Luther on Baptism Against the Anabaptists

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In his own work Concerning Rebaptism (1528), Luther thrashes the Anabaptists.   They had over-emphasized the subjective and downgraded the objective side of baptism.   Yet, Luther retorted, important as faith is — it is the Word, and not faith, which is the basis of baptism.   Any would-be baptizer who regards faith on the part of the baptizee as essential for the validity of the baptism — can never consistently administer baptism.   For he can never be certain that faith in Christ really is present.

It is possible, concedes Luther, that some might conceivably doubt the validity of their own infant baptisms.   For they might well have no irrebuttable evidence that they even then already truly believed.   They might then conceivably wish to request (re-)baptism — when adults.

That request, however, should not be granted!   Instead, insists Luther, the one making this request should be told that even if he were thus to be ‘baptized’ a second time — Satan might well soon trouble him again, as to whether he then too really had faith.   Then he would have to be ‘baptized’ yet again — a third time — and so on, ad infinitum, for just as long as any such doubts kept recurring.

"For it often happens that one who thinks that he has faith," explains Luther, "has none whatever — and that one who thinks that he has no faith but only doubts, actually believes. We are not told ‘he who knows he believes’ nor ‘he who thinks he is sure he believes’ [shall be saved]…, but ‘he that believes [and is baptized] shall be saved’ [Mark 16:16]….

"The man who bases his baptism on his faith — is not only uncertain….   He is…godless and hypocritical….   For he puts his trust in what is not his own — viz., a gift [of faith in Jesus] which God has given him — and not in the Word of God alone."   Consequently, even though at the time of baptism there be no faith — the baptism, nevertheless, is still valid.99

As already noted, Luther died in 1546.      His Collected Works (or Gesamtausgabe) were printed in Jena from 1555 to 1558, in twelve volumes.   Also therefrom, in 1570 a Thesaurus (or Treasury) of Luther’s writings was selected from all of his works which had that far been collected.   This Treasury adds the following about baptism and the Anabaptists:

"We were born from Adam and Eve, unto this life.   Thus the same old man would be born in sin and unto death, and need to be born again unto righteousness and everlasting life by the power of the Holy Spirit….   Therefore do not look to the hand and mouth of the minister who only takes water, and speaks a little word [Matthew 28:16-20]!   That alone is but a slight action which fills only one’s eyes and ears, and indeed does nothing as far as blind reason is concerned — except that baptism is constituted according to the Word and work of God Who, truly, is the Baptizer!   That is why it also has such power, as the Holy Spirit testifies through St. Paul [Romans 4:11 & 6:3-14 and Colossians 2:11-13 etc.]….  

"I shall and will not risk…depending on who a minister is, or what he believes.   But in order that my baptism be certain — I want to look at its Establisher, and listen to what His Word and command is!   The minister must indeed be there, and extend his hand and mouth to

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it.   But I would not be pointed to the visible [human baptizer], but to the invisible Baptizer Who established and ordained baptism….

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