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“What Benefits Does Baptism Give?”
Mark 16:15-16


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Midweek Vespers—April 22, 2009

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

For the remaining weeks of Midweek School classes, we are looking at the Sacrament of Holy Baptism as explained in the Small Catechism.

Last week we considered the first topic, “What Is Baptism?  We continue this evening with the second topic, “What Benefits Does Baptism Give?”  The questions and answers are printed from the Small Catechism on page two of the bulletin.  Let’s now read it responsively as printed in the bulletin:

What benefits does Baptism give?

It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are these words and promises of God?

Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

A question that is often asked is whether the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation?  Holy Baptism is necessary for all of us, because all of us are “by nature sinful and unclean.”  The Apostle Paul puts is this way in Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” 

And Holy Baptism is necessary because it is a divine ordinance which our Lord himself has instituted and commanded.  Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. . . You must be born again.” 

But, it IS possible to come to faith in Christ through the Gospel, and to die in saving faith without having the opportunity to be baptized.  A good example is the thief on the cross.  He came to faith in Jesus just before his death, and didn’t have the opportunity to be baptized.  Jesus promises him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

So, is baptism necessary for salvation?  Jesus puts it this way in this evening’s reading, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  It is not lack of baptism which condemns, but lack of faith.  However, that does not mean Holy Baptism is optional for Christians.  If someone who claims to be a Christian DOES have the opportunity to be baptized but refuses, that person is rejecting the Lord’s own command, and putting his or her faith in grave danger.

So, Holy Baptism is necessary for all of us because we are all spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins, and we must all be spiritually “born again.”  But, Holy Baptism is not absolutely necessary for salvation, because it is possible, like the thief on the cross, to come to faith and die in saving faith without having the opportunity to be baptized. 

But, followers of Christ who do have the opportunity will be baptized.  For, if we truly believe in Jesus we want to do his will, and so we will be baptized, for he himself commanded, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

“What benefits does Baptism give?  It works forgiveness of sins.”  Holy Baptism does not just symbolize cleansing from sins.  By the power of God, Holy Baptism actually accomplishes what it symbolizes.  As Peter says in Acts, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”  Through Baptism, God spiritually cleanses you, God spiritually washes away your sins.  As Acts also says, “Be baptized and wash away your sins . . .”

“It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.”  Baptism is a means by which the Lord grants you eternal salvation.  As Peter says, “Baptism now saves us.”  And Paul says in Titus, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Through Baptism you are spiritually “born again” as God’s child, adopted into God’s family of faith.  As Paul says in Galatians, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

Let’s close by repeating again responsively the questions and answers from the Small Catechism printed in the bulletin:

What benefits does Baptism give?

It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are these words and promises of God?

Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

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