On 15 February 1546, an aging and ailing pastor climbed into the pulpit for what would be the last time.
The topic of that last sermon is surely worthy of consideration, but not here and not now.
Rather, let us follow this pastor to a nearby town, where he helped settle a dispute before retiring to his room with chest pains.
He prayed the traditional prayer of the dying, Psalm 31, verse 5, Into your hand I commit my spirit, you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
And then he went to sleep.
Some hours later, around one in the morning, now the 18th, he awoke with more chest pain and was warmed with towels.
The pastor thanked God for revealing to him the son in whom the pastor fervently believed.
Two of the pastor's companions then asked him rather loudly, Reverend Father, are you ready to die, trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ, and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in his name?
The pastor replied, Yes.
This was his last spoken word, and he died of a stroke some hours later.
However, he left behind a note, his true last words, I trust you will indulge me if I update the German half from medieval to modern.
Wir sind betle, hoch ist veum.
We are beggars.
This is true.
That pastor, of course, was Martin Luther.
And so let me turn to the question, which you will already know if you read the show notes, why Lutheranism?
Or more specifically, why am I Lutheran?
Why should anyone be a Lutheran?
I have recounted elsewhere and more than once how I came back to Lutheranism.
I will decline to do so again here because I intend to focus on the actual question at hand.
I wish to be clear at the outset that I do believe that there are actual Christians in other traditions.
Lutherans have never held otherwise.
However, I do believe that other Christians have denied themselves the fullness of the faith.
We Lutherans are beggars.
All Christians are.
However, we are beggars who have found a rich man who has thrown open his home to all and has prepared a great feast.
Many scraps from this feast have been cast out here and there, and they can certainly nourish.
But such scraps are not the fullness of the feast.
At times we have been content to remain at the feast while so many others who have themselves been invited to the feast remain outside, content to survive on the aforementioned scraps.
And so, when I invite you to come to the feast, I stand to gain nothing, save the joy, of course, of seeing another brother come into the master's hall.
You have been invited to the feast, and you are my brother according to the flesh.
The assumption is always one of partisan spirit, that the goal is to win or simply to score points or similar.
This may be true for some, but it is not true for Lutherans.
You are not a point in some ongoing contest with Rome or the Reformed or anyone else.
You are a fellow beggar, and I have an invitation to the feast with your name on it.
Now the Lord is super abundant in his grace, in his mercy with his gifts.
It is not one place alone where we see or find available the forgiveness of sins.
It is not simply in the word.
Now that is what many will contend, and that is to say they are content with the scraps.
I do not mean to describe the word of God as scraps, but the exegesis to which certain Christians hold turns the scriptures into scraps.
They make it seem as if God is miserly with his grace when he is in fact super abundant, because you have not just the scriptures, yes, of course, the forgiveness of sins, faith, these good things are available in the scriptures, but they are also available in the sacraments.
What does Christ say?
What does scripture say of the cup?
Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Forgiveness of sins is available in the Lord's Supper as scripture clearly teaches.
God is super abundant.
There are multiple means of forgiveness of sins.
There are multiple means for the creation and maintenance of faith.
Important that point, the maintenance of faith.
The point of the Lord's Supper is to strengthen your faith.
It is part of the faith.
It is part of God's goodness.
It is part of the super abundant grace of God's gifts to man.
And the same holds for baptism.
Baptism now saves you, a literal quote from scripture.
And of course, there are those who will go on and read the rest of the verse as you very well should.
You should read the whole chapter, the book, the entirety of the collection of books that is scripture.
But they will fail to understand what is actually said there, because baptism is spoken of as antitupos, an antitype.
That verse is dealing with typology.
And to go over typology again, I've done this elsewhere, but it is worth repeating.
In dealing in typology, you have types and the antitype.
Types, presaged, prefigure, are something pointing to the antitype.
The type is always lesser than the antitype.
The antitype is always greater than the types.
And so what is listed with regard to baptism as types?
Well, you have the flood.
From what did the flood save?
The flood saved, of course, from the wicked sinful world and temporal death.
You have the passage through the Red Sea.
From what did that passage, that type of baptism save?
And again, of course, it is temporal death, in this case being pursued by the Egyptians.
And so if baptism is the antitype of these types, well, what is greater than temporal death?
What is the only thing from which you can be saved that is more meaningful than temporal death?
Well, of course, it is eternal death.
That is the only thing that is a greater evil than temporal death.
And so baptism saves you from eternal death.
Well, what is eternal death?
Eternal death is hell.
And now there are some who will, of course, scream at this, that it is sola fide.
It is, of course, by faith alone that you can be saved, by grace through faith, faith being the means.
And we do not deny that.
Don't forget that it's Lutherans who use those terms.
What we mean and what scripture means by baptism now saves you is that baptism is one of the means by which you can be given faith.
You are still saved by faith.
You are not saved by the water.
And we agree, the critique comes from our confessions that it would simply be a bath because we speak of the water alone as being a bathkeeper's baptism.
That is the critique leveled by Luther.
But of course, it's not the water alone.
It is the water with the word.
And when you combine the two, it is a sacrament.
The same goes for the sacrament at the table, the Lord's Supper communion, whatever you want to call it.
If you had only the bread and the wine, unconsecrated, which is to say not paired with the words of Christ, the words of institution, they would in fact be simple bread and wine.
But when they are paired with the words of institution, when they are paired with the word of God, they become a sacrament.
They are his true body and his true blood, as he says in his last will and testament.
And so that is what we want other Christians to have.
You are a beggar, the same as I. Every other Christian is a beggar, the same as Lutherans.
But we want others to have the fullness of the faith that they neglect, the fullness of the faith that they deny due to faulty exegesis, due to a denial of what is clearly stated in scripture.
And so we don't want to take the position of the Baptists who say that baptism does not save, a direct refutation of scripture, who say that children should not be baptized, because if baptism creates faith, then of course you want to baptize children.
We don't want to be the same as the Reformed, who deny the reality of Christ's presence in the supper, in, with, and under the bread and wine.
Now, of course, I know that the Reformed teach what they call the real presence, but it is not the same.
They teach that you ascend to heaven and partake in a spiritual way.
That is not what Christ says.
He says, this is my body, this is my blood.
And so we simply affirm it.
I do not have to understand how the sacramental union works.
I do not have to understand how bread can be body and wine can be blood.
I affirm that that is true, because what does Christ say?
This bread, it's bread, is my body, it's his body.
This wine, it's wine, is my blood, it's his blood.
The God who spoke the universe into existence can most certainly do this miracle as well.
And I have no reason to doubt him.
He has always been true.
And so I believe what he said.
And also with baptism, this promise is for you and for your children.
Do not hinder the little children.
Let them come unto me.
The children are part of the church.
Children of believers are the next generation of the church.
They are to be part of the service.
They are to be blessed with God's gifts.
Yes, scripture instructs us that we are to examine those so they can discern the body and blood before they approach the table.
But there is no such restriction on baptism.
And so yes, we baptize children, because that is good, because that is what God wants, because that is what scripture commands.
And you will see that in the Great Commission, because it says we are to disciple the nations.
And how are we to do that?
If you actually look at the grammar, it gives you what is supposed to be done.
First is baptizing.
Teaching isn't listed first.
Baptizing is listed first.
These are the two ways you disciple the nations, by baptizing and by teaching.
That is what we are supposed to do.
It does not place a restriction on baptism.
It does not say that you baptize only adults.
It does not say that you baptize only those who have stood up and given a full confession of faith.
No, it says baptize and teach.
That is how we are to disciple the nations.
Now of course, when it comes to adults, we do in fact instruct them before we baptize them.
But that's because we can.
We know how to instruct adults in the faith.
We do not know how to instruct infants in the faith.
That is something we leave to God.
We trust in Him because of what His Word says.
Baptism now saves you.
And so we baptize infants.
And so to return to the fact that we are the poor beggars.
When a poor beggar finds a rich man who is handing out food to all who come to him, to all who come to his hall, the true beggar seeks all of his friends to bring them into that hall.
Some will of course deny that any such rich man could possibly exist.
Some will state that they are content with the scraps they have found elsewhere.
And some will listen and join the feast.
Now I cannot make you believe my words.
For in truth, they are not my words.
I am repeating the words of the master of the hall, the master of the feast.
I am simply repeating what is said in God's Word.
And I cannot make you believe those things.
That is the work of the Spirit.
You must listen to the words that are spoken to you from the Word of God.
Whether they come to you when you read it, or when someone else speaks it to you, however those words come to you, you must listen.
The Spirit of God will be active in those words, and God's Word does not return to him void.
Do not harden your heart.
Do not be impenitent.
Do not resist the Spirit.
Now the reason that I want you to be Lutheran, to answer the question that is actually the subject of this episode, I want you to be Lutheran because I want you to come to the feast.
I want you to actually partake of the fullness of the bounty that God sets before us.
And what I'm saying is that I've been to the feast, and have seen the chair with your name on it, and it's currently empty.
There's a chair at the feast with your name engraved on it, and it's empty.
I do not want it to remain empty.