different meaning from John here (even though they are different authors).

    John 3v16 equates belief with eternal life.

    The big piece that your are missing and where you seem to get confused: you never address the the question what we are saved for.

    We don’t expect the heavenly life once we get to heaven to be simply a matter of sitting around feeling `good vibes’ and soaking in the heavenly bliss. Salvation is only the beginning of the story; firstly we are saved through belief and then God prepares us for His service so that we will be ready for the heavenly life when we get there.

    This is where baptism (along with much else) comes in. Baptism does bestow a blessing; baptism is a means of grace, by which God, having saved us, makes us fit for his service.

    If you understand it in this way, then all these passages that you mention which talk about baptism make sense – and they don’t contradict the basic message of John 3v16 either.

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  4. Jock McSporran

    Douglas – one last point (because perhaps I’m writing too much here).

    In your original post, you point out that Jesus was baptised – and this seems (in your view) to be something surprising.

    Was Jesus saved before he was baptised? Well, I think we’d all agree that the answer is yes.

    What did baptism do for him? Well, his baptism occurred at the beginning of his ministry – and immediately after his baptism he went into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights where he was tempted by the devil. While he was fully God, he came in the flesh with all the frailty of the flesh and, by his baptism and the grace he received by it, he was strengthened to withstand the devil , in the same way as a believer who has come to faith (and is therefore saved) is strengthened for the the tasks that God intends.

    If you take the view that baptism is for believers – people already saved – then the fact that Jesus was baptised presents no problems.

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