Today's Bible study on the Lutheran teachings on the sacrament of Holy Baptism was better than normal. Our Pastor was brimming with good points (not that he doesn't have them usually)...
* There is a God. We can't save ourselves. God graciously gives us means to be saved (note passive voice). These are the means of grace - Word and Sacrament.
* The Christian faith is a baptismal faith.
* Exodus 4 - God would have killed Moses because his son wasn't circumcised; He relented when Zipporah circumcised her son. If circumcision were only a symbol with no effect back then, this story would make no sense at all. (Why would an all-powerful God be moved by mere symbol?)
* Here, as in other Biblical stories, God attached His promise to a physical thing, here blood.
* The discontinuity: American Evangelicals, while believing that the serpent on the pole indeed healed those who looked at it, that Jesus's death on the cross indeed forgave our sins, and so forth, yet insist that Baptism (a physical element plus God's Word) can't forgive sins and is only symbolic.
* "Born again" is always in the context of Baptism. Every instance it occurs in the Bible.
* Baptism isn't a work - i.e. it's not the ONLY way to be saved. But it is a sacrament (divinely instituted, having a physical element, and having the Word fixed to it) and therefore forgives sin.
* "Making disciples" (Matthew 28:19) involves baptizing and teaching.
* No Word is optional. It's a command (NIV gets Matt. 28:20 wrong - the Greek is "observe," not "obey"). Observe/treasure all of it.
* Acts 2:37 - "were cut to the heart" by the Spirit. Passive. Verse 39 - "and for your children." Promise = Baptism. Just as you give an infant a birth certificate when s/he is 'too young to understand its importance,' so also you baptize them at that age.