ARTICLE 34 – THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law (Rom 10:4), has by His shed blood put an end to every other shedding of blood that one could or would make as an expiation or satisfaction for sins. He has abolished circumcision, which involved blood, and has instituted in its place the sacrament of baptism.1 By baptism we are received into the church of God and set apart from all other peoples and false religions, to be entirely committed to Him2 whose mark and emblem we bear. This serves as a testimony to us that He will be our God and gracious Father for ever.
For that reason He has commanded all those who are His to be baptized with plain water, into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mat 28:19). By this He signifies to us that as water washes away the dirt of the body when poured on us, and as water is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled on him, so the blood of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, does the same thing internally to the soul.3 It washes and cleanses our soul from sin4 and regenerates us from children of wrath into children of God.5 This is not brought about by the water as such6 but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God,7 which is our Red Sea,8 through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, that is, the devil, and enter into the spiritual land of Canaan.
Thus the ministers on their part give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives us what is signified by the sacrament, namely, the invisible gifts and grace. He washes, purges, and cleanses our souls of all filth and unrighteousness,9 renews our hearts and fills them with all comfort, gives us true assurance of His fatherly goodness, clothes us with the new nature, and takes away the old nature with all its works.10
We believe, therefore, that anyone who aspires to eternal life ought to be baptized only once.11 Baptism should never be repeated, for we cannot be born twice. Moreover, baptism benefits us not only when the water is on us and when we receive it, but throughout our whole life. For that reason we reject the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with a single baptism received only once, and who also condemn the baptism of the little children of believers. We believe that these children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as infants were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises which are now made to our children.12 Indeed, Christ shed His blood to wash the children of believers just as much as He shed it for adults.13 Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ has done for them, as the Lord commanded in the law that a lamb was to be offered shortly after children were born.14 This was a sacrament of the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Because baptism has the same meaning for our children as circumcision had for the people of Israel, Paul calls baptism the circumcision of Christ (Col 2:11).
1. Col 2:11. 2. Exo 12:48; 1 Pet 2:9. 3. Mat 3:11; 1 Cor 12:13. 4. Acts 22:16; Heb 9:14; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5b. 5. Titus 3:5. 6. 1 Pet 3:21. 7. Rom 6:3; 1 Pet 1:2; 1 Pet 2:24. 8. 1 Cor 10:1-4. 9. 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 5:26. 10. Rom 6:4; Gal 3:27. 11. Mat 28:19; Eph 4:5. 12. Gen 17:10-12; Mat 19:14; Acts 2:39. 13. 1 Cor 7:14. 14. Lev 12:6.