It has been a Baptism heavy month here at University Lutheran with the baptisms of Tempest and Taylor, and a few upcoming Baptisms. That is definitely a reason to give thanks to God, because as we confessed together last week:
What benefits does Baptism give?
Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe, as the words and promise of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God?
Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
All Christians believe that Baptism is important, but different Christians believe different things about Baptism. There’s a great book called “Understanding Four Views on Baptism“, but here are the basics:
Arminian & Anabaptist (many Baptists, non-denominational groups, Pentecostals, Mennonites, Amish) – Baptism is an act of obedience that symbolizes the death and Resurrection of the individual believer. It does not necessarily impart any gifts, but is an action taken in recognition of those gifts being given. You may think of a graduation ceremony here. The ceremony itself doesn’t confer anything, usually even the diploma is blank at this juncture. It is later that the school issues the transcripts. Additionally, Baptism is a pledge on the part of the believer to continue in the faith – sort of like Lutheran confirmation.
Reformed (all Presbyterians, some Baptists, some non-denominational groups) – Baptism is a special extension of God’s Word, but only presents the Baptized with salvation, it does not confer or give. The Reformed see Baptism in the same way that you might see a sermon. The sermon presents you with salvation, but it takes work to listen to a sermon. We’ve all nodded off during a sermon. To the Reformed, Baptism simply presents salvation, but it takes active wrangling (like sermon listening) with the Baptism to be “regenerated” or made new.
Lutheran – Lutherans believe that Baptism actually confers or gives the benefits of Baptism (forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, eternal salvation). It does this as a function of the Word of God which makes it a Baptism. For Lutherans, the Word of God is given in forms: the written Word, the spoken Word, and the sacramental Word. Additionally, for Lutherans the Word of God is forensic, meaning that it does what it says – i.e. when a judge says “you’re sentenced to life”, it is done in the court of law.
So what do you do with this information? Well, there is no need to get rebaptized. A Baptism in the name of the Triune God is a Baptism, end of story. Different Christians simply believe different stuff is happening. We, of course, believe that the Lutheran understanding is the right understanding. However, we should never become ignorant because of our belief or allow it to be a reason for pridefulness and arrogance. We should lovingly teach our friends and neighbors what we believe in hopes that they will see those things in Scripture and turn their hearts to join in a community of confession with us.
We look forward to the day of Resurrection, when we will all have a perfect understanding and confession of the truth of God – not only about Baptism, but about all things.