Today we begin a sermon series on Holy Baptism. On this Father's Day, it is especially appropriate to see what our heavenly Father has done for us, His little children, namely, He has washed His little children in pure, clean water.
Infant Baptism - why is it so important to maintain this doctrine and practice? Why do we Lutherans insist upon it so strongly, when the phrase "infant Baptism" does not appear as such in Scripture?
We might reply that the phrase, "female Baptism" does not appear in Scripture either, yet we Baptize women. Christ commands us to Baptize all nations, without mentioning any exceptions. To single out one group and say that Christ has not specifically commanded that they be Baptized is a most dangerous practice.
But the best answer for why we Baptize infants is the grace of God. Infant Baptism is God's grace revealed most clearly. To deny infant Baptism is to deny grace itself.
Someone may say that you were only an infant when you were Baptized, so you did nothing and did not choose to be Baptized. Then you can say to them, "Exactly! You understand perfectly!"
You are not saved by a decision or a choice you make. You are not saved by anything you do. You are saved by grace, which means that it is the free gift of God.
In order to enter the Kingdom of heaven, you must become like a little infant who is being Baptized. Do nothing. Let God do all the work.
Think of the time that you were born. Do you remember that day? No. Did you choose to be born? No. Does this somehow make your birth less meaningful or less real? Of course not.
So it is with the Rebirth by water and the Word. If you were Baptized as an infant, you do not remember. You were carried in by parents, so you had no choice and no say in the matter. Maybe you cried or spat up on yourself. But spiritually, you did nothing to help yourself. Fortunately, what you did does not matter. What matters is the miracle that God did at the Font.
A man may fall unconscious, and his wife may decide for him that he should have surgery to save his life. The surgery happens even though he did not choose it. His life is saved, even though he cannot remember the surgery.
Likewise, the Great Physician has healed you. You were helpless and as good as dead. Yet your life was truly saved, through Baptism.
In America, we have unfortunately inherited the legacy of generations of revivalist preachers who tell us that we must make a decision to be saved. In America's thinking, faith is the same as choice. They say that you cannot believe unless you make a conscious decision, which a baby cannot do.
But this conception of faith is directly against the Word of God. St. Paul writes in Romans 9: "God says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills." (that is, not by human choice or decision)
Again, St. John writes, "To all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of human decision, nor of the will of man, but of God." St. John reaffirms that believing and receiving Christ are not the same as an act of will or a decision.
And of course Ephesians 2: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." So faith does not come from you at all. Your whole salvation, from beginning to end, is from God, including the gift of faith that He gives.
Scripture also tells us that infants, even from their mothers' wombs, are sinners like us all. This does not make sense to us. We think that a person becomes sinful by doing sinful acts. But Jesus says that a good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit. It is the nature of the tree that brings forth its fruit, not the other way around. We are sinners even before we have an opportunity to act, because our nature is corrupted by sin. So even an infant is conceived as a sinner. That is how infectious and destructive the disease of sin is, that every single one of us humans carries this awful disease in our flesh.
Yet God has produced the cure. He has created the medicine for sin in the Blood of His Son. Jesus is the only human conceived without sin. So His Blood is the antidote by which we are saved from death.
This medicine is delivered in various ways. For babies, the delivery system is simple and direct and easy: Baptize them! They are Baptized into the death of Christ, and so are saved by His Blood. The medicine of God is in Baptism that not only reverses death, but gives life that does not ever end. The infant does nothing to earn the medicine or pay for it. The parents do not earn it or pay for it. The pastor does not earn it or pay for it. No, only Christ paid and earned, and He gives His gifts without any price tag attached.
So infant Baptism, more than any other act of the Church, expresses the essence of the Christian faith and the love of our Triune God. Infant Baptism is God's grace and mercy, made concrete before our eyes.
Actually, Baptism is always this way, whether given to an infant or an adult. It is always the washing of rebirth. It is always a holy, heavenly, blessed, living, saving water, on account of the Word of God that is in it. Your Baptism is therefore greater than heaven and earth, sun, moon, and all the angels. When the devil sees Baptism, to him it is like a bright sun that drives him away.
So why should this wondrous water be denied to little babies? Did Christ not die for them? He died for all. Do we not desire that satan's hold be broken over these little ones? Surely we desire it. We want the best for our children. So we should give them this blessed Sacrament, which cannot be praised highly enough, even if we preached a thousand sermons.
We may be tempted to delay Baptizing our little children. We sometimes wait until all the family can be there, as if it were a social occasion. But let us not delay Baptism. Let us eagerly bring our little children to God's life-giving Font. Let us snatch these little ones out of satan's clutches by the almighty power of God that works in this water. Let us deliver the tender babes into the Savior's loving arms as quickly as we can. For we have His command and His gracious promise, and it is both for us and for our children, as St. Peter says.
And when they are Baptized, all glory goes to God alone. It is not into our name that our children are Baptized. It is not into the name of our congregation. It is not a feather in our cap at all. All glory goes to the Triune God alone into whose Name these little lambs are received. His is the work and His is the Blood shed for them and His is the gift of faith through which they are received into His eternal Kingdom.
In this Name into which we were Baptized, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
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