BAPTIZING with water is, at first glance, a human act. Men do not, however, baptize in their own name but in God's name. And men have not invented and discovered baptism; rather it is instituted and commanded by God, and it is God himself who acts in it: “To be baptized in God's name is to be baptized not by men but by God himself. Although it is performed by man's hands, it is nevertheless truly God's own work.”1 Through its institution, baptism is “water used according to God's command and connected with God's word.”2 God's word, however, “contains and conveys all the fullness of God.”3 This word of God, that is, the command to baptize, and the promise connected with baptism (in his Small Catechism Luther refers to Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16), gives baptism its power and makes it “a washing of regeneration” according to Titus 3.4
This means, however, that baptism conveys all of salvation. The assertion of the Small Catechism that it “effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe”5 is constantly repeated in similar form by Luther. Through baptism, “I am promised that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in body and in soul.” Baptism does not give a particular grace, not only a part of salvation, but simply the entire grace of God, “the entire Christ and the Holy Spirit with his gifts.”6 The total gift of baptism is meaningful throughout the
1WA 30I, 212 f.; BC, 437. The basic sources for this chapter are The Holy
and Blessed Sacrament of Baptism (1519), WA 2, 727–737; LW 35, 29–43,
and The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), WA 6, 497–573; LW
36, 11–126, and the catechisms. WA 30I, 308–313 and 212–222; BC, 348 f.
2WA 30I, 308; BC, 348.
3WA 30I, 214; BC, 438.
4WA 30I, 215; BC, 440.
5WA 30I, 310; BC, 348 f.
6WA 30I. 217; BC, 442.