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Baptism: Mere Ceremony or a Sacrament?

 Dove_webOur title may seem at first to be a silly question,
but assuredly it is not. 

In the religious world of our day doctrine is no longer a matter of Scriptural integrity but is rather a matter of popular vote. We have seen this for some time and understand well that our Lord says: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…” (2 Timothy 4:3).

Saving faith in Jesus trusts in the Spirit’s clarity, wisdom, and life-giving power. If God says it, that settles it!

Human reason is the driving force behind much of modern theology. Because of it, we see all manner of deadly practices and teachings. Dr. Martin Luther said it well when he remarked that we should poke out the eyes of our reason and hear only what God says. Saving faith in Jesus trusts in the Spirit’s clarity, wisdom, and life-giving power. If God says it, that settles it!

Let us then consider what our Lord says on His precious doctrine of Holy Baptism. “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism…”  (1 Peter 3:21a).

A simple child-like faith accepts the fact that the Holy Spirit works through Baptism as a means of His grace. “According to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…” (Titus 3:5b). The certain, clear Word of God teaches that the Holy Spirit effects a miraculous change in a sinner’s heart through Baptism. He renews us, makes us spiritually alive by creating saving faith in our hearts so that we trust in Jesus alone for salvation. Through “the washing of regeneration” the Spirit gives and seals to us the forgiveness of sins and the full salvation Jesus won for us.

Though we fail our Lord continually, His promise to us never fails. The blessings and promises we were given in Baptism do not expire.

Perhaps the biggest problem for many is understanding that this is an act of God’s marvelous grace—a concept the human mind cannot “reasonably” comprehend. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”
(1 Corinthians 2:9). Consequently, many think that Baptism is a mere church ceremony or symbolic act; they reject the Spirit’s holy teaching that Baptism is a method by which God actually confers to us the forgiveness of sins.

Our Lord directs us to employ Baptism in mission outreach, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). He also assures, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Nowhere in Scripture does our Savior give a frivolous directive concerning the blood-bought salvation He won for us, and He clearly asserts that Baptism is not a church ceremony but a sacrament through which He grants forgiveness of sins.

As the redeemed of Christ we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), trusting everything the Savior teaches and leading us to confess, “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism….” God says so, and that settles it!

He that believes and is baptized Shall see the Lord’s salvation;
Baptized into the death of Christ, He is a new creation.
Thro’ Christ’s redemption he shall stand
Among the glorious heav’nly band Of ev’ry tribe and nation.

(TLH #301:1)