We believe, teach, and confess that Baptism is the work of the Lord Jesus [Ephesians 5:25,26] in which He gives the forgiveness of sins, rebirth, and salvation. [St Mark 16:16; St John 3:5; Acts 2:38,39; 22:16; Roman 6:3,4; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21] In baptism God puts His triune name upon us, graciously making us His children. [St Matthew 28:19; Galatians 3:26,27] Following the Lord’s Word, we baptize infants. [St Matthew 28:19, ‘all the nations’; Acts 2:39, ‘and to your children’]
In The Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains the Bible’s teaching on Baptism this way: “Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water included in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.” “It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”
Just as birth from the womb was a gift from God so also our new birth through baptism is a gift. We did not cause our natural birth, and we do not cause our rebirth. In fact, since we were dead in our trespasses and sin, our consent or cooperation isn’t even possible. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ is pure gift. (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Whether it is a lot of water or very little, when water is accompanied by God’s Word, God delivers on His promises. Peter declared God’s promise when he proclaimed, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39) Forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit are what’s promised to us by God Himself, given in what looks like simple water.
In Holy Baptism, God delivers to us the forgiveness Christ worked on Calvary’s cross. Therefore, Baptism is a means of God’s grace, a way God delivers His gifts to us. Baptism, therefore, is not an act of man; it is God’s work on our behalf. Although we are the ones being baptized, God is the active One who is doing the work, forgiving our sins and creating saving faith in us. It is a sacred act because God is acting on us through the Word in the water.
Since Baptism gives forgiveness of sins, it also frees us from the eternal consequences of our sins. Clothed in Christ and His righteousness, we share in His life and resurrection (Galatians 3:27). Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) forgiveness means that the penalty of death has been paid for us. We died when we were baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). We may yet face physical death, but because of Christ, death has now lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-56.) Death, for the Christian, is now the portal to eternal life. Just as our bodies were washed with the water of baptism, so our bodies will share in the resurrection of Christ at the last day (Romans 6:4-8) and we will live forever with Him.