Lutherans believe that God works through baptism. We believe this because the Holy Spirit has testified to that work in the writings of the apostles.
What Does God Do Through Baptism?
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote that baptism joins us with Christ in his death and resurrection (Romans 6).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, he wrote that through baptism the Holy Spirit unites Christians in one body, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12).
He wrote to the Colossians that through their baptisms they had been crucified and made alive with Christ and that all their sins had been forgiven (Col. 2:11-14). He went on to say that, because they had died with Christ, they were free from regulations about what to eat and drink, and that they should set their minds on the things of heaven where their lives were hidden with Christ in God (Col 2:15-3:4).
Much later, he wrote to Titus that God saves us through baptism, which he referred to as washing of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5ff).
The Apostle Peter also taught Baptism was a work of God. “Baptism now saves you,” he wrote (1 Peter 3:18). In his sermon on the day of Pentecost he promised his listeners that if they would repent of their sins and be baptized their sins would be forgiven and they would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39).
Isn’t Baptism Just Water?
You may ask how water could do such things. You may as well ask how the Jordan river could cleanse a man of leprosy, or how a bronze snake on a pole could cure snake bite, or how spit, mud, and the water of the pool of Siloam could give sight to a man who had been born blind.
Everyone of those things happened because the word and promise of God had been attached to something. The prophet Elisha told Naaman the leper that if he washed seven times in the Jordan river he would be healed. Though his faith was so weak his servants had to talk him into it, he was healed when he did what the prophet said.
Many, many people died of snake bite before God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole so that those who looked at it would live. Those who scoffed died. While for centuries those who believed God’s promise and looked at the bronze snake survived.
Jesus spit on the ground and dabbed the resulting mud on the eyes of the blind man. Then he told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. When the man had done what Jesus told him, he was able to see.
In each case the word and promise of God were attached to something ordinary with the result that someone who believed that word experienced some sort of salvation.
Christ, himself, attached the command and promise of God to baptism. Jesus commanded the apostles to disciple the nations by baptizing them and teaching them to obey his commandments (Matthew 28:18-20). He also told them that whoever believed and was baptized would be saved (Mark 16:16).
Why Do We Baptize?
Because we believe Christ’s word and promise, Lutherans baptize expecting God to do what he said: to forgive sins, bestow his Spirit, and save those who believe from sin and death.
And that’s another part of The Lutheran Difference.