Reflections: Wednesday of the 12th Week after Trinity

Today’s Reading: Small Catechism: Baptism, part 2
Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 7:51-8:21; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18
What benefits does Baptism give? (Small Catechism: Baptism)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lutherans understand just how important Holy Baptism is. As Luther explains in the catechism, “[Baptism] works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this. . .” Baptism is no symbol or representation of something else, it is itself a means of grace. That is, Holy Baptism channels the blessings of Christ’s work–forgiveness, liberation from death and hell, even eternal life–to the person being baptized. What benefits does Baptism give? It gives to sinners what none of us deserve but all of us need!
But notice to whom this is given: “. . . to all who believe this.” This is important to note, because there are some who think of Baptism as a spell that is cast or ritual that is performed which guarantees that you will go to heaven. That’s not how it works. If it worked this way, we might as well open the fire hydrant on the street corner, spray everyone who passes by with water, and shout the Trinity at them!
Baptism doesn’t work this way because the gifts it bestows are only received by faith, the faith that God gives and sustains through His Word and Sacraments. For example: A child is baptized, but is raised in an anti-religious home. He doesn’t believe in Jesus or look to Him for salvation. In fact, he scoffs at the fact that he was baptized, because he thinks it is nothing but a silly superstition, or something his grandparents thought was important, but that he never cared about. This man’s Baptism won’t benefit him. It’s not because Baptism doesn’t work and deliver that man salvation in Christ, but because that man hasn’t only rejected Baptism, he has rejected Jesus Christ. On the other hand, if he trusted in Jesus and looked to Him for salvation, he wouldn’t despise his own Baptism and all the blessings offered therein would be his.
There is no automatic guarantee that if a person is baptized, that person will be saved. Unbelief negates the blessings offered in Baptism. This works the other way, too. People wonder about the unbaptized. Since Baptism works salvation, can the unbaptized be saved? Just as rejecting Christ can negate a person’s Baptism because of a lack of faith, so also a person who has faith in Jesus, yet never has the opportunity to be baptized, will not be condemned. An example is the thief on the cross. Put simply: Lack of Baptism does not condemn, but despising Baptism does.
Because you have been given the gift of faith and were baptized, you are marked as one of His own. All the blessings Jesus won for sinners–forgiveness, salvation, and life–are truly yours. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch