“As Long as They’re Christians”
Do denominational differences really matter? Part 1: An Infant Introduction
We have all heard phrases like, “My church just teaches the Bible,” or “All of us Christians pretty much believe the same thing, with only some minor differences in interpretation.” The truth is that the difference between most denominations’ centers on the issue of how mankind is saved, which is obviously a difference that matters. Over the next few newsletter articles that I write, we will explore some of these differences. We will birth the examination right now with Holy Baptism, by comparing the Lutheran teaching with main stream American Evangelicalism.
Both sides agree that the Bible is the inerrant infallible Word of God and the only source and norm by which to do theology. 1 Both also agree that the teaching of baptism is important since Christ Himself, in the Bible, institutes it. 2 However, there are basically two contradictory interpretations of the use and efficacy of baptism between those who claim to be Bible believing Christians. Most American Evangelicals teach that baptism is only for those who already have faith in Christ. They teach that baptism is something that man does only out of obedience to God and thus fulfills God’s command. For them, God does nothing in baptism, but it is merely a symbol and serves as their public confession of already having faith. Therefore, they reject infant baptism because they believe an infant cannot have faith and thus cannot choose to be baptized.
Lutherans teach that all people are to be baptized, including infants. For Lutherans baptism is something that God does for man. Therefore, baptism is not merely a symbol or public confession, but the place where faith is given and entrance into the kingdom of God occurs. Therefore, Lutherans uphold infant baptism because infants can have, and need, faith in order to be rescued from the curse of original sin. Faith then is more than a conscience understanding of particular knowledge.
So, why are there these two differing interpretations between fellow Bible believing Christians? Both agree that the One True Triune God speaks clearly in His Word. Therefore, the problem clearly does not stem from a lack of clarity in the Word of God. The problem lies within sinful man’s interpretation of Scripture. And both sides of the argument cannot simply agree to disagree on such matters because Christ Himself said in the last chapter of Mathew, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” 3 Christians must properly uphold all the things that Jesus taught as important, not only the things Christians deem as fundamentally mattering.
So, which is the Scriptural teaching of (infant) baptism? The next article(s) will lie out both arguments in more detail and allow the reader to decide which interpretation coincides with the Word of God. These articles are written out of love and may be shared with your friends in other denominations, acknowledging that only God can teach correct doctrine through His Word. The only consideration for the reader is to allow the clear Word of God to rule over fallen human reason. I contend, and will show in Scripture, that Holy Baptism is God’s action, and a gracious gift intended for all of fallen mankind.
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.” (Acts 2:38-9).
P.S. Home Devotional Resources: http://mlchouston.org/about-us/memorial-moment & http://steadfastlutherans.org/2017/02/lambs-at-pasture-daily-devotions-for-the-family/
1 II Timothy 3:16
2 Mathew 28:19
3 Mathew 28:19-20
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