Many Lutheran pastors and church leaders are telling their people, “Remember your baptism,” or “Look to your baptism.” Whenever the issue of salvation or assurance of salvation comes up, this is where people are directed to look. The general reasoning goes some thing like this, “God regenerated you at your baptism. It was there that you became God’s child. It was something He did, not you. As long as you have confirmed that you have remained in that covenant, you are a Christian today and headed for heaven. If you have doubts, then simply look again to your baptism and remember what God did for you there.”
It can even carry to the point where pastors will put the baptismal fount in front of the casket at a funeral. They recite a liturgy that goes something like this: “The deceased is in heaven today because they were baptized into Christ. As Christ rose from the dead, so they have risen with Him and are in heaven today.” Baptism did it all.
We in the Lutheran Church believe that the Scriptures teach that baptism is a means of Grace. It is a means that God works through. Yet, there still must be a personal conversion in the life of the baptized, or there will be no spiritual life. It is the same as the Word of God. It is THE means of grace. The Scripture says in 1 Peter 1:23, “For you have been born againnot of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is,through the living and abiding Word of God.” The grace of God is present through the Word (as in baptism), but are we going to say then that every one who has heard the Word of God is saved? No, it is only those who personally respond to the offered grace who come alive spiritually. So is the case with baptism.
In other words, I must look to my personal faith in Jesus, not to my baptism. No where in the Scriptures are we told to“Look to your baptism” or “Remember your baptism.” Rather, we are told to Look unto Jesus, “Looking unto Jesus,the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb.12:2). We are told to remember Jesus, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from thedead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” (2 Tim.2:8) It is clear from these and other Scriptures that our salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ. He is the only One who can save us. If you do not have faith in Jesus Christ, you will not be saved, even if you have been baptized. Jesus Himself stated this in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will besaved, but who ever does not believe will be damned.” Notice that Jesus didn’t simply say, “Whoever is baptized will be saved,” but it is the one believing in Christ and being baptized who will be saved.
For those brought to Christ in baptism at a young age, they must come to a personal repentance of sin and trust in Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior. If this doesn’t happen when they come to the age of understanding, they will fall away from the Lord and not be saved. It is futile to tell people that they are saved today because God worked in them once through baptism.
What is it to believe in Jesus, that is to have saving faith in Jesus? The Scriptures are clear about this. “Test your selves tosee if you are in the faith, examine your selves! Or do you notrecognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless in deed you fail the test.” (2 Cor. 13:5) The Scriptural test for faith is not to see if I am baptized, but if Christ is in me. “Hecame to His own, and those who were His own did not receiveHim. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right tobe come children of God, even to those who believe in Hisname” (John 1:11-12). The Biblical test of whether you are God’s child is whether you have received Christ. In verse 12, believing in Christ is equated with receiving Christ.
Even the Catechism is clear as to what saving faith in Christ is: “Q: What is the true and living faith in JesusChrist? A: This is faith, that a repentant sinner lays hold of Christ as his only Savior from Sin, and death, and the power of Satan; that he takes refuge with Christ and His righteousness, and builds thereon with the confidence of his whole heart.” It is repentance of sin and a faith that does not just acknowledge that Christ died for my sins, but a true and living faith is one that comes to Christ and receives Him as personal Lord and Savior.
Notice in all of these that it is my personal faith in Christ that is brought into question, not the fact that I have been baptized. Multitudes of Lutherans (and other denominations which practice infant baptism) are some how led to believe that their baptismal certificate is their ticket to heaven. This is why preachers can preach any body into heaven at their funeral, as long as they were baptized, regardless of what they personally believed or how they lived. The whole issue of conversion of heart and life to the Lord is never mentioned.
Instead of looking to your baptism, look instead today at your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you living in repentance of your sin? Is Christ in your heart? Have you come to Him and received Him as Savior from your sin? Are you following Him as Lord of your life?
Pastor Jim Haga (From May 2008 Morning Glory)
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