It is the month of October, 2017, and we are about to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church.

Over the past 500 years, Rome has not taken back her dogmas from her Council of Trent.

And over the past 500 years, the Zwinglians and the Calvinists have remained firm in their doctrines.

500 years later, the differences still matter.

Here's why.


Martin Luther's concern was always pastoral in nature. His concern was for Christian assurance and comfort. Rome had placed the focus of salvation on works and merit, and turned the Sacraments into law. The Sacraments were supposed to be comfort. Instead, Rome had turned them into works that we did for God.

Rome views the doctrine of justification, still to this day, as infused righteousness in our hearts through which we cooperate with God toward charity toward final salvation. Although sins are forgiven at Baptism for Rome, one still has to cooperate with the infused grace given to them in the Sacraments to merit eternal life, albeit this merit is considered gracious.

Luther rightly saw that this still turns salvation into a work of man. If I am constantly worrying about striving to cooperate, or to be good enough, then this will leave me no assurance.

Luther saw sin for what it is--a condition of the heart. Rome sees it primarily as actions, and does not see sinful desire (concupiscence) as sin.

Luther believed it is the heart that needs to be justified. Not actions.

Therefore, for Luther, justification had to be a free and gracious act of God, whereby God declares the sinner righteous completely because of what Christ did for him on the Cross. After our sins are forgiven, we still have need of constant forgiveness. We remain sinners after we are saved. Luther said we are "simul iustus et peccator"--at the same time justified and sinners.

To ignore this fact is to not deal in the real world, and is to soften sin and its utter sinfulness.


But as Luther was dealing with Rome's errors on one side, he was also dealing with the errors of the sacramentarians on the other side. Today's reformed and evangelicals, although they have different understandings of the sacraments, nonetheless agree that God is not always present in the Sacraments to forgive, all the time. The evangelicals and Baptists see baptism and the supper as mere memorials or remembrances of what Christ did for us; the reformed see them as mere covenant signs that may or may not have grace present to effect salvation, but this only for the elect.

For Luther, this came down to the following question: Is God gracious?

How do I know that I have a gracious God?

Luther saw that God does not want us to look to His strange work or to the hidden G-d in creation. But God wants us to look at and see His heart in Jesus at the Cross, and delivered to us in the Sacraments as pure Gospel.

For Luther, Christ is always in the Sacraments graciously forgiving, because His Word forgives, and His Sacraments are His visible Word.

This is why confessional Lutherans also consider Absolution a Sacrament as well. (See the Apology.)

So Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Holy Supper are truly Sacraments because they truly forgive and effect forgiveness. Every time. All the time.


We can see in the above that, although the various theological nuances can be differentiated, Rome, evangelicals, and the reformed share in common the denial of the gracious nature of God's Word. For Luther, it came down to nothing less than this:

God's Word does what it says.

No qualifications. No reinterpretations.

Rome denies that God is that gracious in justification.

The reformed and evangelicals deny that God is that gracious in the Sacraments.


To this day, only the Lutheran faith, by God's grace alone, recognizes the beauty of this Good News. God continues to be gracious and forgiving. He knows that we always need forgiveness.

In a day where many so-called Lutherans tend to flirt with Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy, the Lutheran Reformation still matters.

In a day where Calvinists and Baptists try to say that they are really "not that different" from Lutherans, the Lutheran Reformation still matters.

It is all about assurance and comfort.

How do we know we have a gracious God?

Because God's Word does what it says.

It gives forgiveness, life, and salvation.

All the time.

For you.

For me.



In today's non-denominational world, where Christianity is whittled down to "essentials" and "non-essentials", we Lutherans usually are misunderstood by our Protestant brethren. Most don't understand why we place such high esteem on the Sacraments, why we won't commune non-Lutherans (although there are pastoral discretion exceptions), and why we will only commune at Lutheran Altars. There are some, such as the WELS Lutherans, who will only pray with Lutherans of whom they share fellowship. (This was also Missouri's position for a while as well, although not recently.)

Of course the above is considered harsh, unloving, divisive, etc.

So what follows is simply an attempt to help our Protestant brethren *understand* us; hopefully it will aid them in understanding *why* we believe what we believe and *the reasons* why we do what we do in our fellowship practices.


1. First and foremost, Lutherans consider *all* those who have been Baptized into the Name of the Holy Trinity to be our brethren in the Lord. This includes Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Trinitarian Pentecostals, the Churches of Christ, Baptists, Methodists, even many of the "liberal" assemblies that still have a valid Trinitarian Baptism.


Because we have a very high view of the Words of Institution of Holy Baptism: "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." When the intention is to Baptize, and water is used with these added Words, we believe God's Word does what it says. If the Words retain the very meaning of the Most Holy Trinity, then they have a valid Baptism.

This *excludes* those who use the words but change their meaning, such as Mormons, who do not believe in the Trinity.

Simply put, if the Words with the meaning are used, it is a valid Baptism.

2. As you can see, therefore, we do not try to "read the heart" of other Christians. Lutheranism opposes trying to "figure out" who is "truly saved." This leads to pastoral problems, such as doubting one's salvation, never knowing whether one is "of the elect", whether one has done enough good works to "prove" they are saved, etc. We oppose this not only against our Protestant brethren, but also the works-oriented approach of our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brethren. Which leads to our next point.

3. Lutherans are all about the Gospel. We are Evangelical Catholics. Usually the misconceptions of our Protestant brethren about us come in here. They expect us to think and act like them. In fact, they think of us as just "one of many" valid denominations (and they exclude Rome and the East!).

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Lutherans have always seen themselves as creating nothing new. We were part of what has been called the "conservative Reformation."

A lot of folks look at the Reformation as "the reformed wing and the Lutheran wing," with the Anabaptists as "the radicals."

But from our perspective, the reformed wing is just as much part of *the radicals* as the Anabaptists. The reformed wing started from scratch, and introduced doctrines that had never been held in the whole history of the Church.

The Lutheran Confessions (summarized in the Book of Concord) appeal to both the Scriptures and the Fathers.

We believe that Rome is the one that started creating new doctrines, and this can be proven from the history of the Roman Catholic Church--and now, especially from the innovations at the Second Vatican Council.

But what is most important to us is the *Gospel.* Which leads to the next point.

4. All doctrines Lutherans believe are *essential*, because they are all related to the Gospel. We don't think in terms of "non-essentials." We see all doctrine as touching upon the Gospel, and as interwoven, and we see all false doctrine as dangerous and deadly spiritually.

*Infant Baptism is Gospel because it shows how helpless we are before God, and God gives faith in Holy Baptism.

*Our "free will" is dead, and *no one* is capable of believing in Christ. It is not in our nature.

*The Holy Spirit willingly unites Himself to Word and Sacrament.

*The Sacraments are Gospel because they deliver the Gospel, especially in Baptism, Absolution, and the Eucharist.

5. Lutherans are all about keeping justification and the forgiveness of sins as central, at all times. Lutherans recognize that, in the real world, we sin every day. In fact, we are always sinning, because we are *never* loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and we are *never* loving our neighbor as ourselves. But Christ did. And He has freed us to look away from ourselves, and to rest in the Good News of His forgiveness poured out on the Cross and delivered in the Gospel Sacraments.

6. Lutherans believe in good works that serve our neighbor. Lutherans have been accused of not caring about good works, but nothing could be further from the truth. We believe in *truly* good works, because we have been freed to be passive and restful toward God through constant forgiveness, and we cannot then help but respond *spontaneously* through good works in serving our neighbor.

7. Lutherans believe in the Great Commission, to Baptize and disciple all nations. Usually our Protestant brethren complain to us here. But we have missionaries all over the world. And Baptism saves, so not only do we Baptize babies, but we also catechize them, "teaching them everything I [Jesus] have commanded you." This includes *doctrine*.

8. Lutherans consider true churches to be those where the Gospel is purely taught, and the Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. This means that we believe there are true churches, there are heterodox assemblies, and there are heretical assemblies. We don't try and "figure out" where to find a "pure church." We believe that is the error of our Baptist brethren.

Here usually our Protestant brethren desire us to recognize their assemblies as "true churches." Again, we do not think in those terms. But we do consider it a very serious error to not Baptize babies. We consider it a very serious error to deny that Christ is in the Eucharist Bodily, giving Himself to us for the forgiveness of sins. So, we are simply not interested in those assemblies.

But let us take heed as well, because there are plenty of "Lutheran" "churches" that are no better, having compromised with the world.

Heterodoxy and heresy are always a temptation for everyone. So we should pray that God keep His Church.


So how do we Lutherans view other Christians? As Baptized Christians. What do we think of their doctrine? We believe they are in error. Do we look at ourselves as "better" than them? Of course not. Everything is by God's mercy. And God knows how to save people, even in spite of false doctrine and poor theology.

But we also consider all of our beliefs to be related to the Gospel, so we will not compromise, by God's mercy, on our beliefs. These doctrines matter. We don't believe in the non-denominational, pick-and-choose spirit of the day. We reject it.

Here we stand. We can do no other.

God help us.




It has become increasingly common in Christian circles, even in Lutheran circles, to either partake of the Lord's Supper at churches that do not hold the same doctrine as those who partake, or even worse, many partake at churches that have a completely different view of the Supper than those who partake.

I'm not sure what the reason for this is. But even if we set aside the debate about unity in doctrine, at the very least......

***We should have the same understanding of the Lord's Supper/Eucharist and its purpose.***

Set aside the debate about whether complete unity in doctrine is necessary for a moment. Let's just look at the very *purpose* and *essence* of what the Lord's Supper *is*.


Many of the Fathers of the Church discussed the importance of celebrating only *one* Eucharist. And this stands to reason, since Christ Himself only instituted one Eucharist.

One Eucharist.

This means that this one Eucharist should be understood the same way by those who partake of it. Otherwise, it makes no sense to celebrate it.

Christ tells us very clearly what the purpose of His Eucharist is:

"This is My Body, given for you for the forgiveness of sins."

"This is My Blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Drink of it, all of you."


Whoever partakes of this Eucharist, publicly confesses the view of the Eucharist that the celebrating Church declares.

What many people do not realize, however, is that they think there can be individual differences on the very essence or purpose of the Eucharist, while yet partaking of the same Eucharist.

How does this work at all?

Imagine a Roman Catholic and a Lutheran partaking of the same "Eucharist."

The Romanist believes that there is no bread or wine remaining, and that its purpose is to offer sacrifice for the sins of both the living and the dead.

The Lutheran rejects that completely.

Imagine a reformed Christian or an evangelical partaking with a Lutheran.

The reformed and the evangelicals either believe it is only bread and wine--or worse, grape juice--to simply "remember" or "ascend to heaven by faith spiritually." They would never say we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation at the Eucharist.

So, it makes no sense for Lutherans to partake of another Eucharist.

But on another note, it makes no sense for non-Lutherans to partake of our Eucharist.


So, it is not that we "keep people away" or "exclude" folks from our Table. The Table is ready. It is for those who believe Christ's Words of Institution.

Any who do not believe that the Supper is Christ Himself, given in our mouths for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation--any who do not believe His Word here, have excluded themselves.

We do not exclude them.

They have excluded themselves.

The Table is ready.

Will you take Christ at His Word?


Top down heaven meets earth relationship Christ has with us

Many evangelicals tend to speak of salvation relationship as us having a personal relationship with Jesus foremost. On the other hand, us Confessional Lutherans focus on that as being God Incarnate's relationship to us that is a top down and heaven meets earth type of relationship. And this will be the focus here.

Apart from Christ, our own relationship we have to God is that of being lost sinners condemned by the law. Though the law may curb our sins (first use of the law), it does not make us any less condemned as sinners. The mirror (second) use of the law, which in the Confessional Lutheran view is the primary use, reveals to us our sins that we have in us  (and continues to do so even after our conversion) to bring us to contrition and drives us by grace through faith to the Gospel which gives to us from outside ourselves that forgiveness of sins  that the law cannot give us.

So how does this relate to Christ's top down and heaven meets earth relationship to us? The law shows us we cannot come to salvation by reaching up to God by human efforts. Instead, God the Son condescended to our level by taking on human flesh. Through His active obedience, He fulfilled the law fully on our behalf, and through His passive obedience, He died in our place as the spotless Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. And we can have hope because He rose again to assure us we can have new life in Him.

And how does God brings it about where we receive what Christ did for us- which is forgiveness of sins won for us at the Cross? Just as the Incarnation is heaven meets earth, so is the means of grace by which God reaches us. The means of grace by which God Incarnate condescends to come to us to deliver His forgiveness are Word and Sacrament, which is why those are also called the Visible Gospel. Those are tangible means by which we can hear, touch, taste, smell, feel and see the Gospel, and by which God employs all our senses to give us assurance of Christ with us to give us His salvation in His finished work at the Cross.

So when the water is poured, sprinted or immersed over us in Holy Baptism, it's heaven meets earth. It is Christ's top down relationship with us, where He comes to us giving us Himself and His blood that washes away our sins. When we hear the words of Absolution, though such words are spoken by the pastor, it is Christ being with us speaking His  words of forgiveness to us just as He spoke to the thief on the Cross to assure him. When in Holy Communion, we take the bread and hear the words, "This is My body given for you", and when we take the cup and hear the words, "This is the new covenant in My blood poured out for the remission of sins," God Incarnate condescended to us in top down and heaven meets relationship to us to give us His forgiveness to continually assure us He is still with us in real person, real time, and real place. We have that objective assurance.

 The Gospel (good news that Christ had paid for our sins)  given to us in Word and Sacrament is what gives us saving faith, that the Holy Spirit works to give us. It is a saving, justifying faith that clings to His person and His forgiveness. That faith is both Incarnational and sacramental. It is a faith that God continues to nourish and sustains in the means of grace. It is a faith that has objective means to look to, where we can be fully assured what Christ did on the Cross is given unto us.

It is a top down, heaven meets earth relationship that Christ has with us that as a result we because the same gospel that justifies us in Christ also now sanctifies us by grace through faith unto good works. And God  now accepts our good works, for Christ's sake, because He sees Christ's righteousness as covering us though we remain sinners (though repentant sinners). And how do we know what God desires of us? The law gives us that guide (third use of the law which is only true only for those in Christ).

Can the law assures us though if we use it as guide? No, since the mirror use of the law will always accuse us in regards to showing where we are still sinful. That is why we are driven back to the Gospel given us from outside ourselves in Word and Sacrament. We constantly need that means of grace to continually have our sins forgiven in Christ crucified for us and to continually sanctify us unto good works. The law simply shows us what is pleasing to God that we may have obedience of faith, but the Gospel sanctifies us unto that.

The end results of God Incarnate's top down heaven meets earth relationship with us in Word and Sacrament, where God is gloried in our salvation, are that we in turn glorify and praise God (in responding to His vertical relationship to us)  and we go out of the church divine service (where heaven meets earth) and serve God and we serve our neighbors in a horizontal relationship as we are called to do in regards to good works accepted by God, for Christ's sake.

Here we stand.


Outer salvation follow-up

Salvation lies outside ourselves also mean several other things besides the seven listed in the previous article found here:


Here's a few more:

First, when  we look inwards at our own fruits, works etc. we are looking at ourselves from the standpoint of law. And if we are honest with ourselves we will see that we are still the very sinners in need of grace (that is what mirror use of the law does). So we can't really look inwards to find real assurance. We have to look outwards as opposed to inwards. And where we look outwards are in Word and Sacrament, by which the Gospel are delivered unto us. The Visible Gospel so to speak is from outside ourselves. It is purely law and gospel distinction as to what we got here.

Next, when we find assurance in the objective Word that is right in front of us in tangible and real manner, spoken to us to show God's revealed saving will for us, we have no need to look for that inward feelings of the Spirit telling us we are of the elect. Feelings are subjective, and they come and go. We can feel high one moment and feel low the next. But God's objective word always remains true, and most importantly true for us and is there to and for us where our God Incarnate may be found (in the Visible Gospel). That keeps us from looking into God's inscrutable will (it is sin, that the law reveals to us after all that is the gap between the hidden God and us such that no one can see Him and live) as regards as to whom He may elect but we locate our election in Word and Sacrament where we find assurance in Christ crucified for us. In other words, it's purely God's revealed saving will and God's hidden will distinction, which are really extension of law and gospel distinction.

Finally, we don't look to how good we think we are, how well we think we keep the law, or how successful we feel we are in life. All that is fleeting and when we focus on those, what happen when things don't go well? Does that mean God has abandoned us or Christ isn't our Savior? Of course not!  But it does show the dangers of this theology of glory. We look outside ourselves to the salvation that may be found in the Cross of Christ given unto us in the outwards objective means of grace. That's Theology of the Cross for us. It's purely Theology of the Cross as opposed to Theology of Glory.

Here we stand.


Our outer salvation in Christ crucified for us

  Luther was known to have said salvation lies outside ourselves.

What does salvation lies outside ourselves means?

First, it means we can do nothing in our fallen state to save ourselves but salvation is entirely dependent on God who works to make us who were unwilling to become willing to believe in Christ crucified for us,  such that faith itself doesn't come from within ourselves but is gift of God imparted to us from outside ourselves. It is purely grace alone in definition.

Secondly, it means our assurance is not on the basis of anything in us, but it is in Christ crucified for us. It is purely Christ alone as our Savior.

Thirdly, it means our continual assurance lies in the outward objective means of Word and Sacrament  given unto us. It It is purely sacramental, physical grace delivered unto us from outside ourselves in the means of grace (to receive what Christ did for us), as when the Word is delivered to us in the water of baptism, spoken in Absolution and given us in Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Fourthly, it means there is nothing in us that merits righteousness before God but it is the righteousness of Christ that God sees in us that is foreign to who we are. It is purely alien/imputed righteousness.

Fifthly,  it means we have no fruit or work we can boast from ourselves of or say can justify us. It is purely faith alone as the instrument by which God justified us, for Christ's sake, from start to finish (or from conversion to glorification).

Sixth, it means faith alone looks outwards in clinging to God's word given from outside ourselves via means of grace, by which we are joined to Christ who comes to us to deliver His forgiveness. It is purely Incarnational and Christological.

Finally, it means that is what is true for all (whom Christ died for and God's grace is for) becomes personally true for us when offered unto us from outside ourselves objectively in the means of grace. It is purely universal atonement delivered by universal grace through objective, outward means by which faith alone clings to from outside ourselves.

Here we stand.


Response to Matt Slick on Acts 2:38, Part 3

 The first two blog posts responding to Matt Slick's article "Acts 2:38 and Baptism" can be found here:



As in these previous posts, Slick's words will be in quotes followed by my responses here.

"On the contrary, baptism is excluded from the gospel message.  Paul said that he came to preach the gospel--not to baptize: '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...' (1 Cor. 1:14-17)."

Except that Slick totally missed Paul's point here. The apostle's point wasn't that baptism doesn't save, but that Paul didn't  save anybody, and the fact Paul didn't baptize hardly anyone proved that.

If baptism isn't salvation, using the argument he didn't baptize but a few would be immaterial to his point salvation wasn't of Paul. The context of the whole passage wasn't dealing whether or not baptism saves but dealing with cliques in the church where some were saying they were saved by Paul, Apollos, or Peter.

For context, back up to verse 12: "What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, "I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas[b]'; still another, 'I follow Christ.'"

And Paul responded in verse 13: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius."

The context wasn't Paul didn't baptize because baptism doesn't save anyone but he didn't baptize to keep folks from thinking Paul did the saving. He was trying to show that they weren't saved by the name of Paul in baptism. In fact, he said just as he wasn't crucified for their sins,  baptism wasn't administered in his name. If Paul not baptizing in this context meant baptism doesn't save, by that logic, the fact Paul didn't die for our sins meant what was done on the Cross wasn't saving.

The text is saying the exact opposite of what Slick wanted it to say. More, it is fallacious to make the claim just because Paul didn't baptize, that meant they weren't baptized for the forgiveness of sins. The apostle wasn't minimizing the role of baptism in our salvation but was minimizing his own role.

In fact in the same epistle (chapter 6, verse 11), he would go on to say they were washed in the name of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. Throughout Acts, they were baptized in Jesus' name (that isn't denial baptism is done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, by the way). Paul indeed was alluding to baptism in saying it is the Visible means God used to wash away sins by joining those baptized to Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

That is seemingly the usual go to passage folks use to try to explain away many other baptismal texts that say baptism is indeed God's grace to unite us with Christ and His forgiveness, through faith. Sad.

"Likewise, Paul told us exactly what the gospel that saves is; he said in 1 Cor. 15:1-4, 'Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.'
Note what Paul states in the gospel, and that he did not include baptism in the definition of the gospel."

Paul did in 1 Corinthians 6:11 (and other places) include baptism in his definition of the gospel. And he did so blatantly, but not in the way Slick caricatured baptismal regenerationists. It isn't grace plus baptism. Nor faith plus baptism. But God's free and pure grace of baptism that delivers Christ's forgiveness to us and delivers the faith to receive that forgiveness.

And as pointed out repeatedly, Slick refuted himself earlier in the article when he said to be baptized means to passively receive.

And, yes, Paul did use the word "receive" in the text he cited here. So, if we go by what he said baptism really means which is to receive in passive way (and Slick was more right then he realized), then the Pauline passage does tell us of baptismal grace which means passive receiving of the good news that Christ died for us.

Not to mention Paul spoke of baptism in terms of gospel as in regards to Christ crucified and His forgiveness many times: Acts 22:16 (in regards to in a speech recoded by Luke describing his own baptism washing away his sins while he called on Christ), Romans 6:1-4, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Galatians 3:26-29, Colossians 2:11-13, Ephesians 5:25-27 and Titus 3:4-7.

Not to mention other parts of the New Testament treat baptism, not law and not our works: 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 5:7, and Revelation 22:17.

"So, we must ask 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 isn't necessary for salvation."

Paul didn't downplayed baptism but downplayed himself in regards to our salvation. That is like saying he downplayed the role of the Cross when  he denied he died for us in same context he denied we were baptized  in the name of Paul.

So he didn't exclude baptism from salvation. He excluded himself from the one who did the saving. At no point did he denied they got baptized in saving manner, but simply denied he was the one who administered it so no one can say, "Paul's the Savior."

"Further proof that baptism is not a requirement of salvation can be found in Acts 10:44-46.  Peter was preaching the gospel, people became saved, and then they were baptized. Acts 10:44-48 says,

'While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.  Then Peter said, Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?  They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.'  So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.' NIV).

"These people were saved.  The gift of the Holy Spirit was on the Gentiles, and they were speaking in tongues.  This is significant because tongues is a gift given to believers, see 1 Cor. 14:1-5.  Also, unbelievers don't praise God.  They can't because praise to the true God is a deep spiritual matter that is foreign to the unsaved (1 Cor. 2:14).  Therefore, the ones in Acts 10:44-46 who are speaking in tongues and praising God are definitely saved, and they are saved before they are baptized.  This isn't an exception.  It is a reality.  This proves that baptism is not necessary for salvation, and that Acts 2:38 is not teaching it is necessity either.  But, if it isn't saying that, then why is baptism mentioned here?"

Except that this isn't the only baptismal example in Acts, is it?

To simply use this one example then say that proves in every case in Acts and everywhere else in the Bible, reception of forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit precedes baptism so as to say baptism has nothing to do with any's salvation is not only unsound but very highly irresponsible use of the passage. It is simply flat out not true.

All this passage shows is that not in all cases does rebirth occurs in baptism. The vast majority of those who affirmed baptismal regeneration don't even hold to regeneration must always take place in baptism, so Slick was arguing against a strawman.

Let's cite two examples that show Slick was wrong to make it out as if regeneration and reception of the Holy Spirit only takes place prior to baptism

One example actually had faith receiving baptism prior to reception of the Holy Spirit:

Acts 19
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[b] and prophesied.

Another example had the washing away of sins and even faith itself in Christ taking place in baptism:

Acts 22
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’"

So pretty much Slick had to pick and choose from Acts to the exclusion of all other baptismal examples and then passed it off as the same rule for all of them when that wasn't the case.

Another examples prove him wrong.

Acts 2:38 still meant what it says.

Baptism is a means of grace by which we receive Christ alone for our salvation. Such passages were never intended to add works to our salvation but show us how we can be objectively sure in real time and in real place   by grace alone through faith alone, we are joined to Christ and His forgiveness alone.

Here we stand.


Response to Matt Slick on Acts 2:38, Part 2

The previous post response to Matt Slick's article entitled "Baptism and Acts 2:38" can be found here:


As in that, the format is the same: Slick's words are in quotes, followed by my response.

"All people are commanded to repent for their sins.  This is what believers have already done by becoming Christians. "

Except Acts 2:38 says repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of sins.

Can't say "for the forgiveness of sins" doesn't mean actually to receive forgiveness of sins, to get around that statement connected to "be baptized" for that purpose, then turn around and say "for" is to have sins forgiven in regards to repent in the same context.

"Baptism, then, is the outward identification with being a Christian for those who have already repented."

Except that isn't what the text says. And making mutually contradictory arguments don't begin to demonstrate that at all.

"Also, as the Israelites were 'baptized into Moses' (1 Cor. 10:2), so too, Christians are baptized into Jesus.  That is, they are identifying themselves, publicly, with Christ."

It's having it both ways.

If to be baptized  is to passively receive how is it at the same time us doing something to publicly identify ourselves with Christ?

Can't have it both ways. If baptism isn't what we do (which is true) but is passive reception (also true), then it isn't us giving ourselves to display our faith (and nowhere does Acts 2:38 or any other text suggest that).

If to be baptized  is to passively receive, not our own doing, as he pointed out at the beginning of his article, then to be baptized into Christ is to passively received Christ Himself.

That's why it is stated in the previous blog response, that Slick actually is making our case rather than refuting it by arguing for the phrase "be baptized" means passive reception, not our doing.

"Likewise, in Rom. 6:1-5 where baptism is related to death, burial, and resurrection, it is again an identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. "

Except Romans 6:1-5 doesn't actually say baptism is related to death, burial and resurrection. It says we are buried with Christ in  baptism itself and raised with Him to newness of life.

The text says the exact opposite of what Matt Slick wished it to say.

"That is why it is said of Christians that we have died to sin (Rom. 6:2, 11; Gal. 2:19-20; Col. 2:20; Col. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:24)."

Paul said we die to sins daily as result of being buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him to newness of life.

"Justification is the work of God where the righteousness of Jesus is reckoned to the sinner; so the sinner is declared, by God, as being righteous under the Law (Rom. 4:3; 5:1,9; Gal. 2:16; 3:11).  This righteousness is not earned or retained by any effort of the saved.  Justification is an instantaneous occurrence with the result being eternal life.  It is based completely and solely upon Jesus' sacrifice on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) and is received by faith alone (Rom. 4:5; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9).  No works are necessary whatsoever to obtain justification. Otherwise, it is not a gift (Rom. 6:23).  Therefore, we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1)."

While what he stated there is biblically true, he was using that to erect a strawman that those who affirm baptismal regeneration automatically hold to baptism as adding our works to be saved and justified.

The problem is this: he refuted any idea baptism is a good work we do when we are baptized the moment he correctly said at the beginning of his article that to be baptized is in passive sense of us receiving. If we are passively receiving, we aren't doing. That means it isn't our good work when we are baptized.

"Nowhere in the Bible does it state that we are justified by grace and baptism or faith and baptism or faith and anything else."

Complete and utter strawman that Lutherans and other Christians, who historically affirm baptismal regeneration, don't remotely even hold to.

The view is baptism itself God's grace to us by which He delivers forgiveness of sins won by Christ at the Cross to us. Faith passively receives what God gives by His grace in baptism. It is not faith plus baptism, but faith receives passively the benefits God brings us via such outward means, which is delivery of Christ's forgiveness to us.

Luther himself saw baptism as outward means of reception of Christ's forgiveness as in fact safeguarding grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It's purely God's grace to us.

And there are indeed passages that do  speak of baptism as God's regenerating grace to join us to Christ and to work faith unto us to receive Christ.

For example, Colossians 2:11-13 states to be buried with Christ and raised with Him to newness of life is to made alive with Christ when we are dead in our sins. What does it mean for God to make us alive with Christ when we are dead in sins? Ephesians 2:1-8 answers by saying to be made alive with Christ when we are to be dead in sins is God's grace, and God's grace is what gives us faith as a gift, not of ourselves. Baptism is God's grace. And it is God's grace alone to us to give us faith that joins us to Christ.

More rebuttals to his other claims will be forthcoming.

Here we stand.


Response to Matt Slick on Acts 2:38, Part 1

While discussing the issue of baptism with several friends online, some have posted an article by Matthew Slick of CARM entitled  "Baptism and Acts 2:38".

Slick made a lot of fallacious and strawman arguments, that will be addressed here and in future articles, against baptismal regeneration as held to by Lutherans as well as by historic Christianity.

The format in this response  will be that Slick's each of statements from his article will be in quotes followed by my response.

 "Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38).

"Acts 2:38 is one of the more controversial verses in the Bible regarding baptism and whether or not it is the requirement for salvation.  Some use this verse to say that one must be baptized in order to be saved.  But when you look at the verse, and others, you will see that it does not teach baptismal regeneration, that baptism saves, or that baptism is necessary for salvation."

And I like to point out the biblical data gives us the exact opposite conclusion from what the article is claiming.

"First of all, rarely is doctrine ever made from a single verse."

And Slick starts out with a complete and utter strawman. No one, who holds to baptismal regeneration, base their view on that one passage alone, and he ought to know that if he is an apologist. Many other texts are cited including 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Romans 6:1-4, Colossians 2:11-13, Galatians 3:27-29, Ephesians 5:25-27, etc.

Simply making a spurious claim as he did to make the view look easily refutable as if it is based on one verse actually says more against his position than what he is trying to refute.

"We need to look at all of what God's words says about a subject in order to accurately understand what it teaches."

Exactly, and there are many baptismal texts that consistently speak of baptism in a saving manner.

"In Acts 2:38 the main verb is metanoesate (change mind), the aorist direct imperative (a command) of metanoeo which means to repent (change mind).  This refers to that initial repentance of the sinner unto salvation.  The verb translated "
'be baptized' is in the indirect passive imperative (a command to receive; hence, passive voice in Greek1) of baptizo, which does not give it the same direct command implied in "repent.' The preposition "for' in the phrase 'for the remission of sins' in Greek is 'eis,' unto or into, and it is in the accusative case (direct object).  It can mean 'for the purpose of identifying you with the remission of sins.' It is the same preposition we find in 1 Cor. 10:2 in the phrase 'and were baptized unto Moses.' Note that both contexts are dealing with baptism and identification.  In 1 Cor. 10:2 the people were baptized or spiritually identifying themselves with the purposes and vision of Moses.'"

Slick doesn't realize this, but he actually proved baptismal regeneration with his arguments.

Consider first he said the clause  "be baptized" is in the passive sense to mean receive. He didn't even deny the word "for" really does mean for (many Baptists argue it really means "because of" to get around the text). So if he said (correctly) to be baptized is in passive sense to mean receive and if he connected that  to for forgiveness of sins, he can't then turn around and then claimed as he did "be baptized" in passive sense once one repents isn't for forgiveness of sins.

His suggestion was that it can be mean for the purpose of identifying with forgiveness of sins. He tried to use 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 where the same word is used in regards to them being baptized unto Moses. Problem is unto and for still mean unto and for, and when connected to the phrase "forgiveness of sins," you end up with the statement "be baptized unto forgiveness of sins" or "be baptized for forgiveness of sins."  Such an argument actually proves what baptismal regenerationists historically assert: one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

He said 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 means spiritually identified themselves with purposes and visions of Moses. If we apply that line of argument to Acts 2:38, be baptized would be identifying spiritually with forgiveness of sins.

So that proves be baptized isn't for forgiveness of sins? Here's the problem. If we accept his argument, that actually results in digging a bigger hole for his position.

It is not  spiritually identified with forgiveness that Christ gives if it is not salvation by grace through faith itself. When we are saved, we are joined to Christ and we are identified spiritually with Christ, as Galatians 3:27-29. (And that text indeed does say, baptism through faith joins us to Christ and clothes us with Him.)

His arguments so far from refuting baptismal regeneration actually validated it.

"Repentance, therefore, is presented as identifying an individual with the remission of his sins even as baptism following repentance provides an external identification visible by others."

Slick said in the previous paragraph  the clause "be baptized" is in passive sense for or unto forgiveness of sins as meaning to be spiritually identified with forgiveness of sins. Now he said baptism isn't to identity spiritually with forgiveness of sins  (contradicting the last sentence of the previous paragraph especially) but external identification for others to see. Besides contradicting everything he just said, the text does not  (nor any other text) say baptism is for external identification visible by others.

Perhaps, he realized the logical implications of what he said in the previous paragraph would validate baptismal regeneration so has to deny what he just said.

But that is exactly the problem when he can't take the text at face value. He was forced to try use arguments to get around it, even if the arguments are self-contradictory, self-refuting, and even times have implications that actually go against what he is trying to argue.

" That is why baptistheto (let be immersed) is in the passive voice indicating that one does not baptize himself but is baptized by another usually in the presence of others.  Repentance, however, is an act taking place within a person's heart as the Holy Spirit moves in the sinner."

There are several problems: 1) not every baptismal examples in Acts are done in the presence of others, 2) the fact baptism is passive reception actually refutes his arguments of baptismal regeneration adding works to our salvation, 3) what follows repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins in Acts 2:38 is the actual reception of the Holy Spirit so his claim the Holy Spirit does not work via baptism is refuted there, as is dividing the water of baptism from the Holy Spirit.

The rest of his article will be dealt with in future responses but let's add the fact to be baptized is in the passive for reception removes it from being our work (so any argument used to that effect that to hold to baptism saves adds works to our salvation is null and void on that basis). We are the receivers. It is faith that receives forgiveness of sins.

Ever wonder why the text doesn't say repent and believe but repent and be baptized?

Faith itself is passive reception of forgiveness of sins Christ won for us. Since baptism is itself passive receiving, that makes it faith itself that passively receives Christ's forgiveness and the Holy Spirit as a result as well.

Here we stand.

Luther's doctrine of election

The Lutheran approach to election is that such passages on the topic are written for our assurance, that in Christ, salvation lies entirely outside of our powers (hence alien/imputed righteousness) and in the hand of God. We didn't choose Christ, but Christ chose us.

We hold to while the elect are those who will in the end be saved, it does not mean we can speculate and go beyond what is hidden to us in regards to God's inscrutable will. What does that mean? The rational approach would be to assume since salvation is all of God and election is of some, it must mean God doesn't desire to save all.

Luther rejected that. He warned against such thinking in his Bondage of the Will, his sermons, his Commentary on Genesis, etc. To him the hidden God must be distinguished from the revealed God. The revealed God is the Incarnate God who took on flesh via the virgin birth, obeyed the law on our behalf, and paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross. That revealed God is our Gospel who comes to us in Word and Sacrament. And He desires to save all yet not all are saved.

Why are some saved and some aren't if God wants to save all and salvation is entirely all of God, not of anything in our fallen enslaved wills? That is where Luther said we are to shut our mouth since it is forbidden for us to inquire into. To him, the hidden God is the God of law who hides Himself from us sinners, since no one can see Him and live.

So in that very sense, his distinction between the hidden God and the revealed God is tied to his distinction between law and gospel.

To him, the gospel is Christ crucified for us. And that is the Word of salvation that Christ comes to all with in the mean of grace. And the fault rests with those who does not receive Him. In other words, while salvation is all of God, damnation is entirely on us. God's will to save is indeed earnest.

Luther refused to get into the thinking  if God doesn't save all, He must be a weak God. It is enough for us to know that He who elects us is able to both convert and keep us.

And for Luther, holding to salvation is all of God while affirming He wants all to be saved are actually twin ways he saw as assurance to us.

In his view, even if God's word that Christ died for us is rejected when God works grace on us via Word and Sacrament , it still stands. It isn't contingent on our faith or not for it to be true. Why is it assurance to him?

In his view, what's true for all (God's atonement and saving will/grace) becomes objectively true for us personally. In other words, in his view, we can only know Christ died for us personally only if He died for all. Likewise, we can only know He desires to save us with His grace if He truly wants to do so for all.

Luther rejected any idea we can have assurance God wants to save us or Christ died for us if we look to own faith. To him, that would be faith in own faith. In his view, faith alone looks outside ourselves. Look outside to what? To the salvation that lies outside as given unto us in Word and Sacrament.

To him, salvation being all of God tells us we can't look inwards to be assured given if we are honest with ourselves, we can only see the very sinners that needed to be redeemed in the first place which isn't assuring. Likewise, God's earnest desire to save and His providing atonement for all means we don't have to look at own faith or anything insides ourselves to see if He died for us or wants to save. It is objectively true based on fact it is for all. And what is objectively true means we can look outside ourselves, not inwards. Hence, faith alone clings to what God gives and offers in Word and Sacrament, that is Christ's work being delivered.

And that brings me to my next point: Lutheran election is both Christological and sacramental. In Luther's view, our predestination shines when we can say, "I am baptized. I am God's dear child because of that." Or when the words of absolution are spoken to assure forgiveness that Christ won at the Cross is still with us. Or when He delivers His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He is truly present in Word and Sacrament to deliver Himself and His forgiveness for our outwards, objective assurance. And we rest assured in Christ given unto from outside ourselves in Word and Sacrament, we have assurance we are of the elect- in Christ.

Finally, Luther's doctrine of a true believer can fall away in the end and be lost, but God will preserve His elect is an extension of his doctrines of hidden God/revealed God distinction, law and gospel distinction, and understanding of the objective Word being true and remaining true for all even if rejected.

He affirmed that if a person falls away in the end, it isn't because God doesn't desire to save such a person if we go by revealed will. Why some remain in the faith and some aren't is again none of our business.

The passages exist on assurance and apostasy as law and gospel passages. Apostasy warning passages are really law passages to warn a believer who has fallen into sin and is comfortable in that sin to afflict him with need for contrition and desire for forgiveness. Assurance passages (including election ones) are really gospel passages to assure and comfort those who feel weigh of their sin and desire the forgiveness the gospel offers.

This law and gospel message also applies to how to preach to the lost as well. And the two go hand in hand in that instance. The lost needs law to know need for forgiveness and needs to hear gospel that shows God's love to have forgiveness provided and available to them if they repent and receive by grace through faith alone.

That was Luther's view of what God's word of salvation say. And such Word in his view makes the sacrament. And it remains true even if one takes it in bad or no faith (as in Judas).

Luther, while predestinarian in view, would have us look to God's objective word given to us from outside ourselves in the means of grace. And we find comfort in Christ crucified for our sins with us, we found and locate our predestination. What he opposed doing is make predestination the central focus and in fact forbid debating over the subject. He feared speculations into it leading to either freewill synergism or limited atonement can undercut assurance (and indeed railed against both).

That's Luther's and Lutheran election doctrine in a nutshell.

Here we stand.


Common Misunderstandings Protestants Have About Lutheranism

In discussion and dialogue with my Protestant friends and family (this includes reformed and evangelicals in general), there has rarely been progress in understanding. More and more I continue to come to the conclusion that dialogue may not be beneficial.

Having said that, however, I do think it is possible to clarify what Lutherans believe and clear up common misunderstandings.

My hope is that this will at least help folks to understand.

Misunderstanding: "You Lutherans are just like Roman Catholics."

This is probably one of the most common misunderstandings. We will grant that our liturgy *looks* and *smells* at least like *traditional* Roman Catholic liturgy, but there are several differences.

We have purged anything that does not reflect the pure Gospel. As an example, particularly in our liturgy of the Eucharist, we have dropped all references to "merit" and "may our sacrifice." We confess that the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise.

The movement is downward, God toward us.

It is the worship of the Gospel. Not the worship of the Law.

Further, our understanding of the Sacraments is completely different from Rome. We view the Sacraments as the pure Gospel applied. For weak and weary beggars and sinners. Not something we do for God. Something God does for us and to us. Giving us Christ through them.

Lutherans have a unique view of the Sacraments. It is not like Rome's view.

Misunderstanding: "You Lutherans stifle the Holy Spirit and you have a dead religion."

No, we have a different *understanding* of *how* the Holy Spirit operates. We believe that there is no such thing as a Spiritless Word or a Wordless Spirit. In other words, the Spirit attaches Himself willingly to the Word and Sacraments, and He is always there graciously, applying the gracious universal Gospel. The difference is in *man*, not in the Sacraments. The Sacraments are *always* effectual.

Faith does not make a Sacrament valid.

God's Word makes the Sacrament valid.

Misunderstanding: "You Lutherans are idolatrous."

This charge is to be expected from those who are iconoclastic. This also shows the immense difference, from our perspective, between Protestants and Lutherans. Our faith is a *physical* faith, an *Incarnational* faith. God became Man. The Finite contains the Infinite.

We don't seek to explain *how* that is possible. We believe it because God's Word says it.

We don't subject the Word of God to fallen human reason, as the Calvinists do.

And we do not worship statues or icons. We believe they are helpful aids. And as Luther pointed out in his "Against the Heavenly Prophets", it is impossible to think of Jesus without thinking of a *man* in my mind. I am not being idolatrous in doing so.

The Commandment is not against any images, because even in the Old Testament there were many images God commanded the Israelites to create and make in the Temple and the Tabernacle.

The Commandment is against creating images in the likeness of created things and calling it "god" and bowing down to it and worshiping it. The pagans make idols of created things such as birds and crawling reptiles, bow down to it and worship it.

God is not in the image of birds and reptiles.

But God *is*, however, Man.

His Name is Jesus Christ, the Revealed God.

The Crucifix says it all.

Misunderstanding: You Lutherans are really just Arminians.

So many people think the only options are Calvinism or Arminianism. And some think we are "in between" the two.

The reality is, we are neither.

We affirm total depravity 100%. But we also believe it in a deeper sense than the Calvinists. Especially when it comes to our view of sanctification.

We affirm unconditional election but reject reprobation. We are comfortable with this paradox.

We reject limited atonement. But we don't hold to universal atonement the way the Arminians do. Instead, we affirm universal objective justification, believing that God in Christ actually *justified* the entire world on the Cross, and that that is delivered *subjectively* in the Word of the Gospel and the Sacraments, where Christ the Revealed God is present as for us.

We reject irresistible grace. We see it as hidden G-d, and we are not interested in God's decrees. We believe God's grace can be resisted.

We reject perseverance of the saints. However, we affirm that we are always *secure* **in Christ.** The Calvinist "P" does not bring comfort, because in Calvinism folks are always left wondering if they are really of the saints. They have to go inward to find out, or look at their "fruit."

God always stands ready to forgive and calls us home to where Christ is, in the Gospel proclaimed and in the Sacraments.

This is why outside Holy Mother Church there is no salvation.

Misunderstanding: You Lutherans place all of your hope in a priest, when only God forgives sins.

Yes, only God forgives sins. And He always does so in Christ and Christ alone. Yet God does not want us to "guess" about whether we truly have our sins forgiven, and He doesn't want us to look inward to find out. So He gives us real, physical, objective and tangible things, like Water, Body, Blood, Spoken Words. And He tells His disciples in John 20 that if they forgive sins of others, they are forgiven. And if they retain sins of others, they are retained. We cannot overlook that important fact.

The priest is simply Christ's representative.

When the Secretary of State visits a country, they know he is the representative of the President himself. And they treat him so.

When the priest speaks and gives Absolution and celebrates the Sacrament, we know He is Christ's ordained representative. He stands in Christ's stead. In Persona Christi.

He has been ordained to speak Gracious Words to us.

Words of Comfort for the broken.

Words of Warning for those who flirt with sin.

God's Two Words: Law and Gospel.

Misconceptions abound. Here is the heart of the matter.

The heart of the matter is that Protestants are iconoclastic and the Incarnation takes a back seat for them. We are thankful for where they are inconsistent. But we also see all false doctrine as deadly and dangerous. The common call for "unity" can only be answered when there is unity in Gospel doctrine.

We Lutherans dare not bow the knee to this false call for "unity."

Nothing less than the Gospel is at stake.

We must contend for it.


Baptism Saves Because Christ Saves by His Word

1 Peter 3:21 is supremely misinterpreted by Baptists.

It does not say that Baptism is something we do for God. It actually reads in the Greek that Baptism is an appeal to God, asking Him for a good conscience.

We are saying to God, "Lord, You promised to save us in Holy Baptism, and cleanse us from all of our sins. Keep Your promise, Lord, for where Your Word is, there is Your promise."

Baptism now saves you. Not by washing my skin or dirt off my body. But it saves through the Resurrection of Christ, because it delivers the Resurrection to us.

We therefore tell God to remember His promises in Holy Baptism.


Christianity Is A Physical, Sacramental, Incarnational Faith

For 1,500 years, Christianity was always a physical, sacramental, and Incarnational faith. This was confessed in the liturgies of both East and West because we confess that God took upon Himself physical human flesh and redeemed us through His physical Blood being shed and His physical human flesh being torn. He chose a real physical woman to bear Himself and be His Mother and point us to her Son, Who is God's Son.

Human beings are not just spirits with shells of bodies. The body makes up the integral part of the human. Romans 8 speaks of the hope of the redemption of our bodies. 

Therefore, the Church in all Her branches has always considered those who deny the efficacy of the Sacraments and those who refuse the physical as toying with Gnosticism, and outside the faith.

God redeems the created physical world through His physical Body and Blood, and applies it to us through the physical means of the Sacraments. Faith in Christ is not naked, but is clothed with the Sacraments. God continually comes to us in the life-giving Flesh and Blood of His Dear Son at the Holy Eucharist, for the continual forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

God does not want to keep us guessing, so He gives us ministers and priests who declare God's forgiveness, who are given the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.

God meets our weak faith where we are at, and desires us to look to these objective means. It is not based on how we feel. It is based on God's promises in Christ.

Baptism saves because Christ is in Baptism.

The Eucharist forgives sins because we are eating the life-giving Flesh and drinking the life-giving Blood of the Savior.†

Holy Absolution forgives sins because the Words of Christ Himself are spoken through His representative, His ordained priest.

If Christ says it, it is done.

If Christ does it, it is done.

We are simply beggars, showing others where to find the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

And He will come again physically with glory to judge both the living and the dead. And His physical Kingdom will have no end.

And our new physical bodies will have no end, and will be incorruptible.

To deny the above, is to deny the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.

To confess the above, is to confess the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.

This Man is God.

This God is Man.