We believe that the Bible teaches that a person is saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The Bible tells us that such “faith comes by hearing”. Jesus Himself commands Baptism and tells us that Baptism is water used together with the Word of God. Because of this, we believe that Baptism is one of the miraculous means of grace (the other two are the Lord's supper and God's Word), through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person’s heart. Baptism is from God and works forgiveness and cleanses a person no matter their age. Although we do not claim to understand fully how this happens, we believe that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. We believe this because the Bible says that infants can believe and that new birth (regeneration) happens in Baptism. The infant’s faith cannot yet, of course, be verbally expressed or articulated by the child, yet it is real and present all the same. The faith of the infant, like adults, also needs to be fed and nurtured by God’s Word.
The LCMS does not believe that Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation. Mark 16:16 implies that it is not the absence of Baptism that condemns a person but the absence of faith, and there are clearly other ways of coming to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit (reading or hearing the Word of God). Still, Baptism dare not be despised or willfully neglected, since it is explicitly commanded by God and has His precious promises attached to it. It is not a mere “ritual” or “symbol,” but a powerful means of grace by which God grants faith and the forgiveness of sins.