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LCMS > FAQs > Doctrinal Issues > Baptism > Baptism and Its Purpose

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Baptism and Its Purpose


Q.  Can you please clarify the Lutheran view of baptism and what is its purpose? Does the child become a Christian when baptized?

A.  Lutherans believe that the Bible teaches that a person is saved by God's grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Baptism, we believe, is one of the miraculous means of grace (together with God's written and spoken Word) through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person's heart (see Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:38; John 3:5-7; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5-6; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:13). This faith needs to be fed and nurtured by God's Word (Matt. 28:18-20), or it will die.

Although we do not claim to understand how this happens or how it is possible, we believe (because of what the Bible says about Baptism) that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. This faith cannot yet, of course, be expressed or articulated, yet it is real and present all the same (see e.g., Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5-6; Matt. 18:6; Luke 1:15; 2 Tim. 3:15).

Lutherans do not believe that only those baptized as infants receive faith. Faith can also be created in a person's heart by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God's (written or spoken) Word. Baptism should then soon follow conversion (cf. Acts 8:37) for the purpose of confirming and strengthen faith in accordance with God's command and promise. Depending on the situation, therefore, Lutherans baptize people of all ages from infancy to adulthood.

The LCMS does not believe that baptism is ABSOLUTELY necessary for salvation. The thief on the cross was saved (apparently without baptism), as were all true believers in the Old Testament era. Mark 16:16 implies that it is not the absence of baptism that condemns a person but the absence of faith, and there are clearly other ways of coming to faith by the power or the Holy Spirit (reading or hearing the Word of God). Still, baptism dare not be despised or willfully neglected, since it is explicitly commanded by God and has his precious promises attached to it. It is not a mere "ritual" or "symbol," but a powerful means of grace by which God grants faith and the forgiveness of sins.


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