GO THEREFORE AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS. BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU…Mt. 28:19-20
All are sinful. All need to believe.
For long ages the darkness of the antichrist had been deceiving Christian Europe. The papacy had replaced Scripture with men’s teachings. God raised up reformers to bring the true Word of God back to the people. These men searched the Scriptures and God revealed the truth to them. The papacy taught that there were seven sacraments. Some of the Protestants rejected all seven, failing to take note of what the Bible teaches. The Lutheran reformers carefully studying God’s Word saw clearly two sacraments: baptism and communion. The Word shows what we call a sacrament as: sacred acts instituted by Christ, using the Word of God, with earthly elements involved, that give the forgiveness of sins. The Lutheran reformers avoided the extreme of the papacy of adding to God’s Word and also avoided the other extreme of detracting from the Word, letting human reason overrule the Scriptures. Baptism is one of the two sacraments.
What does baptism do?
In the great commission of our Lord as recorded in Matthew chapter 28, He tells us to make disciples of all nations. Following the command to ‘make disciples’ He uses two participles. The participles are ‘baptizing’ and ‘teaching.’ By this He tells us how we are to make disciples, that is by baptizing and teaching. We believe and practice this as the ancient apostolic church did.
With adults we teach and baptize. With infants we baptize and teach. In either case it is the all-powerful Word of God that makes the disciples. When we baptize an infant, the Holy Spirit creates faith in the heart with the invocation of the name of the Triune God, ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Baptizing in His name gives entrance into the family of God.
With adults we teach and baptize. It is the all-powerful Word of the Gospel which creates faith in the heart of an adult as well as in an infant. When an adult professes faith in the Christ, we baptize him. This strengthens the faith. It acts in the same manner as the sacrament of the altar or the Gospel in the Word. We teach and then baptize adults because they are able to understand language.
With infants we baptize and then teach, since they are unable to understand language and confess with their tongue. Christian parents bring their children to baptism confident of the power of the Word to create faith and at the command of Jesus. A child may later express his rejection of baptism; this is true. But it is the duty of the parents to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6:4
For whom is baptism intended?
Our teaching is the same as that taught by the apostles. Naturally then we resort to the apostles’ teaching to explain for whom baptism is intended.
First of all we see in the great commission recorded in Matthew that ‘all nations’ should be baptized. This is an all-inclusive term. We do no eliminate little children from ‘all nations.’ There is no limitation ever stated in Scripture that infants should not be baptized. It is alone man’s reason which requires ‘an age of accountability’ or ‘an age of reason and discretion.’ Instead, Peter on Pentecost says that the promise is to you and to your children. And on that day about 3000 souls were baptized, not 3000 people who were of an age of accountability. All are accountable to God for their inbred sin from conception onward. Ps. 51:5
Jesus said to let the children come to Him and not to hinder them. Mt. 19:14 He uses the word for ‘little children.’ Here our Lord indicates that the kingdom is for them also. We believe that little children are included in ‘all nations’, that they are sinful and must be born again and that they too can believe by the power of God.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” Ps. 51:5 This passage clearly tells us that children are in need of salvation from conception on. How can they be saved? Not by their parents faith, for no man can save his brother. Not because they are innocent and not sinful, because they are sinful by nature. God has given us baptism. We learn that on Paul’s second journey atPhilippi, he baptized the jailer with all his family (Acts 16:33) and Lydia with her household (Acts 16:15). It would be contrary to the normal sense of wording to exclude little children.
Wherein is the power of Baptism?
We teach our children in the catechism, “How can water do these great things? It is not the water that does them indeed, but the Word of God which is in and with the water, and faith which trusts this 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 Baptism; that is, a gracious water of life and washing of regeneration in heHoly Ghost.”
Paul in writing to Titus explains the power of baptism, “He saved us, not because of deed done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5 Our Lord told Nicodemus that he had to be born again of water and the Word. This is that regeneration in he Titus passage.
Peter also explicitly states the power of baptism, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…” I Pet. 3:21 The power of baptism is in the Word of God used. And this is a saving power. It is no mere outward ceremony, but a working on the heart, a renewal in the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a powerful lashing of us to Christ. “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Rom. 6:4
What is the method of baptizing?
Obviously, the baptism must be in the name of the Triune God as we see from Matthew 28. To be baptized into Christ Jesus means in the name of the Triune God, as commanded.
Just as there has been disagreement among Protestants on infant baptism, so there is also disagreement on the method of applying water. In both cases the problem arises because some just simply will not be students of Scripture. Instead they choose to follow the dictates of human reason.
The Lord did not specify how the water was to be applied. He did command that water must be used. There are generally three different methods of baptizing among Christians: sprinkling, pouring, immersing.
There are those who say that you must be immersed in water or you are not really baptized. They make the mistake of not considering the word ’baptize’ as it is used in the New Testament. If the word were ‘bapto’, then it would be more correctly to ‘dip, or immerse.’ But the word is not ‘bapto’, but ‘baptizo’ which is used in the New Testament in the sense of ‘washing, applying water.’ In Mark 7:2-5, Luke ll:38and Heb. 9:10 baptize is used in the sense of ceremonial washings of the Jews. And when we think of baptizing of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, He was ‘poured out’. Mt. 3:11, Acts 2:16-17
Scripture allows us to use water in various ways. We would teach all that the Bible teaches, not adding to it and not taking away from it. For instance, the method of sprinkling is fine bringing to remembrance how in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement the blood was sprinkled for cleansing of sin. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews uses this image, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Heb. 10:22 I think that Ezekiel is referring to baptism with the use of this image from the Atonement, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you;…”Ez.36:25-26
Another method of baptizing with water is pouring. This reminds us of the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples. With the water and the Word comes the Holy Spirit. We think also of, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us.” Rom. 5:5
Immersion is also another method of baptism. We even use this illustration in our catechism, “What does this baptizing with water signify? It signifies that the old Adam in us is to be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and is to die with all sins and evil lusts; and that again a new man should daily come forth and arise who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
The exact method of applying water is not as important as the fact of the necessity of being baptized, “He who believes and is baptized shall be save; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Mk. 16:16
Baptism is God working through His all-powerful Word upon the heart creating and sustaining faith. But baptism without a continuing in His Word means a loss of the forgiveness granted in the washing of regeneration. Baptism without continuing in the Word is like planting a plant in the desert. Unless you water the plant, it dies. We must continue to have the clear water of the Word that it may be come in us, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jn. 4:14