Connections Hour: 9:00 a.m.
Worship Service: 10:30 a.m.
 


In Agreement With the Word of God and the teaching of the Lutheran Church, the Church of the Lutheran Brethren Accepts two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Together with the Word of God the two sacraments are means that God uses to bring people into contact with His saving grace through Christ. Of these three we accept the Word as the primary and the two sacraments as secondary means of grace. The reason for this distinction is that it is the Word that makes the sacraments efficacious. Without it Baptism would be only water and the Lord Supper only bread and wine, but together with the Word of God they become real vehicles of God's grace to the needy soul. The Word also is effective apart from the sacraments, while the sacraments are ineffective without the Word. Therefore the Word must always receive the main emphasis .

In our Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism, question 331, a sacrament is defined as a holy act, instituted by Christ, in which by visible means, He gives and confirms His invisible grace. From this definition we see that in order to be a true sacrament an ordinance must meet a threefold requirement: (1) It must have been instituted by Christ; (2) visible means must be used in its administration; and (3) it must convey invisible or spiritual blessings. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the only two ordinances that meet this threefold requirement and are therefore the only true sacraments of the Christian church.

The Sacrament of Baptism

The commandment of Christ concerning baptism is found in Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV): All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age. In these words of institution we see that baptism meets the threefold requirement of a sacrament. The divine command is given, go and make disciples of all nations; the visible means is indicated in the word, baptizing; and the spiritual blessings are revealed in the words, in (Greek, into) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
 

The Blessings of Baptism

What are the spiritual blessings that come to us in baptism? Several Bible passages give the answers to this question The blessings are: the new birth or regeneration, John 3:5 and Titus 3:5; forgiveness of sin and cleansing from sin, Acts 2:38 and 22:16; the entrance into a life of sanctification, Ephesians 5:25-26; the bestowal of the benefits of the death of Christ, Romans 6:3; being clothed in the righteousness of Christ, Galatians 3:27; union with both the burial and resurrection of Christ, Colossians 2:12; becoming members of the body of Christ, that is the true Christian church, 1 Corinthians 12:13; and salvation, 1 Peter 3:32, which includes all the blessings pointed out above.

Those Eligible for Baptism

Who are eligible to receive the benefits offered through baptism? No one questions the baptism of converted adults who have not been baptized before. It is the baptism of infants or small children that is often questioned, mostly on the grounds that they do not need to be baptized and are not able to receive the blessings of baptism. We, however, are convinced by the Word of God that infants both need to be baptized and are able to receive the benefits offered through baptism.

Infants Need to be Baptized

In answer to the contention that an infant does not need to be baptized on account of its innocence, let us notice the clear teaching of the Bible as to the sinfulness of little children and their need of salvation. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, children not excepted. According to Romans 5:12, infants are included among those who are under the judgment of God because of sin. Jesus tells us in John 3:6 that they are born of the flesh, therefore they must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven. Ephesians 2:3 teaches that they are by nature the children of wrath. David laments, surely I have been a sinner from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5). Job exclaims Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! (Job 14:4). The Bible makes no distinction in this between of godly and ungodly parents. David's mother was a godly person, for she is called the handmaid of the Lord (Psalm 86:16). The Bible teaches that every one of us is born a sinner and not a saint. Since infants are born as sinners they need to be saved.

But how are infants to be saved? They cannot be saved simply by prayer, although we do not minimize the efficacy of prayer. There is no word in the Bible that tells us that prayer is the means by which the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of regeneration. We may follow the example of Jesus and place our hands on the little one's head and bless the child, but we have no assurance that the act of blessing will bring our children to life. Jesus has not commanded us to do like He did, but to baptize also the little children that the miracle of regeneration may take place in their lives, that they thereby may enter the kingdom of God. The fact that Jesus has not said in so many words that little children should be baptized does not hinder us, for He has not commanded us to baptize only adults either, but that we should make disciples of all nations by baptizing and by teaching. Both children and adults are included in the nations.

This is the way the commandment to baptize was understood by the apostles, for in Acts 2:38-39 Peter clearly implies that children should be baptized, because the promise of the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit also is intended for them. If adults must be baptized to receive the promise, so must also the children.

That in baptizing infants we follow the example of the apostles and the early Christians is also testified to by the Church Fathers. We can refer to people like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, and Augustine, covering the period from the beginning of the second century through the fourth century, who all testify to the practice if infant baptism in the early Christian church. Only one voice was raised against the practice, that of Tertullian and that only in the case of children of unconverted parents.

We believe that the only means given to us by which the little children can be brought into contact with God's saving grace is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Jesus has commanded us to use the sacrament for this purpose and we must obey Him. What He will do in the case of children who are not baptized is another matter. We leave this question in the hands of a just God. God has bound us, but not to our knowledge, Himself to this sacrament. He may have other ways of reaching the unbaptized with His saving grace. However, in the salvation of precious souls, the Bible teaches that God works through His church in the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. The Bible does not reveal to us any other way.

 

The Problem of Faith

Often we meet the objection that an infant cannot receive the benefits of baptism because a child cannot believe. Does not Jesus say in Mark 16:16 that faith is necessary in connection with baptism? Is not faith an absolute requirement for receiving the blessings of baptism? We agree that it is. But how do you know that infants cannot believe. The clear teaching of God's Word is that they can. Jesus says in Matthew 18:6 that little children believed in Him when He was here on earth. We believe that the same is true today. In Matthew 18:3 Jesus instructs us that if adults will enter the kingdom of heaven they must humble themselves and become as little children, that is, in simple, trusting and believing faith. In Matthew 11:25 we learn that infants can receive revelations from God. When Jesus says to His disciples that they should permit the little children to come unto Him and not hinder them, He implies that they can have faith, for . . . anyone that comes to God must believe that he exists . . . (Hebrews 11:6). It is very evident from the above passages that the teachings that children cannot believe are not biblical. It would be tragic indeed if they could not, for then they would be condemned. Jesus says in Mark 16:16, . . . Whoever does not believe will be condemned.

As we consider the problem of faith in connection with little children, let us remember that faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8) and that He is able to create faith in any heart that is open to Him. What heart is more open to God than the heart of a little child where resistance is absent? The God who wants everyone to be saved will not withhold the gift of faith from the needy heart of an infant. The God who did not withhold from infants the blessings of the Old Covenant but provided for their entrance into it through the Sacrament of Baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). Let us remember that baptism is God's work, the Church being merely the instrument through which He imparts His saving grace. Let us not place limitations on Him.

The Modes of Baptism

In connection with the modes of baptism we acknowledge three as being biblical: sprinkling, pouring, and immersion. We practice baptism by pouring. We deny that immersion is the only mode taught in the Bible. It is evident from the several accounts of baptisms in the New Testament that immersion was not always practiced but that other modes were used. How could the apostles immerse the three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost. Would the Jewish authorities, hostile as they were toward Christianity, permit them to use the pools in Jerusalem? The Philippians jailer, together with his household, was baptized in the same night in which he was converted. This seems to have been done in the prison where there could have been no facilities for immersion. In desert areas where water is scarce, such as in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, it is doubtful that immersion could have been practiced.

The Need for Instruction

According to the words of institution in Matthew 28:19-20, we must not be satisfied merely with performing the Sacrament of Baptism upon our children. Jesus commands instruction of those who have been baptized. The new life that has been created must be nourished, otherwise it will die. This duty is first of all the responsibility of the home. Besides instructing their children in the Word, the parents must go before them with an example of godly living. The home should provide a holy atmosphere for the child. Many baptized children have lost their spiritual life because of the lack of a true spiritual environment in the home.

The congregation, however, shares with the home the responsibility of nourishing the spiritual life of the child. Therefore, we conduct Sunday schools, vacation Bible schools, confirmation instruction, etc. The aim of these must be of help to the child to remain in baptismal grace. That this is possible is amply proved by the Bible and Christian experience. Both the Old and New Testament furnish us with examples of people who lived with God from infancy, such as Isaac, Joseph, Samuel, John the Baptist, and Timothy, besides examples from the history of the church. But sad to say, this is not the general rule. Many of our children and young people either stray away or by a conscious choice depart from the life imparted to them in baptism. Such need to return to fellowship with God by again being made alive to God in Christ Jesus.(Romans 6:11).

The Need for Conscious Fellowship

For those who remain in baptismal grace, the Bible shows us that sooner or later they must enter a conscious fellowship with God. The time must come when a spiritual life becomes conscious and real. This is a time of crisis in the lives of our children and young people, which is characterized by a realization of the sinfulness of the heart, and a conscious acceptance of the grace of God, and the surrender of the life to Him. By this the young person ratifies or approves, as it were, the act of the parents in having him or her baptized as an infant. Such an experience in the lives of our children and young people is essential and should be encouraged. Our young people must learn to rely only on the grace of God for salvation. A person must constantly be on the alert against the danger of considering himself or herself a Christian because he or she has been baptized as an infant, has godly parents, is living a good life, and is faithful in church attendance, etc. When these are relied on for salvation they become pitfalls of self-righteousness into which so many have fallen. This is just as sure a way of losing one's spiritual life as to live in open sin. It is not enough to have a form of godliness; there must be true life in the inner person. God grand us grace to lead our young people to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper

This sacrament was instituted by our Savior the evening before His suffering as He was eating the pascal lamb with His disciples. It follows baptism in importance because its purpose is to nourish the life that has been created through the Word and the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Lord's Supper meets all the requirements that a sacrament should possess: (1) It is commanded by Christ. He says as He breaks the bread, 'Take and eat; this is my body," and as He takes the cup, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant..." (Matthew 26:26-28). (2) It has the earthly elements of bread and wine. (3) It imparts a heavenly gift.

What Heavenly Gift do we Recieve?

The words of institution show clearly that we receive a divine gift in this sacrament. Notice the words in Luke 22:19-20: "...This is my body given for you..." "...This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." In Matthew 26:28 we find the reason why the blood is shed: "for the forgiveness of sins." The divine gift received in the Lord's Supper is therefore the remission or forgiveness of sin. This is what the new covenant offers, and it contains all the other blessings of the redemption of Christ. This teaching is in harmony with our Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism, question 3733 "What benefit do believers receive from the Lord's Supper? It is pointed out in these words: Given and shed for you for the remission of sin. Through these words, the remission of sins, life and salvation are given unto us in the sacrament, for where there is remission of sins, there is also life and salvation." This teaching is also brought to our attention in question 3744. This gift is received through the Word, but according to Christ's own words, it is received and confirmed in the Lord's Supper. Some will say, "But do not Christians already have the forgiveness of sins?" Yes they do, but they also need to receive the forgiveness of sins and to be assured again and again of God's grace. As long as we are in this world this will be an ever-present need because we do not only commit sin but we also have a sinful nature. Therefore, Jesus has taught us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses." It is a comforting thought for believers, that as they receive the elements of bread and wine and together with them the body and blood of Christ, that on the basis of the merits and sacrifice of Christ the forgiveness of sins is imparted to them.

Recieving Christ's Body and Blood

We teach that we receive the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper. This is a true teaching, for Jesus says, "This is my body," "This is my blood." We must take Jesus literally.

He gave His last will and testament and therefore did not speak in symbolical language, but in clear terms. Wills and testaments are not given in symbolic language.

But how do we receive the body and blood of Christ? Luther uses the words, "in, with and under." This means that there is no change in or mingling of substances. The bread remains bread and wine remains wine. It is together with the earthly elements of bread and wine that we receive the glorified body and blood of Christ. The earthly elements are received into the digestive system just like any other kind of food, and the body and blood of Christ into our spiritual life. While both believers and unbelievers receive the body and blood of Christ, only the believers receive the forgiveness of sins. The unregenerate do not receive the heavenly gift as they participate in the sacraments. Instead they are condemned because they make themselves guilty of the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:27,29).

Secondary Benefits

There are several secondary benefits that come to us through the Lord's Supper:

1. It is a feast of thanksgiving. Sometimes it is called the Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. It is a special occasion for thanking God for His manifold blessings.

2. It is a feast of communion and fellowship with fellow believers. We share together the body and blood of Christ and are through this act brought together in intimate Christian fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:16).

3. It is a memorial feast. We commemorate especially what Jesus had to suffer for us

(Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

4. It is a feast that points forward to the Second Coming of Christ. "Until He comes" suggests this truth (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Who Should Partake?

Only true believers, after a self-examination, shall partake (1 Corinthians 11:28). We are unprepared if we harbor any unconfessed sin or any ill will toward a neighbor. We are prepared when we come in a true spirit of repentance and with hunger for the grace that is offered through the sacrament. The following from Luther is good advice as a person prepares to receive the Lord's Supper:

 

Dear friend, you must not consider yourself so much from the standpoint of the worthiness or the unworthiness of your person as from that of your need, which renders the grace of Christ necessary. If you recognize and feel your need, you have the requisite worthiness and preparation.

- C. Christiansen