Luther on Baptism of Regeneration
In understanding that through (Sacrament of) Baptism a person is regenerated or born again as new person whose sins are washed away, Luther was in total agreement with the teaching of the Catholic Church.
The significance of baptism is a blessed dying unto sin and a resurrection in the grace of God, so that the old man, conceived and born in sin, is there drowned, and a new man, born in grace, comes forth and rises. Thus St. Paul, in Titus 3[:5], calls baptism a “washing of regeneration,” since in this washing a person is born again and made new. As Christ also says, in John 3[:3, 5], “Unless you are born again of water and the Spirit (of grace), you may not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” For just as a child is drawn out of his mother’s womb and is born, and through this fleshly birth is a sinful person and a child of wrath [Eph. 2:3], so one is drawn out of baptism and is born spiritually. Through this spiritual birth he is a child of grace and a justified person. Therefore sins are drowned in baptism, and in place of sin, righteousness comes forth.
Baptism was foreshown of old in Noah’s flood, when the whole world was drowned, except for Noah with his three sons and their wives, eight souls, who were saved in the ark. That the people of the world were drowned signifies that in baptism sins are drowned. But that the eight in the ark, with animals of every sort, were preserved, signifies-as St. Peter explains in his second epistle-that through baptism man is saved. Now baptism is by far a greater flood than was that of Noah. For that flood drowned men during no more than one year, but baptism drowns all sorts of men throughout the world, from the birth of Christ even till the day of judgment. Moreover while that was a flood of wrath, this is a flood of grace, as is declared in Psalm 29[:10], “God will make a continual new flood.” For without doubt many more people have been baptized than were drowned in the flood.
From this it follows, to be sure, that when someone comes forth out of baptism, he is truly pure, without sin, and wholly guiltless. Still, there are many who do not properly understand this. They think that sin is no longer present, and so they become remiss and negligent in the killing of their sinful nature, even as some do when they have gone to confession. For this reason, as I have said above, it should be properly understood and known that our flesh, so long as it lives here, is by nature wicked and sinful.
Luther, The Holy and Blessed Sacrament of Baptism, from Luther’s Works Vol. 35