A Jagged Contention: Baptized Without Faith?

“Further, we say, we do not put the main emphasis on whether the person baptized believes or not, for in the latter case baptism does not become invalid. Everything depends on the Word and commandment of God. This is a rather subtle point, perhaps, but it is based upon what I have said, that baptism is simply water and God’s Word in and with each other; that is, when the Word accompanies the water, baptism is valid, even though faith is lacking. For my faith does not make baptism; rather, it receives baptism. Baptism does not become invalid if it is not properly received or used, as I have said, for it is not bound to our faith but to the Word.”

-Martin Luther, The Large Catechism: On Baptism (Kolb & Wengert ed, pg. 463)


Question:

In this remarkable passage, Luther comforts those who fear their baptism was invalid because they did not know enough or believe enough when it happened. What are the dangers in trying to locate the power of baptism in faith?

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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3 comments

  1. Faith believes the word. The word declares God saves us using His chosen means of baptism and preaching the gospel. Unless one is overtly under different motivations undergoing baptism like Simon, most do it to attain what the word promises. So the best way to encourage folk is to point to those promises, which alone will strengthen faith.

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  2. At the very least, placing it in faith makes salvation one’s own doing, one’s own choice. Such a notion makes faith a kind of spell, an invocation and direction of God’s power by the will of the believer. We do not choose God, we are chosen by God. Finally, a faith which clings to baptism, receives God. This is far different from one which works baptism as a choice and a sign that one has chosen God. Requiring faith makes baptism a human work.

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