This next week, we at University Lutheran will be working side by side with several other Christians as we put on the FSU Luau together. This often becomes an opportunity to ask questions about other Christians and to answer questions that they have about what Lutherans believe. One of those questions that comes up is “do believe that you have to be baptized to be saved?”
This past Sunday we confessed the 2nd part of Baptism from the Catechism:
What benefits does Baptism give?It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises 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.”
It is interesting the way that Jesus puts it. He says “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”. This certainly seems to answer the question. What does it look like to be saved? Well, according to Jesus, it looks like believing and being baptized. But wait . . . when He talks about being condemned, he doesn’t mention being baptized at all, he just says “whoever does not believe . . .”. So which is it? Do you NEED to be Baptized or not?
Well, it is obvious that God has saved people outside of Baptism. All of those folks in the Old Testament who were saved, the thief on the cross, etc. So it’s not an exclusive claim, but rather it is an “inclusive claim”. In the first part of the statement, Jesus links Baptism with belief. He says that the person “who believes and is Baptized” will be saved. It’s like when someone asks you, “are you hungry?” when you’re sitting down at the restaurant. If you say yes, there is no question that you will be eating. Eating is is the function of being hungry. Baptism is the function of belief.
But like being hungry and eating, this isn’t exclusive. Sometimes we sit down to eat not because we are hungry, but because it is time to eat. Have you ever had one of those moments where you start to eat, and you actually find yourself getting hungrier, because the process of eating is waking up your digestive system? That’s what it is like to be Baptized as well. God gives us our first taste of grace in that Baptism, He gives us belief by His Holy Spirit, and it makes us hungry for more.
So maybe the next time that someone asks you what you believe about Baptism, you can ask them in return, “well, are you hungry?“