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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Smalcald Articles - part 110

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Ephesians 5:25–27

From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles 

Part III, Article V. Of Baptism.

Baptism is nothing else than the Word of God in water, commanded by his institution, or, as Paul says, a washing in the Word. Augustine also says, “Let the Word come to the element and it becomes a Sacrament.” That is why we do not agree with Thomas and the Dominicans who forget the Word (God’s institution) and claim that God has imparted to the water a spiritual power that washes away sin with the water. Nor do we agree with Scotus and the Franciscans who teach that, by the assistance of the divine will, baptism washes away sins only by the will of God, instead of through the Word and the water.

Pulling It Together: The Church is made holy — completely so and without a single stain — because God says so in his Word. This is what we believe through faith in Christ. This washing is done without mystery or human explanation, by the simple agency of water and what God has spoken. It does not need our reason to make it so; it demands our faith alone. It is the power of God’s Word joined with the water and met with faith that makes baptism a holying agent. This trust in what God says clothes the Church in a glorious gown of righteousness not her own (Phil 3:9) — a righteousness unveiled in the water and the Word through faith in Christ.

Prayer: Give me such faith, O Lord, to live in your righteousness. Amen.

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