What is Baptism?
Baptism is a Sacrament which Jesus instituted for all Christians (Matthew 28:19). It is practice of washing the Christian with water in the name of the one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism, without the powerful Word of God, is nothing. But with the Word of God it is true life-giving water!
What is the purpose of Baptism?
Baptism is much more than an “initiation rite” as some Christians confess. Baptism is not a “duty” Christians need to fulfill; it is a gift we receive from Jesus! And it is a gift that Christians receive gladly! After all, Baptism gives the Christian forgiveness of sins and faith through the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, Titus 3:5-8). Furthermore, the Bible confesses that Baptism is the means by which Jesus saves us from our sins and grants us everlasting life (Mark 16:16, Romans 6:4, 1 Peter 3:21-22)!
Do I need to be baptized to go to heaven?
The answer is yes* with an asterisk. The Bible clearly states that Baptism saves us (Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21-22). Christians, as disciples of Jesus, will desire to be baptized because that’s what Jesus desires for His disciples (Matthew 28:19).
But there is an asterisk here. Can Jesus save someone without Baptism? Of course He can! Jesus is God and He gets to do whatever He wants! One of the most famous examples of this comes from Luke 23:39-43, in which Jesus proclaims to the thief on the cross that He would be in paradise that day. Almost certainly this thief was never baptized. How about all the children today that perish in their mother’s womb? Can they not be saved because they were never baptized? We believe that even these little children can be saved because God can give the gift of saving faith to anyone – even in the womb (Luke 1:15)!
With that being said, this should not be an excuse for any Christian to avoid Baptism. Jesus wants us to be baptized; a true Christian will be baptized with the life-giving water that saves us!
Can Baptism save you without faith?
No. The Bible clearly states the importance of faith in Baptism (Mark 16:16). We do not believe that Sacraments produce forgiveness or salvation without faith.
Why then do Lutherans baptize infants?
The Bible teaches that infants and babies still in the womb can have true, saving faith (Luke 1:15, Luke 1:39-44)! There is an important distinction at work here: Lutherans do not define faith as understanding who Jesus is. We do not define faith by one’s own personal feelings towards Jesus. Faith is not even the public declaration in front of others that “Jesus is Lord!”*
All these: feelings, understanding, and declarations require us to “meet God halfway” in order to be saved. But if this is what saving faith is, could individuals with special needs be saved? Some might not be able to mentally comprehend who Jesus is. Could infants or children still in the womb? They certainly cannot make a public declaration of faith.
Lutherans instead define faith for what it is – a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 12:2, Romans 10:17). Over and over in the Scriptures we hear that we are not responsible for creating faith in ourselves. Rather faith is something we receive from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). In other words, if you say “I believe in Jesus,” you cannot take credit for that statement. That is evidence of God working within you for it is God Himself who has given you that confession! Furthermore, Lutherans do not say things like “I accepted Jesus in my heart when I was __ years old.” This implies that salvation is based on one’s personal choice to follow Jesus. But that is far from the truth! The Bible tells us the exact opposite! It is God who has chosen us from the beginning for our salvation (Ephesians 1:4-5, Jeremiah 1:5)!
The Bible describes faith not as something we produce in ourselves, but rather as something we freely receive. Therefore, like a baby who receives the gift of tiny Christmas pajamas under the Christmas tree, an infant who cannot even speak yet can indeed receive the gift of faith. This is why Lutherans follow the practice of the earliest Christians and baptize babies. For indeed, we believe that Baptism with true faith saves (Mark 16:16). And as Jesus Himself says, “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14).”
* Although certainly these things are evidence of the faith we have received from Christ (Romans 10:9-10).
I would like to be baptized. What now?
The best place to start would be to reach out at Pastor Peter Deberny at ‘pastor@graceinmb.org.’ You may also call the office at (631) 281-8196. We are so excited that God has given you this desire! Another baptism means another brother and sister in heaven forever! We also believe that baptism is not the end of the Christian life, it is the beginning. If you are baptized at Grace Lutheran Church, we want to welcome you into our family of faith. We want to care for you and support you. We hope that you will come worship with us so that we can meet you in person! We’ll see you soon!