“The Order Yields to the Need”


(An excerpt from Loci theologici, “De baptismo,” 34, 36; quoted in
C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1987], pp. 285-86.)

Assuming that there is no regular minister of the Word, the administration of Baptism should still not be omitted, since for the essence of Baptism it is not at all required that he who administers this sacrament should be a minister of the church; therefore, in this case the order yields to the need. ... Circumcision was commanded to Abraham (Gen. 17:11), who was a prophet of the Lord (Gen. 20:7), and from this we conclude that very probably the administration of this sacrament, together with other functions of the ecclesiastical office, was later transferred to the Levitical priesthood. There can be no doubt that this sacrament ordinarily was administered by men. But since in an emergency more consideration was given there to the sacrament than to the order [cf. Ex. 4:25], the same must be observed regarding Baptism, especially since in the New Testament, after the abrogation of the Levitical distinction of persons, all Christians are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6), and also since in Christ there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28). ... Wherever the same relation exists, the same right also exists. But absolution, which any layman [Privatperson] may announce to a dying person from the Gospel, and Baptism, which a layman may administer in an emergency, namely, when no regular minister of the Word can be obtained, stand in the same relation. Hence, there exists here also the same right. Laymen act properly when they instruct or comfort a congregation that is without a regular shepherd or sick people or those who in any way are afflicted, as in times of a siege, pestilence, persecution, etc. Here belong in a certain way also the examples of the prophetesses in the Old Testament, such as Deborah (Judg. 4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), as well as Priscilla, whom Paul calls his helper (Rom. 16:3), and who expounded to Apollos the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:26), and Lois and Eunice, who taught their grandson and son Timothy from a child the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). Why then should laymen not in an emergency administer Baptism, since they are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and have been made kings and priests to God (Rev. 1:6; 5:10)?

John Gerhard

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