"You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor."
--2 Corinthians 8:7
The Small Catechism by Martin Luther

What is baptism? Baptism is not water only, but it is water used together with God’s Word and by his command.

What is this Word? In Matthew 28 our Lord Jesus Christ says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

What benefits does God give in baptism? In baptism God forgives sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what he has promised.

What is God’s promise? In Mark 16 our Lord Jesus Christ says: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

How can water do such great things? It is not water that does these things, but God’s Word with the water and our trust in this Word. Water by itself is only water, but with the Word of God it is a life-giving water which by grace gives the new birth through the Holy Spirit.

What does scripture say? St. Paul writes in Titus 3: “he saved us . . . in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.”

What does baptism mean for daily living? It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.

What does scripture say? St. Paul writes in Romans 6: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

What is holy communion? Holy communion is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ given with bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us to eat and drink.

What does scripture say? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul say: In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying “Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

What benefits do we receive from this sacrament? The benefits of this sacrament are pointed out by the words, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.” These words assure us that in the sacrament we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life, and salvation.

How can eating and drinking do all this? It is not eating and drinking that does this, but the words, “given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” These words, along with the eating and drinking, are the main thing in the sacrament. And whoever believes these words has exactly what they say, forgiveness of sins.

When is a person rightly prepared to receive this sacrament? Fasting and other outward preparations serve a good purpose. However that person is well prepared and worthy who believes these words “given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words, or doubts them, is neither prepared nor worthy, for the words “for you” require simply a believing heart.


©2010, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.