Full Text for Confessions 2- Volume 33 - Why Is Baptism Important for Luther? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS LC2 33 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800 825 5234 www.captionfirst.com *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> NICK: Luther spends four sets of questions and answers on Holy Baptism. Obviously, it is very important to him. What is the reason for Luther's emphasis on baptism? >> DR. KOLB: I think, Nick, that Luther, as he came to the realization that he was totally dependent on God's grace, that his will really was bound, that his heart and his mind could not turn themselves to God but the Holy Spirit had to do that. And, as he looked at the word of the Lord that gave him assurance, he saw that what had happened to him personally in baptism was that, as an infant in a state in which he really couldn't help himself, was totally dependent on his parents, he also was spiritually totally dependent on the act of God. So that was a way of dramatically presenting the dependence of the sinner upon the grace of God, upon God's approach. Since we can't lift even a little toe to bring ourselves in the direction of God. The catechisms that is, remember, the programs of instruction that the medieval church used, generally did not have anything quite like Luther's treatment of baptism and confession and absolution of the Lord's Supper. What they did have sometimes not all programs of instruction had this, but some programs of instruction had a special list of the 7 sacraments just so that the beginners in the faith would learn what the 7 sacraments were and that there were 7 sacraments. So it was kind of natural, when Luther started preaching on the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer, that he would also have special sermons or series of sermons on baptism and on the Lord's Supper and even on absolution. The question of whether absolution is a sacrament is one that goes back and forth for a little bit in early Lutheranism. By the end of the 16th century, practically all lists see absolution as a continuation of baptism rather than actually as a separate sacrament in itself. But Luther could count the laying on of hands as a physical element, an external element and so sometimes included absolution in his list. As a matter of fact, in the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, the treatise he wrote in 1520 to describe and actually to criticize the sacramental system of the Middle Ages, Luther says in treating the sacraments that absolution is a sacrament. And then at the end, when he's sort of making up a list of the sacraments that really remain valid as sacraments for him, he says baptism, absolution, well, absolution is really a continuation of baptism and the Lord's Supper. So he's continually working on refining his way of expressing his doctrine throughout his life actually. And that's one example. Before we go on to answer your question in more detail, let me take you through a comparison of what he does with the sacrament of Holy Baptism and with the sacrament of the altar, the treatment of confession as we have it in the translation of the Book of Concord now. There's actually a later edition. When I learned the catechism 50 years ago, there was even a different section between baptism and the Lord's Supper, the office of keys and confession, which Luther himself didn't write but was inserted into later catechisms. What we have in the current translation is something that Luther did write in 1531 replacing an earlier shorter instruction on absolution. It's also interesting that in the large catechism Luther has the five chief parts without absolution and then adds an admonition to confession and absolution at the end in a I'm not sure now second or third edition. But, at any rate, I'd like to show you the pattern that Luther uses to conduct the sacramental instruction. First question: It's, again, that question that he got from his little son, Hans. What is that? So what is that? What is the sacrament of the altar? And then Bible passages to back it up. That was in no previous program of instruction or at least in very, very few. Then, secondly, what are the gifts and benefits of baptism? What's the benefit of such eating and drinking? Third question: How can water do such great things? Third question again: How can bodily eating and drinking do such a great thing? And then in the fourth question in baptism Luther zeroes in on the practical meaning of baptism for daily life. And in the sacrament of the altar, Luther also zeroes in on what is a practical question. What makes me really worthy? So let's look now at the text of the sacrament of Holy Baptism. What is it? Luther, in the previous 12 to 15 months before writing the catechism, had lived in the midst of a of a new resurgence of this biblicistic, moralistic, anti clerical, anti sacramental, millenarian heresy. There were some Anabaptists at least in the in electoral Saxony that began preaching in villages and the like. And one of the things they said was: Why do you bother with just plain water? So it's against that background I think we should understand that Luther is saying wait a minute, baptism is not simply plain water. It is water that is enclosed or set like a jewel in God's command. And it is connected, it is bound to God's word, in this sense, God's word as a promise. So Luther is saying in some ways, as we see in the large catechism, he's saying the same thing he said about the Lord's Prayer. We do it because God commands us and because God has attached his promise to it. So the water is not just water. This is water that has been brought together in a in an instrument of salvation by God's command. It's been set there in God's command. And it is connected with God's word as our Lord said, "Go and make disciples. Make disciples first baptizing and then teaching." I don't think we should understand our Lord's institution of baptism as necessarily setting a chronological order. There are some people, adults in our world, who are taught or that begin their instruction at least before they are baptized. But there is a kind of theological and logical order that God comes to baptize. He comes to give, as our Lord said in John 3, new birth before then the process of maturing that happens under the guidance of his teaching. So that's what it is. It's the action of God. It's the work of God. It's God on the move into people's lives and in John 3 giving them new birth, in Romans 6 or Colossians 2, burying them as sinners and raising them up. And that's the subject of the second question. What are the gifts? What are the benefits that baptism brings? Well, because baptism is not our commitment to God but it's God's action in our lives, it brings forgiveness of sins. It redeems us. You see the connection with the second article that Romans 6 also makes. What Christ did in his death and resurrection are here transferred to us by the burial and the resurrection the burial of the sinner and the resurrection of the new child of God, the new creature of God. So he redeems us from death and the devil, and he gives us eternal salvation. And Luther, of course, connects that then with faith. It is not a magical thing. But it sets in place a relationship that, as that relationship matures in the infant's case, will be a relationship of faith or trust in God from the human side as well as a continuation of the love that God has offered, that God has promised, that God has given in the act of baptism. And there Luther uses Mark 16:16 to stress that it's God's action but that it is an action of God that elicits, draws from, creates in us faith, even though we don't know what that means, as we look at the infant, what it means that that infant is in a relationship, that we always describe from the human side as faith. Certainly, the infant can't express that faith in the way that an adult can. But we know that infants who cling to their parents certainly have lively minds. And we know they have lively wills. And so in some mysterious fashion we know that God has set up a relationship with this real human being, even if we can't describe it psychologically. Then Luther says well, how can that be? How can water do these things? It's as if the child didn't quite catch the first answer that it's not water alone but it's water with the word of God. So Luther repeats the point. Water doesn't do it, but the word of God does it. Water the word of God is with and alongside the water, and it is a word that creates faith. And that faith trusts, clings to the word of God. Because, otherwise, it's just plain water. And here Luther uses Titus, chapter 3, wonderful verse in which Paul talks about the fact that we were sinners and then the part that Luther quotes through the bath of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit which he richly poured out through Jesus Christ our Savior, we are given new birth. We are given this rebirth and renewal so that on the basis of God's grace, we may be righteous and we may be heirs of the hope of eternal life. Again, the eschatological note, the promise of heaven. But the focus really is on baptism in this life. And that's the subject then of the fourth question. What is the significance of baptism with water? In all these other cases we've seen through this question literally was what is that? What is dosses (phonetic) is the German. Here he asks what does this mean, the way we usually translated that phrase. Here he says what is the deutsch ung (phonetic) in German, the significance of baptism with water? And we shouldn't think of signify in this explanation as simply being a symbol of or something like that. No, it's more like it's a an opening, a revelation of how God is at work in baptism. And so what baptism reveals is that, not only at the decisive point as we were brought into the kingdom of God, but also then in the struggle that we have every day with the sinful flesh that Paul describes in Roman 7, baptism means that the Holy Spirit repeats his saving action so that we may be assured that we are truly God's children as we, again, are put to death by the Holy Spirit's power as sinners. It signifies that the old creature within us with all our sins and evil desires is to be drowned and died. The significance in the symbolic sense of water is clear for Luther. But signify means much more than that. It is revealed to us here that the old Adam, the old creature, all our sins, all our desires are simply put out of God's sight. They're drowned. They're dead. We are innocent newborn children of God as we daily come to him in repentance. And that means that we don't come again, as I said, to this neutral point between God and Satan. We come out of our sinfulness into the new life that God has raised up through Christ to serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness as it says in the second article. And there Luther goes back to Romans 6, which at a number of points in his theology really becomes a key passage for his understanding of justification. Particularly, when you read it some day, in his great Galatians commentary where he uses this Pauline motif in Romans 6 and Colossians 2 of dying, of being buried as a sinner and being raised up in the new life. So in this mystery of the continuation of sin and evil in the lives of the baptized, Luther says we should always be looking back to our baptism because we can be confident that the working of the Holy Spirit through his word in other forms, as we remember, as we read, as we hear the word of forgiveness, point us back to our baptism. That word of baptism remains God's first and last word for us. We are his children.