In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” ~ Mark 1:9-11
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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 that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:16-20
I. What is Baptism? Answer. Baptism is not simply water, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command, and connected with God’s Word. What is that Word of God? Answer. It is that which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke, as it is recorded in the last chapter of Matthew, verse 19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
II. What gifts or benefits does Baptism confer? Answer. It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and confers everlasting salvation on all who believe as the Word and promise of God declare. What are such words and promises of God? Answer. Those which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke, as they are recorded in the last chapter of Mark, verse 16: “The one that believes and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believes not, shall be condemned.”
III. How can water produce such great effects? Answer. It is not the water indeed that produces these effects, but the Word of God which accompanies and is connected with the water, and our faith, which relies on the Word of God connected with the water. For the water, without the Word of God, is simply water and no baptism. But when connected with the Word of God, it is a baptism; that is, a gracious water of life and a “washing of regeneration” in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says to Titus in the third chapter, vers. 5-8: “According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.”
IV. What does such baptizing with water signify? Answer. It signifies that the old Adam in us-is to be drowned and destroyed by daily sorrow and repentance, together with all sins and evil; and that again the person should daily come forth and rise, that shall live in the presence of God in righteousness and purity for ever. Where is it so written? Answer. St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 6, verse 4, says: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that like as he was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
I'll bet when you were baptized it wasn't in a structure such as the one in this picture. This is the baptistry in Pisa, Italy. It's where the sacrament of baptism took place in the Church. Take a look at the people in the foreground and you get a sense of the size of it.
Like Catholics, for Lutherans, Baptism is one of our sacraments. We have only two to the Catholics seven (the other being Holy Communion).
As you can see, Luther had lots to say about them, so I'm not going to add much here other than to say that Baptism is central to our identity as Christians. It is how we are marked as children of God. It is how we enter into the community of believers.
Baptism bears the gift of forgiveness of sin. It is where we encounter God in a new reality and experience the new life that is offered to us. It is the beginning of our journey of faith.
It is the sign of the promise that even in the brokenness and sinfulness of the world, God is present with us.
A Prayer by Martin Luther: Dearest God and Lord, strengthen and uphold us in your pure, precious Word through Jesus Christ our Lord, and help us to show and live our thanks with our fruits of faith to your praise and thanks forever. Amen.