What is Baptism?--Answer.
Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.
Which is that word of God?--Answer.
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer.
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.
Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
How can water do such great things?--Answer.
It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.
What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer.
It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?--Answer.
St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
This is what we say. Baptism is about power, life, death, and new birth. By water and the Word God calls, claims, kills, and saves -- but who would know it from what generally happens at the baptismal font?
"Cooing babies, grinning parents, droplets from rosebuds, rosy faced" smiling preachers who make every aspect of baptism a cause for humor have stolen the reality of the image from the reality of the theology of what is really taking place. Parents are more worried about a fussy baby embarrassing them than about the death and new life of their children. The folks in the pews have learned to see this as Kodak moment instead of Kingdom moment. Pastors ad lib as if this were an audition for America's Got Talent instead of God literally moving heaven and earth to bring one more lost and condemned sinner aboard the ark of His Church.
But we trivialize preaching in the same way! Children's sermons hardly ever treat the real concerns of children. Our object lessons and moral prods with props seem designed instead to entertain adults. We have chosen the trivial over the weighty, the cute over the Truth, preaching "sermonettes by preacherettes for Christianettes." (p. 54)
And then we wonder why the pews are filled more with the curious than the committed, why we find more spectators than followers, and why folks are more disinterested than disciples on Sunday morning. I do not like the way we trivialize God's most serious gifts in the means of grace. It is not that I do not want to do it -- I do and I expect most Pastors do. But the liturgy constrains me (except in the pulpit). In the pulpit I must exercise my own personal discipline and, hopefully, the discipline of the people there will hold my feet to the fire. Every cutsie thing we do and every ounce of cotton candy truth that passes for the pound of Gospel we are to preach only tears down the Church and becomes an enemy of God's work and His kingdom.
At some point I pray we will awaken to realize that faithful confession means little if what we do in practice is in conflict with or trivializes what we say we believe... It is for this reason that I began this blog... first for the sake of my own church body and then in hopes that others too will hear and heed the call to Truth and Life in Him who is its way, its voice, its power, its source, and its fulfillment...