Baptism--immersion, reaffirmation, vows

Why does Martin Luther describe baptism as immersion when the Lutheran Confessions say that sprinkling constitutes a valid baptism?

Luther often expressed the opinion that baptism by immersion would provide a better symbol of "drowning the Old Man" [our sinful nature] than baptizing by pouring or sprinkling water, but he also stated that immersion was not necessary for a valid baptism. Luther often referred to baptism by pouring, however, and his own order of baptism prepared in 1523 specified baptism by pouring.

The Lutheran Church chose not to follow Luther's preference for immersion, and he himself seems to have become less committed to the idea later in his life.

It is likely that two factors prevented the Lutheran Church from adopting baptism by immersion. Tradition favored baptism by pouring, and the insistence of some sects that baptism must be by immersion prompted the Lutherans to retain baptism by pouring as a testimony against this false demand.

At any rate, there is abundant evidence that Luther never believed baptism must be by immersion.


Please speak about the practice of reaffirmation of baptism.

Because baptism is the sacrament of rebirth, it is done only once. If a person has been validly baptized, there should be no second application of the water of baptism.

Because baptism is God's promise to us, not our promise to God, the church should not do anything that gives the impression that any subsequent action of ours can make a baptism more valid than it already is.

If a child has been baptized at the hospital, no further rite is necessary. If the family and congregation choose to have a prayer in the service asking God's continued blessing on the child and recognizing that the child has been received as a member of the congregation, there is nothing wrong with this.

The term "reaffirmation," however, can give the impression that the baptism was a promise we made that we are now repeating. Any ceremony performed to recognize a baptism should focus attention on what God did in the baptism, not on the actions of sponsors or witnesses. Our baptismal rite is designed to emphasize the action of God in baptism. Any secondary ceremonies should do the same.


Why has the renunciation of the devil been eliminated from the baptismal rite in our hymnal?

One reason that some elements from the old rite were omitted from Christian Worship was to keep the order brief.

Another reason was that addressing questions to an infant's sponsors led some people to think this required the infant to make a promise to God before baptism.

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