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Ask the Pastor

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

11 March 2006

One Baptism

Q: I was baptized when I was about 12 (it was in a Lutheran church). I remember being very embarrassed about the fact that I wasn’t a baby at the time. I am now 43 and don’t go to any church although I would like to. Do I need to be re-baptized? I need to know because I have a terminal disease and although I have Jesus as my Savior, I am afraid to die. I also am afraid because I have doubts. Please help me!

WaterA: You do not need to be baptized again. We confess in the Nicene Creed, “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.” As Scripture says, “There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (Ephesians 4:4-8)”

You were baptized into the Name of the one true God and into the Holy Christian Church, not into a church body or a congregation. Even if you forgot God for a time, He has never forgotten you. The Lord doesn't take back His promises in Baptism even if we break our promises to Him. Find a Lutheran pastor who will sit down with you and go through the wonderful blessings of Baptism from the Bible and the Catechism. A previous column, Church Membership and Second Baptism, touches on some of the same points.

I never ask anyone to be “rebaptized” — if you were baptized in a Christian, Trinitarian church “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” then you are and remain baptized. The only times I encourage what might be considered “rebaptism” are when people doubt or don’t know if they were baptized according to Scripture or if a prior, false “baptism” occurred in an anti-Trinitarian, unchristian church.

If you have other problems, worries, or doubts, I’ll help, but I’m no replacement for a flesh and blood pastor who can stand before you and tell you on Christ’s behalf, “I forgive you all your sins.” He can respond to you more immediately and can hear your tone of voice and watch your face, all of which makes answering with the right words so much easier. He can also prepare you to return to the altar to receive the body and blood of Jesus, a medicine for spiritual health and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

Should you need help finding a pastor, or if you’re worried about approaching the Church after so much time, let me know. If you need help in locating or contacting a pastor, let me know where you are. I can see that you are willing to be honest with yourself and with God. This is a gift He has given you and I urge you to use it to the fullest, knowing that He loves and cares for you.

If you use the Blogger search box above and type in the word baptism, you'll find more than 40 posts which refer to this life-giving sacrament here at Ask the Pastor. They include references to regeneration, incorporation and assimilation, full forgiveness, and on-going connections to the Christian life.

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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