Back to the basics: Baptism

December 3-9: The institution

A very special day

Can you remember the day of your baptism? Those who were baptized as infants may remember seeing pictures and hearing stories about that day. Those who were baptized when they were older may clearly recall the sensation of water and the sound of the powerful words.

The day of a person’s baptism is a very special day. God’s Word will show us what baptism is and why our baptisms are important.


301. When we speak of the institution of Baptism, we are pointing to the time when Jesus established Baptism as a sacred act to be followed by the church. When did God institute the Sacrament of Baptism?

Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

After his resurrection, Jesus met with the apostles on a mountain in Galilee where he commanded them to make disciples by baptizing people of all nations and teaching them God’s Word.

302. What does the word baptize mean?

Mark 7:3,4 The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash [“baptize” in Greek]. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.

The word baptize, as used in New Testament times, means “to apply water in various ways: immerse, wash, pour, or sprinkle.”


A closer look

Special water is not required for Baptism. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. As Philip was teaching an Ethiopian the gospel of Jesus, they happened on a source of water and the Ethiopian asked to be baptized.

When the prison doors were miraculously opened for Paul and Silas (Acts 16:16-34), they had a chance to teach the jailer and his family about Jesus. In the middle of the night, Paul and Silas baptized the jailer’s family. They all simply used the water that was available to them.


303. Why do we say that the Sacrament of Baptism is not just plain water?

Matthew 28:19 [Jesus commanded,] “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Ephesians 5:25,26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.

Baptism is not simply plain water but water used by God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

306. Why is it important that little children also are baptized?

Matthew 28:19 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38,39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far offfor all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Little children are a part of “all nations” and, therefore, are included among those Jesus commands to be baptized.

Psalm 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Ephesians 2:3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

John 3:5,6 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Little children are by nature sinful and deserve God’s punishment. They must be born again by the Holy Spirit working through the gospel.

Mark 10:13-16 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Matthew 18:6 If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Luke 18:15-17 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Jesus invites little children to be brought to him and points to their faith. The Holy Spirit is able to work faith in the hearts of children.

307. Why are adults instructed before being baptized?

Acts 2:38,39,41 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Acts 16:29-34 (The jailer at Philippi was taught about Jesus and then was baptized.)

Acts 8:26-39 (Philip taught the Ethiopian about Jesus and about Baptism. Then the Ethiopian was baptized.)

Before baptizing adults, we teach them about Jesus and about Baptism, following the model given in the Scriptures.


December 10-16: The blessings

308. What blessings does God give through Baptism?

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 22:16 Now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

Through Baptism, God forgives sins.

Romans 6:3-5 Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Hebrews 2:14,15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Colossians 1:13 He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.

Through Baptism, God delivers from death and the power of the devil.

Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism . . . now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Through Baptism, God gives eternal salvation.

309. Jesus won forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation for us on a cross. Why do we say that Baptism works these blessings?

Galatians 3:27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Romans 6:3,5 Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

1 Corinthians 6:11 You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism . . . now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Through Baptism, we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection. Through Baptism, we receive the benefits of all that Christ has done. It is for this reason that Baptism is a means of grace.


Connections

God’s gift of Baptism brings incredible blessing. To help us better understand what is happening in Baptism, God compares baptismal waters to the waters of the flood. This might seem strange—the waters of the flood destroyed so much. But the waters of the flood did something else as well.

Genesis 7:6–8:5,15-22

The floodwaters not only destroyed—what else did they do? In 1 Peter 3:20,21, the Holy Spirit says, “In [the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also.” Explain how the flood can be a helpful picture as you think about your own baptism.

Luther

The power, work, profit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is this—to save [1 Peter 3:21]. For no one is baptized in order that he may become a prince, but, as the words say, that he “be saved.” We know that to be saved is nothing other than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil [Colossians 1:13-14]. It means to enter into Christ’s kingdom [John 3:5], and to live with Him forever. (Large Catechism, IV, par. 24-25)

God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It (Stanza 3)

Satan, hear this proclamation:
I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation;
I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled,
All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny
God, my Lord, unites with me!


December 17-23: The power

Introduction

God tells us that Baptism works incredible miracles: It gives forgiveness, life, and salvation. How can Baptism do those things? There certainly is nothing special about the water. When baptisms happen today, they do not need water from the Jordan River in Israel. The water just comes out of a faucet. The words that are used might seem so simple: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Yet Baptism does work incredible miracles. We now consider the power that is behind Baptism.

311. Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation. Why is Baptism able to offer and give such great blessings?

John 3:5,6 Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

312. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, the water would be just plain water and not Baptism. What does the holy Spirit use to work through Baptism?

Ephesians 5:25,26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.

1 Peter 1:23 You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

314. Why is Baptism called a gracious water of life and a washing of rebirth?

Ephesians 2:1 You were dead in your transgressions and sins.

John 3:3-5 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”

Titus 3:5-7 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Romans 6:4,8 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

Baptism is a gracious water of life and a washing of rebirth; by creating and strengthening faith, Baptism brings life—gives new birth—to those who were spiritually dead.


Connections

God’s Word is powerful; yet, so often, God dresses his Word in what might seem to be very humble clothing. Baptism is a wonderful example of that—powerful, yet humble looking. Such a contrast can present a challenge for humans. We most often value the powerful rather than the humble, so we don’t always recognize or appreciate the power in God’s Word. A high ranking military official of long ago faced that same challenge.

2 Kings 5:1-14

Naaman was not being baptized, but his attitude toward the command of Elisha was similar to the attitude some can have toward Baptism. What lessons do you think Naaman learned through his healing experience? In what ways can the lessons from this account help shape our attitude toward Baptism?

Luther

Here you see again how highly and preciously we should value Baptism, because in it we receive such an unspeakable treasure. This also proves that it cannot be ordinary, mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing. But the Word does it and, . . . so does the fact that God’s name is included in Baptism. Where God’s name is, there must also be life and salvation [Psalm 54:1]. So Baptism may certainly be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water. Such power is given to Baptism by the Word that it is a washing of new birth, as St. Paul also calls it in Titus 3:5. (Large Catechism, IV, par. 26-27)

God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It (Stanzas 4,5)

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine.

There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I’m a child of paradise!


December 24-31: The Meaning for Daily Life

315. What change did the holy Spirit bring about in my life through my baptism?

Romans 8:7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:4,5 Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Ephesians 4:22-24 With regard to your former way of life, . . . put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; . . . be made new in the attitude of your minds; and . . . put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In my baptism, God made me spiritually alive. He gave me a new self, a new person that loves the Lord and seeks to avoid sin.

316. What new attitude characterizes the new person within each of us?

2 Corinthians 5:17 If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:14,15 Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

Psalm 119:104,112 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

Titus 2:14 [Jesus Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Psalm 40:8 I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.

The new person in each of us is eager to do what pleases the Lord.

318. In what way does Baptism equip us to battle the old Adam in our daily lives?

Romans 6:2-4,6 We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

Romans 6:12,13 Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

In our baptisms, we were set free from slavery to sin. Our baptisms, then, have worked in us a hatred of sin, so we wish daily to put to death—to drown—our sinful nature and all of its evil desires.


A closer look

Daily we are tempted. Sometimes we stumble and fall into sin. It’s a struggle to live as a Christian. As a result, the life of a Christian is marked by contrition and repentance. Contrition is God-given sorrow over sin and recognition that we deserve his punishment for our sinful actions. Repentance is a God-given change of mind that sees sin as an enemy and trusts God’s gracious promise of forgiveness. Each day we confess our failures and sins and turn to God for his precious forgiveness. Baptism reminds us that our sins have been paid for by Jesus; we are washed and cleansed. Through Baptism, God has made us his dear children and his promises give us the strength to serve him—turning away from sin so that we can live as his children.


320. How does Baptism strengthen the new person within us for Christian living every day of our lives?

Galatians 3:26,27 In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Galatians 5:25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:14,15 Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Colossians 2:6,7 Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Baptism’s promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation motivates us to give thanks to the Lord with our entire lives.


Connections

Death makes things stop. When we die, we stop breathing, talking, and walking. By nature, we were all slaves to sin and the sinful nature within us. What could put a stop to such slavery? In Baptism, our old self was crucified with Jesus so that we don’t have to be slaves to sin anymore. We are dead to sin. Now, something entirely new comes to life—a new life, a new self.

Romans 6:1-14

The Holy Spirit says that we are now “alive to God.” List ways that a person’s life is different after he or she is baptized. Sin keeps surfacing in our lives. How can our baptisms play an important part in our daily struggles with sin?

Luther

[Baptism’s power and work] is nothing other than putting to death the old Adam and affecting the new man’s resurrection after that [Romans 6:4-6]. Both of these things must take place in us all our lives. So a truly Christian life is nothing other than a daily Baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be done without ceasing, that we always keep purging away whatever belongs to the old Adam. Then what belongs to the new man may come forth. (Large Catechism, IV, par. 65)

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This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series catechism-review

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