A Laymen’s Commentary on the Augsburg Confession: Baptism

Article IX: Of Baptism.

1] Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary 2] to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace.

3] They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.

Baptism is necessary for salvation (Mark 16:14-20).  So then is Baptism absolutely necessary?  No, faith is created by the Word of God. In Baptism that Word is attached to water, but that Word is efficacious on its own.  However, a true Christian will desire Baptism when they hear of the benefits it provides.  See the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40).  The Ethiopian eunuch clearly has faith prior to Baptism yet he desires it immediately upon hearing about it.  This is our confession as well. Christ commands us to be baptized and we should be baptized as soon as possible.

So what is Baptism?  As Luther says in the Small Catechism: “Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.”  The amount of water does not matter but rather the water tied with the Word. In Baptism our sins are forgiven and we are made heirs of God’s Kingdom and sons and daughters of God. Baptism also regenerates the soul and enlivens the will to do good.  In short, Baptism converts and is for all people, young and old (Titus 3:1-11, Acts 2:1-41).

The Anabaptists (which include modern Baptists and other sects that deny Baptismal regeneration) deny child Baptism but rather say you must make a decision for Christ prior to Baptism.  They have a concept called the Age of Accountability (typically around 6-7 years old), prior to which the child is not condemned. Baptism is rather a symbol or sign of your obedience and gives no real blessing.  It is simple to refute the Age of Accountability as children prior to 6 die, therefore they must have sin.  That being the case they need what Baptism gives: the forgiveness of sins, regeneration of the soul, and adoption by God into His family.

Our will has nothing to do with conversion. It is God’s work alone. It is done by His Word and by Baptism. These are the means by which He converts.  We have clear Scripture regarding the efficacy of Baptism and that it is for all. To confess otherwise is false doctrine and dangerous as it denies children the gifts of Baptism.  The Confutation approves of this article.

  1. Christ our Lord to the Jordan came,
    For thus His Father willed it,
    John’s baptism for Himself to claim,
    And thus the Son fulfilled it.
    Thereby He drew for us a bath,
    To wash us of transgression,
    And drowned He also bitter death,
    Through His own blood and passion;
    A new life thus availeth.
  2. So mark ye well and all perceive
    What God Himself calls Baptism,
    And what a Christian should believe
    Lest heresy deceive him.
    Though lowly water, plain and clear,
    Is His good will and pleasure,
    His holy Word is also here,
    His Spirit without measure;
    He does Himself baptize us.
  3. Such hath He made clear as can be,
    With signs both shown and spoken.
    The Father’s voice was openly
    Heard loud upon the Jordan.
    He said: This Man is My dear Son
    In whom I am delighted.
    I now command you, every one,
    That ye, through Him invited,
    Should follow all His teachings.
  4. The Son of God Himself here stands
    In tender human nature;
    The Holy Ghost on Him descends,
    Clad in a dove’s fair vesture.
    We therefore should not doubt at all,
    When to the font we’re wending,
    That all three Persons us do call,
    To earth in grace descending,
    With us to make their dwelling.
  5. To His disciples spake the Christ:
    Go hence, the whole world teaching,
    The lost, for whom I’ve paid the price,
    Repenting through your preaching.
    He who believes and is baptized
    Shall be thereby most blessèd
    And born anew in heav’nly wise,
    No more by death oppressèd;
    He shall inherit heaven.
  6. He who rejects this gen’rous grace,
    Sin still his soul possesses.
    He is condemned t’eternal death
    Deep in hell’s dark recesses.
    No help is his own holiness,
    His deeds have not availed him,
    Turned by that sin to worthlessness
    Which from his birth assailed him;
    He can’t himself deliver.
  7. The eye doth naught but water see,
    Plain men the water pouring;
    But from this blindness faith is free,
    Christ Jesus’ blood adoring.
    It is for faith a flood of red,
    By Christ’s own blood thus tinted,
    For all our sin and weakness shed
    Which Adam has transmitted,
    And we too have committed.

(LSB 406)

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