Lutherans believe that, in baptism, God liberates us from the power of death and sin and gives us a new life in his family. Both infant and adult baptism are practiced in Lutheran congregations. People who have already been baptized can affirm their initial decision to be baptized and continue to strengthen their faith through a second Lutheran sacrament, confirmation. Both are carried out in public ceremonies within a Lutheran congregation.
Basis for Both Traditions
The Lutheran sacraments of baptism and confirmation are closely linked because they are both grounded in the Biblical passage Matthew 28:19, in which Jesus told his disciples, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." According to Martin Luther's "Small Catechism," Lutherans believe that being baptized results in forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the gift of salvation to those who believe in God's promises. Lutherans also believe that confirmation flows from baptism because the believer will daily affirm her faith and grow in her understanding of God's grace through the study of God's word, worship and fellowship with other believers.
The Act of Baptism
The sacrament of baptism is carried out in a Lutheran congregation by the pastor of that church. The pastor prepares the candidate for baptism, together with the candidate's sponsors -- faithful people who are committed to helping the candidate grow in faith -- and the candidate's parents, if the candidate is an infant or child, by giving instruction in the significance of baptism. The baptism ceremony is before the church congregation. The pastor baptizes the candidate in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, either by sprinkling with water from a baptismal font or pouring water from a baptismal pitcher onto the candidate's head.
When a person has already been baptized, the Lutheran church permits her to affirm the baptism by taking steps to strengthen her faith. This process -- known as confirmation -- is a lifelong commitment, but is often formally undertaken by children within the Lutheran church in a three-year period during sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Confirmation programs, available to children and adults alike, vary by congregation, but include Bible study, a time for instruction in important rites such as baptism and communion and a final ceremony before the church in which the believer -- known as a confirmand -- publicly confesses her faith in Jesus Christ.
Taking the step to be baptized or confirmed is an important event in a person's faith; therefore, Lutheran congregations encourage people to recall those events by lighting a candle on the anniversary of the date of baptism or confirmation. In addition, Lutheran congregations recognize that even after completing both baptism and confirmation, the faith journey continues. Accordingly, congregations encourage growth in faith by offering leadership positions in the church, Bible study opportunities and continued contact with sponsors or mentors.
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