Baptism Works the Forgiveness of Sins

Well as many of you probably know, I have baby Lydia on my mind. It has been a joy to yet again receive such a precious gift of God in having another child. Is there anything more precious and priceless as children? Well, actually there is - the forgiveness of sins. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. Now that is most precious and priceless, because it gives us and our baptized children eternal life with our Lord.

So speaking of forgiveness, what happens if someone does not forgive you? Unfortunately many of us have experienced this. We have experienced the reality that when someone does not forgive us it causes us to be out of fellowship with them.

Furthermore, what happens if someone does forgive you but they don’t tell you? You cannot believe that you are forgiven by someone unless they tell you. Well, you may see where this is going. We all need God’s forgiveness. Without His forgiveness we are all lost and condemned because we are all sinners. But thanks be to God that He sent His dear Son to die for us. Jesus purchased and won us from all sin, death, and from the power of the devil. In other words, because of Jesus Christ we have forgiveness of sins before God! So Jesus Christ works forgiveness of sins.

So why then does the Small Catechism say about baptism that, “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and give eternal salvation to all who believe this…”? Many a Lutheran has been asked this question. Maybe you have been asked that question. Maybe we should let the Small Catechism speak for itself. It goes on to defend such a statement about baptism by saying, “…as the Word and promise of God declare.” Simply put, baptism works forgiveness of sins because Christ works forgiveness of sins in and through baptism. This is where God declares and makes known to you that your sins are forgiven.
Scripture makes this abundantly clear. First we see what happens in baptism by Jesus’ own Baptism: the heavens open to Him, He received the Holy Spirit, and the Father said to Him – “This is my beloved Son…” It is the same for us in Baptism; the heavens are opened to us, we receive the Holy Spirit, and the Father then calls us beloved. Luther says it like this; “…through the baptism of thy dear Child, our Lord Jesus Christ, [You God] have consecrated and set apart the Jordan and all water as a salutary flood and a rich and full washing away of sins." (1)

Scripture goes on to speak of baptism as where we were united with Christ in His death and resurrection; “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, we too may have a new life” (Rom.6:4).
Scripture also states that in baptism we put on Christ (Gal.3:27) and that it is the powerful work of God (Col.2:12). It also speaks of baptism as that which saves and washes away sin (Acts 22:16, and 1 Peter 3:21).
This is why we can speak of baptism working forgiveness of sins. Where baptism is there is Christ. Where Christ is working forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. This is why Jesus Himself says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16). Therefore we boldly confess and believe that baptism works forgiveness of sins. We believe this certainly not because of just the water in baptism, but because of the Word (which is Christ) in and with the water.
Is there anything more precious and priceless to me than my newborn daughter Lydia? Yes! The forgiveness of her sins in baptism! Amen!

1. Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther's Works, Vol. 53 : Liturgy and Hymns. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1999, c1965 (Luther's Works 53), S. 53:V-97