Saturday, February 23, 2013

Infant Baptism

[This didn't make the final cut into tomorrow's sermon on Holy Baptism.]

The Augsburg Confession is emphatic in saying that it's Biblical and right to baptize infants.

We respectfully disagree with our Christian friends who say that because infants can’t understand Baptism, they shouldn’t be baptized.

Let’s be honest: No human being fully understands Baptism.

And understanding Baptism is beside the point anyway. I don’t understand why my wife loves me. But I don’t question it. I gratefully receive her love for me.

God’s adoption of human beings, made possible through Christ, can’t be explained, only received.

If, in Baptism, God makes a covenant to be our God, why would the Church dare to stand in His way? Jesus told Nicodemus that we must all be born anew of water and the Spirit. He also said that the wind (using the same word translated as Spirit), blows where it will and we have no control over it. For Lutherans, obstructing the ministry of the Holy Spirit to create faith in Christ by denying Holy Baptism to infants, is not an option.

In Romans 4, the apostle Paul compares Holy Baptism to circumcision, the ceremony in ancient days that every Jewish boy underwent at eight days of age. Through circumcision, God claimed children as part of His people.

Today, Baptism is the port of entry for God into the life of a child and for a child into the Kingdom of God.

The child, of course, will one day either reject Christ or receive Him by faith. There are two parts to the covenant of Holy Baptism, God's and ours. God's part is to impute the blessings of Christ's death and resurrection. Our part is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as the way, and the truth, and the life, the only means by which we receive eternal life with God (John 14:6).

But when the power of God is unleashed in a life through Holy Baptism, God can help children and adults follow Christ, even when the old sinful self, the devil, and the world are pulling them (all of us) in other directions.

Adults who were never baptized come to faith in Christ by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, of course. Thank God for that miracle!

I love it every time God gives me the privilege of presiding over the Baptism of an adult who, through the proclamation of God's Word about Jesus by friends, family, and others, has come to faith in Christ and wants to submit to the crucifixion of the old self and the rising of the new self that happens in Holy Baptism.

But I also love it every time I'm able to participate in the Baptism of an infant. That's because every child who is baptized has a "leg up" on the life God wants to give all of us as the Holy Spirit is unleashed in a life, God claims a child as His, and works for their good, here and in eternity.

The Church is commissioned to baptize. We must not withhold this gift from anyone!

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