Our Faith Begins in Baptism
God’s gift of the sacrament of Holy Baptism connects us to the love of the Triune God. Through the waters of baptism, we receive God’s promises made known to us in powerful themes that all may understand. These themes include death to our sinful self, new birth in Christ, being adopted as God’s children, and being brought into the Body of Christ (the Church). Our response to God’s gift of baptism is a life of faith.
Through baptism, we are united with Christ in both death and resurrection. The command to baptize was given to the Church by Jesus in his Great Commission, found in Matthew chapter 28. The Church has for the last 2,000 years, and will for all time to come, continued to use this command as the central way we are brought together as God’s people.
Although baptism is a one-time event, it has a daily impact in our lives. We believe in a daily “dying and rising” made known through the Grace of Jesus Christ. Each day of our lives we are both saints and sinners. Every day we sin, yet every day we are forgiven and redeemed by being united to Christ. Martin Luther wrote the famous words: “Every time I wash my face, I remember my baptism.”
Because we daily die and rise, we are always reminded that we are called to grow in faith on a daily basis. As part of our faithful response to our baptisms, we are expected to learn more about God and God’s love for us through the reading of scripture, participating in the life of the faith, and sharing what God has first given us.
God’s gift of Holy Baptism can never be taken away from us by the sin and brokenness of the world. As we encounter the daily joys and struggles of life, we are reminded that we are “always being made new in Christ.”
Our Lutheran Faith Today
Simply stated, the Scriptures tell about Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to present Jesus to all who listen to or read them. That is why Lutheran Christians say that the Scriptures are the “source and norm” of their teaching and practice. As the Gospel writer John wrote, “these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
Obviously, the Scriptures that are collected into a book or Bible describe and speak about many other things — everything from the creation of the world to the world’s end. Because these writings originate from a time period that spans about a thousand years and come to us in a variety of handwritten manuscripts and fragments, they have been studied carefully with all the tools of research that are available. This research continues to enrich understanding of the Scriptures and their message.
Despite the diversity of viewpoints and the complexity of the many narratives contained in the Scriptures, Lutheran Christians believe that the story of God’s steadfast love and mercy in Jesus is the heart and center of what the Scriptures have to say.
Like the Scriptures, the three ecumenical creeds — the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed — are written documents. They originate from the earliest centuries of the Christian church’s history, a time when theological and philosophical questions about the identity of Jesus were widely debated among Christians. All three creeds affirm that God is fully present in Jesus, that Jesus Christ is both God and human.
Although these three creeds, like the Scriptures, are written, most Christians experience and use them spoken aloud with other Christians in worship. Along with many other Christians, Lutherans use the Apostles’ Creed at baptism; it is also the Creed most often used in basic Christian education (as in the Small Catechism).
On many occasions in the 16th century, Martin Luther and other evangelical reformers were asked to give an account of their teaching and practice. In response Philip Melanchthon, one of Luther’s colleagues, wrote, “We must see what Scripture attributes to the law and what it attributes to the promises. For it praises and teaches good works in such a way as not to abolish the free promise and not to eliminate Christ.” Although the writings that comprise the Book of Concord engage a range of issues regarding teaching and practice, they do not address every question or topic. Rather, they focus on the Scriptures’ purpose: to present Jesus Christ to faith.
Portions reprinted from ELCA.org