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Ask the Pastor

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

23 October 2005

Church Membership and Second Baptism

Q: I have two questions. First, do you have to become a member of the Church and is that what Jesus wants us to do? Second, if you were baptized as an infant, do you have to be baptized again?

A: You don’t become a member so much as you are made one by Baptism, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit. God calls us by the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through the Holy Ghost to become His children and His Church. Thus, if you are a Christian, you are in the Christian Church and, as able to participate, a member of a specific Christian congregation. A believing Christian wants to belong to a gathering of Christians who truly believe and practice Christ’s Word. We are not called to be free agents, but members of the body of Christ. We are supported, encouraged, and corrected by our fellow believers.

Not Neglecting to Meet TogetherGathering together as believers is what Christians do. While there are imperatives, the New Man desires this assembly. Unfortunately, the new creature we are in Christ is constantly opposed by the Old Adam, our sinful nature. This wretched creature needs to hear the imperatives and threats of God’s Law.

Drawn by the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, the believer gladly and willingly joins with like-believing people, as evidenced by the earliest Christians: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)” At the same, our weak and foolish old, sinful selves need to hear warnings such as given in Hebrews 10: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (vv. 24-25)”

As for Baptism, some church bodies practice multiple baptisms when one joins a new congregations. Lutherans, with the majority of Christendom, confess the truth of the Nicene Creed, which professes “one Baptism for the remission of sins.” This is because in Baptism, God places His holy Name on you and makes you His child. Since He does not go back on His words, no repeat is necessary, even should we withdraw from Him for a time.

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

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

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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