... "So the question is: What is Baptism according to the testimony of the New Testament? What does it give or profit? What is the relation of Baptism to the faith of the baptismal candidate? Is it necessary for salvation or not? Our first answer must be that, according to the clear teaching of the New Testament, Baptism is “the washing of regeneration.” The ancient church, which always actually identified Baptism and regeneration, and the church of all times with the exception of the Reformed denominations, has understood Titus 3:5 in this sense, and rightly so. There Baptism is said to be “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
In Baptism the Holy Spirit is communicated; we are “all baptized into the one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Those who are baptized have been baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3). These are all realities that take place, not alongside of Baptism, but in Baptism. In the New Testament, Baptism with water, inasmuch as it is a baptism into Christ, into the name of Christ, is Baptism with the Spirit, it is a being born anew and at the same time from above “of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5). Certainly the New Testament knows of no regeneration without Baptism and independent of Baptism. Baptism, therefore, is not a sign but a means of regeneration. To take it only as a sign of a regeneration, that also takes place without it and independently of it, is unbiblical.
The Reformed Church in its doctrine of Baptism, precisely as in its doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, on the one hand rejects the pure symbolism of Zwingli, as though Baptism were nothing but an “ostensible” sign of the Christian profession like the white cross which the confederate attaches to his garment in order to show that he is a confederate; but on the other hand it also rejects both the opus operatum of the Roman sacramental doctrine and the Lutheran and New Testament identification of sign and substance.
Why does it do this? In the final analysis, it is because of the aversion of Calvin and his medieval theological predecessors to the view that an external, physical act can evoke spiritual effects like the forgiveness of sins. But this is, in the first place, a philosophical prejudice, and in the second place it is a misunderstanding of the significance of the Word of God in Baptism. “For without the Word of God the water is simply water and no Baptism; but with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration.” Even in Catholic doctrine the Word as forma is inseparably united with the sacrament; as Augustine’s famous dictum, quoted over and over again by all occidental churches, puts it: Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum [The word comes to the element and it becomes a sacrament; Tractate 80 on John 3; Smalcald Articles III.V.1].
That which separates Luther from the Catholic doctrine of Baptism is best stated in his own words in the Smalcald Articles, where he draws the line between himself and Thomism as well as Scotism at the same time:
Therefore we do not hold with Thomas and the monastic preachers or Dominicans, who forget the Word and say that God has imparted to the water a spiritual power which, through the water, washes away sin. Nor do we agree with Scotus and the Barefoot Monks who teach that by the assistance of the divine will Baptism washes away sins, and that this ablution occurs only through the will of God and by no means through the Word and water. (SA III,V 2-3)
For Luther, everything depends on the close connection of water and the Word:
God, however, is a God of life. Now, because He is in this water, it must be the true aqua vitae that expels death and hell and quickens forever (WA 52.102.9).
But that this presence of God or Christ cannot be any other presence than that in his Word will not need to be proved, we trust, in the case of Luther. All effects of Baptism, in the view of Luther and the Lutheran Church, are effects brought about by the Word connected with the water." ...
Another Baptism article:
More Sasse:Letter on Dogmatics
She can wait.