"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
- Matthew 28: 18-20
What is baptism? Amongst Christians there are varying theologies regarding what baptism is. Baptism can be seen from different perspectives even as brothers and sisters in Christ. In many ways, then, it might be easy for us to say that in the end it really doesn’t matter what we think about it as long as we can agree to disagree. Yet the Bible doesn’t teach that there are many baptisms. Instead, we read, “There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6). The question before us, then, is what is this one baptism?
In Christianity, there is not much question as to whether one should baptize, but the question comes in how and why it should be done. The two texts that are most frequently used in the argument for baptism are Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” and Matthew 28:18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."”
These two passages affirm the mandate to baptize but it is when we look at the whole of scripture that we find the purpose and role of baptism. We begin with our understanding of Adam’s fall into sin and what that meant to mankind and all creation.
As Lutherans, we see our condition as truly dead and outside of fellowship with God. Thus, we believe that all people are born spiritually dead and have no capacity to seek after God. If God, Himself, does not save us we are truly lost. Thus, we see the work of Jesus Christ, in his life, death, and resurrection as the work whereby God saves. Salvation is the gift given by God and it comes to us through His means of grace; the Word of God in its written and preached forms, the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism. Through these means we receive the forgiveness of our sins and the justification of
our souls obtained for us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Having been raised with Christ we are now made alive to live our lives as new creations who live out the commands of the Law through the righteousness given to us in Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our salvation, then, is not dependent upon man’s decision or his work. The only power we possess is the power to reject the work of Holy Spirit as He makes us alive through faith. Through this blasphemy we find ourselves dead and back in the pit.