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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

21 July 2005

Repentance and Baptism

Q: I’m a Lutheran. I’ve been studying Baptism and one question that keeps occurring when I’m talking to other Christians comes from Peter saying in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.” How do you witness to them without sounding like you are contradicting yourself and mixing Law and Gospel? How do you explain this passage to the person who believes he must repent with the mouth in order to be baptized?

BaptismA: Here, Peter has already proclaimed the Law. To “repent” is much more than saying “I’m sorry” to God. It is a “turning away” from sin and a “turning toward” God. As such, it is only accomplished by the Holy Spirit working in someone’s life. Repentance is an act of faith, not an act of one on his way to faith. Therefore, it is not a good work. Instead, it is both acknowledging the sin of which we are accused and acknowledging the Savior who rescues us from that sin. Peter is saying, in effect, “Act like one who believes that this Jesus, whom you crucified, is risen and is your Savior.” One of the first acts the believer would then initiate is to ask to be baptized, that he might share in the fullness of God’s blessings in Christ Jesus.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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