Baptism is Grace for All
Monday of Easter 5
20 May 2019
Those who refuse to baptize infants do not understand grace. The debate about the baptism of infants then is not just an argument about some obscure and unimportant church rite, but about the meaning and applicability of divine mercy. To whom does the divine mercy apply? To all. Who benefits from it? Those who believe. This is the sticking point for many people who deny baptismal regeneration. How can an infant believe? The problem for American evangelicals is that they have turned faith into a human action initiated and sustained by the human will.
 
The Bible portrays faith as a gift of God (Eph 2:8-10), which is given and sustained by God the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (1Co 12:3; Acts 4:4; Rm 10:17; Titus 3:5, etc.). Faith is not our work, or else we could boast (Rm 4:4-5). But boasting in ourselves is specifically excluded to those who have faith. Faith is not our commitment to God, as American evangelicals often portray it, but rather saving faith is trust in Christ the only Redeemer from sin and our true Mediator before God. Faith receives the work and merit of another, namely Christ. Since it is a gift from God and not a human achievement faith is able to be attributed to all persons, no matter their mental condition or capacity. An infant is incapable of speech and yet many adults are likewise unable to speak or communicate, yet who would say that such an adult is unable to be touched by God through His holy Word or in the sacrament of baptism and granted the gift of faith? Indeed, such persons, both infants and the mentally challenged are what the Bible portrays as the most humble persons and thus most under the grace of God, who lifts up the humble and casts down the mighty from their thrones (Lk 1:52).
 
Jesus specifically points to little children as paradigmatic of those who enter the kingdom of God (Mk 10:14-15). They are the very model of faith, because they have no apparent capacity in themselves for believing. And as we saw yesterday, only those who are sinners forgiven by the divine grace are able to enter that kingdom (God at Work). All this must come as a gift from God. This is why we pray with Jeremiah, "Turn me, and I will be turned" (Jer 31:18). Of course, Jesus is correct when He attributes faith to the smallest child (Gk; micrõn). These little ones believe in Him. And He promises harsh punishments against those who would deny them their faith in Him as their Savior (Mt 18:6-7). If the Lord says that the little ones have faith, who are we to say otherwise? I desire to become a little one of just this sort, that I too might receive the kingdom of God. If we are to become childlike in our faith, it would be odd if those whom Jesus says we should imitate in that respect would be incapable of receiving the gift of faith! In the end, Jesus is generously gracious to all sinners, young, old, infant. All who believe will be saved. Baptism, God's gift, both gives and presumes the faith that it promises. God has done it all.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Augustine of Hippo
"Some say: How are mere infants called to repentance? How can such as they repent of anything? The answer to this is: If they must not be called repentant because they would not have the sense of repenting, neither should they be called believers, because they likewise would not have the sense of believing. But if they are rightly called believers (Mt 18:6), because they in a certain sense profess faith by the words of their parents, why are they not also held to be repentant when they are shown to renounce the devil and this world by the profession again of the same parents? The whole of this is done in hope, in the strength of the sacrament and of the divine grace which the Lord has bestowed upon the Church. But yet who is not aware that the baptized infant fails to be benefited from what he received as a little child, if on coming to years of reason he fails to believe and to abstain from unlawful desires? If, however, the infant departs from the present life after he has received baptism, the guilt in which he was involved by original sin being done away, he shall be made perfect in that light of truth, which, remaining unchangeable forever, illumines the justified in the presence of their Creator. For sins alone separate between men and God; and these are done away by Christ's grace, through whom, as Mediator, we are reconciled, when He justifies the ungodly."

 Augustine, On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Infants, 1.25
Matthew 18:1-14

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

"Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have said that we should become child-like in our faith. Just as you have granted faith even to the little ones, also grant that we receive that same gift through Your gracious means. Keep us from the pride that treats faith as a meritorious work in Your presence rather than a gift from Your gracious hand. Amen.
 
For Herbert Mueller, that the Lord would grant him peace and strength
 
For Ileene Robinson, that her Lord Jesus would grant healing and confidence in His care for her
 
For the members of the US Congress, that they might be strengthened for the work before them, that the people would not be oppressed but rather supported through their work
 
For infants, all young children, especially unborn children, that they might be cherished by those who conceive them and be given proper families where father and mother live together in love and harmony
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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