In discussing the outstanding gifts given in Baptism last week, I can only anticipate the objection. As Luther frames the question in his Small Catechism, “How can water do such great things?” Are Lutherans among those who make too much of a simple rite involving water?
As stated last week, we believe in Baptism God forgives sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what he has promised.
So how does water accomplish all this? Luther writes, “It is not water that does these things, but God’s Word with the water and our trust in this Word. Water by itself is only water, but with the Word of God it is a life-giving water which by grace gives the new birth through the Holy Spirit.”
The question quickly becomes, where in the Scriptures is this taught? And the passage that Luther cites for this is Titus 3, where St. Paul writes, “He saved us … in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
An additional passage that I find convincing is from Ephesians 5 where St. Paul is referring to the relationship of a husband and wife in marriage. He tells husbands that they are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. He then goes on to describe this love of Christ as one where he “gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word!”
Now the washing of water alone would not sanctify, but Paul refers to a “washing of water WITH THE WORD!” The question that matters, is not whether God can use Baptism to give salvation, but whether we trust his Word and through faith receive the gift.
Since You Asked…
Are announcements necessary? And should they be included as a part of the liturgy?
Not all announcements are necessary! Nor should they be allowed to disrupt the rhythmic flow of the service. It is likewise important that announcements be kept to a minimum. But certain announcements are important. Information that will enhance participation in the worship, information pertaining to further Christian service, and information for regarding further opportunities for spiritual edification are such announcements of importance, and they are worthwhile to promote publicly to the assembly. We have chosen the beginning of the worship service as the most helpful and least disruptive placement for announcements.