Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baptism: A Very Splendid Thing

Dr. Martin Luther on Baptism:

Therefore our Baptism is of permanent value. Although someone falls from its grace and sins, we nonetheless always have access to it that we may again subdue the old man. But we must not be sprinkled with water again; for although we were immersed in water a hundred times, it would nonetheless be no more than one Baptism. The effect and significance of the Sacrament continue and remain. Hence repentance is nothing but a return and approach to Baptism—in order to repeat and practice what we had previously begun but later abandoned.

I say this in order to keep people from falling into the notion which we harbored for a long time when we imagined that Baptism is something of the past which we could no longer use after we had again fallen into sin. This is the result of looking only at the act that is performed once. It arose from what St. Jerome wrote: that repentance is the “second plank,” on which we must swim forth and go to the other side after the foundering of the ship on which we embark and cross over when we enter the Christian Church. Now, these words deprive Baptism of its usefulness, so that it can no longer benefit us. Therefore the statement is not correct; for the ship never founders, because, as I have said, it is God’s ordinance and no device of our own. But it may happen that we slip and fall out of the ship. However, if anyone falls out, let him see to it that he swims up to it again and clings to it until he again comes into it and sails on in it, as he had formerly begun to do.

Thus we see what a very splendid thing Baptism is. It snatches us from the jaws of the devil, makes us God’s own, restrains and removes sin, and then daily strengthens the new man within us. It is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this state of misery to eternal glory. For this reason everyone should consider his Baptism as his daily dress, to be worn constantly. Every day he should be found in the faith and its fruits, suppressing the old man, and growing up in the new; for if we want to be Christians, we must practice the work whereby we are Christians. But if anyone falls from baptismal grace, let him return to it. For as Christ, the Mercy Seat, does not withdraw from us or forbid us to come to Him again even though we sin, so all His treasures and gifts also remain with us. When, therefore, we have once received the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, it stays with us day by day as long as we live, that is, as long as we drag the old man about with us. (W 30 I, 221 f -E 21, 140 f-SL 10, 133 f)

Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, (St. Louis: CPH, 1959) §163, 60-61.


Anonymous said...

I have an 18 year old son who thinks about these types of questions. He is pretty solid in his Lutheran understanding of the Christian faith but is fascinated by these types of physica/metaphysics questions and how they "jive" with his faith.

Would you recommend this book to him?


Scott Diekmann said...

Hi Barb. I think your comment refers to Dr. Garlick's book, The Journey to Truth. The book has some interesting tidbits on scientific findings in it, but too much speculation in it for my liking. If you go to the website Answers in Genesis, they have book reviews. You'll likely find one there that would interest him: