Should We Baptize Our Babies?
What is baptism anyway? Scripture teaches that baptism is not a work of man but rather it is God working (Colossians 2:11–12) through His Word (Ephesians 5:25–26) to wash away our sins (Acts 22:16). Since all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and it is not within our human powers to save ourselves (Romans 3:11, 1 Corinthians 2:14), God must do the saving. Just as His grace is delivered through His Gospel Word as it is proclaimed (Romans 10:17), that same grace is delivered through that same Gospel Word in baptism (1 Peter 3:21), just with the visible element of water added. (Pastor Jarrod said it well in his article.)
Infants need baptism because even they are by nature sinful (Psalm 51:5) and therefore in need of being saved. Jesus exhorts us to let the little children come to Him (Matthew 19:14), and no age restriction is given in Scripture regarding baptism. On the contrary, it replaces infant circumcision (Colossians 2:11–12), it was commanded for new believers and their children (Acts 2:38–39), and it was administered for entire households (Acts 16:15, Acts 18:8). We commend babies who have died before baptism to the mercy of God, thankful for His love for all people through Jesus Christ (1 John 2:2), and comforted that it is not the lack of baptism that condemns (Mark 16:16), but rather the willful rejection of it (John 3:5).
The Word of God reveals that even infants can believe (Psalm 22:9) and that faith itself is a gift (Acts 16:14). Salvation as a whole is a gift (Ephesians 2:8), including repentance (2 Timothy 2:25, Acts 11:18). Since saving grace is received in baptism by the mercy of God (Titus 3:5–6), and since the Lord invites children to come to Him (Luke 18:15–17), we bring our children to the Lord in baptism. Since Holy Scripture does not instruct us to dedicate our infants, we don’t. We baptize them, trusting God’s promise to clothe with Christ those who are baptized (Galatians 3:27).
Sometimes non-Lutheran Christians see baptism in the realm of Law—as something for us to do. But Scripture speaks of us as passive participants in baptism with God being the one at work to unite us to Christ through the power of His Word. That puts baptism in the realm of Gospel—something God does for us in Christ, not something we do for Him.
In Luther’s Small Catechism the question is asked, “How can water do such great things?” Answer: “It is not the water, indeed, that does such great things, but the Word of God, connected with the water, and our faith which relies on that Word of God. For without the Word of God, it is simply water and no baptism. But when connected with the Word of God, it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says [in Titus 3:5–7].”
Since baptism is Gospel it stands as a rich comfort for sorry sinners. Gospel comfort isn’t given by God to sinners who are comfortable in their sin and resist the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction. Anyone who claims to be a Christian because he is baptized and yet lives comfortably in unrepentant sin is mixing up Law and Gospel. Baptism has nothing comforting to say to a secure sinner. But if you confess you’re a sinner and desire forgiveness, your baptism becomes a tremendous comfort to you—you have been forgiven and washed clean by the cleansing Word of God! Let us daily repent and return to the faith God granted us in baptism.