Questions Listed Under Baptism

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  • My wife and I got married a couple years ago. The Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to become parents. My wife is due in February. She was raised Roman Catholic and her family is probably not going to be overly excited that we will be baptizing our child in the WELS church. Before we got married I made it clear that if/when we had children that they would have to be baptized WELS. To prepare her for this we went through the training and studies for her to become a member of our church. She has yet to express interest in becoming a member of our WELS congregation but knows it will come up soon. I am curious how I should address this when her family asks about baptism and the ensuing conversation that is guaranteed to take place. One note, my wife's family thinks they are devout Catholics, but the lack of discussion about their faith outside of church and the way my wife has always talked about church - going on Sundays is all that really matters. I have made a mental checklist of all the things that differ in our religions - i.e. being saved by grace alone, beliefs about the Pope and his duties/abilities, praying to Mary, and the one I don't want to bring up, recent and past troubles of the Catholic church.

    My question is how to go about bringing this up to both her, as well as being the one to bring it up to her family. I don't want to make her feel like I'm pressuring her and I don't want to make the wrong impression on her family. I truly believe raising my children in the WELS church is going to make it easier for them to be a lifelong member of the church built on a solid foundation of faith.

    I look forward to your feedback and appreciate this outlet. I will be asking my pastor as well but wanted to get a couple different viewpoints. I don't mind if you use my question, whether you reprint it anywhere or not, just please do not include my last name.


    I am glad to hear you will be addressing this with your pastor.  In many responses to questions, I encourage the questioner to consult with his/her pastor.  Because you will be doing just that, my response does not need to be extensive.

    It sounds like you made your position clear regarding the raising of children before you and your wife married.  I do not have information from you indicating that your fiancée at the time rejected that position.  Rather, it seems that she agreed with that and even went so far as attending Bible Information Classes, even though she has not become a member.  (And that is the subject of another conversation:  discussing with her what is preventing her from joining the congregation with you.)

    Honest, open communication with your wife and her parents about the baptism of your child is paramount.  Reminding all of the conversation(s) you had with your wife will be helpful.

    Perhaps what can also be helpful is an understanding of what baptism is and is not.  Baptism is a means by which God brings people into the Christian Church, not merely a denomination.  While baptism may also establish membership in a congregation of a denomination, the sacrament joins people to Christ and makes them members of his kingdom.  Jesus, of course, commissioned his followers to baptize and to teach—to teach “them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).   This is where the follow- up instruction to baptism is so important.  You made it clear that you wanted the instruction to be that of the Lutheran Church, citing some of the errors of the Roman Catholic faith.

    Finally, what you may find helpful is a recent publication from Northwestern Publishing House:  A Lutheran Looks at Catholics.  This book - in hard copy or eBook format - will provide a fuller picture of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and perhaps give you ideas on how to proceed in the conversations with your in-laws.  I do pray for the health of your wife and your unborn child, and ask for God’s blessings on your family.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.


  • Do you practice infant baptism?

    Yes, we baptize infants.  We do so because they have a need for forgiveness (Psalm 51:5), they too are included in the command to baptize “all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20), and they can believe through the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 18:6; Luke 18:15-17).  We are grateful that God has this means of reaching out to infants and including them in his kingdom.

    If you would like to read a longer response to your question, here is an eight-page paper that addresses the subject.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.

  • Where does it say in Scripture that Baptism creates faith?

    We will not find a passage in the Bible that states specifically and succinctly:  “Baptism creates faith.”  We know that baptism is a faith-working act on God’s part by looking at several Bible passages and seeing how they relate to baptism.

    The Bible explains that people enjoy the forgiveness of sins and eternal life by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ his Son (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:28).  The Bible states that baptism gives people those very blessings of life and forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Peter 3:21).  Baptism gives those blessings because of the powerful word of God that is attached to the water.

    Since the Bible teaches that we enjoy salvation only through faith in Christ, and since the Bible teaches that baptism saves us and washes away our sins, we can rightfully say that baptism creates the faith that connects us to Jesus and brings into our lives all the blessings he won by his holy life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.

    We have every reason to grow in our appreciation for baptism by which we are clothed in Jesus’ robe of righteousness (Galatians 3:27).

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.


  • I know that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Most of us have received the Holy Spirit at baptism (usually as an infant). Must we be baptized to receive the Holy Spirit? There are those who argue against baptism by pointing to the thief that was crucified next to Jesus. Jesus Himself was baptized. Baptism is one of our two Sacraments.

    Must we be baptized to receive the Holy Spirit?  No.  The Holy Spirit works through the gospel (Romans 10:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  The gospel is in the form of the Word only or the Word attached to earthly elements—the sacraments.  So, the Holy Spirit worked in our hearts when we were baptized, and the Holy Spirit continues to work in our hearts when we come into contact with the Bible and when we receive Holy Communion.

    The account of Cornelius (Acts 10) provides an example of people receiving the Holy Spirit apart from baptism.  “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:44).  Cornelius and his household were then baptized.  Certainly the Holy Spirit came to countless people through the Word in Old Testament times, before Jesus instituted baptism.

    And that brings me to your reference to the thief on the cross.  Those who use that incident as an argument against baptism fail to realize that Jesus did not institute baptism until after his resurrection.  Rather than minimizing baptism’s significance, that account underscores the magnificent grace and mercy of the Lord, receiving penitent, faith-filled sinners into his kingdom.

    We have many reasons to thank and praise the Holy Spirit for his work in our hearts and lives.  We pray that he would work through the gospel in the hearts and lives of many others.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.


  • How can I explain to a nondenominational pastor as to why the WELS baptizes infants? How can I show this nondenominational pastor from the Bible, beyond Psalm 51:6, why infant baptism is so vitally important?

    Psalm 51:6 does demonstrate the need for the Holy Spirit’s work in infants:  they inherit a sinful nature when their lives begin; they have a need for the forgiveness of sins.  Other passages and truths that you could pass along are:

    Matthew 28:19.  Jesus instructs us to baptize “all nations.”  This includes infants and children.  There is nothing in Jesus’ command that would lead us to withhold baptism from infants.

    Matthew 18:6.  Jesus explains that little children (the Greek word also includes infants) believe in him.

    Mark 10:14.  Jesus wants little children brought to him.  Through faith in him they are part of his kingdom.

    Acts 2:38-39.  Baptism washes away the sins of young and old.

    Titus 3:5-6.  Forgiveness is God’s work.  Through the Holy Spirit’s working in baptism God washes away sins.

    Ephesians 2:8-9.  Salvation is through faith in Jesus alone.  Faith in Jesus is a gift of God.  God gives faith.  No one decides to invite Jesus into his or her heart. 

    If we understand that God grants faith, then God, through the gospel, can come to people of all ages and give them faith.  When God does that for infants, it will take time before they have the mental and physical abilities to express the faith God gave them.

    As you share these passages, keep in mind your role and responsibility—neither you nor I can change someone’s thoughts about baptism.  We can relay God’s truths, but only God can change people’s convictions and beliefs.  God bless your witnessing to the truth.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.

  • I see how thinking little of baptism rejects God's promises and his saving grace in word and sacrament because according to Acts 2:38-39 and Gal 3:26-27 he promises the Holy Spirit in connection with baptism. My question is why in Acts 8:15-16 didn't the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit, even though they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus? Please help!

    Baptism is the wonderful working of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts through water and the word (Titus 3:5-6).  In Acts chapter 8 the Samaritans who are mentioned had been baptized.  That meant they enjoyed the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts; the Spirit was dwelling in them (1 Corinthians 3:16).  But there was no outward evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence, such as we see earlier in the book of Acts.

    So Peter and John prayed.  Their prayer was answered when the apostles laid their hands on the Samaritans, and the Spirit’s presence was manifested by his special gifts (1 Corinthians 12).  We are not told what particular gift(s) graced these people’s lives.

    The account is definitely a unique one, and yet we can focus on this clear truth:  the account shows that the old barrier between Jew and Samaritan was gone.  It illustrates that the Church is one; the gospel and the gift of the Holy Spirit are for all nations.  For that, you and I are very thankful to God.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.

  • If God's will can be resisted when he works through means, is it possible for a baby to resist the salvation given in baptism? If he can believe, can he not believe?

    Our churches do not teach an irresistible grace or an irresistible working of the Holy Spirit through the gospel in word and sacrament.  So we would acknowledge that it is conceivable or sadly possible that an infant might somehow despise the gift of faith truly promised, offered, and given in baptism.

    On the other hand, we are well aware of the kind of confidence Galatians 3:26-27 expresses: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." So we express confidence that the child believes but ultimately leave the matter in God’s hands and simply do what he told us to do--and trust his promises.  And then we follow up on baptism with instruction in the word (Matthew 28:19-20).

    We carry out our responsibilities:  proclaiming the word and administering the sacrament.  We recognize that the results of our proclamation and administration are beyond our control.  But again, we put our trust in God’s promises.

    Since Scripture does not say any more on this subject, we content ourselves with what God has revealed.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.

  • Hello! My boyfriend told me he would like to get baptized again. He mentioned the desire to become baptized again was strengthened after reading his devotional, which was a passage in Romans. He has recently read The Purpose Driven Life and feels his faith and journey in and with Christ has been strengthened and renewed. Please clarify WELS' belief on the need for only one baptism. Thank you.

    If baptism were something we did for God, we might want to be baptized again—and again.  But, the truth of the matter—the biblical truth—is that baptism is something God does for us.  Through baptism God comes to people and gives them faith, life and forgiveness (Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).

    While Jesus tells us to receive the Lord’s Supper often, there is no command, or even example, in the Bible that tells us we are to be baptized more than once.  The book of Romans speaks of baptism as a singular event in our lives (Romans 6:1-2).  That may or may not have been the basis of the devotion your boyfriend read.  I don’t know.

    The blessings of baptism last a lifetime—even beyond.  If at some point in our life we gain a new appreciation for baptism, that is reason to think all the more of how greatly God blessed us at baptism, not a reason to be baptized again.

    Perhaps your boyfriend read that infant baptism is not valid.  In that case, the material he read was not accurate.  Again, baptism is what God does for people.  Through water and the word he comes to people, even infants, and brings his blessings.  How grateful we are for that. 

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.

  • As I have searched the New Testament Scriptures it appears to me that once a person has heard the gospel message of Jesus being their only way of salvation and believing that He is God and died on the cross to save each and every one of us and that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that a person comes to believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior, thereupon that person is baptized. This is referred to as a Believer's Baptism. I don't see any clear examples in the New Testament of children who have not yet come to believe in Jesus as Lord being baptized. Yet Lutherans emphatically believe that baptism of babies saves them even before they understand what sin is. Please explain

    We baptize babies because they are included in the Great Commission, which is a general command, "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" (Matthew 28:19, also see Mark 16:15-16).

    Scripture does not exclude infants from baptism, rather it indicates that they need to be baptized because they are conceived and born in sin, and they need to be born again to enter the kingdom of God (Psalm 51:5, John 3:5-6). Through baptism the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith and brings the gifts of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation (Titus 3:4-7, 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38-39). We should never deprive children of baptism, "the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."

    On the day of Pentecost when Peter told the gathered crowd, "Repent and be baptized," he also said, "The promise is for you and your children" (Acts 2:38-39). Children were included in the command and promise Peter spoke. St. Paul draws a parallel between Old Testament circumcision and baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). Babies in the Old Testament era were to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth.

    When we understand that faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), we will recognize that God can give faith even to the very young, and he does.  The gift of faith is given; people do not do anything to receive a gift.  In the case of infants who are baptized, those children will understand and express their faith as their physical and mental capabilities enable them to.  In time they will not only confess their sins, but they will confess their faith in the God who brought them to faith.

  • If WELS doctrine states that one is saved through baptism, why did Christ have to take on the fashion of a man and die on the cross for our sins?


    Jesus, the eternal Son of God, became man to live our life and die our death.  He became a human being to live perfectly—as we are supposed to—and to take on himself the punishment we deserved for failing to live perfectly.

    Jesus fulfilled his mission flawlessly.  “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).  “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

    Jesus won forgiveness of sins, but faith in him is necessary to enjoy personally the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:38).  Since baptism works saving faith in Jesus and brings into people’s lives the blessings he won, we can say that “one is saved through baptism.”  And finally we are saying nothing more than what Scripture says:  “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” (Titus 3:4-6).

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