Whether Faith is Present or Not, Baptism in and by itself Remains Proper and Good

Epiphany 2 Wednesday

John 1:32-33

“And John testified and said: I saw how the Spirit descended like a dove and remained on him. And I did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me: “He on whom  you see the Spirit descend and remain, he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.””

Baptism is a true, proper baptism even if the person who is being baptized is godless and an unbeliever. After all, should God also be unjust because of my unbelief, Romans 3:3? In reality those terrible fellows do not know whether those whom they baptize again actually believe. We know that our children believe, for we have a certain word of Christ concerning them, Mark 10:14: “Let the children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” They do not
have such a word concerning those whom the Anabaptists baptize again. And they, just like we, are not in the position to know someone’s heart. We have also often said that the Ten Commandments remain and are true, even if you do not live according to them or keep them. For the Ten Commandments do not break down just because you do not obey parents or are not obedient to them, or because you are a liar or a murderer and promiscuous person. They nonetheless remain God’s commandment. The Second Commandment says: “Do not swear.” But the Second Commandment does not become wrong simply because of your swearing. For abuse does not abrogate God’s law. Moreover, if today a Jew came and let himself be baptized because of the gifts the godparents give to him or because of some other reason or benefit known to him alone, the baptism is nonetheless proper, and the true baptism is given to him. Thus, you must not say that the baptism was improper because he misused it. Accordingly, God’s command and order remain when I say: “Honor father and mother,” but you go ahead and do the opposite. In the same way baptism is also proper and remains true, even if it were proved that a child or old person who was baptized did not believe. For baptism is not our work. Whether I believe or do not believe, baptism in and by itself remains proper and good. But this is also true: If I believe, baptism is beneficial for me. But if I do not believe, baptism is of no use to me forever. For this is what Christ says, Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” For this is God’s Word that will remain so. Finally, we must know that God is active and powerful in baptism and does not look to my work or yours.
For the divine persons are present in baptism, Father, Son,and Holy Spirit. The Son has made satisfaction with his body, the Holy Spirit with his appearance, by letting himself be seen in the form of the dove. But the Holy Spirit appears in the form of the dove not by uniting with the natural dove in the way the Son united with our human nature. For his part, the Father lets his voice be heard. Now, he who is baptized and believes will be saved. But if he does not believe, baptism is not for that reason false.

St. Louis ed., 7:1731-1732.

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