Lutherans teach that Jesus Christ instituted the Sacraments for two purposes. First, the Sacraments outwardly identify people as Christians, and second, they communicate and deliver Christ and His cross-won forgiveness, life, and salvation to individual Christians.
Hence, the Sacraments give, awaken, and strengthen our faith in God’s mercies, and they are used rightly when Christians receive them in faith for the purpose of strengthening their faith.
What Lutherans teach about Baptism
Lutherans teach that Baptism is “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5) and that it is necessary because it “now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). Through this divine, miraculous washing of water and His Word, God works the forgiveness of sins and gives His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Because Baptism is God’s work, and not a human work of committing oneself to the Lord, children also should be baptized, because the promise of forgiveness “is for you and for your children” (Acts 2:39).
What Lutherans teach about Holy Communion
Lutherans teach that in this Sacrament the true body and blood of Jesus Christ are really present under the bread and wine for Christians to eat and to drink, because Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body. . . . Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:26–28). Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in this sacred meal to give “the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28), eternal life, and salvation. As He taught His disciples, He also teaches us: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:54).
For this reason Lutherans agree with and practice the Church’s historic practice of “closed communion.” Since “the cup of blessing” is “a participation in the blood of Christ” and “the bread that we break” is “a participation in the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:16), all who commune receive the actual body and blood of Christ—believers to their abundant blessing, but unbelievers to their eternal harm. Whoever communes “without discerning the body [of Christ] eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29). So in Christian love, Lutherans protect those who are unworthy and unprepared for Holy Communion by first teaching them their need for Christ, and the forgiveness and life that He gives in the Sacrament. When there is unity in confessing the way, truth, and life of Jesus (John 14:6), we joyously commune together.
Learn more about the teachings of the Lutheran Church by reading Martin Luther's Small Catechism.