National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

The Means of Grace – Holy Baptism

September 2017

by Stephen Schultz

What does it mean to be baptised? Over the years churches have had discussions – and disagreements – about this. Can an infant be baptised? Does it need to be by full immersion or is sprinkling sufficient?

The Bible teaches there is only one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). So, regardless of whether you were baptised as an infant by sprinkling or as an adult by immersion, the call is to grow in the understanding and grace of your baptism. God’s promises are attached to baptism – such as the gift of his Spirit – and baptism has ongoing relevance for our lives.

It is easy to take our baptism for granted, to see it as something in the past. So we say: ‘I was baptised’. But that would be like saying: ‘I was an Australian/a New Zealander’. If you’re a citizen of Australia or New Zealand, then you are an Australian or New Zealander – with all the rights and responsibilities that come from that. Surely if you’re baptised, then you are a baptised child of God – with all of its rights and responsibilities.

Baptism immerses us in the completed work of Jesus – his death and resurrection. On the cross Jesus declared that the work of paying the price for our sin had been finished (John 19:30).

That is why Jesus waited until his ascension to command his disciples to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’, ‘baptising them’ and ‘teaching them’ (Matthew 28:16–20). With his death and resurrection there was now something worth getting baptised into.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans (6:1-11), said the same thing. He wrote that when we are baptised into Christ Jesus, we are baptised into his death – buried with him in fact!

Of course, when we speak of Jesus’ death we also speak of his resurrection. When Jesus rose he proved that the wages of sin had been paid. In baptism we receive release from the power of sin and its consequence of death. Baptism is a ‘death and resurrection’ package deal.

Stephen Schultz is pastor at St Michael’s Lutheran Church, Hahndorf, South Australia.