Nobody ever becomes a member of the church by choice or by birth. We become a member of the church by baptism. But how is this possible?

God is in the water because Jesus is in the water. Where God is, there is life because God is life. When we are baptized, God's word is combined with the water, just as he commanded it to be when he said, "Go and baptize all people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." That means life is in the water. The life that washes away sin and death.

That's why baptism gives us everything that we can't choose for ourselves. Baptism gives us everything that we can't get by birth. Whether we're saved from sin and death depends on water and God's word. Baptism is necessary for salvation.

Baptism doesn't get us into a religious club that we join by a voluntary decision.

In baptism, we're reborn. It is as the apostle Paul writes, a "new beginning." Baptism begins our "new life" as a child of God. Baptism works "the forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare" (Martin Luther's Small Catechism IV).

Baptism isn't a custom-like confirmation, marriage, and burial. It isn't a sign of God's grace. Baptism doesn't give us something we could get without it through our obedience to God's command, faithfulness to a cause, or just being a good person.

Baptism is water with God's word that forgives sin. It's a new beginning. It's a new life altogether as a child of God. That's why we baptize babies. Baptism works the forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

This isn't a future faith that gets confessed at confirmation or when we're ready to make a choice to believe God's words and promise. Baptism doesn't get us into a religious club that we join by a voluntary decision.

Baptism doesn't point to future faith. It's not a watering of the seeds of what will someday become faithful fruit if we act on our baptismal vows. Baptism is God's faithfulness to his own promise that brings all people, even and especially babies, to faith. But, our faith isn't the foundation of baptism. God's faithfulness is the foundation of baptism, otherwise, there would never have been a baptism in the Jordan, let alone the millions of baptisms that followed!

Baptism isn't something that just happened once. We live in the strength of our baptism again and again and again, returning to it every day according to God's promise.

All of us can lie to ourselves and mislead ourselves, but not the God who's given us baptism and commanded us to "Go and baptize all people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." And "all" means ALL, not just adults or older children who can make a choice.

As Jesus' baptism in the Jordan proves, water and God's word isn't something that makes baptism an important part of our life. It's not the first of many steps we must choose to take to be called children of God. Baptism is everything because it's the one necessary thing that forgives sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal life. Baptism is the concrete, real foundation of our whole life.

This isn't some commitment we declare to God. Baptism isn't something we receive and experience in the darkest, most lonely moments of our life. It's the rock-solid constant that's always there for us. In baptism, God promises to be our God always. In baptism, God says, "I am your Father, and you are my beloved child." In baptism, we live in the strength that forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation give us.

Our confirmation vows don't confirm that we're a child of God. Our daily repentance doesn't prove we're worthy of God's baptismal promise. Our faith doesn't prove anything about God's faithfulness to us in baptism. We're baptized. We're daily repented. We're given faith to trust God's words and promise. That's what baptism does for us.

Baptism isn't what we choose to do; it's what is done to us. Faith, repentance, and even what we do daily in our vocations isn't based on our decisions. It's all a consequence of the strength that baptism gives us to believe, repent, and take responsibility for the health and well-being of those around us.

Baptism isn't something that just happened once. We live in the strength of our baptism again and again and again, returning to it every day according to God's promise.