In Part 1 , we introduced a set of sermons by Martin Luther that answer many common questions about Baptism that are both classic and contemporary. The classic questions asked in his day continue to be asked in ours. His sermons speak for today .
To bring Luther’s help to our day and to English readers, Concordia Publishing House published a priceless resource in 2018, Martin Luther on Holy Baptism: Sermons to the People (1525-30).
This book is so valuable I decided to read it a third time and take notes. In case the notes benefit anyone else, they are being published here. The selection and numbering of propositions and questions are mine. They are not presented in the volume. Others would extract different items and number their selections differently. The book contains a good set of study questions at the end.
Sermons on Holy Baptism (1534): Part II
Why did Christ institute Baptism? What purpose does it serve or what does it accomplish?
God ordained and commanded his Word and Baptism to be administered in order that people might be saved, that is, delivered from sin and death and brought into God’s kingdom and eternal life.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mark 16:16
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5
Jesus honors Baptism by insisting on being baptized, though He has no need for it, to show us that we should value Baptism.
Jesus had no need to be baptized. John’s Baptism was for repentance, and Jesus had no sin or need for repentance. John was his minister to prepare the way for Messiah. Jesus was about to enter his public ministry. John was ready to resign from his work to give place to Christ. But Christ would not enter it until He was baptized by John. John needed to be baptized by Jesus. We all are like John, needing Baptism. Christ submits to a Baptism that, compared with his own glorious majesty and holiness, seems to be nothing. In this act, He reveals that we must not judge Baptism by outward appearance.
The water of Baptism did not sanctify Jesus. Rather, “He . . . sinks and puts Himself into it and touches this water with His own holy body; indeed, He sanctifies it and fills it with blessing.” [pp. 33-34]
Since Jesus has been baptized, the water of Baptism is not simply water that a cow drinks.
The Father and Holy Spirit honor Baptism by sign and wonder from heaven.
All three person of the Trinity into whose Name Christ commanded us to be baptized are active in the Baptism of Jesus. The Father speaks from heaven. The Spirit descends like a dove. The Father says, at Baptism, “This is my beloved Son.”
The words of the Father, “You are my beloved Son,” were spoken from heaven, heard, and written down for us also to hear, so that we would know what the Father does for us in Baptism. He makes us his sons.
This all happened so that we might learn what He wishes to do by Baptism and what we receive in it. Just as this glorious splendor of the divine Majesty was visibly present there once, the same thing still happens in a spiritual and invisible manner for everyone who is baptized into Christ. . . . Christ Himself plainly expresses as much at the institution of Baptism when He tells us to baptize “in the name of the Father, of the Son, an of the Holy Spirit.” Thus the words harmonize perfectly with this scene and present and display the very same faith that this picture displays visibly to our eyes, lest we have any doubt that, where Baptism is, there heaven is certainly open and the entire Trinity present, sanctifying and blessing through Himself the one being baptized. [P. 35]
The words, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” is the Father’s sermon. Though brief, it is so rich and broad that no one can comprehend it or ever be done studying it. The Father pours out his will and heart, so that all He is and has the power to do is made public. It is infinite and incomprehensible, and yet all bound up here in the briefest form and related to the single person, called Christ. He points us only to him and preaches of nothing else than this Christ.
The Father’s sermon at the Baptism of Jesus reveals that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, both true God and true man.
The words, “This is my beloved son,” reveal the Incarnation. The Father did not say them in some merely honorific manner.
The Father’s sermon at the Baptism of Jesus reveals that Jesus is without sin and qualified to be the Sacrifice, Priest, and Mediator between God and man.
The words, “in whom I am well pleased” reveal the sinlessness of Christ.
The Father’s sermon at the Baptism of Jesus reveal that Jesus is the only way to pleasing God.
In other words, He says here: “If you want to be freed from wrath and condemnation and seek and find favor with Me, you must come here and cling to this Man. He is to be the only true Priest and Mediator. Here and nowhere else will you find your reconciliation and a gracious God. [p. 42]
The Baptism of Jesus reveals the gracious will of the Father to save us through Jesus.
He gave us this revelation Himself specifically to reassure us and make us certain that, in Christ, His dear Son, He desires to show us pure grace and fatherly love and to maintain these in the face of everything that tries to wrest it away from us. [p. 43]
The Baptism of Jesus reveals what God says to us in our baptisms, that He makes us his beloved sons.
Whose heart or tongue will fathom the sweet consolation in these words when it believes and feels (as a Christian ought) that God was speaking the words to him: “This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”? [p. 44]
“Since this all happens in connection with the Baptism of Christ, it is thereby clearly shown to us that it is given in and through Baptism.” [pp 45-46]