Tomorrow is Lord’s Day 27. Here are the questions from the Heidelberg Catechism for this Sunday.
Q: 72. Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
A: Not at all: for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sin.
Q: 73. Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism “the washing of regeneration,” and “the washing away of sins”?
A: God speaks thus not without great cause, namely, not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water.
Q: 74. Are infants also to be baptized?
A: Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God; and since redemption from sin by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult; they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the Christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, instead of which baptism is instituted in the new covenant.
There is a theme in these sections on the sacraments; assurance. The answer to question 67 says, “The Holy Spirit assures us in the sacraments.” Question 69 says that as surely as I am washed externally with water so I am “certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all pollution of my soul.” And here in question 73 we see that baptism is given so that we might be assured that we are spiritually clean. Not to belabor the point, but the sacraments are given, like the promise of the Gospel, to assure us that Christ has paid all and our sins can be forgiven in him. When we struggle with doubt, we need to look at the gospel, which is given to us in the Word and in the sacraments. Here is one good reason to have weekly communion and to baptize publicly in worship. We are reminded of Christ’s work every time we take communion and see someone baptized.
Children should be baptized. They belong to the covenant people. To refuse to baptize children is to say they are excluded from the church of God and strangers to the covenants of promise. This is contrary to both the Old Testament and New Testament teaching, as well as the teaching of the Reformers. Bringing children into the covenant is one of the greatest privileges we have as parents and is a great spur to trust in God’s grace as we bring them up.
These questions rule out that baptism automatically saves you or imparts faith. What saves us is trust in Christ and his shed blood. It is possible to be baptized and to eat the Lord’s Supper every week and be damned. Those of us who love the sacraments need to be reminded of this.