While walking through the mall (if you like that sort of thing ~ personally, I hate mall shopping), it’s not unusual or uncommon to be approached by proselytizing anabaptists-in-training who like to ask, “Have you been saved?” The next question is, “When?”. The answer I always give is, “Yes, 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ bowed his head on the cross and said ‘It is finished’.” It gets them every time! Not one single person has ever asked what I meant by that or better yet, even try to argue with it (whoosh ~ the deed done, they’re gone as quietly as they snuck up)!A former S.B., I’ve done my share of door-knocking in my youth, always accompanied by an older experienced, and “wiser” Visitor, of course (they call it “visitation”). Visitation ~ it sounds like the last thing they do with a body before the funeral (actually, that is called a “calling” ~ I used to sell funerals & cemetery).
Unlike most confessional Lutherans I know, I was not Baptized as an infant. Rather, I was required to reach what anabaptists call “the age of accountability” before receiving the gift of Baptism. My dad was not always a pastor, and my parents were unchurched for many years so I don’t remember hearing the words of the Gospel until I was at least ten years old. Well ~ contrary to what anabaptists teach, it was when the Gospel first fell on my ears that I received salvation. But I was denied Baptism until I was eleven years old. It was only after I had secretly and shamefully said “the sinner’s prayer” and confessed it to my mom, followed by a meeting with the pastor of the Baptist church (in which I was asked to give my “testimony”), in order to determine whether or not I was indeed qualified, that I received Baptism. Confessing my sin in that way was like telling someone a dirty little secret about myself. And they attached that guilt to the Baptism. Thankfully, there is no requirement or prerequsite for Baptism.
So on May 31, 1979 I was received into the family of God through Baptism. It was not a date that was written down anywhere in my parent’s records, so I had to do some persistent digging to find it. Still, the date of my Baptism was important. As much as we had moved over the course of my childhood (my dad was in the Navy), I managed to remember the name of the church and what city it was in. So I “googled” them and emailed the pastor to ask if he had any record of my Baptism. He did not respond for months. Still, I persisted. He must have finally tired of my emails because he then referred me to his secretary who was eager to help. She mailed a copy of my Baptism record. It was like finding my birthday!
When anabaptists Baptize in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost, who are truly present in Baptism, it remains a valid, scriptural Baptism. But sadly, the error is in their belief that God works nothing in Baptism. Because to the anabaptist, Baptism is only symbolic; a work of one’s own doing that is only a testimony of salvation; something that is done to prove to witnesses that you are indeed “saved”. My question to this is, “then why bother to do it at all? I mean, works don’t save you, do they?” But this is what Baptism becomes for them, a work of righetousness. As in Communion, they don’t even claim to reach up to God, they only claim to proclaim the faith they believe they have worked in their own hearts.
But for Baptists, there is no sense of urgency to Baptize. They refer to Baptism as an “ordinance” ~ something that offers no grace, salvation, or forgiveness of sins, but is done only because Christ ordained it. Inspite of their disbelief in the gift of grace, forgiveness of sins, salvation from eternal death in Hell, and the devil, they indeed receive the same. Anabaptists do not recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in Baptism. And they despise infant Baptism. But Acts 2:38 & 39 says, “And Peter said to them, repent and be Baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Aren’t babies included in the phrase “every one of you”? And this promise is for you and your children. Both adults and babies (your children) also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism just as the Holy Spirit ascended upon Jesus in the form of a dove in his own Baptism. We know that babies and infants can have faith. Luke 1:41 says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Even Elizabeth’s unborn child recognized the unborn Christ child. Again, Matthew 21:16 says, “and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes, have you never read, out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise?’”. Further, Matthew 18:2 says, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” Likewise, Matthew 19:14 says, “but Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” So why would a loving parent not want to bring their child to God through Baptism?
True believers cannot continue to doubt or argue with Scripture. We receive salvation, forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit in Baptism. And it is the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts. We do not work faith in our own hearts, we are not capable. I Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:2 says, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”
We all know the story of the thief on the cross. Truthfully, we don’t know whether or not he had been afforded Baptism prior to his crucifixion. It is probably safe to assume that he had not, and yet Jesus promised that he would be in paradise with him that very day. The thief recieved salvation through Jesus Christ alone, The Word made flesh who dwelt among us. And although the theif probably had not received Baptism, he recognized Jesus as the Son of God, True Man and True God, The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Salvation is not of our own doing. God works faith in our hearts and lives through the Word and the Water. So we receive the Holy Spirit, who works faith in our hearts and lives. We are helpless to save ourselves by choice or decision. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” And again, John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” It is the Father who draws us to him, not anything we as human beings might do.