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1 Peter 1:1-9

 

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.(ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Children See

Friday of Lent 5

11 April 2014

Recently, a friend of mine described the baptism of his granddaughter. He said that the day on which this infant was incorporated into Christ was one of ebullient wonder. He could see the overflowing joy on the faces of his son and daughter-in-law as their child was brought to the font of life and death. Unremarkably, he said little about the child's own response to her baptism. Parents and grandparents feel deep relief and great peace at knowing their child has been brought into the kingdom of Christ through the rite of citizenship in Him. In that rite the King identifies Himself with His subject and places His subject into Himself and all that He has done for the subjects of His kingdom. Yet we speak little about the child's response to baptism, save perhaps to say that the child cried or fussed during the rite.

 

In my experience as a parish pastor, children often respond to the rite of baptism in several remarkable ways. Baptism is a spiritual bath, a bath that uses the element from which infants come after nine months in the womb, a bath that is a spiritual washing which is a parallel to the enjoyable times of cleansing shared by parents and children. While performing any number of baptisms I have watched the child trying to see what is going on when they are placed over the font. Infants are baptized face up (although I am not sure why), this enables me to see the child's face during the application of the water connected with God's Word. As soon as they hear the water splashing below their heads, their eyes role up to the top of their heads, trying to see where the sound of splashing water is coming from. They recognize the sound of splashing water. Water is recognized because it cradled their life in the safety of the surrounding womb, it represents one of the more enjoyable experiences that a child shares with her parents. This cannot be a pure coincidence. God uses water because of the experiential benefit for all persons, infants and adults alike.

 

We should not make too much of arguments from experience such as this, but we know what the benefit of baptism is for all persons. This divine largesse brings great joy, as Scripture testifies, "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory" (1Pt 1:8), therefore it brings joy to even those who cannot express their joy. They cannot see Christ and yet they have both Him and the joy that comes from sin forgiven, death driven, and new life given. Why should we expect to see what only God can see? If we are to walk by faith, why shouldn't we walk in the faith that trusts that God can fulfill His promises even and especially to infants and small children? In their lack of seeing children truly see.

 

Augustine of Hippo

 

"According to sound faith and the true doctrine, no one who has come to Christ by baptism has ever been regarded as excluded from the grace of the forgiveness of sins. Nor has eternal life ever been thought possible for anyone apart from His kingdom. For this [eternal life] is ready to be revealed at the last time (1Pt 1:5), that is, at the resurrection of the dead who are reserved not for that eternal death which is called the second death, but for the eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promises to His saints and faithful servants. Now no one who will partake of this life will be made alive except in Christ, because all die in Adam (1Co 15:22). For everyone who belongs to the generation according to the will of the flesh dies in Adam, in whom all sinned. So, from among these, no one who is regenerated by the will of the Spirit is endowed with life except in Christ, in whom all are justified. Because by one all were led to condemnation, so by One all are led to justification (Rm 5:18). Nor is there any middle ground for anyone. Anyone who is not with Christ can only be with the devil. Accordingly, also the Lord Himself (wishing to remove from the hearts of those who believe wrongly that vague and indefinite middle condition, which some would provide for unbaptized infants, as if, by reason of their innocence, they were embraced in eternal life, but were not, because of their unbaptized state, with Christ in His kingdom) uttered that definitive sentence of His, which shuts their mouths: 'Whoever is not with me is against me' (Mt 12:30).

 

"Take the case of any infant: If he is already in Christ, why is he baptized? If, however, as the truth has it, he is baptized just that he may be with Christ, it certainly follows that he who is not baptized is not with Christ; because if he is not with Christ, he is against Christ. For He has pronounced His own sentence, which is so explicit that we ought not, and indeed cannot, impair it or change it. And how can anyone be against Christ, if not because of sin? For it cannot possibly be from his soul or his body, both of these being the creation of God. Now if sin is the cause, what sin can be found at such an age, except the ancient and original sin? Of course that sinful flesh in which all are born to condemnation is one thing, and that flesh of Christ which was made 'after the likeness of sinful flesh,' through which all are freed from condemnation, is another thing. It is, however, by no means meant to be implied that all who are born in sinful flesh are themselves actually cleansed by the flesh of Christ which is like sinful flesh; 'for not all have faith' (2Th 3:2); However, all who are born from the carnal union are born entirely of sinful flesh, while all who are born from the spiritual union are cleansed only by the flesh of Christ which is in the likeness of sinful flesh. In other words, the former are in Adam unto condemnation, the latter are in Christ unto justification."
 

Augustine, On the Merits of Forgiveness and the Baptism of Infants, 1.55

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You share Your death and life with those who are baptized into the triune name. Keep us faithful to our baptism, that we might confess You faithfully until we die. Help us lead those who do not care about the gift of baptism to Your font so that they might see in Your Word what You promise to give those who are baptized. Amen.

 

For Daniel McMiller and the endeavors of the Luther Academy, that confessional Lutheranism would grow in the world to the glory of God and the benefit of us fallen humans

 

For Bud Obert, that the good Shepherd would be with him according to His good and gracious promises

 

For Kim Cheng, that the Lord her God would give her healing and that wisdom would be granted to doctors and nurses as they seek proper therapies 

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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