Stay on the Rails Grasshopper

I was in a couple discussions on facebook this morning (actually, I still am participating in them) and a couple of the following statements popped up.

"the sacraments are a true means of grace applied by the Spirit to the elect only. many were circumcised that received no grace. many are baptized that are still without the grace of God." ~Facebook User

"The offspring of believers are born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, have been adopted into the covenant of eternal life. Nor are they brought into the Church by baptism on any other ground than because they belong to the body of the Church before they were born. He who admits aliens to baptism profanes it, for how can it be lawful to confer the badge of Christ on aliens from Christ?... Baptism must therefore be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause of half salvation merely, but gives salvation entire, and this salvation is afterward ratified by baptism." ~John Calvin (Refutation of the 'Adultero-German Interim Declaration' on the True Method of Reforming the Church)

Here is where Reformed Theology goes off the rails in their Sacramentology. In essence, presuppositions and Covenant Theology ends up getting in the way of very clear Scriptures.

I'll address the facebook comment first, then Calvin. The problems with the first statement are numerous. The first problem is obvious: Where does Scripture *ever* use the sort of language that the Sacraments are means of grace applied only to the elect? Does this mean that the Sacraments are only means of grace insofar as a person's election is concerned? Does this mean that the Sacraments are not means of grace for all the persons who are baptized but not elect? In Reformed Theology the answer is yes to both of these questions. This betrays an overarching hermeneutic and first premise of doing theology that taints the Reformed interpretation of certain passages.

Basically, if "x" then therefore "y" must be true. The problem is that in practice, this equates to, "if unconditional election is true and the P in the TULIP is true, then Baptism and the Eucharist are only gracious for those people alone." But where is this in Scripture? Likewise, how can we ever have any objective assurance from the Sacraments if this is the case? So much for divine promise in the Sacraments. Once again, a person ends up being forced to look inwardly at himself to have assurance of salvation and election.

The second part of the statement is misguided as well because it once again assumes the same presuppositions. Again, where does Scripture ever say that there are numerous baptized persons who never received the grace of God? It doesn't say that anywhere. Now, it certainly is true that many baptized persons fall away and are lost. But this does not mean they never received the grace of God, especially since we are talking about a Holy Scripture that gives warning after warning of people falling away from the faith.

Ultimately, the whole statement ends up being an assumption based solely on the Reformed view of election and perseverance. But the statement is not Scriptural.

Calvin's statement is worth addressing as well. Read Calvin closely. He is essentially pitching a stance known in Reformed circles as "presumptive regeneration." In other words, Calvin is saying that they baptize infants *because they're already regenerate.* In short, your children are already saved, that's why they baptize them.

This is nothing more than Baptist Theology wearing a black Geneva gown. Calvin would have you believe that Baptism is only to be administered to regenerate persons. How much different is this than Baptist Theology? Not much. No wonder Lutherans have historically referred to the Reformed as sacramentarians (anti-Sacramental).

The much larger problem is that Calvin directly contradicts Scripture. In a Holy Scripture where it repeatedly insists that it is Baptism itself that buries us and raises us in faith with Christ (Ro 6:3-4, Col 2:12, Gal 3:27, etc), saves us (1Pe 3:21), and regenerates us (Ti 3:5), Calvin would have us believe the direct opposite. That is, we are baptized because we are already buried and raised with Christ.

And contradicting Scripture is indeed a massive problem.



A-Ha Moments from Calvinism to Lutheranism Pt. II

My next “a-ha” moment came when I was challenged to take the Scripture in Matthew 26:26-27 plainly: "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said,Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”

Now, all of evangelicalism – including the Reformed – do not take this as a literal body and blood meal of Christ. They either take it as a memorialist (or Zwinglian) view (evangelicals), or a spiritual meal (the Reformed). Why do this? It all goes back to the dispute between Luther and Zwingli, which caused an inevitable wall between Lutherans and the rest of evangelicalism that has never been breached. I must admit I believed the “spiritual presence” view as a Reformed believer. And I did so without reflection or study, because it all seemed so “rational and reasonable”. After all, Christ's physical body must be in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, and can't be in two places at once. Right? Well, not so fast. There's this small issue of God doing anything He wants in accordance with His Word. And since we take Scripture at its face, unless the genre or context demands otherwise, then we have no reason not to accept the plain statement that the body and blood of Christ that is served in Communion is indeed the true body and blood of Christ. When I realized that I was engaging in a gross rationalization by denying the plain language of Scripture, I changed from a spiritual presence, Reformed view of the sacraments to a Lutheran, real presence view of the sacraments. If you're looking for a more complex explanation than that, I don't have one. Maybe someone does. We can even talk about Eutychianism vs. Nestorianism. And there is a place for that discussion. I love theology. But this seems pretty simple to me.


Presentation of the Augsburg Confession Sermon

Today we remember the presentation of the Augsburg Confession. This is one of the primary confessional documents that defines the beliefs of the Lutheran Church. When it was written, there were particularly intense disagreements within the Christian church. Followers of Luther were challenging many basic doctrines of the Papal church. The Holy Roman Emperor was concerned about civil unrest and internal discord, especially due to the threat of attack by Muslim invaders.

And so a large number of theologians and political leaders were brought together at Augsburg to clearly lay out and discuss their respective views. The goal was to foster some degree of political and religious unity. The German fathers of our church were very cooperative in this process. They too longed for civil and military unity in order to stand against what we today know very well as Terrorism. But most importantly, they wanted all to be able to agree about the pure truth of the Gospel. The main disagreement was not political, but doctrinal. The introduction to the Augsburg confession says it has been composed so that:

“...these matters may be settled and brought back to one simple truth and Christian concord, that for the future one pure and true religion may be embraced and maintained by us, that as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, so we may be able also to live in unity and concord in the one Christian Church.”

We can understand some of the political apprehensions of the German people some 500 years ago based on our current struggle with militant Islam. But within our very own church body, we also find much doctrinal disunity and strife. In these matters, it is not our American way of life that is in peril; but rather, it is the Word of God. The true Christian church has always been an unwelcome visitor in this sin-enslaved and hostile world. Satan and his minions seek constantly to subvert the word of God and drain the life out of the Body of Christ on earth. Thousands of people die everyday without ever having heard the Gospel. Many Christians very fervently desire to spread the Gospel and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.

It is out of this great and valid tension that many of our current theological struggles are born. For as sinners, it is our natural inclination to gaze within ourselves and ponder, “What can I do about it?” Our default is the wisdom of man. And so there are many who trust in marketing and psychological methods in order to bring more people into the church. They ask, “How can I be effective? How can I bring about success?” The answers are many. Survey the market place in order to determine the desires and “felt-needs” of the community so you can tailor the gospel to their liking. Bring in hip and cool youth ministers to amaze the kids with rock and roll theatrics. Dispose of boring and “churchly” practices such as the liturgy, closed communion, confession and absolution. Doctrine is a tough sell; love is a much easier pill to swallow. Safety in numbers; Let’s all get together, hold hands in unity, and get the job done.

This is nothing new. Throughout the history of the church many new developments have come up in order to increase the size, and of course, the pocketbooks of the Church. In Luther’s day it was the selling of indulgences and masses for the dead. In most cases, the truth of God’s word was brushed aside, compromised, or forgotten altogether. Paul warns us about this almost 2000 years ago writing to Timothy:“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Ti 4:3)

At this point we would all do well to listen carefully to the words of Christ in our Gospel reading for today. He too cares very much that the Church might grow. In fact he says that “this is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit.” He wants numbers. He wants conversions. Our Lord wants us to seek out the lost sheep and bring them into the fold.

But He also says that “no branch can bear fruit by itself.” If we look to our own devices and trust in our own strategies and “movements”, rather than Christ alone, “we can do nothing,” he says. He is the vine and we are the branches. Everything we are and everything we do comes solely and wholly through the Word made flesh. When the Gospel is purely preached and the Sacrament administered according to Christ’s institution, we know He is there building and strengthening his beloved church.

But when we depart from his words and means of grace, all is lost. Slick marketing may kick up the enrollment numbers, but the soul is parched, like a balloon inflated with lies and deceit. Concerning this our Lord strongly admonishes:

“Apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5)

Man, through his vain conceptions, often seeks to establish a false unity; one based on external adhesion without any true doctrinal concord. One may often hear the trumpet call to agree to disagree and walk together in tolerance of diversity while the word of God is trampled underfoot. Such schemes will soon, in the very truest sense of the word, be ablaze in the fires of hell.

The true Christian unity sought by the reformers, the type constantly exhorted by the apostolic writers, is unity in truth. The proper paradigm is “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.” Faith in this sense refers to the wholeness of Christian doctrine. It is rooted in Scripture alone, empowered by the Holy Spirit to confess Christ alone. What it means is to “cling to what is good, abhor what is evil.”

So if a teaching is good and biblical and true, the Augsburg Confession commends it. Our forefathers confessed that they were in every way catholic. That means they share the same Faith (capitol F) of all non-heretical Christians from the time of Christ. They certainly did not wish to be “Protestants” breaking away from the Church to form a new sect. They simply laid out what is and always had been pure teaching. They clung to what is good.

Also, in many articles, they included a second section. They rejected what was evil. This is the other side of the confessional coin. They pointed out errors, which had crept into the church, in order to show that these are wrong. Our churches do not accept, for example, the errors of the Muslims, Pelagians, or Anabaptists. They do not have the pure Gospel. We condemn them. Let them be accursed.

Such statements can sounds harsh and unloving. In fact many today in our own Synod are paralyzed in fear of such bold proclamation. But such clear and honest communication of truth is the most loving thing you can do. Is it loving to give your six-year old a cheerful wink and a hearty approval when they ask if they can go smoke dope and play out on the expressway? They may give you a big hug and kiss on the cheek. They may feel swell about having such cool parents. But it is not love.

There is only one hope of the world. Just as there is one Lord, Faith, and Baptism, so is there one pure Gospel. This Gospel tells you, “be not afraid.” Jesus revealed this to us so that our “joy may be complete.” We have joy because we know that Christ has accomplished everything for the salvation of the world and forever continues to build and sustain his church. It is not up to us.

When we talk about “pure Gospel”, it is not a claim of intellectual superiority. It is not a matter of “my doctrine can beat up your doctrine”. It simply means that we preach that Christ alone is the author and perfector of our faith. Not Christ plus decision. Not Christ plus churchly rituals. Not Christ plus works. If preaching, teaching, and confessing may be compared to a TV set showing Jesus to the world, we simply wish to wash the mud off the screen so that they may see nothing but Him.

That is our source of joy. We know that Jesus is the true vine. He is the one thing that brings life, hope and salvation into the world. If we think that the great commission depends on our personal faithful-ness or cash flow, we are doomed to despair. But as Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”

What an amazing comfort! Pure doctrine is not complicated. A kindergartener can figure it out. (I should have said, “It’s so easy a caveman can do it) It is all about Jesus!

He is the one who gives us his word. Remember from our Old Testament reading that the word of God will never return empty, but will always accomplish God’s purpose. From this, we know that we have forgiveness of sins. We are not apprehensively thinking about the future, wondering if things will work out ok, because we know that, “you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

Jesus is the one who washes us with pure water and presents us as holy and pure before the seat of judgment. He is the one who feeds his lambs with his body and blood. Yes, we as Christians are involved in his mission. But He is the one who runs the shows. He sets and meets the goals. He alone ensures results. We as his church are called not to be successful or effective, but faithful. That is what confession is all about.

Remember when Peter made his great confession saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”? Our Lord commended him saying that “upon this faithful confession will I build my church and the gates of hell itself shall not prevail against it.” Confessing Christ alone, there is nothing to fear. If God is the one who fights for you, what power does man have to destroy this confession?

We are here today as fountains of living water, as princes in an eternal Kingdom. We were born and are constantly sustained as grapes on a vine. Jesus is that vine. He is physically here with you today. He is here for you. And so He will forever and ever. Here I stand. Amen.


God Wants To Save YOU

I used to think that it was silly that God wants to save everyone because clearly everyone is not saved. I reasoned that if God wants something, He obviously must get it, right?

Yet, Holy Scripture speaks both ways on this topic. First, it's clear that it is God alone who saves, apart from our cooperation (monergism). But it's also clear that God also desires to save everyone. I've learned, simply put, to accept both sides of this coin instead of trying to jam it all into a neat little rationalistic box.

The overly rational theologies tend to take these two ideas and make a polarity. If God desires all people to be saved, that's synergism. If God elects, then He doesn't desire all people to be saved.

This is where Lutheran theology wins in a big way. Why not accept both ideas? After all, Holy Scripture speaks in both ways.

Scripture speaks clearly of election, particularly in Ephesians 1.

Ephesians 1:3-6: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

And then in 1 Timothy 2, it says this,

1 Timothy 2:3-6: This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

So the answer is yes, both. We do not need some scheme of double predestination to solve this. Nor do we need synergism. Nor do we need to chop up God's will into all different parts to make it fit. Nor do we need some humanist philosophical theory like libertarian free will. Nor do we need heretical nonsense like Molinism or Open Theism. We need Jesus Christ and the objective means of grace He has given to us: His Word and Sacraments. God saves us through these means. We are to look to Christ alone for our salvation, not to election, which is hidden to us. Yet we also affirm very strongly that election is a cause of salvation, not an effect (See SD XI).

And this Christ died for you and desires to save you. And God also elects. Yet He does not predestine people to hell.

Here we stand. Both sides are true.



A-Ha Moments from Calvinism to Lutheranism

In my conversion from Calvinism to Lutheranism, there were several occasions I would call “a-ha moments” - officially defined as “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.” Discussing some of these may help those of you wresting with the transition. For this post, we'll deal with the issue of images.

No doubt, if you are Reformed, you read the Ten Commandments and find “Thou shalt make no graven images" and say “Well, the matter is settled...no crucifixes, pictures of Christ, or other images allowed”. Well..not so fast. The Roman Catholic Church and most Lutheran churches, 
following Saint Augustine, combine "no other gods" with "no graven images" into the first commandment, and split "covet wife" and "covet neighbors..." into two commandments. The belief that the Reformed second commandment stood and forbid graven images manifested itself during the Reformation in the form of iconoclasm – the destruction of altars, images, and statutes. It should be painfully obvious that taking our sole cue from a bunch of marauding peasants in the 16th century is problematic. We need to take a step back and take a deep breath. The Lutheran does this by believing that the use of images is one of the many “things indifferent”, or “adiaphora”. It is not required nor is it forbidden. There is no command to use them, and even if we held to the Reformed view of the commandments, we would be hard-pressed to affirm that it means that any use of images is condemned. While thinking through this issue, one thing discovered about my own thought process was that the objection to images can also come about by a sort of of “guilt by association” argument that goes something like this syllogism: “Since Roman Catholic has false doctrine, and they use images, therefore, the use of images is bad.” Not a good place to get your beliefs! It can also come about from a sort of irrational fear that a moderate use of images will result in idolatry. This, of course, can be argued against easily. What about a computer? Certainly, a computer can become an idol if we love it more than we love God. But simply using a computer is using one of God's good gifts to us, and not sinful.

In future posts, I'll talk about some of the other “a-ha moments” I had in my transition from Calvinism to Lutheranism. By the way, for you podcast buffs, I will be interviewed soon, in time for the next Against the Winds podcast episode., where I will also discuss my transition.


Is Your Baptism Valid?

This is a deep and loaded question. But in light of all the Scriptural statements regarding Baptism, it is definitely a question worthy of our consideration.

Is your Baptism valid? When you were baptized, did it count? What if you've been baptized multiple times?

When you look at the didactic epistles in particular, it's really easy to see that Baptism is a huge deal in Christianity. (Rom 6:3-4, Gal 3:27, Eph 4:5, 5:26, Col 2:11-12, 1Pe 3:21, Tit 3:5, etc.) Not to mention in the historical book of Acts, it's a big deal too. (Acts 2:38-39, 22:16 in particular)

It's obvious from Scripture that Baptism does something in a salvific sense. Therefore, Baptism is God's work done to us via water and the Word, and not our work done for God. Thus, to know whether a Baptism is valid is a big deal.

What makes a Baptism valid? Well, first of all, Baptism is a washing done with water. So, there is water involved. Second, and equally important, are the words Jesus used when instituting Christian Baptism in St. Matthew 28:19.

So, water and the Word; specifically the Triune Word given by Christ in Matthew 28, is what makes a Baptism. Baptism is a promise specifically and objectively for you, given by God. You are Baptized into the Triune Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So, let's keep it simple. A Baptism is valid if it is done by a Trinitarian church with water in the Triune Name of God, as Jesus instituted. So, what churches have valid Baptisms? Here is a short list: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed, and others which I have not named. These are all Trinitarian churches that confess the Trinity.

What Baptisms are invalid? Well, a few would be Mormonism (they reject the Trinity, even though using the Trinitarian formula, they mean three different deities by it.), Jehovah's Witnesses (reject the deity of Christ), and Oneness Pentecostalism (Reject the Trinity, do not even use the Triune formula).

What if you've been baptized twice, once as an infant as a Roman Catholic than another time as a Baptist after making a decision? Simply put, only one of those is valid. Rebaptism is unbiblical. God forbid we mock the promise and work of God given to us by repeating it due to ourselves. Thus, in that case, the Roman Catholic Baptism is the valid one. The Baptist Rebaptism, despite being well-intentioned, is pretty useless in this case, because the person has already been given the promise by God in their original Baptism. If anything, it rejects the promise given on some level. If the Baptist Baptism is the first and only Baptism the person has received, then by all means, it is completely valid.

Martin Luther, in the Large Catechism on Holy Baptism, says this;

"Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. This now is perhaps somewhat acute, but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is, when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word.

Thus you see that the objection of the sectarians is vain. For (as we have said) even though infants did not believe, which, however, is not the case, yet their baptism as now shown would be valid, and no one should rebaptize them; just as nothing is detracted from the Sacrament though some one approach it with evil purpose, and he could not be allowed on account of his abuse to take it a second time the selfsame hour, as though he had not received the true Sacrament at first; for that would mean to blaspheme and profane the Sacrament in the worst manner. How dare we think that God's Word and ordinance should be wrong and invalid because we make a wrong use of it? " (LC, Holy Baptism, 52-53, 55)

The stance of the Lutheran church has always been that there is one baptism, administered but once to a person, with water and the Triune Name of God. And to rebaptize a person at a later date is, in the words of Dr. Luther, "...to blaspheme and profane the Sacrament in the worst manner. How dare we think that God's Word and ordinance should be wrong and invalid because we make a wrong use of it?"

Here we stand.

+Grace and Peace+


Where Are You Looking For God?

God is all-powerful. God is omniscient. God can reveal Himself when and where He wants to, completely at His own discretion.

So, we can certainly say that God can reveal Himself however He wants to. After all, He is God.

But, where should we look for God? Where can we find Him? Where has He told He will be and promised to be?

Has He promised us to be present in signs, wonders, and miracles? Well, no, He hasn't. Although those things certainly did happen in Scripture.

Has He promised us to be present in a still small audible voice in our heads? Well, no again. Although that happened in Scripture as well.

But Jesus does not promise to meet us in those places. And indeed, many times people are completely deceived into thinking that He has.

But there are certain and sure places where we know God is present and gives Himself to us. They might seem boring to some people, but in God's infinite wisdom and providence, He has provided us with sure and objective means of grace. He uses the natural world, not a personal revelation whispered in your ear.

A personal revelation whispered in your ear is majorly subjective. First of all, how do you know it's even God? Could it be a voice in your head? Yeah, it certainly could be.

You see, God knows we are fragile creatures and our faith is bound to fail. So He gives us Himself objectively so we can know with certainty that we are receiving Him.

He gives us these natural means of grace to save the natural world. Simply put, the only places we should be looking for God are the places He has said He will be present in grace and not judgment. And not randomly and only for some people, but all the time, for everyone.

What are they? Word and Sacrament. Alone. Christ comes to us in His Word, and His Word is given to us by preaching, absolution, baptism, and the Eucharist.

He comes to us by natural means. The Word proclaimed by the pastor, the Baptism administered in the Name of the Triune God, and the true Body and Blood of Christ given to us in His Holy Supper, which by the way is for the forgiveness of sins.

Look nowhere else. Receive your Lord by the means in which He promises to be present, all the time.

+Grace and Peace+

Limited Atonement and Navel Oranges

1 Timothy 4:10 (ESV):  For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

1 Timothy 4:10 (KJV): For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

Oh, the shenanigans! Not the Bible of course. The Bible speaks clearly the vast majority of the time.

1 Timothy 4:10 is a very difficult passage for the Calvinist because taken at face value, it is a dagger to the L in the famous TULIP. Of course, Calvinists are still sola scriptura folks, so they do not ignore the passage and do indeed have ways to explain it.

Here is Dr. Gary Long's attempt at some various explanations in his book Definite Atonement: 1 Timothy 4:10

The obvious problem here for the Reformed camp is the phrase found in the verse that says "...God, who is the Savior of all people (all men KJV)..."

Saviors save. Dr. Long's final conclusion makes little to no sense. He claims that "Savior" here means that God is the "providential preserver" of all men. Well, that is true. God is indeed the providential preserver of all men. What Christian disputes that? But on what basis can Dr. Long turn "Savior" into "providential preserver?" Where else in Holy Scripture does it equate saving and Christ being the Savior with His providential preservation? To put it bluntly, it doesn't. Dr. Long has to completely twist this Scripture to fit his theology.

Saviors save. Christ is the Savior. Christians know this. So, according to 1 Timothy 4:10, who did Christ save? Well, thankfully, Scripture answers this one in this verse. It says, "all people."

Saviors save. Where was Christ's saving work done? All Christians would faithfully answer: In His incarnation, on the cross, and in His rising from the grave.

According to 1 Timothy 4:10, He is the Savior of all people. His work saves, and it was done for everyone. But that isn't the end of the story. It still must be received by Word and Sacrament, in faith.

The doctrine of limited atonement not only twists the living crap out of this verse (among others), but it also has a pretty nasty (unintended) side effect. If Jesus only died for the elect and not the ones whom will end up in perdition, then how can one know if Christ actually died for them?

By looking to yourself and how well you're following Christ, of course! In other words, the doctrine of limited atonement has the nasty consequence of pointing us at ourselves and not to Christ and His promises for assurance of salvation.

This is why men like the Puritans and theonomists and reconstructionists are just being consistent. Limited Atonement, as well as Reformed Theology in general, when applying their own logical principles, is sharply theonomic and points us directly to our own navels for assurance and is very much based on adherence to the moral Law, and a confusion of Law and Gospel.

With sincere apologies to our Continental Reformed brethren, who do a lot better with the Gospel than the theonomists and Puritans.



Matt Slick on Baptism: A Lutheran Response, Part II

Today I continue my response to Matt Slick's article on the necessity of Baptism in salvation, found over at Matt's CARM (Christian Apologetics Research & Ministry) site.

Is Baptism Necessary? (From CARM, by Matt Slick)

I began my address to Matt's article yesterday and it can be found here: Lutheran Response to Matt Slick: Part I

Yesterday I addressed Matt's opening paragraph and hopefully showed the flaws that were inherent in his argumentation. Today, I plan to address the Scriptures he has posted as well as the theology is he promoting.

Matt begins his argument by laying the groundwork for a "proper theology," as he puts it. In essence, he argues for a robust baptistic covenant theology, and then goes to the Scriptures and interprets them in that light.

The problem as I see it is multi-faceted. First of all, not all covenants function in the same manner. This is evident from even a cursory browsing of the numerous covenants found in Scripture. So, to force a definition on the term covenant that is too narrow will not allow the interpreter to do justice to the biblical texts. Matt is in a sense doing this. He defines covenant this way:

"A covenant is a pact or agreement between two or more parties."
Yes, true. But that definition doesn't quite give us the full range that is required in Scripture. Secondly, on what basis does Matt assume that covenant is the overarching theme in all of Scripture and that the Holy Scriptures should always be interpreted through this motif? I know a lot of Reformed people will argue that Scripture itself gives us this motif as the interpretive lens for all of Scripture, but I'm not so sure that is sustainable.

Anyways, all of that is not as relevant as the fact that the more obvious problem here is that Matt is laying a presupposed theology before he interprets the texts on baptism. In other words, he sees texts on baptism in the New Testament and pretty much says that they don't really mean what they sound like they mean.

He continues after his theological treatise on covenant to define what the Gospel is. He states:

"It is clearly the gospel that saves us, but what exactly is the gospel?  That too is revealed to us in the Bible.  It is found in 1 Cor. 15:1-4: "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."  The gospel is defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins."

Praise God, Matt has the Gospel right and is my Christian brother. But then his preconceived theology gets in the way again as he states:

"Baptism is not mentioned here."
He's right, it's not. But it certainly is in other places. And many of those other places directly connect baptism with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Matt immediately brings up 1 Corinthians 1:14-17. St. Paul states there, "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.  (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else). For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel . . . "

Then Matt proceeds to divorce St. Paul's statement from the direct context of the passage, saying,
 "If baptism is necessary for salvation, then why did Paul downplay it and even exclude it from the description of what is required for salvation?  It is because baptism is not necessary for salvation."
To make that statement is to ignore the obvious here. People were believing that baptism is a big deal and actually does something. St. Paul is not downplaying baptism at all. He is saying that he is glad he did not baptize certain people so they could not argue that their baptism is better than someone else's because they were baptized by the Apostle Paul.

I am going to skip over the next few paragraphs of Matt's article and jump right to the Scriptures, mainly because I already addressed those issues that he is arguing. Thus, to the Word we go.
"But still, what about those verses that seem to say that baptism is part of salvation?  I will address those now; but because this subject can become quite lengthy, in fact sufficient for a book in itself, I will only address a few verses and then only briefly."
Matt begins by quoting St. John 3:5: "Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.'"

"Some say that water here means baptism, but that is unlikely since Christian baptism hadn't yet been instituted...It is my opinion that the water spoken of here means the water of the womb referring to the natural birth process."
So Matt sees St. John 3:5 as a reference to the amniotic fluid of the womb and argued this on the basis that Christian baptism had not been instituted yet. I addressed this topic here: Water Washing Baptism Spirit, so I will comment only briefly.

To put it short, I assert that water actually means water and Spirit is the Holy Spirit. So, the next obvious question is: Where in Christianity is there water and the Spirit in the same place at the same time? Oh yes, that's right, in Holy Baptism. Are there examples of water and the Spirit together in Baptism in the Scriptures? Indeed there are many of them. St. Luke 3:22, St. Matthew 28:19, Titus 3:5-7. In those passages, among others, water and Spirit are inextricably linked.

In short, Matt is saying that water cannot mean water here, precisely because it disagrees with his preconceived theology, which was laid *before* he went to the Scriptures. Second, it's quite irrelevant if Christian baptism was instituted yet or not, because Jesus could certainly be speaking about it anyways. This might be a poor example, but it's the same idea: Should we also interpret everything Jesus says about Him dying on the cross to be talking about something else too because He said it before He went to Calvary? Same sort of idea.

Next, Matt turns to Acts 2:38, which states:  "Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.‘"

He then proceeds to say,
"This verse is often used to say that baptism is part of salvation, but we know from other scriptures that it is not, lest there be a contradiction.  What is going on here is simply that repentance and forgiveness of sins are connected."
The statement about contradictions is only true if you have a preconceived theology with which it does not fit, as Matt does. In short, he has to say this because of what he perceives baptism to be. If indeed baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality done by us out of obedience, it is in fact a work. But Scripture never tells us that anywhere. That's where this whole discussion and the whole article goes off the rails. He continues,
"In this context, only the regenerated, repentant person is to be baptized.  Baptism is the manifestation of the repentance, that gift from God, that is the sign of the circumcised heart.  That is why it says, "repent and be baptized."
In short, Matt is reading a specific order into the text here. He is saying that first is repentance, then only after true repentance, baptism. He even goes as far as to argue that repentance is the thing that is connected to forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit here; not baptism, even though the closest thing to forgiveness and the Spirit in the text is baptism.

I posit that St. Peter's sermon is not a literal order, but a connecting of the things. Baptism, repentance, forgiveness, the Spirit...well, they all go together. Furthermore, if one were to take Matt's strict literal ordering, one wonders why he won't apply it to the Great Commission as well? If he does, his whole theology is violated, as baptism must therefore precede teaching.
"Also, please notice that there is no mention of faith in Acts 2:38.  If this verse is a description of what is necessary for salvation, then why is faith not mentioned?"
No, but in other texts faith is directly mentioned as being a result of baptism (i.e Col 2:12...baptism raises us in faith). Hence, baptism is grace, grace precedes faith and gives it to us, and grace is not a work. (Eph 2:8-9, Rom 11:6)

So Matt's argument here that faith is not mentioned is a non-argument.

Next up is 1 Peter 3:21, which states, "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ"
"Some think that the baptism corresponds to the Ark because it was the Ark that saved them--not the floodwaters.  This is a possibility, but one of the problems is that this interpretation does not seem to stand grammatically since the antecedent of Baptism is most probably in reference to the water--not the Ark. 
But, water did not save Noah.  This is why Peter excludes the issue of water baptism being the thing that saves us because he says, "not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God."  Peter says that it is not the application of water that saves us but a pledge of the good conscience.  Therefore, baptism here most probably represents the breaking away of the old sinful life and entrance into the new life with Christ--in the same way that the flood waters in Noah's time was the destruction of the sinful way and, once through it, known as entering into the new way.  Also, Peter says that the baptism is an appeal of a good conscience before God.  Notice that this is dealing with faith.  It seems that Peter is defining real baptism as the act of faith."
Matt, Matt, Matt. Really? Baptism...now saves you. That is what the text says. Baptism saves us through water, just like the ark saved Noah and his family through water. Not by physically washing us, but by connecting us to Christ. Likewise, the word "pledge" in the NIV is an unfortunate translation. "Appeal" is much better. It's an appeal to God, and God grants that appeal through Christ and saves us through the water.

Matt's interpretation of 1 Peter 3:21 is pretty shameful, to be honest. "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you..." turns into "...Peter is defining real baptism as the act of faith." How in the world does that even make sense? Can't we just read it and believe it? Goodness gracious!

Next Matt turns to Acts 22:16, which states, "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." I mean, how much more clear can it be? And more commentary ensues, explaining why the text doesn't really mean what it says.
"Is the washing away of sins done by baptism, the representation of the circumcised heart (Col. 2:11-12) which means you are already saved; or is it by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14; Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7)?  Obviously it is the blood of Jesus, and the washing here refers to the calling on Jesus' name."
And here is his explanation. I will say this first: OF COURSE it's the blood of Jesus that washes away sins. No one disputes that. But how is that blood of Christ given to us? By grace, right? How is grace given to us? There are specific means. Baptism is one of those means.

So the text says baptism washes away sins. Matt says the text doesn't say what it says. Come on bro.

Now it's Romans 6:3-4 time: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
"The figure of baptism represents the reality of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.  It is a covenant sign for us.  Remember, a covenant sign represents the covenant.  The covenant sign of baptism represents the covenant of grace which is that covenant between God and the Christian where we receive the grace of God through the person of Christ by means of his sacrifice."
That however, is not what the text says. Matt backs up and reinterprets this plain text by his theology again. He claims that it represents Christ's work. But the text says that we are baptized *into* Christ's work. In other words, baptism gives Christ's work to us; connects us.

Now it's on to Titus 3:5: , "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."

Matt comments,
"The washing of rebirth can only be that washing of the blood of Christ that cleanses us.  It is not the symbol that saves but the reality.  The reality is the blood of Christ."
Yeah, Christ's blood does indeed wash us. Agreed. But again, where in Christianity are water and the Spirit connected inseparably? Baptism. Where are we washed with water, given the Spirit, and connected to Christ? Baptism.

He then comments on Galatians 3:27: "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
"This is speaking of the believer's union with Christ.  It is an identification with, a joining to, a proclamation of loyalty to, etc.  In 1 Cor. 10:2 the Israelites were baptized into Moses.  That means they were closely identified with him and his purpose.  The same thing is meant here."
Of course it is talking about our being united to Christ. But the text one-ups Matt again and says that this union comes about in Baptism.

I can't help but to think that Matt has to make every baptism passage in the New Testament that says anything salvific completely symbolic, figurative, and representative of something else. His theology simply will not allow him to speak plainly about baptism as Scripture does. I close with a quote from my friend Charles Wiese. He states:
"Every theological system has an explanation for every passage you throw at it. But I think a good practice when working through explanations is to ask if the person providing the explanation would ever say what the person in Scripture actually says. Would the guy at CARM really write a letter to someone in which he says "baptism now saves you"? Would he tell people to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins? Can the author of CARM explain what baptism is and does just using the Scriptural language without inserting words from his own theological tradition?" ~Charles Wiese
It has been shown that Matt Slick cannot speak plainly like the Scriptures do in these passages. He has to wrest them and wrangle them to fit his presupposed theology. Matt would never speak as St. Peter and Paul do regarding baptism, because Matt does not believe and teach the same thing that the Holy Scriptures teach about baptism. And while I believe Matt to be my brother in Christ, it's no small matter to get these things this wrong.

+Grace and Peace+


Matt Slick on Baptism: A Lutheran Response, Part I.

Matt Slick, a popular Christian internet figure, is the head honcho at CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry). Matt is, to sum it up the best I can, a Calvinistic Baptist with some Charismatic leanings. So, he certainly is not a Lutheran. However, he is quite well respected in the Christian sphere online.

Matt Slick
There are indeed numerous good things about CARM and Matt Slick. However, this article on Baptism is not one of them.

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

I plan to address his article in a few blog posts. Hopefully I can keep them short and concise. I aim for clarity here. Quotes from Matt's article will be in italics throughout the rest of the blog post.

"One of the most nagging questions in Christianity is whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation. The answer is a simple, "No, water baptism is not necessary for salvation." "

Matt begins his article by proposing this simple question: Is baptism necessary for salvation? From the outset we have a pretty loaded -and difficult- question to deal with. The rest of Matt's article addresses this question. He tries really hard to deal with it faithfully, I'll give him that. The problem is, as I see it, is that he tries to cram this question into a perfect little logical box and ends up denying the plain reading of numerous Scriptures in the process.

"But for now, the reason baptism is not necessary for salvation is that we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8) and not by faith and a ceremony (Rom. 4:1-11).  You see, a religious ceremony is a set of activities or forms peformed by someone."
OK, in a real sense he has a point here. Baptism is indeed a ceremony performed by someone. Yet, in another real sense, there are some fundamental misunderstandings of Christianity here and some other odd inconsistencies.

First of all, baptism is not an addition to faith. The bible nowhere says this. Search for it, nowhere in Holy Scripture will you ever find this idea. To put it in simple terms, to say that baptism is adding something to faith (a work), then you also have to say that grace is adding something to faith (a work). Knowing that Matt is a Calvinistic man, he would never assert the latter, but he does assert the former. Scripture tells us bluntly that grace is not works (Rom 11:6).

Ultimately, to pit baptism against faith is to pit 2 of the Reformation solas against each other: Grace alone and faith alone. You don't do that.

The deeper question here that is unanswered by Matt is: "How is grace given to us?" Are there natural means? Or is grace given by the Spirit working apart from means? Clearly from Matt's article, baptism is not a means of grace. If it were, he could not make the claims he is making.

"Likewise, baptism is also a ceremony where one person performs a religious rite on another person; but, we are saved by faith alone, and anything else we do, including ceremonies, will not help."

No, a ceremony in itself helps nothing. I get that, and no Confessional Lutheran would ever disagree. However, is Matt also willing to go further and say that the preaching of the Gospel in church is also a ceremony that does not help? In the interest of consistency I would hope he would actually deny that preaching the Gospel is a means of grace. The problem is, once you deny natural means of grace (preaching the Gospel is one of those), you've pretty much denied means of grace altogether and this makes the Gospel irrelevant, since God can and would save people apart from the means of grace. This is a common error of some really Hyper Calvinists (Matt is not one), and ultimately is a degeneration to Gnosticism in a sense that separates the spiritual from the natural. Spirit good, natural bad. So goes Gnosticism.

So, how is this grace given to us? I assert on Scriptural grounds that there are very few sure ways that God gives grace, and they are all natural means. This is not to say that God cannot extend grace in other ways or however He would like to. It is to say that He has given us sure promises in the Word as to where and how that grace is given to us.

In short, Christ's work is the source of all grace, and the Word works that faith in us, because the Word is a means of grace. That Word is given to us not only by the natural means of preaching (sound waves that we hear audibly) and reading Scripture (light waves that hit our eyes visibly), but also in Baptism (water), Holy Absolution (see John 20...sound waves again), and Holy Communion (bread and wine).

Grace given by the Word alone does not mean that grace is only given by preaching and reading the Holy Scriptures. After all, the Word is Christ and the Scriptures give us Him. So does Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord's Supper.

The other problem Matt has here is that (along with the majority of Baptists) he does have a robust doctrine of the office of the ministry. In other words, Christ instituted an office of the ministry to disperse His good gifts and promises to the world. (John 20, again) Thus, when a pastor preaches Christ crucified, it is no more a work than Baptism or the Lord's Supper, or the pronouncement of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit works through these means. God uses the natural world to save the natural world. He gives us completely objective promises visibly, audibly, and on our heads and in our mouths.

"If we are saved by faith, then we are saved by faith when we believe and not when we get baptized, otherwise, we are not saved by faith."

This is a misunderstanding of grace and also in a sense, faith. Here Matt has erected a false dichotomy that pits baptism against faith; which as I mentioned above, is a pitting of grace against faith. Matt is saying that if baptism is necessary for salvation, then salvation is faith + baptism, and that violates sola fide. (justification by faith alone)

But this is backwards, since baptism is grace. It's not something we add to faith in addition to it. Rather, it is something that is for faith. It gives it and works it in us. (Col 2:12) I am not going to say much more here because I wrote another blog on this a long time ago, found here: Baptism and Sola Fide

"Furthermore, if baptism is necessary for salvation, then anyone who receives Christ on his deathbed in a hospital and who also believes Jesus is God in the flesh, who died and rose from the dead for his sins,  etc., would go to hell if he doesn't get baptized before he died." 
This is a drastic oversimplification of the question at hand. Matt claims that a person can receive Christ and then die on their way to being baptized. This doesn't answer the question though. Ultimately all he has proven is that baptism is not absolutely necessary in all circumstances to be saved. The thief on the cross is a prime example of this. He is pigeon-holing the question into a very narrow box when ultimately the question at hand is far more nuanced than this.

But this does not prove that baptism does not regenerate and save, especially when Scripture plainly says it does. What it does prove is that hearing the preached Word and receiving Christ is also a means of grace, which I am sure Matt would affirm.

The LCMS site gives a good answer here:

"The LCMS does not believe that Baptism is ABSOLUTELY necessary for salvation. All true believers in the Old Testament era were saved without baptism. Mark 16:16 implies that it is not the absence of Baptism that condemns a person but the absence of faith, and there are clearly other ways of coming to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit (reading or hearing the Word of God). Still, Baptism dare not be despised or willfully neglected, since it is explicitly commanded by God and has His precious promises attached to it. It is not a mere “ritual” or “symbol,” but a powerful means of grace by which God grants faith and the forgiveness of sins." ( http://www.lcms.org/faqs/doctrine)

Matt continues...

"This would mean that we were not justified by faith because if we were, then the person would be saved."

This plays right back into the preceding statement. We do not say that the person is not saved, but we likewise say that baptism now saves you. Why do we say that? Because St. Peter said that. Again, we're wrangling over the means of grace here.

"Now, in order to more thoroughly look at this issue, I need to lay a foundation of proper theology; and then I'll address some of those verses that are commonly used to support the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation."

And this is where I will wrap up this entry for the day. I will continue with Matt's "proper theology" next time.

+Grace and Peace+ 


Pentecost Sermon

Today's Old Testament reading takes us back to the new dawn of civilization, just after the worldwide destruction of the flood in Noah's day. By this time all the ancient kingdoms and wonders of the world would have faded into oblivion, violently crushed by earthquakes and drowned by miles of rushing water. Soon this long lost “antediluvian”, or before the flood, era would provide rich fodder to develop into myth and legend with it's terrible dragons, towering giants, and nine hundred year old men.

But all that was in the past. Noah's descendants had a chance to start fresh, to write their own sagas, to build a new civilization even greater than the lost cities of yore. From Noah came Ham, from Ham came Cush, and Cush fathered Nimrod, a legendary hunter and warlord. Nimrod founded the horribly evil ancient realm of Assyria. Our spiritual forefathers would shudder to even hear the name of that kingdom, which included the hated city of Nineveh and, of course, Babel.

Here, the people took after their own ancestors of whom the Lord said “that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This was their time, a new kingdom was coming, a kingdom of man, such as never was nor never would be... so they thought. The people of Babel, in the plain of Shinar, in what is modern day Iraq, said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth."

And so, with all the power of the flesh, the strong backs and relentless ambition of mighty men of renown, united by one language and purpose, they started building. Brick by brick, packed-mud and straw developed into massive walls, glorious pagan temples, and one central awe-inspiring tower piercing into the heart of heaven itself.

And then, in an instant, our Lord thwarted the plans of their hearts. Their one language was fractured into hundreds and their unity crumbled. Confusion broke out en masse. Brother rose up against brother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and the streets of Babel ran with blood. Very quickly, each group would gather together those who spoke the same language and scatter themselves across the face of the earth. From that day until now, the history of the world is of nothing but one battle, one treachery, one war after another, fueled by all-consuming hatred.

And now, thousands of year later upon the rubble of a million doomed empires, a new kingdom is once again coming into fruition. This one is built not on to the mortal back of crumbling fickle man, but by the power and strength of God himself. The Holy Ghost, who spoke all things into existence, has been breathed into the mouths of these weak, timid, uneducated disciples and turned them into unstoppable dynamos. This, by the way, is literally the Greek word for “strength”, from which we get “dynamite”.

Filled with this dynamite of God, the apostles began to build upon the solid foundation, the rock of Christ Himself. Each Christian, born from water and the spirit, nourished by the blood of the lamb, would become living stones in God's eternal house. All mud and straw, bricks baked like iron in the desert heat, will eventually crumble into nothingness. All gold, silver, and precious gems will melt into rivers. All the elements will be destroyed in unquenchable fire. But you shall remain.

“Destroy the temple”, Jesus said, “and I will rebuild it in three days.” The crowds and religious leaders scoffed and mocked, but we know that the temple he spoke of was his body. He was built as a tower from heaven, extending all the way into the heart of the earth, God's grace and salvation coming down Jacob's cross-shaped ladder into our midst. The man Christ Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, was melted under the fiery divine wrath in our place and was poured out for our iniquities. He was drop-forged into the belly of the tomb and walked out, by his own power, on the third day, the first-born of a new eternal city of God.

We have all drank from the same spiritual rock. His Spirit flows deeply in our veins as wells of salvation bubbling up unto eternal life. We are Zion, the saints of God, gathered in multitudes around the throne of the Lamb who was slain, casting our crowns before Him and crying out Holy! Holy! Holy! We are the new city to which all the nations will stream, lining up to eat from the tree and drink from the river of life.

Unlike the ambitious heroes of Babel who attempted to make a name for themselves, the name of Christ has been given to us, freely and without charge. From the four corners of the world, out of Africa, out of Siberia, Eastern Europe, Patagonia, the Pacific Isles, Westville, Indiana and every inch of the globe a new people has emerged, speaking with the one-voice of the Gospel. Christ and Him Crucified is the mortar, which binds us all together into a great kingdom, unimaginable to even the legendary giants and hunters of the antediluvian age.

Where two or more are gathered in the name of Christ, He is there knitting us together into this spiritual body. One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism. The day of Pentecost, two thousand years ago, was only a confusion to those looking in from the outside, to the scoffers and religious leaders, writing off the phenomenon as a drunken mass delusion. From the inside, men and women of all languages heard the pure, pristine, beautifully simple good news about who Jesus is and what he has done. In this Word, whether spoken, read, eaten, or dripped across our forehead, we clearly recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Brothers and Sisters, it is our time. While we see the work and power of man crumble all around, while a thousand fall at your left and ten thousand at your right, the kingdom of God continues to prosper and the gates of hell itself shall not prevail against it. Wonders beyond dream, beyond legend, beyond anything we can possibly imagine, are being prepared for you in Christ. One blink of an eye, and all will exposed and revealed. All the glory and honor and power and strength and might and the victory of Jesus Christ are to be shared with you. You, yourself, shall behold it. Your eyes shall see, and not another. Your heart will faint within you.
+ Amen +


Luther on Infant Baptism

This is taken directly from the Large Catechism, by Martin Luther, found in the Book of Concord. The direct link is here: Infant Baptism

Here a question occurs by which the devil, through his sects, confuses the world, namely, Of Infant Baptism, whether children also believe, and are justly baptized. Concerning this we say briefly: 48] Let the simple dismiss this question from their minds, and refer it to the learned. But if you wish to answer, 49] then answer thus:-
That the Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved from His own work, namely, that God sanctifies many of them who have been thus baptized, and has given them the Holy Ghost; and that there are yet many even to-day in whom we perceive that they have the Holy Ghost both because of their doctrine and life; as it is also given to us by the grace of God that we can explain the Scriptures and come to the knowledge of Christ, which is impossible without the Holy Ghost. 50] But if God did not accept the baptism of infants, He would not give the Holy Ghost nor any of His gifts to any of them; in short, during this long time unto this day no man upon earth could have been a Christian. Now, since God confirms Baptism by the gifts of His Holy Ghost, as is plainly perceptible in some of the church fathers, as St. Bernard, Gerson, John Hus, and others, who were baptized in infancy, and since the holy Christian Church cannot perish until the end of the world, they must acknowledge that such infant baptism is pleasing to God. For He can never be opposed to Himself, or support falsehood and wickedness, or for its promotion impart His grace and Spirit. 51] This is indeed the best and strongest proof for the simple-minded and unlearned. For they shall not take from us or overthrow this article: I believe a holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.

 52] Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. 53] This now is perhaps somewhat acute, but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is, when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word.  

54] For even though a Jew should to-day come dishonestly and with evil purpose, and we should baptize him in all good faith, we must say that his baptism is nevertheless genuine. For here is the water together with the Word of God, even though he does not receive it as he should, just as those who unworthily go to the Sacrament receive the true Sacrament, even though they do not believe.

 55] Thus you see that the objection of the sectarians is vain. For (as we have said) even though infants did not believe, which, however, is not the case, yet their baptism as now shown would be valid, and no one should rebaptize them; just as nothing is detracted from the Sacrament though some one approach it with evil purpose, and he could not be allowed on account of his abuse to take it a second time the selfsame hour, as though he had not received the true Sacrament at first; for that would mean to blaspheme and profane the Sacrament in the worst manner. How dare we think that God's Word and ordinance should be wrong and invalid because we make a wrong use of it?  

56] Therefore I say, if you did not believe then believe now and say thus: The baptism indeed was right, but I, alas! did not receive it aright. For I myself also, and all who are baptized, must speak thus before God: I come hither in my faith and in that of others, yet I cannot rest in this, that I believe, and that many people pray for me; but in this I rest, that it is Thy Word and command. Just as I go to the Sacrament trusting not in my faith, but in the Word of Christ; whether I am strong or weak, that I commit to God. But this I know, that He bids me go, eat and drink, etc., and gives me His body and blood; that will not deceive me or prove false to me.  

57] Thus we do also in infant baptism. We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err.

 58] Therefore they are presumptuous, clumsy minds that draw such inferences and conclusions as these: Where there is not the true faith, there also can be no true Baptism. Just as if I would infer: If I do not believe, then Christ is nothing; or thus: If I am not obedient, then father, mother, and government are nothing. Is that a correct conclusion, that whenever any one does not do what he ought, the thing in itself shall be nothing and of no value? 59] My dear, just invert the argument and rather draw this inference: For this very reason Baptism is something and is right, because it has been wrongly received. For if it were not right and true in itself, it could not be misused nor sinned against. The saying is: Abusus non tollit, sed confirmat substantiam, Abuse does not destroy the essence, but confirms it. For gold is not the less gold though a harlot wear it in sin and shame.

 60] Therefore let it be decided that Baptism always remains true, retains its full essence, even though a single person should be baptized, and he, in addition, should not believe truly. For God's ordinance and Word cannot be made variable or be altered by men. 61] But these people, the fanatics, are so blinded that they do not see the Word and command of God, and regard Baptism and the magistrates only as they regard water in the brook or in pots, or as any other man; and because they do not see faith nor obedience, they conclude that they are to be regarded as invalid. 62] Here lurks a concealed seditious devil, who would like to tear the crown from the head of authority and then trample it under foot, and, in addition, pervert and bring to naught all the works and ordinances of God. 63] Therefore we must be watchful and well armed, and not allow ourselves to be directed nor turned away from the Word, in order that we may not regard Baptism as a mere empty sign, as the fanatics dream.

 64] Lastly, we must also know what Baptism signifies, and why God has ordained just such external sign and ceremony for the Sacrament by which we are first received into the Christian Church. 65] But the act or ceremony is this, that we are sunk under the water, which passes over us, and afterwards are drawn out again. These two parts, to be sunk under the water and drawn out again, signify the power and operation of Baptism, which is nothing else than putting to death the old Adam, and after that the resurrection of the new man, both of which must take place in us all our lives, so that a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be practised without ceasing, that we ever keep purging away whatever is of the old Adam, and that that which belongs to the new man come forth. 66] But what is the old man? It is that which is born in us from Adam, angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, yea, unbelieving, infected with all vices, and having by nature nothing good in it. 67] Now, when we are come into the kingdom of Christ, these things must daily decrease, that the longer we live we become more gentle, more patient, more meek, and ever withdraw more and more from unbelief, avarice, hatred, envy, haughtiness.  

68] This is the true use of Baptism among Christians, as signified by baptizing with water. Where this, therefore, is not practised, but the old man is left unbridled, so as to continually become stronger, that is not using Baptism, but striving against Baptism. 69] For those who are without Christ cannot but daily become worse, according to the proverb which expresses the truth, "Worse and worse-the longer, the worse." 70] If a year ago one was proud and avaricious, then he is much prouder and more avaricious this year, so that the vice grows and increases with him from his youth up. A young child has no special vice; but when it grows up, it becomes unchaste and impure, and when it reaches maturity, real vices begin to prevail the longer, the more.  

71] Therefore the old man goes unrestrained in his nature if he is not checked and suppressed by the power of Baptism. On the other hand, where men have become Christians, he daily decreases until he finally perishes. That is truly to be buried in Baptism, and daily to come forth again. 72] Therefore the external sign is appointed not only for a powerful effect, but also for a signification. 73] Where, therefore, faith flourishes with its fruits, there it has no empty signification, but the work [of mortifying the flesh] accompanies it; but where faith is wanting, it remains a mere unfruitful sign.  

74] And here you see that Baptism, both in its power and signification, comprehends also the third Sacrament, which has been called repentance, 75] as it is really nothing else than Baptism. For what else is repentance but an earnest attack upon the old man [that his lusts be restrained] and entering upon a new life? Therefore, if you live in repentance, you walk in Baptism, which not only signifies such a new life, but also produces, begins, and exercises it. 76] For therein are given grace, the Spirit, and power to suppress the old man, so that the new man may come forth and become strong.

 77] Therefore our Baptism abides forever; and even though some one should fall from it and sin, nevertheless we always have access thereto, that we may again subdue the old man. 78] But we need not again be sprinkled with water; for though we were put under the water a hundred times, it would nevertheless be only one Baptism, although the operation and signification continue and remain. 79] Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practise what we began before, but abandoned.

 80] This I say lest we fall into the opinion in which we were for a long time, imagining that our Baptism is something past, which we can no longer use after we have fallen again into sin. The reason is, that it is regarded only according to the external act once performed [and completed]. 81] And this arose from the fact that St. Jerome wrote that repentance is the second plank by which we must swim forth and cross over after the ship is broken, on which we step and are carried across when we come into the Christian Church. 82] Thereby the use of Baptism has been abolished so that it can profit us no longer. Therefore the statement is not correct, or at any rate not rightly understood. For the ship never breaks, because (as we have said) it is the ordinance of God, and not a work of ours; but it happens, indeed, that we slip and fall out of the ship. Yet if any one fall out, let him see to it that he swim up and cling to it till he again come into it and live in it, as he had formerly begun.

  83] Thus it appears what a great, excellent thing Baptism is, which delivers us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God's own, suppresses and takes away sin, and then daily strengthens the new man; and is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory.

 84] For this reason let every one esteem his Baptism as a daily dress in which he is to walk constantly, that he may ever be found in the faith and its fruits, that he suppress the old man and grow up in the new. 85] For if we would be Christians, we must practise the work whereby we are Christians. 86] But if any one fall away from it, let him again come into it. For just as Christ, the Mercy-seat, does not recede from us or forbid us to come to Him again, even though we sin, so all His treasure and gifts also remain. If, therefore, we have once in Baptism obtained forgiveness of sin, it will remain every day, as long as we live, that is, as long as we carry the old man about our neck.

Large Catechism, Holy Baptism, 47-86