Our Lord instituted Holy Baptism when He commanded: "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." (Matthew 28:19).
What is Baptism?
"Baptize means to apply water by immersing, washing, pouring, and the like" (Explanation of Small Catechism). For some that definition is sufficient because that is all they believe happens when someone is baptized. They view it as merely a symbolic act. What about Lutherans? What do we believe happens when someone is baptized? Why do we baptize babies? They can't believe anything—can they?
The Lutheran Confessors take up these questions in the Book of Concord. In succinct fashion the Augsburg Confession states: "Concerning Baptism, our churches teach that baptism is necessary for salvation (Mark 16:16) and that God's grace is offered through baptism (Titus 3:4-7). They teach that children are to be baptized (Acts 2:38-39). Being offered to God through Baptism, they are received into God's grace."
Lutherans believe baptism is not a mere symbolic act by the person being baptized, but that God instituted it and is in fact an act of God Himself! In the Large Catechism we read, "So also I can boast that baptism is no human plaything, but it is instituted by God Himself." and "To be baptized in God's name is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself." Lutherans believe it is God at work in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism!
We also believe that when one is baptized it is not a mere washing of the body, but a cleansing of one's sin! Luther teaches us regarding baptism in the Small Catechism: "It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this." In Holy Baptism the merits of Christ's life, death, and resurrection are applied to you and received through faith.
But what about infants?
Those who reject infant baptism do so with the understanding that one must have faith before being baptized. They argue that infants cannot have faith therefore they should not be baptized. However infants are not baptized because they believe; infants are baptized because of Christ's clear Word! Infants are included in "all nations." They are baptized because of God's grace not because of their faith. As Luther writes in the Large Catechism, "...my faith does not make baptism, but receives it."
Some will remark, "Pastor, are you saying the cute little bundle is a sinner needing forgiveness?" Yes. David writes, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psa. 51:5). St. Paul writes, "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Infants are in need of salvation like everyone else. Out of God's grace and love in Christ, He provides it for them in Holy Baptism.
But can an infant receive the benefits of Holy Baptism through faith? Yes! Faith is not intellectual assent. One does not "figure it out." Faith is a gift of God wrought by the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul writes, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Can an infant have faith? Yes! If the Holy Spirit can bring a stubborn adult to faith then why would we limit the Holy Spirit's work in an infant's heart? It is as much a work of God that an adult has faith as an infant.
The picture we see in infant baptism is a wonderful picture of God's grace. We see a helpless child unable to feed, change, or do anything for himself. This helpless child is brought to the font with nothing to offer to God and God reaches out to the sinful child through the blessed waters of Holy Baptism, applying the merits of Christ's life, death, and resurrection and claiming the child as His own. We do not come before God in Holy Baptism because we have something to offer Him; we come before God because He has everything to offer us—forgiveness, life, and salvation for the sake of Christ. Through faith we receive these wonderful gifts from God in Holy Baptism—no matter our age!
Steps for Baptisms at Zion
Baptism Information Form - The first step is to call our receptionists Jeri Hruby or Carolyn LIndenmuth 440-357-5174 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a Baptism Information Form. Or download the Baptism Information Form (Child / Adult) and return to the church office.
Visit - Prior to the Baptism, a pastor will meet with you to get to acquainted and to respond to any questions you may have and schedule the baptism. This visit can be at your home or at the church. Someone from our church will contact you to schedule this visit.
Baptism Class - This one-hour class is generally offered one week before the baptism. You will learn more about why we do baptism, what will happen that day, and your role as the one being baptized or as a parent, grandparent, or sponsor.
Pre-worship Meeting - Parents, sponsors, pastors, and those being baptized will gather the day of the baptism 30 minutes before the worship service time. We will meet in the main entry area. There will be reserved seating for the family.
What is an appropriate age for baptism?
Since the first days of the Christian Church, infants and adults have been baptized. We believe God is the one who acts at baptism through the earthly element of water connected to his unshakable Word. See article.
Do I have to be a member?
No. Baptism is open to all who believe and wish to be baptized in the name of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, whether you are a member of Zion Lutheran Church or not. While congregation membership is not a requirement, we do believe a person is joined to the community of faith through baptism. In baptism, commitments are made to enter a life-long journey of faith within a congregation. We encourage families to be connected to a faith community. If you don’t have a church home, please consider Zion Lutheran as your church family.
What if I was raised in another faith tradition?
We believe there is only one lifelong Christian baptism in the triune God (In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). There is no need to “re-baptize” when someone comes to the Lutheran church from another Christian faith, or if someone who has been baptized feels they have fallen away from the faith. God’s word at baptism holds firm!
One or more persons of your choosing will stand with you during the baptism. Sponsors are to encourage the child in Christian faith. Sponsors can be any family member or friend who is a baptized Christian.
If the parents and sponsors of the baptized are not members of a congregation, we suggest the support of a congregation baptism sponsor. A congregation baptism sponsor stands with you during the baptism. They will also pray for you or your child and provide gentle encouragement and support for growing in faith.
Our pastors are glad to provide baptism on an emergency basis. In cases of a life-threating situation, a person may be baptized by any Christian with water from any source “in the name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.”