We believe, teach, and confess that the Holy Spirit works through Holy Baptism to either create or strengthen saving faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible plainly teaches this in the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to Titus, chapter 3, verses 5-7:
“He(God) saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.”
Likewise St. Peter writes in his first general epistle, chapter 3, verse 21: “...this water (i.e. of the Flood) symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”
Baptism, then, is not just the confession of man, nor submission to God but a gracious water of life through which God himself works to bring us his grace.
We believe, teach, and confess that Holy Baptism is the only means God has given us to work saving faith in infants and babies. Since they cannot yet be taught to know Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit uses the sacrament of Baptism to effect a simple trust in the hearts of these precious little souls. And this trust is the very essence of faith.
Contrary to the teaching of many today, children are not born into this world “pure as the driven snow.” The Bible tells us that we all enter this world with a sinful nature, alienated from God and in need of his grace and salvation. “Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me,” Pslam 51:5. Babies also, then, need this salvation that Christ won. This salvation can be given to the sinner only through the work of the Holy Spirit, and not through any work of man.
In addition, Christ commanded us to baptize and teach “all nations.” Even the census taker acknowledges that babies are part of the nation. For this reason also, the Apostles on several occasions baptized entire households (which surely included children).
So we believe, teach, and confess that: “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare: ‘Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned,’” Mark 16:16.
The Lord’s Supper
Christ’s Body and Blood
We believe, teach, and confess that the Christ’s true body and blood are really present in the Lord’s Supper, “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. We believe this because the Scriptures clearly teach it. “Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:26-28.
Therefore we believe that in this supper we receive four things, the bread and wine, which we receive in a natural manner, and the body and blood of Christ, which we receive in a supernatural manner, beyond our understanding.
It is the power of Jesus’ words that make this possible. It does not depend on the holiness of the minister, nor on the faith of the recipient. Nor is this only a symbolic eating and drinking - as if the bread only represents Christ’s body and as if the wine only represents his blood. It is rather a gracious miracle in which Jesus gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink for the forgiveness of our sins.
Faith Receives the Benefits
We believe, teach, and confess that the benefits of the Lord’s Supper can be received only by faith. Christ’s words put the benefits into the supper, but only faith receives these benefits. This, too is the teaching of Holy Scripture:
“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself,” 1 Corinthians 11:27-29.
Since it is possible for someone to receive the holy supper “in an unworthy manner,” (i.e. without faith or without recognizing Christ’s body and blood) and therefore to his judgment, the reception of the Lord’s Supper is limited to those who come in faith, recognizing the body and blood of the Lord in this Sacrament. This is responsible care and concern for the soul. Since we cannot look into one’s heart to see whether this faith dwells there, we can judge this only by a person’s confession.
In addition, the Lord’s Supper is an expression of the unity of faith. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf,” 1 Corinthians 10:116-17. Where this unity does not exist, we sadly must acknowledge that fact. Therefore we practice “Close Communion,” i.e. sharing the Lord’s Supper only with those who share the closeness of doctrinal unity (sometimes called “Closed Communion” because it closes communion to those who are not of the same faith).