What has a little baby done?

The other day, a person from the neighborhood was in my office to use the phone. After making his call, he stayed to visit for a while.

“I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life,” he said. “I think I’m going to go to hell.”

“Are you baptized?” I asked.

“Well, yes…” he replied.

“Then you’re saved,” I said. “You’re going to heaven.”

“But, don’t you have to do something good?” he asked.

“No,” I answered, “it’s the other way around. You do something good because you’re saved.”

***

I was talking with a friend of another faith, and mentioned that the previous Sunday, we had baptized a baby.

“Why?” he asked. “What has a little baby done that the baby would need to be baptized?”

***

Somebody was talking with an atheist and trying to convince her to have her baby baptized. “It says in the Bible that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t will be condemned,” she said.

“Why would God condemn an innocent baby?” asked the atheist. That’s one of the reasons I don’t believe in God.”

 

***

Well…

Let’s take the last one first The passage being cited to the atheist was Mark 16:16, and it reads, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Notice that the passage does not say anything at all about what will happen to someone who is not baptized. The Bible is silent about this.

This means that we do not know what happens to someone who is not baptized. Let’s see if we can figure it out by falling back on what we know to be the nature of God.

In Exodus 34:5-7a, the Lord Himself proclaims to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

This does not sound to me like a God who would condemn good people who just happen to not be baptized.

So, why do we Lutherans baptize, and what does it mean to us?

Baptism is one of the two Lutheran sacraments, the other being Eucharist or Holy Communion. A sacrament is an act instituted by Christ that has an earthly element (water for baptism) and an element of grace. We baptize because our Lord commanded us to do so in the Great Commission in Matthew 18:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

To Lutherans, baptism is an event where God is active. God makes the person His own as we administer the water and say the words, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  This is an adoption ceremony, and once it is done, nothing can undo it. That person is God’s forever. We even say it: “_____, child of God, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ forever.”

We typically baptize babies not because they have done something bad, but to show that the baptism is God’s doing, and not the result of a choice made by the person being baptized. But we baptize those of any age as well, because not everyone gets baptized as a baby.

So, if someone asks me if I am born again, I answer, “Well, yes. When I was baptized on May 13, 1945.”

And, why do I do good things, or at least try to? It is because I do not have to spend my time working through my own salvation, so I am free to do good works in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Note: This blog also appeared in “The Scribe,” the newsletter of Elim Lutheran Church, Volume 64, Issue 2, February 2014, p.9.

 

For further reading:

“A welcome at the end of the day” http://www.elca.org/en/Living-Lutheran/Ask-a-Pastor/2013/09/~/~/link.aspx?_id=6DB57E4660BF4C768FDB90E4128D5CB3&_z=z

“Sealed in baptism” http://www.elca.org/en/Living-Lutheran/Ask-a-Pastor/2013/09/~/link.aspx?_id=46A3D625E03F4FCC806FEFE0608C36FF&_z=z

“Does Christening =baptism?” http://www.elca.org/en/Living-Lutheran/Ask-a-Pastor/2013/12/131209

“Am I baptized?” http://www.elca.org/en/Living-Lutheran/Ask-a-Pastor/2013/09/130902

“The challenge (and promise) of baptism” http://www.elca.org/en/Living-Lutheran/Ask-a-Pastor/2013/09/~/~/link.aspx?_id=ED9CE4B7FBB34F8CA47547B58EA19C48&_z=z

“Faith practices have changed!” http://www.elca.org/en/Living-Lutheran/Seeds/2013/12/131226-Faith-practices-have-changed

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4 Responses to What has a little baby done?

  1. Ephriam Wordsmith says:

    Above all, we have to preclude that an infant is NOT borne
    under “original sin”. Yet she/he must be christened and/or
    confirmed into the “Members Only” flock.
    Only when a [Christian] member can truly account for “missing
    the mark” can those “short-comings” be purged in the sight of
    “Attending Angels” meant for the guard.
    In the sight and reach of [GOD], there exists:
    …”One God, One Faith and One Baptism”…

    • Dave Thomas says:

      We Lutherans would disagree with that, Ephraim. Only one child ever was born without original sin, and that child was Jesus.

      Original sin is not what we have done, but what we are, mortals with a sinful nature that separates us from God. But then God, in baptism, reaches across that separation and saves us.

      Christening and baptism are not the same; there is an article about Christening in the “For further reading” section at the end of the blog, and I refer you to it rather than repeat what that author explained so well.

      Confirmation is yet another thing, and perhaps one day I shall write about it. To Lutherans, confirmation is when a baptized member completes a series of classes during which he/she learns about the creeds, the ten commandments, the sacraments, and the old and new testaments. At the end of these classes, which take one to three years depending on the congregation, the confirmand makes a statement of faith to the congregation and is confirmed in the faith, which means that he or she can now vote in congregational meetings and be elected to offices in the congregation.

      Confirmed membership denotes a relationship between an individual and a congregation. It can be transferred to other Lutheran congregations, and to those denominations such as the Episcopalians which are in full communion or pulpit and altar fellowship with the Lutheran denomination. But it does not give anyone a different relationship with God such as baptism does.

      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting on it.

      –God’s work. Our hands.

      –Dave

  2. Ephriam says:

    That’s is a given Br. Thomas,

    [Original] Sin isn’t something we’ve done, it’s something we is.
    Thanks for expounding on this.

    However if we were perfect, we couldn’t grow anymore.

  3. Ephriam Wordscribe says:

    Old folks, New folks, Everybody come,
    Join the [Mormon] Sunday School and have a lot of fun.
    Check your Chewing Gum and your razors at the door,
    And you’ll hear some bible stories that you never heard before.

    Now, Adam was the first Man, that ever was invented.
    He lived all alone, and he never was contented.
    All night long you could hear him moan,
    I’m getting mighty tired of living all alone.

    Along came Eve, with a basket full of fruit,
    Adam winked at her, because he thought she’s mighty cute.
    Eve dropped an Apple, and they both ate one,
    And ever since then, all the trouble has began.

    (tm) Used by Permission.
    [Sister Goldie Florence Legacy]

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