Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
During the Easter season, the Old Testament reading is normally replaced with something from the New Testament book of Acts. This week we are in Acts chapter 2, focused on verses 36-41. This passage is often used to discuss the effect of baptism. In verse 38 Peter clearly says that repentance and baptism togeher have a result of forgiveness. The text may also indicate that the Holy Spirit is received by those who are baptised. By verse 41 the idea of “receiving” the testimony is liked with baptism.
Luther’s Small Catechism says that baptism is effective not because of the water but because it is water used in accord with God’s command to baptise and his promise to forgive. There are a couple of arguments which arise against this point of view. Some would ask whether this means that we should simply baptize people so they will be Christians. One one level, the answer is yes. We would like everyone to be a Christian so we feel free to apply baptism in many situations. However, notice that there is repentance and reception of God’s word involved in the picture. Baptism will not do anyone any good if the Word of God is not taught. We realize the forgiveness of God as we hear His Word and are moved to repentance again and again. The Christian life is a life of repentance. The other argument says that it is the teaching that matters, not the baptism. However, if baptism doesn’t do what the Scripture says it does, why would we apply it at all? If, in fact, it is worthless, why would Christians always have made it such an important doctrine? They do it precisely because it does work. Furthermore, there’s a certain comfort which we receive as we recognize that something outside of ourselves changed our life. If I rest my hope of salvation on the power of my trust in Jesus, when I have doubts I may just try to depart and try something different. But if my hope rests on Jesus and the way he has delivered his salvation to me, and if that method of delivering salvation is something that doesn’t count on the sincereity of my faith at the time of reception, I can remember that all my salvation is the same way. It was delivered to me regardless of my failings. This is good news indeed. Salvation is of the Lord, not of me.
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