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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What Makes a Lutheran All Wet?

Greetings and welcome to another installment of "What Makes a Lutheran?"! For the next few months I thought it would be a good idea to discuss what all of your inquiring friends are asking about around the water cooler, "What do Lutherans believe about the sacraments?" This month we will look at baptism, next month the Lord's Supper, and then finally, we will look at the sacrament of absolution.

When I was in college, I had a huge struggle with this idea that baptism can save us. "Salvation by baptism?" I thought, "You Lutherans are all wet! We are only saved by Christ and his work on the cross!" And of course this is true. We are saved solely by the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. If anyone says there is salvation somewhere else, they are not Christians. However, when we look at Christ's sacrifice on the cross, a question comes up, "How do I know He died for me?" This is a question I am sure that we all have asked at one point or another. We know that Christ died for the whole world, but then we read in Ephesians 1:4-5 about predestination and how God chose certain people to be saved. Though St. Paul is using these verses to comfort the Ephesians, we read them and worry that we might not be part of those who are chosen to be in heaven. Though it is intended to comfort us, this doctrine of predestination often frightens us. We then ask ourselves, "How do I know I am chosen, how do I know I am among the elect?"

Too often when we think about predestination we try to figure out God's hidden plans. The problem is that we are trying to figure out the secret mind of God when he has already revealed the answer to our question. How do we know that we are among the elect? We know because God told us so in our baptisms! In Romans 6:4, Paul tells us we are buried with Christ in baptism and raised to a new life! In I Peter 3:21 the Apostle tells us that baptism now saves us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. See, in baptism, God shows you that Christ died for you because there he kills your old, sinful self with Christ on the cross and raises you from the dead to a new life in Christ! In the waters of baptism, God gives Christ to you! There you are made clean and made righteous in God's eyes because there the salvation won on the cross is applied to you! You don't have to try and figure out if you are among those who are predestined any longer, God has shown you that you are among the elect because he made you His in your baptism, He actually selected you right there!

One other question will come up in regard to baptism. Everyone wants to know why in the world we baptize infants. It is pretty easy, we believe all people, even babies, are sinners in need of a savior. Christ commanded us in the Great Commission to baptize all nations. He didn't say, "Baptize all nations... Oh, wait! But not babies!" Babies are sinners just like everyone else. Baptism is God's way of calling them to be his children.

Baptism is God's work, not ours. When we have the water and the Word together we have a baptism that saves people from sin, death, and hell. Is it just because we get water on our heads? No, but because God has attached his promise of salvation through Jesus Christ to that water. In the waters of baptism God brings Christ to you. We can trust in God's promise in baptism, knowing that there he gives salvation to us. I hope this all makes sense and that you don't think I am all wet. But if you do, my door is always open! Come on by and we can talk about it some more!

Pastor Bob

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Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email