Martin Luther on Holy Baptism – a review

Martin Luther on Holy Baptism: Sermons to the People (1525-39)
Editor: Benjamin T. G. Mayes
Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
128 pages with discussion questions and indexes

The Lord be with you

There were many controversies in the 16th century, including religious controversies. These controversies swept across Europe and the lands they influenced. One of the “hot topics” was baptism. It may seem surprising, considering the volume of his writing, but Martin Luther never wrote a full book on the subject of baptism. It seems that this was the case because the arena of this controversy was not in the halls of academia but in the trenches of every day life. Therefore it was from the pulpit, mainly, that Luther dealt with baptism. Luther actually preached several series on the topic. Surprisingly, these sermons have never been gathered together into one English book until the recent publication of Martin Luther on Holy Baptism.

The first sermon was delivered in 1525 and the final one given in 1539. To place this in context, Luther posted his 95 Theses in 1517. He was excommunicated by Rome in 1521. His Large and Small Catechisms were published in 1529. The Augsburg Confession was presented in 1530. Luther died in 1546. The first sermon was delivered at a time when infant baptism was generally accepted by everyone. The final sermon was delivered at a time when infant baptism was being rejected by many lay movements, generally referred to as “Anabaptists.” The sermons reflect the current culture and controversies of Luther’s day.

The first sermon stands out because Luther did not have to seriously contend with the misconceptions of the Anabaptists. Luther preached with an energetic and colorful style but the style was always in service to biblical truth. While his sermons certainly have style, it is always substance over style in his messages. Reading these messages can serve as an excellent source of biblical teaching on baptism.

I know that reading sermons is not everyone’s cup of tea. However I enjoyed them and learned some valuable truths. Some of those truths made it into a sermon on John 6 I preached a few weeks ago. I can recommend this little book to you.

Blessings in Christ,