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Ask the Pastor

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

13 October 2005

Baptism and Church Attendance

Q: Can you be baptized by any pastor from any church or do you have to be baptized by the pastor of the church you are attending? Do you have to join a church? Is it absolutely necessary? How do you know that you are chosen to be saved? I know this is my insecurities talking here but I was just wondering.

BaptismA: In general, Christian Baptism is Christian Baptism. However, the Church has generally encouraged baptism by the pastor of the congregation which one is joining. Exceptions are sometimes made when a family member or close friend is a pastor. Even then, it’s normally done in what will be the “home” congregation unless special circumstances dictate otherwise. These might include a health emergency or inability for the baptismal candidate or parents to travel to church in a timely manner.

As for joining, the church — particularly the local congregation — is where God gives His gifts, as I note in the previous post. It is where sinners are baptized and washed of their sins, where forgiveness is given in the words of absolution and in the sermon, and where we are given Christ’s body and blood to eat and drink.

To remain Christian outside the Church’s congregational life is almost as difficult as remaining a fish out of water. The spiritual nutrition and shelter aren’t there for us anywhere else. We might last for a time, but the discipline necessary for staying in Scripture is missing, as is the “mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren,” a Biblical idea espoused by Martin Luther in the Smalcald Articles.

Knowing that you are saved comes from knowing the Savior. Sometimes you may not feel saved, but if you know Christ Jesus as the Scriptures testify of Him, believe that He died for you, and have been baptized into the Christian faith in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, you are saved. Being active in a true Christian congregation will reenforce these things, that you might know Him and know your salvation all the better.

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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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