CSC: WELS Topical Q&A: Sacrament of Holy Baptism: Salvation: Sacrament of Holy Baptism - Salvation (03)
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Q:I am a Baptist, but I do not believe in any type of "decisionism" as a true beginning of faith. I believe that the Lord himself generates faith in the heart of the believer. Man does not and cannot freely choose to do something which is beyond the realm of his capability. Man is hopelessly lost and bound in his sin -- dead in tresspasses and sin. The faith, the trust which is created by the Holy Spirit in the heart of the Christian is what becomes the basis for accepting the promises of the Scriptures and even the inerrant Word itself and not the other way around. Now, I know Lutherans believe that grace is somehow given in baptism so that baptism becomes a means of regeneration.

But, I know Lutherans also believe that an individual can be saved wihout baptism by faith in Jesus Christ because all Christians are actually justified by faith. So, how do Lutherans reconcile baptism, being "born again," conversion, and justification? Do Lutherans teach that the second birth totally occurs in baptism? Do Lutherans believe baptism is conversion? What exactly does baptism do for someone who has been regenerated before his baptism? Does someone baptized as an infant need to come to some later conversion or acknowledgment of the Lordship of Christ in order for his salvation to be preserved or real? Is the grace offered in infant baptism only a measure of grace necessary for salvation? And once again, where exactly does a Christian conversion, the change from being a heathen to a child of God, fit into this picture?

I've been to Lutheran church once before and was impressed and touched by the sincerity and genuine Christian concern the people had to make me feel welcomed and encouraged to attend again. Though I try not to make much of feelings, as feelings can be quite subjective and changable, and I believe my faith comes from my Savior alone, I believe I really did feel a strong presence of the Holy Spirit there through participating in worship, through hearing the preaching of God's Word, and even through just the very sight of watching communion (though I did not myself participate, of course). Thanks for the website. It has been a great help. I hope you stay encouraged to continue doing the work of spreading the Good News. God bless.

A:We believe that the Holy Spirit does not work directly on the heart to bring people to faith, but he uses the means of grace--the gospel in God's Word and the Sacraments--to create and sustain faith (Romans 10:17, 1 Peter 1:23, Titus 3:5, Acts 2:38). Conversion is the bestowal of faith by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace. Conversion is synonymous with regeneration or being born again. Conversion is not a process, but it is instantaneous. A person is either a believer or he is not a believer. He is either converted and regenerated or he is unconverted and unregenerate.

Baptism is not the same as conversion, but it is a means of grace through which the Holy Spirit is able either to bring someone to faith (conversion, regeneration) or to strengthen faith in those who have already been converted through the proclamation of the gospel. The gospel in God's Word and the Sacraments nourishes faith and causes it to grow in strength and in the production of good works which are the fruit of faith.

We believe that Christians can fall from faith (Luke 8:13). If a person who was baptized as an infant subsequently falls from faith, he needs to be called to repentance. He needs to be brought to faith again or reconverted. We reach out to those who have fallen from faith by proclaiming of God's law to reveal their sin and the gospel to assure them that all of their sins have been taken away by Jesus. Through the gospel the Holy Spirit is able to rekindle faith in their hearts.

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