Holy Baptism, Regeneration, and Faith

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The following is a useful discussion about Holy Baptism, regeneration and faith that took place in the comments of another post. The sincerity of the questions, and the information being shared merited it being pulled up from the comments to a post of it’s own. Thanks for the discussion so far, and I hope it continues here—ScotK

I too am being drawn by the Lord to seek out a more structured way of worship. I am with Baptism. If I receive forgiveness through infant Baptism…what happens to plain old repentance and being born again.? I am evangelical and I am concerned that people look solely to Baptism and believe they are going to heaven because they were baptized once even though they are not abiding in the Lord and walking with him. I have noticed that many [Lutheran] churches boast a large membership with maybe a quarter of that membership in actual attendance. Could it be that many of these souls believe they are saved from hell when they are actually lost? They have not continued in the faith.

Do Lutherans believe in being “born again”?

Thank you for your response.

Donna A

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Hi, Donna,

We’ll take your question first. Do Lutherans believe in being “born again”? Absolutely, for unless one is born of water and the Spirit he will not enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5). This new birth, or birth from above – the original Greek allows for both – is God’s work from start to finish. Peter writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has caused us to be born again (born from above)through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). Baptism is the means through which people are connected to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-4). The baptized have died to sin and their true life is now hidden with God in Christ. When He appears we will appear also with Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).

On the day of Pentecost Peter’s preaching pierced the hearts of those who heard. They cried out to the apostles wondering what they should do. “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” (Acts 2:38). “Be baptized” is in the passive voice. It is something that happens to you from the outside. The baptized receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the direct promise of Holy Scripture. The life of a Christian, the baptized, is to be one of daily contrition and repentance as it says in Luther’s Small Catechism. We sin daily and much. Repenting, that is confessing our sins, we turn again to Jesus. He takes us back to the font where both died with Him and were raised in the power of His resurrection. The gift of the Holy Spirit works in us to will and to do according to the Lord’s good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). This cycle of repentance and forgiveness is constant for a believer until their last breath. Indeed the very first of Luther’s 95 theses states, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Your final point asks if it is possible for people to fall away from the faith by not continuing in it or by trusting that they are baptized and have no need for repentance and forgiveness any longer. Yes, it is possible to deny the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The parable of the sower indicates that some seed fell among the rocks and thorns. Both grew for a while then died for lack of depth or were choked out by the cares of the world (Matthew 13:3-9). If we say we have not sinned we deceive ourselves. Thinking that we are above or beyond sinning is dangerous. It is the height of self-deception and a denial of clear Biblical teaching (1 John 1:8-10). If we confess our sins God is faithful and just. He forgives us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. The thought of cleansing takes us back to the font where we receive the new birth from our gracious Lord. Repentance and forgiveness, confession and absolution, mark the life of the baptized this side of heaven.

Timothy J. Scharr, President
Southern Illinois District – LCMS

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Hi Donna,

Thank the Lord that you are being drawn to “a more structured way of worship”! That’s what the church’s liturgy is all about–giving us the structure that draws our attention away from our sinful selves and places it squarely on Jesus Christ crucified and risen for us.

You asked: “If I receive forgiveness through infant Baptism…what happens to plain old repentance and being born again.?” All of these things are really parts of the same “package,” if you will, of salvation–different facets of the same diamond of God’s grace. Yes, we receive forgiveness of sins in Baptism. See Acts 2:38-39 and 1 Peter 3:21, for example. And that gift from God in Holy Baptism ushers us into a whole lifetime of living in repentance. Repentance is *not* just a one time event, though; it takes place each and every day throughout the life of the Christian. Martin Luther said it this way in the Small Catechism:

“What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the old Adam in us should by *daily contrition and repentance* be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should *daily emerge and arise* to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” (Small Catechism, Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Part Four)

You have a good concern that some people, once they’re baptized, think they’re going to heaven just by virtue of a ritual act of being baptized. However, Baptism is no “get out of Hell free card”! Instead, the Christian learns to live in his/her Baptism throughout all of life. Baptism begins our life of faith (also a gift from God), and we live out that faith by continually hearing the Gospel proclaimed and receiving the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood to nourish us and strengthen us in the faith.

I’m sure you can find many congregations in many different church bodies (Lutherans certainly are not the only ones!) who boast larger numbers on their membership rolls than they have in worship on any given Sunday. That’s true all across the board. But that’s also why we don’t look to the outward measures of “success” or “failure” that seem to make sense to the naked eye. Rather, we look to God’s sure promises in His Gospel of forgiveness through Jesus Christ and His certain forgiveness, life, and salvation given in His Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

I think it is wisest not to try and figure out whether certain individuals are saved or not. That’s up to God to discern, and I’m very thankful that He has not placed that burden on my shoulders. :-) Besides that, I have enough to worry about just keeping my own focus on repenting of my own sins and trusting God’s forgiveness and promises given through His only begotten Son!

You also asked: “Do Lutherans believe in being “born again”?” Most certainly we do! That’s exactly what happens in our Baptism. Check out Titus 3:5-6 along with John 3:3-5. Both St. Paul and Jesus Himself speak of being “born again” (“regeneration”) in connection with the washing of our Baptism. And as the quote above from Luther’s Small Catechism reminds us, that being “born again” also continues each and every day as we confess our sins and receive Jesus’ full and free forgiveness.

Hope that helps!

Pr. Randy Asburry

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Thank you for your comments. I am still struggling with infant baptism…shouldn’t you repent and then be baptised? Acts 2:38

Do you believe you can be born again without Baptism? The thief on the cross was not baptised but was repentant and went to Paradise.

I guess I am just concerned that there is too much emphasis on doing outward acts for salvation in stead if trusting in the work of Christ on the cross.

For Pastor Randy….my intent was not to judge people but simply to question…if infant Baptism works why do so many not follow though in the faith? Believe me I am working out my own salvation with fear and tembling. I desire to worship in a way that is pleasing to God.

Donna A

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Hi Donna,

Thanks for your response and your very thoughtful questions. I’m glad you are eager to learn and grow in God’s Word!

You said: “I am still struggling with infant baptism…shouldn’t you repent and then be baptized? Acts 2:38″

First, the promise of God’s salvation given in Baptism is for all people. In Acts 2:39 Peter says, “The promise is for *you and your children*….” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of *all nations,* baptizing them….” Certainly infants and young children are included in both of these descriptions.

Baptism and repentance certainly do go together, hand in glove, if you will. However, we don’t want to set up a sequential order that the Bible really doesn’t set up. Sure, Peter says in Acts 2, “Repent and be baptized…,” in that word order, but that’s not necessarily saying, “First, repent, and then, second, you can be baptized,” as if repentance is some kind of hoop to go through before being baptized, or as if it’s a matter of Step 1: Repent, then, Step 2: Be baptized. That would undermine the gift that God gives in His Baptism. I think it’s best to take Peter’s words to mean that repentance and baptism go together hand in glove. After all, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, Baptism also ushers us *into* the life of repentance (i.e. repentance also follows Baptism). So, yes, repentance may come before Baptism, but it’s not a condition for Baptism, and repentance certainly also comes after Baptism.

You also said: “Do you believe you can be born again without Baptism? The thief on the cross was not baptized but was repentant and went to Paradise.”

Sure, a person can be born again without Baptism. As Mark 16:16 says, “Whoever *believes* and is baptized will be saved, but whoever *does not believe* will be condemned.” Faith is the key thing here in this verse. But faith will also want to receive God’s gift of Baptism and the gifts of forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation that Baptism delivers. The thief on the cross most certainly did go to Paradise, as Jesus said. However, he may not be the best example for those of us who live for a much longer time than those minutes on a cross next to the Lord Jesus. :-) Also consider the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. It’s pretty clear in his case that when Philip proclaimed “the good news about Jesus” (v. 35), he believed that good news–yes, “born again” (converted, brought to faith), first. Then, when he saw some water along the roadside, he also asked Philip, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (v. 37). Faith will certainly want to receive and rejoice in the gifts that God gives, especially in Baptism.

Martin Luther said something very great and profound: “God is superabundantly generous in His grace: First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world. This is the particular office of the Gospel. Second, through Baptism. Third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourth, through the Power of the Keys. Also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren….” (Smalcald Articles, III:IV) In other words, God gives many gifts–such as the Gospel, Baptism, and we can add His gifts of repentance, faith, etc.–and faith loves to receive them all. Faith does not want pit one gift against another. After all, have you ever known a young child to turn down a birthday or Christmas present? Of course not! :-)

You also said: “I guess I am just concerned that there is too much emphasis on doing outward acts for salvation in stead if trusting in the work of Christ on the cross.”

It’s not just the outward acts for salvation; it’s the outward acts – such as Baptism, the Lord’s Supper – done in faith. Faith is what grasps and clings to the salvation that God Himself gives in His Sacraments. What you seem to be wrestling with is that God’s grace, His Gospel, can be rejected and is rejected by many. But just because His gift is rejected, that doesn’t mean that the gift is defective in any way. Just because a piece of gold gets carelessly dropped into used, dirty car oil, that doesn’t make it any less a piece of gold.

And, finally, you also said: “For Pastor Randy….my intent was not to judge people but simply to question…if infant Baptism works why do so many not follow though in the faith?”

Please accept my apologies for misreading your earlier statements! Again, infant Baptism does work. Sure, we could focus on the many that do “not follow through in the faith,” but we could also focus on the many who *do* follow through in the faith. Yes, infant Baptism has been a blessing for many and because of it many hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, cling to Him in faith, and end up in eternal life. It’s been this way for centuries through the history of the Church, and will continue to be this way until the Lord returns on the Last Day. What you see in action when some seem to turn away from the gift of their Baptism is what Jesus Himself talks about in the Parable of the Sower (cf. Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23). However, the great comfort comes from other promises that Jesus makes. Check out John 10:27-28 and Matthew 16:18, for example.

Pr. Randy Asburry

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17 Responses to Holy Baptism, Regeneration, and Faith

  1. Tuba Four says:

    Donna asked: If infant Baptism works why do so many not follow though in the faith?

    I would say that Baptism is the word of God joined with water. Baptism is the Gospel joined with water. So, if the Gospel works, Baptism works. The Gospel doesn’t take root in every hearer’s heart: it is the same with Baptism. Why? Because Baptism is the Gospel, because of the word of God that is joined with plain water.

    Hope this helps!

  2. cassa says:

    Donna asked: I am still struggling with infant baptism…shouldn’t you repent and then be baptised?

    There are at least two references in the New Testament of entire families being baptized at once.

    Acts 16:14-15 and 1 Corinthians 1:16 both speak to the baptism of ‘households’. The households likely were made up of several people, from the very elderly to infants and young children.

  3. Roberto says:

    The Apostle Paul compares Baptism to circumcision, which rite was performed on male children at the age of eight days (Col. 2:11,12).

  4. Dear Donna,

    Welcome to the struggle with God’s grace in baptism! I struggled with it too for many years and for the same reasons you do.
    Why, if baptism brings salvation, do so many walk away from it (e.g. many in my family)? It didn’t make sense. Until I read Jesus words in Mt. 28: Baptizing and teaching. The follow up is extremely important. But a lot of time that follow up isn’t there. That’s the idea of the sponsors to help bring children and adults (new born Christians) up in the Lord. That’s why God gave kids the best “godparents” in the world: their parents! But if their parents don’t nurture that faith, it will die.

    This is no different than many Evangelical churches. I’ve known many people who have said the “sinner’s prayer” and then walk away from the faith later on. Why? Because they did not grow in God’s Word and their faith wilted away.

    To add to Roberto’s comment, look at Acts 10 (Peter and Cornelius). At the end, Peter wonders what is there that would prevent these Gentiles from receiving baptism (after all, they’d received the Spirit). The interesting thing is if you’d asked them if infants can have a relationship with God, they would have said yes. They were all circumcised on the 8th day and became children of Abraham, part of God’s covenant. What they wondered about was whether you and I–non-Jews–could become part of God’s covenant.

    Remember what Jesus said about the children: the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10). We think kids have to think like adults to get into the Kingdom of God; Jesus says the opposite: we need to be like the kids!

    I pray that God will open your eyes to what He says in this. Please let us know how your struggle is going. God grant you His peace!

  5. Tim Boyer says:

    In reading 1 Peter 3:21: “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God” it seems clear that a pledge is required in the “baptismal formula”. How does an infant accomplish this?

    Thank you very much.

    Tim Boyer
    Germantown, TN

    • ScotK says:

      [Pastor Lehman is the author of Lutheranism 101: Holy Baptism. I’ve invited him to respond to your question—SAK, Editor]

      Dear Tim,

      Thank you very much for your question.

      The Greek word (ἐπερώτημα) that is occasionally translated “pledge” in 1 Peter 3:21 can be a bit confusing. The term in question is a noun form drawn from the Greek word that is normally used in the Scriptures for “ask” or “pray.” The noun means “request.” Getting that noun right helps us get the rest of the phrase right, “a request to God for a clear conscience.”

      Getting the translation right is helpful, but it doesn’t answer your question all on its own. Peter is telling us that in baptism we ask God for a clear conscience. Where does a clear conscience come from? The forgiveness of sins. This is why most scholars read 1 Peter 3:21 alongside Peter’s words recorded in Acts 2:38-39. “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (ESV).

      Peter makes it clear in his sermon on the day of Pentecost that baptism is for all people (=”you and your children”). In saying this, Peter is echoing our Lord’s call to baptize “all nations” in Matthew 28:18-20.

      The question still remains, “How can an infant ask God for a clear consience in baptism?” The simple answer is that we don’t know the mechanics of it. What we do know is that the Scriptures are consistent in saying that baptism is for all people regardless of age. They are also clear in saying that infants can have faith. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15 that he has “known the Scriptures” from infancy. David says in Psalm 22:10, “On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (ESV).

      There comes a point when we must simply accept what the Scriptures teach even though we might not have an answer to every question which comes to mind. “How can an infant ask God for a clear conscience?” is one of those questions, but certainly the God who can make an infant know the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15) can make this wonderful thing happen as well.

      Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
      Pastor, Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Accident, MD
      http://www.stjohncove.org

  6. Richard Hachler says:

    I am a member of a local congregation and have been baptized in our church. We are LCMS and I have much faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Both of my young sons were baptized within weeks after they were born. My wife has also been baptized in the Lutheran Church. I believe that infant baptism is just in that our children are born into sin. My question is this: is there any reason for an infant to be baptized a second time at a later date? My belief is that once you receive the Holy Spirit it is up to you to repent and ask for forgiveness, and that baptism is for once and one time only. I cannot find this in the Bible. Is it stated how many time one can be baptized?

    • Rev. Charles Lehmann says:

      Dear Richard,

      What a wonderful thing that you and your family have been baptized! When you, your wife, and your children were baptized, God adopted each of you as His own children and gave you the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

      You are right in your belief that baptism is a gift that is given once. This, for example, is why we confess “one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins” in the Nicene Creed.

      The reason we confess one baptism in the creed, however, is that one baptism is also taught in the Scriptures. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

      You’ll notice in this passage that Paul repeats the word “one” many times. We have one baptism because there is one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, and God and Father of all.

      If we were to change “one baptism” to “two baptisms,” then we would also have two bodies, two Spirits, two hopes, two Lords, two faiths, and two Gods.

      One baptism is sufficient because God is the one who baptizes. Baptism is our birth into the family of God, and just as we are only born into our human families once, we also only need to be born into God’s family once.

      There are two situations in which”rebaptism” would be appropriate. The first would be if a person was uncertain whether or not they’d ever been baptized. In that case, the “second” baptism would only be a baptism if there hadn’t been a first. The important thing would be that the person would then have certainty that they had been baptized. However, there would be no actual “rebaptism.” If the person was not baptized, the “second” baptism would be their only baptism. If they were already baptized it would still be their first baptism through which God was working.

      The second case is if a person’s “first” baptism was into a non-Christian cult such as the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since neither of these religions confess the Holy Trinity, their baptisms are not true baptisms. Those who convert to Christianity from these cults need to receive real, Christian baptism.

      Rev. Charles Lehmann
      Author, Lutheranism 101: Holy Baptism

  7. Jeff says:

    How can I keep my salvation? I have received baptism by immersion from another denomination, does it count? Also how can a person be absolutely sure they are a Christian if I have to ask forgiveness and repent each and everyday. What if you forget some sins you have done when you confess? What if you forget to ask forgiveness one day (for an example when you go to bed at night) and that person dies in their sleep? Thanks, Jeff

    • ScotK says:

      I have good news for you on all of those counts. First, there is nothing that you need to do or can do to keep your salvation. It’s not your job. It’s God’s job! Jesus says in John 17 that He has not lost any that the Father has given to him. When you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Father claimed you as His own child and washed you with the blood of His Son Jesus. It was in that moment that the Father gave you to Jesus, and He will not lose you. Your salvation does not depend on you, and it never has. Jesus has suffered and died for you. He desires to always feed you, care for you, and forgive all your sins.

      If you want to be at peace, there is no better way than to be in a church where you are always going to be reminded of what God did for you in your baptism and which continues to forgive your sins through holy absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, and the giving out of the Lord’s body and blood.

      In Galatians 3, Paul writes that “as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Christ and His righteousness are a holy garment. Jesus covers all of your sins. This means that when God the Father looks at you, he does not see all of the daily sins which you commit. He sees His beloved Son Jesus. He sees Jesus’ holiness instead of your sin. You have nothing to fear.

      Psalm 130:3 says, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” In this passage, “mark” also means count. If God counted our sins, we would all be doomed. But the good news is that he doesn’t. The Psalm continues by saying, “But with you there is forgiveness.” Though it is a good and holy desire to want to ask forgiveness for individual sins that you have committed, you don’t have to worry about missing some of them. The righteousness of Christ that you have your baptism is like a cloak. It covers you completely. You are God’s beloved child. Let not your sins trouble you because they have been taken away.

      Yours in Christ,

      Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
      Author: Lutheranism 101: HOly Baptism

      • Jeff says:

        Rev. Charles R. Lehmann,

        Thank you so much for your information. My wife and I have been visiting a local Lutheran (LCMS) church for the past few weeks. I can honestly say it is one of the most friendly churches I have ever visited. We both enjoyed the service very much. I’m looking forward to learning more about the Lutheran faith. < Jeff

      • Carl H says:

        Pastor Lehmann:

        A lifelong Lutheran, I’m struggling with this part of your explanation:

        “When you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Father claimed you as His own child and washed you with the blood of His Son Jesus. It was in that moment that the Father gave you to Jesus, and He will not lose you.”

        More specifically, it’s the words “in that moment” that I am getting hung up on, especially because adults come forward for baptism already believing and trusting in God. I’m thinking of Bible passages like these:

        — No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)

        — And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:6-7)

        Even before their baptisms adults may demonstrate their faith by confessing “Jesus is Lord,” praying, “Abba! Father!” and receiving absolution. Does that not already indicate that they are children of God?

        (This somehow reminds me of The Wizard of Oz, in which the lion already had courage but did not yet have a medal.)

        • ScotK says:

          Dear Carl,

          It is certainly true that in the case of an adult convert faith precedes baptism. I would never want to suggest otherwise. God the Holy Spirit gives faith when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel. In the case of an adult, this happens before the person is baptized into Christ (the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 is a good example of this).

          However, from John 3, Titus 3 we know that baptism is the way in which a person is born into the church. Regeneration is a fancy way to say “rebirth.” The washing which gives birth is baptism. In baptism God becomes our Father. This is why in the early church a person never even learned the Lord’s prayer until the week they were baptized. This was because the church wanted it to be clear that only the baptized can call God their Father in the way that Jesus did.

          The passages from Saint Paul actually support this. Both talk about the gift of the Holy Spirit being essential to confessing that Jesus is Lord or calling God our Father. In Acts 2:38ff we learn that the Holy Spirit is given to us in Baptism.

          Am I saying that an unbaptized adult convert doesn’t have the Holy Spirit? No. I’m not saying that. The Holy Spirit speaks and works whenever the Gospel is being proclaimed. But we can’t get away from what the Bible explicitly says about the giving of the Holy Spirit. The Bible connects the giving of the Holy Spirit with baptism, and so that’s what we’re stuck with.

          Paul was writing to baptized Christians in Corinth and Galatia. He almost certainly wasn’t writing to adult converts who had not yet been baptized. Nearly every example we have of an adult conversion in the New Testament ends with a nearly immediate baptism (eg. Paul, the Ethiopian eunuch, the jailers). There’s no reason for us to believe anything different about the churches in Corinth or Galatia.

          Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
          Author, Lutheranism 101: Holy Baptism

  8. Jeff says:

    I have a couple of more questions, what happens to the baby’s soul if it dies before it gets baptized, like crib death, or the mother has a miscarriage? Does it matter if the baby’s mother or parents are Christian?

    Thank you, Jeff

    • ScotK says:

      [Jeff, I’ve asked Pastor Lehmann to answer your question–ScotK]

      Dear Jeff,

      The questions you are asking are some of the most difficult in all of theology to answer. I know this because I’ve asked them myself. On the Saturday after Easter in 2008, I presided over the funeral of a baby who had been stillborn at 39 weeks. On the Thursday after Easter in 2009 my wife and I learned that our first child, who had been conceived about ten weeks before, had died in the womb.

      I don’t know of anything that compares with the pain of losing a child. When we begin to ask questions about the eternal destiny of children that are lost before they are born or who die after birth but apart from baptism, the pain only gets worse. The problem is that the Scriptures say very little about these particular questions. When the Scriptures are silent, uncertainty reigns. When uncertainty reigns, fear, doubt, and pain soon come rushing in.

      There are a few things that the Scriptures do say with absolute certainty.

      First, all human beings–even the preborn–are sinners who deserve nothing but wrath and eternal condemnation for their sin. Passages such as Psalm 51:5 make it clear that each human being is sinful from the moment of conception. In Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:1 we learn that eternal death is the consequence of this inborn sinfulness.

      At the same time, we know from those same Scriptures that God sent Jesus in the world to redeem and save all of humanity (John 3:16, Romans 3:23-24). God’s love extends to every human being even those who do not believe in Him (Romans 5:8). In addition, there are some passages that indicate that infants can have faith in Christ even before they are born. John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb when Christ comes into his presence–still in the womb of His mother (Luke 1). David has hope for his son’s salvation, even though he dies before he is circumcised (2 Samuel 12).

      One of the most interesting passages about the fate of the preborn is Job 3:16-17. “Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest.” In the midst of Job’s suffering, he wishes that he would have died before he was born. He believes that then he would be “at rest.” From passages like this, we can see that there is much hope to be had for the children of Christians who die apart from baptism.

      For this reason, Saint Augustine famously said that it is not the lack of baptism that condemns but the despising of it.

      Sadly, it is difficult in the case of the children of non-Christian parents to have a lot of comfort on the basis of clear passages of Scripture. Those children are also loved by God. They are also sinners for whom Jesus died, but the Scriptures give us no examples of people who express hope for their salvation. In cases where the Scriptures are silent or ambiguous, we must simply commend the child to the hands of our merciful God.

      I pray that this answer is helpful to you. The questions you ask are among the most difficult that we can face.

      Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
      Pastor, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Three Forks, MT
      Pastor, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Belgrade, MT

  9. Chad says:

    There is still one aspect in the belief in infant baptism that seems contradictory to me. Scripture clearly teaches we must believe and have faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (you would agree with me on that). You are saying that a baby when he/she is baptized that that is when their sins are forgiven and they are born again which means they are saved. You said one cannot lose their salvation, which I whole heartily agree. But one must have faith in Christ to be saved. So is it faith in Christ that saves you or baptism? You will say its both but you also say that when one is baptized they are washed in the blood of Jesus and become God’s child, so if they are God’s child when they are baptized how come some don’t believe the gospel when they are older, meaning they can’t be saved because they don’t believe, unless it is possible to be saved without believing which contradicts Scripture? For example, there are many people in the world who were baptized as babies but do not believe the gospel consequently not having faith in Jesus Christ to be saved. So according to your logic they are saved because they were baptized but they do not believe in the gospel meaning that there are people who can be saved without having faith in Jesus Christ because they were baptized.

    • ScotK says:

      Dear Chad,

      Thank you for your excellent questions!

      I need to begin by saying that I’m a bit confused when you say, “You said one cannot lose their salvation, which I whole heartily agree.” Lutherans actually do not teach this because the Scriptures do not teach this. Our Lord often warns His disciples against falling away from the faith that they currently have.

      The Scriptures do teach that in baptism we become children of God. We also know that God will never abandon His children. That doesn’t, however, mean that we will never abandon our Father. I read just this morning that Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith) has asked his parents for emancipation. He thinks he doesn’t need his parents and wants to live without their care and oversight. Many Christians who become Christians as infants through the waters of baptism make similar conclusions later in life. They decide to abandon their Father. That is why some who are baptized as infants die without faith in Christ.

      You also ask, “So is it faith in Christ that saves you or baptism?” The answer to this question is, “YES!” 1 Peter 3 teaches that baptism saves. Ephesians 2:8 teaches that faith saves. From Matthew 28 we learn that baptism is the means by which God commands the church to make disciples. Therefore, baptism gives faith. The faith given in baptism receives all of the benefits which Christ promises in baptism.

      Apart from faith we are unable to receive any of the good gifts which God wants to give to us through baptism. But we cannot deny that baptism saves without denying the clear word of Scripture.

      Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
      Author, Lutheranism 101: Holy Baptism

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