Baptism is one of the most important events in our life of faith and God’s way of welcoming people into his family. It is a sacrament of grace connecting people to salvation won for them through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Baptism cleanses us, renews us and gives us the Holy Spirit. To follow are some questions and answers addressing what Lutherans believe about this life-giving gift of God.

What does the word ‘baptise’ mean?

The word ‘baptise’ is used in connection with the application of water. To ‘baptise’ means to apply water by immersing, pouring, dipping, washing etc.

Who should be baptised?

Jesus said that ‘all nations’ should be baptised and taught to keep his commands (Matthew 28:19). God’s salvation plan was for all the people of the earth, so baptism is also meant to be for all the people of the earth.

Who can baptise people?

Normally the called pastor/priest/leader of a congregation officiates at a baptism. This is because baptism joins a person to the body of Christ. However, when no pastor/priest/leader is available, any Christian can perform a baptism.

What do you receive in baptism?

The forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), deliverance from death and the devil (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 1:13,14), eternal salvation and life with God (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5).

What is the proper way to baptise?

The method of baptism is not prescribed in Scripture, except that the use of water and the name of the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is required (Matthew 28:19). The traditional method among Lutherans is to apply water three times to the head of the candidate, making the sign of the cross each time. If practical, full immersion remains an option and that can also be done three times as the Trinitarian names are pronounced.

What is the difference between an adult baptism and an infant baptism?

Essentially nothing. Baptism is a sacrament of grace that is offered to infants and adults alike. Adults can consciously engage in the responses in the rite of baptism, renouncing the devil and declaring allegiance to the Triune God. However, the baptism and gifts received through it come about solely through the actions of God.

What is the link between baptism and eternal salvation?

The Bible links the two directly: ‘Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved’ (Mark 16:16); ‘this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 3:21); and ‘he saved us … because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5).

Is salvation possible without baptism?

Yes. It is only unbelief that condemns (see Mark 16:16). Those who believe the gospel and call on the name of the Lord, even if they aren’t baptised, will be saved (Romans 10:9-13). The thief on the cross received the assurance of salvation without baptism (Luke 23:39–43).

If I already believe in Jesus, why do I need to be baptised?

Even though salvation is possible apart from baptism, the assurance of salvation is connected to baptism. Jesus himself commanded it as the means to ‘making disciples of all nations’.

Why do we baptise infants?

The command of Jesus was to baptise all nations. Jesus accepted and blessed children too young to respond (Mark 10:13-16). Baptism is an act of God’s grace and marks entry into his family. Sin exists from birth (Psalm 51:5) and God’s solution is also provided from birth. We are saved through the gracious actions of God. Every time we baptise a baby, we proclaim to all the world that God’s grace is sufficient for everyone.

How is a Lutheran baptism different from other churches?

You can get baptised in a Lutheran church, but you are not baptised ‘Lutheran’. A person is not baptised into a denomination but into the family of God. Different denominations might have different rites of baptism and acts of symbolism, but all baptisms join a person to the body of Christ. The Lutheran church teaches that baptism is valid if water and the triune name of God are used, regardless of whether the person is an infant or an adult or is baptised by sprinkling or full immersion.

What if a child dies before they are baptised?

God does not require baptism to save. We can reassure parents who had been intending to bring their child to the waters of baptism that his grace extends beyond this rite.

Why does the church encourage there to be godparents/sponsors?

In the case of infants, godparents have the role of supporting the parents in their responsibilities of teaching the faith to their child. This responsibility is upon the whole church generally and upon parents and godparents specifically. For an adult, the sponsors are likewise there to support and mentor them in their faith journey.

What does it mean to be born again?

Jesus used this term to describe the mystery which occurs when someone enters the kingdom of God (John 3:1-8). It affirms that this act of regeneration (through baptism) depends on God’s work. Jesus says that unless a person is born of water and the Spirit, they cannot enter God’s kingdom. God brings about this new ‘birth’ through the waters of baptism, regardless of the age of the person being baptised.

Can I get baptised again?

You can – but you shouldn’t. God’s word teaches that there is only one baptism (Ephesians 4:4–6). His promises are attached to baptism and effective in baptism. Rather than get baptised again it is far more helpful to remember that you are a baptised child of God every day.

What if I am not sure whether I have already been baptised?

If no record nor witnesses can be found of your baptism, then you can request to be baptised in good conscience. Even if you were indeed baptised, this second baptism will not discount the first.

This Q&A is an excerpt from Trail Marker One on baptism from the Faith Trail Ministry resource by the LCANZ’s Grow Ministries.

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