23 May 2017

Infant Baptism and Faith

Baptismal font in St. Anna's Church in Schindellegi, Switzerland.
Original photo by Roland zh. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the Lutheran tradition, we baptize people of all ages. Infants are not excluded from receiving the sacrament of Holy Baptism, and it is normal to have them baptized days or weeks or months after birth.

Lutheran pastors baptize infants not because it is sheer custom or because it looks sweet or whatever. Infants are baptized for the same reasons that everybody else is baptized:

Although infants are not guilty of actual sin, that is to say, they do not commit sin, original sin is reckoned to them because the human heart is perverse (Jer 17:9).

The aforelisted effects of Holy Baptism are not produced by the mere performance of the sacrament. Indeed, the sacrament is always valid but its effects are given to the recipient only through faith (Mark 16:16; Col 2:12). Because Scripture clearly associates Baptism with faith, some traditions other than Lutheranism reject the practice of infant Baptism because in their view infants do not possess faith.

There is a sound reason to believe infants do receive all the wonderful effects of Baptism: Scripture tells us that God gives infants faith.

  • In Psalm 71:6, we read that King David leaned upon God from his birth.
  • In Matthew 19:13–14, we read of little ones being brought to Jesus and He speaks of them coming to Him.
  • In Matthew 21:15–16, we read of God causing infants to praise Christ in the temple.
  • In Luke 1:15, we read that St. John the Baptizer was filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born.

The passages above demonstrate that infants can receive the gift of faith because in order for one to lean upon God, go to Him, praise Him, and be filled with His Spirit, one must possess faith.

We should bring our babies for Baptism and trust that God will give them faith to receive its benefits. He certainly will, for Christ said, "[I]t is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs." (Matt 19:14) Such a statement implies that God creates faith, yea pure faith, in the hearts of infants.

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