I once had a crazy idea to write a “Gospel Tract” concerning Baptism in view of Mark 16:16, but by the time I finished the essay I thought it looked more like a manifesto than a tract to pass out to people, so I really didn’t know what to do with it….until now. After reading over it, it seems to fit perfectly for a Lutheran blog. So I thought I’d give it try here, please feel free to glance over it or read it thoroughly, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jesus washes His disciples feet, and perhaps this is the best image we have of baptism.

Many Christians like to make the notion of a “believer’s baptism”. I like to think that there are only two ways of understanding Baptism, through the Law (which no man can be justified by) or through the Gospel (which is God coming to us on behalf of His great mercy and not on condition of ourselves). You must never despise Baptism by thinking of it as something we do for God. Scripture is very clear that the Law came through Moses, and Grace and Truth came through Christ (John 1). How would Baptism then look to those still under the Law? Those still under the torment of the Law see Baptism as a “personal commitment”, a mere “act of obedience”, or “an outward sign of what has inwardly happened”. The problem with this notion, is that you are building your baptism upon your faith, and you are robbing yourself of all the joy Baptism offers. Do you understand that all sin is rooted in unbelief? So how can you be sure that your Baptism really is a sign of what has already happened inward? Do you always honor your parents? No. Have you coveted? Yes. Do you still Gossip, bear false testimony, etc? Scripture says that if anyone hates his brother, he is a murderer, have you still hatred? How then can you assert that there is a “believer’s baptism” when it is now clear that you still suffer from unbelief? Now you may say, “Because I believe in Christ”, but as we’ve just discovered, you still sin and that is unbelief. So as can be seen, if you are resting your salvation on any inward accomplishments, you are on sinking sand, and are suffering from what is called “faith in faith”; that one thinks he is saved because one believes. So instead of Christ receiving all “glory, laud, and honor”, your shifty faith receives the crown that only Christ deserves to wear.

Now here is where the blessings of Gospel Baptism come in. In Gospel Baptism, it is God coming down to you through the Water with the Word. In this Baptism, God is making all of the promises, God is bringing you into His family, and it is God who is clothing you in Christ. In spite of what you say, Holy Scripture is VERY clear (Gal 3:26-27; Rom 6; Tit 3:4-6; Eph 5:26-27; 1 Cor 10:1-4; 1 Cor 12:13; Col 2:9-12; John 3; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19) about the purpose and benefits of Baptism. And there is more, Baptism is objective and solid, an outward Truth that changes you inward and sets you on a firm place to stand. So you may respond in kind and say, well you are just as sinful as I am, how can you be sure that you are saved? I know I’m saved, because I’ve been baptized into Christ, I have His robe of Righteousness, all the benefits He won for me through the Cross, His resurrection, and His active obedience have all been applied to me through this most salutary gift. I am truly, deeply, and honestly His because He CLAIMED Me, He called Me, He chose me, and He WASHED me in His blood despite that I was once His enemy. What a merciful and gracious God (Rom 11: 34-36) we have!

Isn’t it ironic that the very text you use to prove us wrong (Mark 16:16) is the same text we use to strengthen our weak faith? For those who trust in Christ and have been baptized will not perish but have everlasting life (Mark 16:16). Are you seeing the beauty yet of our Most Merciful God? Perhaps now you can see the completeness of our salvation, it is truly grace upon grace! No longer do I have to look inward in myself to see if I have faith or if I’m bearing fruit, instead, I can look to outward promises that are secure because God made them. So when the devil comes to you and says, “I saw you just now, you little liar, how can you say you are a Christian?” You don’t have to debate, or despair, but instead say, “Get you gone Satan, for I have been clothed in Christ through Baptism, I have His robe of righteousness, and His blood was shed for me. If you have an issue, go take it up with my Mediator.” Praise God for the mystery of Baptism! To paraphrase Dr. Luther: Some pray for gifts of tongue, others pray for prophecy, but I pray that I may have a greater understanding of my Baptism; what it is to be washed by Christ and made new. Friend, that is my prayer for you today as you read this message, may you no longer seek after high and lofty wisdom, but instead, may you be content to rest in the “foolish” things of God which bring shame upon the wise (1 Cor 1:27).

“Let us love and sing and wonder
Let us praise the Savior’s name
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has brought us nigh to God.”

– John Newton

Unto him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.