Midweek Lent 5: Why Do We Baptize Babies?

Lessons: Psalm 51, Acts 2:14-47, Mark 10:13-16
Hymns: LSB 864, 592, 443

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Why do we baptize our little ones? Why not wait like some of the other churches do until our children can make decisions on their own?

      If baptism were simply some cute little ceremony, I suppose the Baptism of babies would be unnecessary. If Baptism were an outward testimony of an inward faith, then there would be no need to baptize newborns. If babies were innocent, then they would not need to be baptized either.

      There’s no way we can cover in one short sermon all the reasons why we baptize infants. The Bible’s teaching on this matter is way too deep and the Scriptures are so rich that we cannot pretend to exhaust all the reasons for why we bring our little ones to the baptismal font as soon as we can. But I will outline a few reasons why it is so important for our youngest children to receive the blessings of God in Baptism.

      Knowing that “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation” is an excellent reason to baptize children. For we want our children to receive these blessings, for of such belongs the kingdom of God. However, some object, asserting children are not sinners. A few moments’ experience with a baby reveals the sinfulness of babies. Children less than a year old know how to fake cry to deceive their parents and obtain their attention. And as Christians, we should be even more convinced not by our personal experience, but by the Word of God. The Bible states that children are sinful from birth, sinful from the time they were conceived (Psalm 51:5). Children inherit the sin of Adam and are accountable to it (Romans 5:18-19). The wages of sin is death and, sadly, children die. Only the innocent do not die. And given that children can die proves their lack of innocence. This means they need the forgiveness that God bestows in Baptism.

      When God flooded the world and saved Noah and his family, God found eight believing, righteous souls and they were brought on the ark. Only eight were saved from the floodwaters: Noah, his three sons, and their wives. If babies and children are innocent, God would have found them also to be righteous and they would have been brought along on the ark. But instead, they were swept away in the floodwaters, along with all the rest of the unbelieving world.

      Sometimes people argue that even if babies are sinners, God would not hold them accountable. This may seem reasonable, but it is not Biblical. Nowhere do the Scriptures teach that children are somehow let off the hook. Instead, God’s demands for justice apply to all people. This also means Jesus died for all people, including children.

      Because children are not inherently righteous, they need the blessing of Baptism so that they are forgiven, covered with the very righteousness of Christ, and be saved.

      This is God’s will. As we heard in Mark, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:13-16). Jesus wants children drawn to Himself—He wants children to be directed toward Him—He wants children with Him in Paradise. And so, we bring our children to Jesus in Holy Baptism, that they may be added to God’s family and given the gift of eternal life. And as baptized children, we continue to bring them to Jesus so that the little lambs may hear Jesus, receive His love and forgiveness, and grow in their devotion toward Him. There is no greater or more important task for Christian parents than to teach their children the Christian faith.

      Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, taught the Christian faith on Pentecost, as we heard in Acts 2. He preached Jesus, who was crucified and risen. When the crowd heard Peter’s Pentecost sermon, they were cut to the heart and asked the Apostles, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself” (Acts 2:37-39). Here, Peter points out a consistent Biblical theme concerning Baptism—Baptism grants the forgiveness of sins earned by Jesus on the cross. To quote Peter again, “Be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.”

      Then notice what Peter says next. He says who this promise of forgiveness through Baptism is for. He explains that the promise is for you, your children, and all who are far off. Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, said that this promise is for our children! Yes, even children may receive the blessings of God in Baptism! In fact, the book of Acts reports that entire households were baptized. Most likely, this included young children.

      And if this is not convincing enough, consider the connection made between Baptism and the Old Testament ceremony of circumcision. Beginning with Abraham and continuing until the days of Jesus, boys who were added to God’s family were circumcised. This rite was performed on boys who were eight days old. The eighth day is the beginning of a new week—in a sense, a new creation. Now listen to these words of Scripture found in Colossians 2:11-12, “In [Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” We heard last week that Baptism unites us to the death and resurrection of Jesus. We die to sin and rise to newness of life. Baptism is a new creation; that’s why our baptismal fonts are often 8-sided, to symbolize this reality. And if Hebrew boys were circumcised at 8 days to add them into God’s family, certainly it follows that it is only right and proper to add our boys and girls into God’s family through the waters of Holy Baptism as infants. The circumcision of Christ by which we are circumcised without hands is Holy Baptism.

      Some make the argument that babies should not be baptized because they should make this decision themselves. Have you noticed that babies sometimes resist getting their diapers or clothes changed? Does this mean we should give in to their decisions and let them remain in soiled clothes or diapers? That would be inhumane and wrong. We don’t let our babies make the decisions. We do what is best for them. That includes, above all, Baptism. Otherwise, they would remain soiled in their sin. Then, upon baptizing our children, we teach them the Christian faith. If we avoid this matter so that they can “decide for themselves,” then we are preventing them from making the best choices for we are not informing them of that which God Himself extols as good. Uninformed decisions result in bad decisions. Preventing our little ones from hearing the Word so they can make their own decision will normally result in them walking away from the faith.

      Instead, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them.” These words are the simplest and the best. And so, we in great joy bring our babies to the Christian faith through the waters of Holy Baptism. In fact, even these little ones can have faith in Jesus. You see, God works faith (John 6:29). We are born anew not by the will of our flesh but by God’s (John 1:12-13). Jesus testifies of the faith of infants in Matthew 18:6 (these little ones who believe) and in Matthew 21:15-16 when He says, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise.”

      Perhaps this all boils down to love. Jesus loved us and laid down His life for us. He loves all humans, young and old. He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We, loving our children and loving our Lord, are delighted to bring them to Jesus through the waters of Holy Baptism. We bring them to Jesus, and He blesses them. Thanks be to God. Amen.        

     The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen