Questions Listed Under Baptism

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  • 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).

  • the following is a excerpt from a recent sermon:

    "It physically makes me sick to think of all those babies being aborted across our country, knowing that the Bible makes no promises of salvation apart from baptism and faith in Jesus, those babies never had that chance!"

    My question is: Would this include the Christian parents of a miscarriage [spontaneous abortion]? Are all unborn babies, who never had an opportunity to hear God's Word or to be baptized, condemned to hell? If that is so, what Scripture reference is used to make this declaration?

         Your question is one that many people ask, and the answer given is one that does not satisfy all people.  The reason for that dissatisfaction is that people want answers to a question that the Bible does not specifically answer.           

         Here is what we do know from the Bible.  The Bible clearly teaches that all people, from conception on, are sinful and have inherited guilt in addition to a sinful nature that rebels against God.  By nature we all stand under God's judgment.

         The Bible also teaches that only God with his divine love and power is able to rescue us from that horrible situation of alienation from him.  He provided a Savior or Rescuer from sin and guilt, namely, his Son Jesus Christ.  And he gives us the gift of faith (trust, reliance) in Jesus that personally receives the blessings Jesus earned for us.  

         The Bible also tells us God chooses to create and maintain saving faith in Jesus through the gospel (good news) that he brings to us in the Bible and Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  Baptism is an instrument that God uses to give people (including infants) spiritual life to replace spiritual death.

         But what if an infant for some reason dies without being baptized?  The Bible does not provide an explicit, direct answer to that question.  We are aware of the child's sinful nature, and that might make us pessimistic about the child's future.  We also are aware of God's love for that child and his knowledge of the circumstances that prevented baptism.  That might make us optimistic.  We would not deny that God could have created saving faith in the child aside from the gospel and baptism; God can do anything.  But the bottom line does not change, does it?  The Bible does not provide explicit information on this subject.  And where God has not spoken specifically in his Word, we do well in not speaking for God.  We leave this matter in God’s hands.

  • Who can baptize? In the Catholic Church anyone can baptize in case of an emergency. Do Lutherans allow lay people to baptize?

    The power of baptism rests in Jesus' promise (John 3:5,6; Titus 3:5,6; 1 Peter 3:21), not in the person doing the baptizing. For that reason, the Lutheran church recognizes the validity of baptisms performed by laypeople. This often happens (and properly so) when there is an emergency, i.e., a situation where the candidate's survival is in doubt.

    A number of needs are met, however, by having a pastor do the baptizing. These include: good order, absolute clarity about whether the person was baptized, a clear public statement that the person is being baptized by the officiating church and into the church, and (if done in a worship service) an opportunity to remind the congregation of their own baptism and its blessings. That's why baptism by a pastor during a worship service is our normal practice.

  • The Mennonites believe that children are not lost and therefore cannot be evangelized and that they are 'spiritually safe.' They also believe that Baptism is a way a Christian shows commitment to God through Christ and then opens his or her heart to the presence of the Holy Spirit. What does the Bible say?

    The Bible never mentions or endorses the notion of children being "spiritually safe" until they reach a certain age (a concept sometimes known as an "age of accountability." Passages like Romans 5:12, John 3:5, Romans 3:23, Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:1-5, and many others testify to the sad but true teaching usually called "original or inherited sin." We all have an inherited guilt and corruption from our conception and birth, and we all need the gift of faith and new spiritual life from birth on.

    The Bible also makes it clear that baptism is primarily and preeminently a work of God, not a work or accomplishment of a human being. Notice the divine promises attached to baptism in these passages among others: Matthew 28:19-20, John 3:5, Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3-4, and Titus 3:5-6. To turn baptism into a human work (ordinance, act of obedience, way of showing commitment or joining a visible church, etc.) is common, but perverse.

    How can you convince people who hold to errors to see and rejoice in the truth that baptism is a means of grace through which God gives and strengthens saving faith, giving rebirth to those who so desperately need it? Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and give enlightenment and faith in his revealed truths. So share these passages with your friend, gently, sincerely, lovingly, and repeatedly. The Spirit works through the Word.

  • What are the origins of baptism? When did it start? Why did it start? When did baptism change from a baptism of repentance to a baptism for forgiveness?

    The sacrament of Holy Baptism was formally instituted by Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). It is one of two ways mentioned in the passage by which the Church carries out Jesus' command to "make disciples" (the other being "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"). Disciples of Jesus are made by baptizing and by teaching.

    There is no handier or better summary of the purpose and blessings of baptism than the explanation in Luther's Small Catechism, which I'd encourage you to re-read. Baptism unites us with Jesus in his death and resurrection (1 Peter 3:21, etc.). It washes away our sins and brings us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and it gives us a new birth into a glorious new life with God (Titus 3:5-6). It both empowers and symbolizes the daily repentance that characterizes the whole life of a Christian (Romans 6:1-7).

    The Christian sacrament of Baptism had precursors in various Jewish ceremonial washings and, most of all, in the baptism of John the Baptist. We don't normally speak of a "change," however, from John's baptism to that of Jesus. Both can be called a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Compare Mark 1:4 and Acts 22:16). Although John's baptism was temporary in nature (Acts 19:4) - and there is much about John's baptism that we'd like to know and don't know - in essence, it gave the same blessings that our baptism gives to us.

  • How soon after birth should parents have their baby baptized?

    The Bible does not provide an answer to your question in a way that we can set a timetable. The clear command to baptize is given, the need for faith, rebirth, and forgiveness is stressed, and the blessings of the sacrament are repeatedly highlighted. Then the matter is left to us. Unlike the instructions given to the Old Testament believers regarding circumcision, which called for the deed to be done when the child was eight days old, the New Testament does not give us a timetable to follow.

    In general, assuming the newborn child is healthy and there is no evidence of physical peril, I suspect most in our circles schedule the baptism within the first two weeks after the birth. If there is evidence of health problems, baptism is often administered as soon after birth as possible. It is also an option for parents to have the baptism performed in the hospital, as soon as possible, and then to have a public affirmation of baptism ceremony at church some time later. These are matters left up to the family in their Christian freedom. Consciences are not unnecessarily to be burdened and irresponsible "tempting of the Lord" by undue delay is to be avoided.

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