Why Babies are to be baptized?
About infant Baptism the Large Catechism says: "Here a question arises by which the devil through his sects confuses the world: Infant Baptism. Let the simple dismiss this question from their minds. Refer it to the learned" (IV, 47-8). Outside of Confirmation classes, that's where I've tried to leave it, but it won't be left. You're asked, you ask yourself why are babies to be baptized? Not having an answer or having an incorrect one takes away from Baptism being an aid to faith and answers to life.
The downright wrong answer is they're not. They're not to be baptized because there is no explicit biblical command to baptize them. Well if an express term is necessary, then men and women along with infants can't be baptized. None of them are specifically mentioned in the command to baptize just the generic command to baptize "all nations" (Krauth, 576-7).
Second wrong answer is they're not to be baptized because Jesus wasn't baptized as an infant but as an adult. First, Jesus didn't command Baptism till after His resurrection. Second, if the standard is if Jesus did it you must too, then good luck with getting yourself baptized in the Jordan River and even better luck getting John the Baptist to do it.
The third wrong answer is they're not because only Catholics baptize babies. Make that a small c' on catholic and you're right. The church at all times, in ever place, has always baptized babies. This was true until 1525. That means if baptizing babies is contrary to God's Word, for 1,500 years the Lord left His Church in this error till the Anabaptists arose and taught against it. Even after 500 years of teaching against infant Baptism, 1.6 billon out of 2 billion still do. That's 80%.
"They aren't to be baptized" is the wrong answer to why babies are to be baptized. The question itself, however, is also wrong. Rather than putting the majority on the defensive proving babies are to be baptized, the proper question is, Why aren't they?
Aren't babies part of "all nations?" Even if you take this as Jesus referring to every nation aren't babies part of every nation? When talking about the population of a nation, unless you specifically exclude babies, you always include them. Second, the only time the word indignant is ever used of Jesus is when His disciples prevent mothers from bringing their little ones to Him. Jesus commands the disciples to stop. Jesus is indignant against any church or person who gets in the way of little ones being brought to Him.
Why aren't babies to be baptized? Aren't they in need of what Baptism gives? Or was David only talking about himself when he said in Psalm 51 "in sin did my mother conceive me?" Doesn't the Bible say, "There is none righteous; no not one?" Doesn't it also say, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?" The only way you can get around babies needing the forgiveness found in Baptism is if you read your Bible with asterisks. When it says none are righteous, none are guiltless, all have sinned, you must see an asterisk with a mental footnote: "except babies, except those who have not reached the age of accountability."
Many confuse the laws of men with that of God. American jurisprudence does have an age of accountability. A 2 year old can not be guilty of murder even if he pulls the trigger. But God can say Jacob and Esau are guilty of fighting in the womb. Furthermore, if babies were sinless before God, none would ever die, but we all know they do.
The first time Baptism is publicly preached children are specifically mentioned. It's Pentecost; the Law has convicted the crowd for crucifying Jesus. Some in this crowd were there when Pilate proclaimed he was innocent of Jesus' blood, and they had cried out, "Let His blood be upon us and upon our children." So when they asked what they should do about their terrible sin, Peter replied not only should they repent and be baptized but that "the promise is for you and for your children." What a relief!
Why aren't babies to be baptized? Can't they believe? "How dreadful it would be if children could not believe? In that case they could not be saved, either" (Hammer of God, 217). Isn't salvation through faith? Also doesn't Jesus say "one of these little ones who believe in me?" Little ones is mikros which refers to a class of children under 4 years old. According to both Hebrew and Old Testament usage it has special reference to infants (Hess, Baptism, 35). Jesus says that out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies God brings forth praise (Mt. 21:16). It's impossible to praise God without faith. Finally, far from raising doubts about babies being able to believe, Jesus makes their faith the example saying unless you receive the kingdom as they do you can't receive it at all (Lk. 18:17).
In the matter of baptizing babies there are wrong answers, wrong questions, and wrong assumptions, and here we're at the theme of our sermon series. Wrong assumptions about baptizing babies take away from Baptism aiding the faith of adults and answering their questions. It's sort of like the commercial where the father is taking his pre-teen son some place special and the kid is just bored. The father takes him to a field where a white-bearded man is feeding reindeer. One of them comes right up to the boy and then takes off flying. The message is don't miss the magic of Christmas. The truth is: don't let wrong assumptions about Baptism cause you to miss the miracle.
If you assume faith, believing is cognition, conciseness, decision, or choice, then I hope you never get Alzheimer's, die in your sleep or under sedation. In all of those cases, you will not respond if some asks you, "Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?" But if faith is a miracle grander and greater than flying reindeer, that's another matter. You Lutherans should have no problem with this for you confess in the Explanation to the Third Article you believe that by your own reason or strength you can't believe in Jesus or come to Him. If you can say, "I believe I can't believe on my own" as an adult, why is faith any more of a miracle in a baby? I say it's less. It takes far less to bring a malleable baby to faith than an intractable adult.
Faith is miracle not choice, not decision. Miracles are God's domain, not man's. And contrary to what many assume, Baptism is not man's work but God's. Because Baptism is God's work is why Luther saw no need to discuss the problem of infant Baptism (Brecht, III, 36). God's activity in Baptism proceeded all human actions so God working in infants needed no more defense than God working in adults did (Ibid. 38). To be baptized in God's name is to be baptized not by men but by God Himself (LC, IV, 10). Parent's will introduce kids to me with, "He baptized you." Or adults will say, "I was baptized Catholic, Methodist, etc." No, I didn't baptize you, God did, and you weren't baptized into anything other than the Holy Christian Church.
Viewing Baptism as the work of man and not God is like thinking it's up to men to get reindeer off the ground. There would've been no wonder and awe in the boy if he had seen Santa catapulting reindeer into sky to make them fly. Likewise, there's no wonder and awe for you in Baptism if you think you must do something to make it fly.
In infant Baptism, you can see it's God doing everything. He puts the Waters of Baptism containing the holy life Jesus lived and the horrible death He died in place of that child on to that child. In infant Baptism, you clearly see what part you play in your own salvation. None, nil, nada, and that's an aid to faith that is always tempted to believe it needs to do something to complete being saved. You need do, you can do in rebirth nothing more than you did in birth.
Infant baptism must be retained for the sake of bringing our little ones to Jesus, but when we're fuzzy about it, we're fuzzy about seeing Baptism as answers for our own life. This would be like the boy getting to field and not clearly seeing the reindeer take flight. He gets no awe, no comfort, no answers about Christmas.
Infant baptism emphasizes the first-ness of God in your life be your life good, bad, or ugly, healthy, sick, happy, or sad. "Being acted upon by God even before you know what is going on emphasizes the first-ness of God" (Where God Meets Man, 78). God entered your life before you had a care let alone a question in the world. God not only created you in the womb of your mother but took you out of the baptismal font as a recreated person. There's a reason Scripture continually recalls us to being children. Go back to the time when not only did you believe that reindeer really fly, but that God new more than you, loved you better than you loved yourself, and could do far more than you asked or even thought.
Let infant Baptism answer your life questions. We say in our Confession, "Being offered to God through Baptism [children] are received into God's grace" (AC, IX,2). They're not received into His Law let alone His judgment but into grace. They're put into the realm where mightier more wonderful things happen than flying reindeer. They're put into the realm where God can remember sins no more; where God uses earthly water to wash away stains on souls, where He give His Body for Bread and His Blood for Wine. The newly baptized Baby doesn't cognitively know all this, but you do.
There are assumptions in Reformed theology that keep Baptism from answering life questions. They refuse to connect the Word to the Water. They'll point you to God's Word for answers, but never to your Baptism where God's Word is joined to physical water. As sure as that Baptismal water touched your Body so sure did His forgiveness, Spirit, and new life. And since that it is true of a helpless infant, it's true for adults. Here's the answer when you're up against the wall and have no idea what to do. Rest as secure in the Waters of your Baptism as a baby does on his mother's lap and defy sin, death, or the devil himself to remove you.
Infant baptism shows that the God's great power and total grace are still on earth today. This in turn makes Baptism an aid to the faith of adults and answers many of our questions and gives us two more: Why couldn't reindeer fly, and why wouldn't babies be baptized? Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Advent Midweek II (20141210); Baptism I