My previous experience with Lutherans had been limited to what Grace MacDonald (Bible Community Church) had told me about her Lutheran upbringing in Wisconsin. Until Dale’s recent comments about this article, I was only aware that the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) was more conservative than the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America). But I couldn’t tell you if either was faithful to the Scriptures. Because of the prevalence of theological liberalism in mainline denominations it has been easier to view all Lutherans as liberal until proven conservative. Dale’s comments gave me the desire to look into things a little closer.

Apparently there are three major divisions of the Lutheran denomination: ELCA, LCMS, and WELS. WELS is the acronym for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. From what I have read, it seems to be the most conservative of the three.

WELS, characterized as theologically conservative, is the third largest Lutheran church body in America. With national offices today at 2929 N. Mayfair Rd., Milwaukee, Wis., WELS began in 1850 when three German pastors met in Milwaukee. Today, it has grown to over 1,200 congregations in North America. It has over 400,000 baptized members, which includes over 300,000 communicants, served by over 1,000 pastors.

During its history, WELS has taken a stand for what they believe. In 1961, they separated from the LCMS because of what they believed to be error in doctrine and practice. Of interest is their explanation of that withdrawal of fellowship between the WELS and LCMS.

Since 1872, when this confessionally sound federation of Lutheran synods was founded, the member synods were fully agreed on the fellowship principles that had brought them together. All held that complete confessional unity is the necessary scriptural basis for all practice of church fellowship, that is, for pulpit, altar, and prayer fellowship.

… In 1960, the Missouri men submitted their “Theology of Fellowship” to the Joint Union Committees. On the crucial point noted above, this document spoke of a “growing edge of fellowship” and contended that “in reaching out to those not yet in confessional fellowship with us there is the possibility of the beginning of the practice of fellowship.” This was the start of what has become Missouri’s position on “levels of fellowship.” In the meetings in May 1960, after three days of discussions, the Wisconsin delegation recognized that the consideration of this subject had reached an impasse.

The doctrine of church fellowship became the primary divisive issue that resulted in the 1961 Wisconsin Synod resolution suspending fellowship with the Missouri Synod. The resolution recognized the “Theses on Church Fellowship” [link] as “an expression of the scriptural principles on which the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has stood and which have guided it in its practice for many years.” Since their appearance the theses have been and are still recognized as such.

I don’t know enough about the WELS or LCMS to consider either a fundamentalist Lutheran denomination. And I would certainly disagree with the practice of infant baptism as described in this and other Q&A. But it is interesting to read about their willingness to defend and separate from those not holding to what they consider sound doctrine.

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17 thoughts on “WELS

  1. dale

    Great work, Andy, and a wonderful start to further understanding!

    Luther’s teaching on infant baptism is fully in line with his understanding of grace alone by faith alone, and compatible (imo) with fundamentalism’s biblical soteriology.

    If one understands baptism as the seed of faith (which is totally the gift of God), Luther taught that, when applied to infants, infants need to be “snatched from the grasp of Satan and exposed to the Gospel message from birth”. Since faith is the gift of God through the preaching of the Gospel, persons need to be enveloped from birth to death with it. The Gospel of Christ is salvation to every one who believes it.

    Baptism, therefore, is the first presentation of the Gospel to a human being at birth with the understanding the infant will be raised in the environment (family and the church as the admin of the sacrament) that will nuture the growth of faith to the person’s own acceptance and public declaration of Christ as the only way of salvation.

    Yes, a person can grow up and reject the faith that was presented in and through baptism, in which case s/he is damned by personal unbelief (no application of faith: resistance to grace). Faith is what saves, not the waters of baptism. People accept or reject the Gospel to their salvation or damnation every time they hear the Gospel, and Luther wanted people to be taught the Gospel from birth through the introduction of it via the sacrament of baptism.

    We are sinners from birth, and the Gospel applies even to infants for who can understand the mystery of faith in the heart of an infant?

    Do baptized Lutherans die and go to hell? Yes, and the doctrinal positions of the LCMS teach that since faith is the acceptance of the Gospel of Christ first pronounced to them through the sacrament of baptism, their rejection of faith is what damns. It is belief alone, through faith alone, by grace alone that saves. Baptism is the first introduction of faith that introduces the human to the grace that brings salvation. Do some rely solely on baptism for their salvation? Probably. Just as the Jews in Christ’s time relied on their circumcision. Luther’s solas are right on the money as far as I am concerned, and a faithful reading of his view re baptism is very much compatible with them. He did not want any to perish, but that all come to personal faith in the Savior. He felt it started at birth.

    Understood correctly, one is condemned by unbelief whether baptized or not as it is the Gospel (Christ crucified) that is being rejected. However, it would be better for them (the unbaptized) in the day of judgment than those who are exposed to the gospel at birth.

    Do we not “dedicate” children to the household of faith? Parents bring their infants to the church alter in front of the congregation pledging to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord with the help of the church. While you do not baptize infants, and I would certainly not attempt to fully equate dedication of children to baptism, maybe there is a level of analogy?

    Again, I hope this helps as I am not a theologian. I just like Luther’s works as he is certainly one of my favorite theologians.

    Best regards to you in your reading of Luther’s doctrinal positions.

  2. dale

    One other issue that I think might help. The LCMS is also a credo-baptizing church. Adults who come to Christ are baptized after they acknowledge their faith. Lutheran churches don’t go around and just baptize people for their salvation. People are actually led to Christ using the same methods many in BCC use (the Bridge tract here on this site is one example, the Romans Road template is also popular). Lutherans I know witness their faith to the unsaved with the understanding they need the Savior by faith. Baptism is important for the adult once they come to acknowledge Christ by faith.

    Is baptism a stumbling block to understanding Luther’s soteriology for those not familiar with the LCMS or WELS? Does the Lutheran doctrine of baptism remind some that it seems too close to catholicism (it is not even remotely close)? Remind ourselves that if we accept Luther’s understanding that “the just shall live by faith”, that understanding places baptism in its proper context which is miles away from Rome.

  3. Andy Rupert

    You are to be commended for explaining your understanding of baptism from a Lutheran (LCMS?) perspective. However …

    The WELS Q&A answers were not quite the same. In one answer the author said that baptism saves and very much differentiated infant baptism from dedication. I may have misunderstood his explanation (seeing that this is such a foreign concept to me), but it didn’t sound like credo baptism at all. Perhaps WELS is slightly different than LCMS? Check out the links in the article if you have time.

    In any event, our children are trained in the Scriptures from an early age apart from infant baptism. I trust the Holy Spirit will use the Scriptures to convict the hearts of my children as they are confronted with the Word daily. And when they are old enough to make that public confession of faith in Christ, I will encourage them to be baptized.

  4. dale

    Please forgive me for my rudimentary analogies. A theology professor I would not make. Maybe I should leave that up to seminary-trained professionals. I must admit I am not as familiar with the WELS as I probably should be, and will definitely check out the differences. Thank you for the advice. Infant baptism in the Lutheran tradition is for many from our upbringing extremely difficult to understand (whew! try an afternoon discussing this with your little brother [don’t try, Doug]). It truly is not.

    I was attempting to interpret what I read from Luther’s own writings since I have read much of his work. I also know this is the same line of questioning I used when first confronted with baptism of infants in the LCMS many years ago (I thought “Rome” immediately). I was satisfied from the responses received that I was interpreting correctly, but decided to research it further (hence reading Luther himself).

    The hang-up for many is that Lutherans equate “baptism” with “Gospel” which equates to “faith” all of which originate from God. The Gospel saves, and baptism is the Gospel. So, baptism saves. The words become interchangable since baptism is the first introduction of the Gospel, and it is the Gospel that saves, therefore baptism accomplishes its purpose: salvation through faith.

    Since God is the Author of faith, and baptism is the means to introduce it, baptism saves because it is the Gospel. The Gospel saves and baptism is the Gospel as both introduce persons to Christ: the infant and adult. I do not know any Lutheran minister who baptizes any adult without leading him/her to the Author of baptism first: Christ. Adults can confess their faith, yet if infants are brought to faith by the introduction of the Gospel whether they be young children or later as adults, the Gospel has accomplished its mission: leading one to Christ.

    As to the dedication analogy: Luther himself uses baptism as a method to dedicate children to all things holy, christian, the family and the church which he saw as the only environment in which to raise children to true faith in Christ. There is more agreement here than we may acknowledge. The baptism of infants does not negate the responsibility of the parents to bring them to the knowledge of, and personal faith in, Christ. Parents are reminded of this at the infant’s baptism. Again, I only use this as an example as I have seen the dedication of children in the non-denom and Baptist traditions and baptisms in both the Presbyterian and Lutheran traditions. They are all very similar in their presentations.

    Infant baptism does not alter the fact that we are responsible to place our faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross who gave himself a ransom for our sins. As adults we understand this.

  5. Doug

    I understand it, Dale. I just disagree with the practice of it! I am strictly credo-baptist, and not paedo-baptist.

    Some equate paedo-baptism to circumcision. Ok, if that’s the case, why do you agree with female paedo-baptism where the Bible never taught female circumcision?

    I am opposed to paedo-baptism because it was, and is not taught in Scripture. Just because Luther taught it, Calvin taught it, and other reformers taught it should NOT make paedo-baptism an accepted practice.

    I want to see chapter and verse in the Scriptures to show paedo-baptism should be an accepted practice!

  6. dale

    The inference of credo-baptism is just that, an inference based on what is a perception of the order of baptism (after confession of faith). That is fine for adults. It is the assumed order of the rite of baptism that we were taught leads to credo. Give specific chapter and verse that state “credo only”. Credo-baptists approach it via the interpretation that baptism is our witness to the world re our salvation. Luther saw baptism as God’s presentation of the working of the Gospel in the heart, and the miracle of grace we find through it (the Gospel). The Lutheran Confessions teach instruction of the adult prior to baptism to ensure they fully understand and accept the Gospel of Christ. Sounds credo to me. Infants can’t give witness to salvation, or to understanding of the Gospel that was just presented to them. Adults can and should.

    But what of children? If they are saved when they die (before the “age of accountability”?), do we not assume they are in heaven? How do they get there apart from the Blood of Christ as taught in the Gospel? For there is no salvation in any other, whereby we must be saved. It is the mystery of God’s grace and mercy. We do not understand it. So why should it be anathema to decide that the presentation of the Gospel of Christ can not work to salvation in the mind and heart of the infant whose complexities have yet to be determined by man. Even Luther could not answer with certainty as to the fate of children as he left that in the mercy of God. He just knew that they must be introduced to the Gospel immediately if it were to have the effect God wished it to have for them. God is the Author of salvation. Can he not work in the heart of infants also?

    I love it when folks not overly familiar with the Augsburg Confession (and its Defense), the Large Catechism, the Smalcald Articles, and the Book of Concord (all of which are repleat with Scriptures) tell Luther his interpretation of baptism is close to heresy (but he is so solid on many of his other doctrines). We’re not talking about some Joseph Smith or JW interpretation here, Doug. We’re talking about the guy who we love to herald as a champion of the “faith”.

    Ah, but what of infants? If the Gospel is presented to the human being first at birth, why withhold it until s/he is old enough to fully understand it? Do we not run the risk of damnation for our children if we do not immerse them in the faith? For Luther, it started at birth. Baptism is the “visible Gospel”. It is similar to going to church and hearing the Word, and ending up damned for unbelief (Hebrews6?). The Gospel is the Gospel whether it be by hearing or being introduced to it via some other means. Do men reject the Gospel presented to them? Absolutely. Baptism is no different.

    Do baptized babies grow up apart from faith? Yes, they do, and like every one who rejects the Gospel are damned for their unbelief. What good did baptism do them? Nothing. Just like the souls who sit faithfully every Sunday listening to Pastor Foxx or Pastor Rupert, and still end up rejecting the Gospel, so do baptized infants who grow up without faith die condemned by their unbelief. Baptism means nothing apart from faith. Period.

    Why is this so difficult to understand for learned men? Because to those of us from our background, this sounds too much like Rome. Luther really must have been a heretic. If he taught the “just shall live by faith”, how do we justify that with his position on baptism? I have just tried in the above comments.

  7. Doug

    Still no chapter and verse for paedo-baptism. Continue to quote men rather than Scripture.

    Want chapter and verse for credo?

    Act 2:41 “Then they that GLADLY RECEIVED HIS WORD WERE BAPTIZED: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (emphisis mine)

    Sounds like credo to me! That’s just one verse. I wish I had time tonight to search for more.

  8. Andy Rupert


    Have you read the links to WELS’ take on infant baptism? I’d be curious as to your take on what they were saying. The writer seems to be saying that not baptising a baby is a dangerous practice and that baptism saves.

    You have to admit that the way I am interpreting his comments would cause most Bible believers to wonder.

    I appreaciate your willingness to explain the Lutheran perspective, but have to agree with Doug that this practice is not the baptism described in the Bible. Luther may have passed it on as a ritual for good reasons. But I don’t see the benefit for someone too young to understand anything but food, sleep, and “change my diaper!”

    Know what I mean?

  9. dale

    I totally agree with you, Doug, that the verses you are using accurately describe an after-receiving-the-Gospel experience. It describes ADULTS receiving the Word. Adults can tell you if they are christian or not. Adults can tell you if they are saved or not. By discussing with an adult, one can tell readily if they are a believer or not. I know all the verses you use to describe ADULT CREDO-BAPTISM, but what about CHILDREN?

    How young is too young to baptize a child who claims salvation? I’ve heard testimony after testimony of those who were saved at an early age (4 years old and younger). Do we deny them baptism? Do we deny their salvation due to the child’s age where they can not understand politics, reading a good book (Steinbeck, maybe?), sociological issues, etc? When is the right age for a person to be saved? Has anyone determined it yet? Where did all this talk about an “age of accountability” come from?

    We are born in sin, and are damned from birth is the way I read the Scriptures. Christ died for every human being, and we are commanded to preach the Gospel to every human being. Every one of us needs the Gospel for our salvation. To Luther, the Gospel is in the baptism. Where is the wrong interpretation here? Does not credo-baptism proclaim the same thing: the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

    Andy, this is why “baptism saves”. Luther equates baptism with the Gospel. When the Gospel is applied, by God, at the infant’s baptism, and the child receives the Gospel, it turns to the child’s salvation. Therein “baptism saves”. Can not God apply the Gospel any way he chooses? The Gospel permeates everything within the church, and since proclaiming the Gospel is the primary mission of the church, it starts with the person’s baptism. Personal faith needs to work in the heart of the person to come to salvation, but it is “in” the person’s baptism because s/he can not claim to be ignorant of the Gospel if one is baptized. It stays with them until they die whether the Gospel works to their salvation or damnation: one can grow up to deny one’s baptism (the Gospel) and be damned. Is not God the Author of salvation?

    Yes, Andy, I have reviewed the WELS website, and it is very much in agreement with what I have described. In fact, I read no differences between the position of the WELS and LCMS re baptism. And, yes, even the WELS credo-baptizes adults (it is in there: it doesn’t use the same verbage, however).

    Andy, the danger in not baptizing infants in the Lutheran tradition would be the deliberate witholding of the Gospel to a human being. We are commanded of Christ to preach the gospel to every person, infant to adult as all are human beings, and Luther saw the Gospel very clearly in baptism (does the tradition we were raised see it differently?). Do we withhold the Gospel from infants? Can God work the Gospel in their hearts to salvation? To the Lutheran, all of life is immersed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ from birth to death. Baptism is the Gospel, and the Gospel is in, through, and presented by baptism. Does God save any other way?

    It is the Miracle of the Gospel that saves. Luther said that it was the only way to salvation. How do we hear the Gospel unless it is presented to us? Can a person be saved if s/he dies apart from the saving grace of God? No! Do baptized adults reject the Gospel? Yes. If I were saved as an adult, and refused baptism my whole life, never partook in communion, and never attended church, would you question the sincerity of my salvation? I believe you would and should.

    BTW, all of the verses used for credo- can be used for paedo- also. One other thing: if we are to go with the clear-cut “thus saith the Lord” proclaimations of God in his Word, and credo-only was clearly taught that way, do you think the great theologian that was Luther would intentionally ignore the command of Scripture to only baptize confessing adults? 1Peter3.21

    From the LCMS website: LCMS>FAQs>Doctrinal Issues>Baptism>Baptismal Regeneration

    “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; Act. 2:38; John 3:5-7; Act. 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).

    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., 1 Peter 2:21; Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5-6; Matt. 18:6; Luke 1:15; 2 Tim. 3:15; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:4; 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. Those who have been baptized, but who no longer believe, will not be saved. (By the same token, those who truly believe and yet have not had opportunity to be baptized [like, for example, the thief on the cross] will be saved.)”

  10. dale

    Baptism Saves

    Q. I believe I understand the LCMS position on baptism although it seems to lead down a troublesome path. As I understand you can be regenerated through baptism and also regenerated by believing in Jesus, without baptism, and then later baptised. The Lutheran position forces one to come to this conclusion of two ways to be saved, although both are by faith alone, just two different means. In Acts 10:44ff they believed and as a result were saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore baptised. Eph 1:3 also speaks of salvation by the work of the Holy Spirit. If baptism also saves, it must not save adults since an adult would not say I do not believe but I want to be baptised to get the faith to believe. If indeed the prooftexts of baptismal regeneration do actually refer to salvation, it must only be for babies since adults would of necessity believe before being baptised. And if they do only speak of babies who do not have the capacity to believe, why don’t these verses say so. My question then is, what do you see wrong with my reasoning? You do not have to give me the prooftexts since I have know them and have studied them and have ready many articles and the catechism both from Lutherans and others.

    A. We are pleased to hear that you have thoroughly studied the Scriptures on the topic of Baptism and other literature dealing with this subject. Perhaps you are very familiar with the Large Catechism’s treatment of Baptism, but we mention it here because Luther’s treatise on infant baptism in this section is extremely useful. Luther goes to the heart of the foundational theological questions at issue over against errant understandings of Baptism present among those involved in the Anabaptist movement of his time.

    Perhaps we can make a couple of points that seem pertinent to the issue(s) you have raised. First, as you have implied in your letter, it seems important to note that while Baptism is God’s gracious means of conveying to human beings His saving grace revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Savior, it is not the only means. On the basis of the Scriptures we teach that the spoken Word of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17) and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Cor. 11) are also means of grace. It is no less a miracle of God’s grace at work that an adult should believe by hearing the words of the Gospel, than that an infant should receive through Baptism the Spirit who creates the very faith by which one receives incorporation into Christ (Romans 6:4 “We were buried therefore with him by [Greek: the instrumental dia] baptism…”). Adults who hear the spoken Word and believe eagerly seek to be baptized, not because it is a human rite symbolic of one’s commitment or something to that effect, but because of what God promises in and through Baptism. It must be remembered that the only theological distinction between the spoken Word of the Gospel and Baptism is that the sacrament includes a visible element; hence, our Lutheran fathers commonly spoke of Baptism as “visible Gospel.” The Scriptures distinguish Baptism and the spoken Word, but do not separate them; they are both means of grace. As you also no doubt are fully aware, we teach that it is not the lack of Baptism that necessarily condemns, but it is the despising of this precious gift that endangers faith, for God Himself has instituted it and attached His promises to it.

    The Scriptures teach, of course, that there is only one Baptism (Eph. 4:5). There is no indication that God has limited this blessed means of grace to individuals on the basis of age or levels of maturity. Baptism is God’s act, a divine testimony to what “grace alone” really means, whereby He imparts the blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation to indivduals, children and adults alike. And as our Lutheran fathers have always taught, Baptism confirms the grace of God upon adults who have already come to faith, and strengthens them in their faith, even as the Lord’s Supper does.

  11. dale

    Why Baptize Infants?

    Q. Why do Lutherans baptize infants?

    A. Lutherans baptize infants because of what the Bible teaches regarding:

    1.) God’s command to baptize (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). There is not a single passage in Scripture which instructs us not to baptize for reasons of age, race, or gender. On the contrary, the divine commands to baptize in Scripture are all universal in nature. On the basis of these commands, the Christian church has baptized infants from the earliest days of its history. Since those baptized are also to be instructed in the Christian faith, (Matt. 28:20), the church baptizes infants only where there is the assurance that parents or spiritual guardians will nurture the faith of the one baptized through continued teaching of God’s Word.

    2.) Our need for baptism (Psalm 51; 5; John 3:5-7; Acts 2:38; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:3-4). According to the Bible, all people–including infants–are sinful and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). King David confesses, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). Like adults, infants die–sure proof that they too are under the curse of sin and death. According to the Bible, baptism (somewhat like Old Testament circumcision, administered to 8-day-old-babies–see Col. 2:11-12) is God’s gracious way of washing away our sins–even the sins of infants–without any help or cooperation on our part. It is a wonderful gift of a loving and gracious God.

    3.) God’s promises and power (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; John 3:5-7; Titus 3:5-6; Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2;11-12; Ephesians 5:25-26; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Those churches which deny baptism to infants usually do so because they have a wrong understanding of baptism. They see baptism as something we do (e.g., a public profession of faith, etc.) rather than seeing it as something that God does for us and in us. None of the passages listed above, nor any passage in Scripture, describes baptism as “our work” or as “our public confession of faith.” Instead, these passages describe baptism as a gracious and powerful work of God through which He miraculously (though through very “ordinary” means) washes away our sins by applying to us the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 2:38:39; Acts 22:16), gives us a new birth in which we “cooperate” just as little as we did in our first birth (John 3:5-7), clothes us in Christ’s righteousness (Gal. 3:26-27), gives us the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6), saves us (1 Peter 3:21), buries us and raises us up with Christ as new creatures (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:11-12), makes us holy in God’s sight (Eph. 5: 25-26) and incorporates us into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). All of this, according to the Bible, happens in baptism, and all of it is God’s doing, not ours. The promises and power of baptism are extended to all in Scripture–including infants-and are available to all. Parents and sponsors then have the privilege and responsibility of nurturing the baptized child in God’s love and in His Word so that he or she may know and continue to enjoy the wonderful blessings of baptism throughout his or her life.

  12. dale

    There are many other doctrinal explanations from the LCMS website. The three above come directly from http://www.lcms.org as I will provide that as a cite for the above. Please follow the pathway I have provided for further review, and read the Scriptures provided in the answers to the questions raised.

    I am not trying to win over to Lutheranism my brothers in the church in which I was raised, nor do I reject its doctrinal statements. I have no difficulties attending, or communing at my old home church(es). It certainly has been quite awhile.

  13. dale

    From http://www.wels.net “Question and Answer” CSC: WELS Topical Q&A: Infant Baptism

    Baptism is not contrary to “by faith alone,” since baptism as a gospel promise is aimed at creating faith as every gospel promise is. No one will be saved without faith. Your friend seemingly has no understanding about what the Lutheran teaching of baptism actually is.

    dale comment: Notice the sentence “No one will be saved without faith.”

  14. dale

    From the LCMS webpage “FAQs>Doctrinal Issues”

    In the Lutheran church, we follow what Christ said in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go, therefore, 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 observe everything that I have commanded. And surely I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

    The main verb here is “make disciples,” that is “make followers of Christ” or “Christians”; and the way our Lord would have us make disciples is by the two secondary verbs that follow: “baptizing” and “teaching.”

    So for infants, we first baptize them, and the follow up with teaching through home devotions, Bible story booklets, Sunday School, confirmation instruction, and so on. For adults, we first teach them–usually in an adult catechesis or instruction class–and then baptize them at the conclusion of their instruction. Either way “baptizing” and “teaching” always go together, since they’re the two ingredients in making disciples.

    dale comments: Notice the sentence “For adults, we first teach them…and then baptize them…” Sounds kind of like “credo-” to me.

  15. dale

    I thought of a couple of questions I’d like to ask: Can you please explain the salvation of John the Baptist? When did he come to faith? And along the same line, can you please explain the damnation of judas Iscariot, one who had a closer relationship than with Jesus than you or I (he actually saw Christ, lived with him, ate with him, and still betrayed him [Acts1.17]: Judas knew the Gospel first-hand)? Please explain 1Peter3.21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [discussion of Noah in the preceeding verses], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscious, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (ESV: please review the notation re this verse in the “Reformation Study Bible”, RC Sproul, General Editor, if you can, as it starts by saying, “Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.”).

    Also, Andy, I think you might be slightly devaluing the mind of an infant just a bit. Do we not start reading the Word to the infant at its crib? Do we pray over the infant every day when we put it to bed? I’ve heard stories of mothers-to-be strapping headphones to their abdomen to expose the infant in the womb to everything from yoga mantras to New Age music. Why do they do that? Why do what we do to expose our child immediately to the Gospel? Because human beings are damned without it, and when your children grow up to make a profession of faith (and we pray they will), who is to say that what you started when they were infants did not play a major role in their salvation? Was it not Timothy that the Apostle Paul commended for having known the Scriptures since birth given him through his grandmother and mother?

    Please explain Hebrews6.4-6? Ab exhortation to perseverence in the faith is one way to interpret it. That’s what is started the moment one is exposed to the Gospel: accept or reject it regardless of when it is given to you.

    Andy, thank you for allowing this forum to discuss these matters. I hope this helps you in your research and further study of Luther’s doctrines. I wish you to understand I am not trying to “convert” anyone. I just wanted to explain as a response to your great questions.

    Doug, hopefully we’ll see you guys soon, and we can come to blows 🙂 over this when we get back to Ohio.

  16. dale

    From http://www.lcms.org webpage:

    LCMS>FAQs>Doctrinal Issues>Baptism

    Faith and Baptism

    Q. Here is an excerpt from your web site: Baptism is “enough” for salvation in that it contains all the blessings of salvation that God himself has attached to it; these blessings are received, however, only by those who cling in faith–which itself is a gift of God!–to the words and promises attached to baptism. Shouldn’t it be the other way around–FAITH is “enough” for salvation and your blessings come from your personal faith and trust in the Lord. Your whole life should demonstrate your faith. Baptism is an act of obedience to God and shouldn’t be tied to salvation in such a manner that it seems that we would earn salvation by baptism. Why does the Lutheran Faith teach baptism=salvation and neglect the fact that salvation comes from faith by grace which is manifested in our actions?

    A. We appreciate your comments and are grateful for the opportunity to comment on the Lutheran understanding of what the Scriptures teach concerning Baptism–a position sometimes not well understood.

    First of all, central to everything that Lutherans teach is the good news that we are, in the words of St. Paul, saved “by grace…through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). The central principle of the Lutheran Reformation is that we are saved “by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. Faith in Christ by which we are saved is conveyed to us through the Gospel, as again Paul teaches, “faith comes from hearing the message, and message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). That is to say, the Gospel is the vehicle or means through which God by His Spirit works faith (Rom. 1:16-17). Faith does not come, as we might say today, “out of thin air.” God uses His divinely appointed means to impart to us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

    We also believe on the basis of what the Scriptures say concerning baptism throughout the New Testament that it is a means through which God conveys His saving grace. Lutheran theologians therefore often speak of baptism as “visible Gospel.” God (not human beings) has instituted baptism (Matt. 28:18-20). He has attached His powerful Gospel to the visible element of water and through this, His work, He unites us with Christ and imparts to us His saving blessings. That Baptism is God’s means of imparting His grace is especially clear in Romans 6. St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were bured there with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too might walk in newness of life.” The Greek phrase used here, “by baptism,” is composed of the preposition dia with the genitive case tou baptismatos. Beyond dispute, grammatically Paul is speaking about Baptism as the instrument through which God incorporates people into Christ and His saving work. It is for this reason that Baptism, in Lutheran theology, is regarded as such a precious treasure.

    To be sure, faith alone is the instrument by which we receive the salvation won by Christ. But the Gospel and sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) are God’s instruments through which He engenders saving faith in us–indeed, a miracle. Thus, there is no contradiction between saying faith alone saves, but that this faith comes to us through means or vehicles. We rejoice, therefore, in the words of the apostle who wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God….” (Eph. 2:8-9), a precious truth made known to us, as St. Paul further says, “through the Gospel” (Eph. 3:6).

    If one holds that baptism is a good work of obedience done by humans, I can understand how one might think that Lutherans teach that faith alone in Christ is not enough. But this is to fundamentally misunderstand, in our view, how the Scriptures everywhere describe Baptism, that is, as a divine, not a human, work. We reject any implication that baptism is a human work, one that we do in order to earn salvation. On the contrary, we hold that the Scriptures teach that baptism is God’s precious gift through which He works to impart His saving grace revealed to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who alone is our Savior. In a word, Baptism is a marvelous testimony to the unmerited grace of God.

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