Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Second Sunday in Lent

Second Sunday in Lent (A)
The Baptism of Madelyn Renee Krenz
February 17, 2008
Text: John 3:1-17

Can an infant have faith? Can an infant trust in Jesus Christ for his or her salvation? This is a vital question, particularly on this day as we have witnessed the Baptism of Madelyn, for St. Paul writes in this morning’s epistle lesson that one is accounted righteous before God by faith alone. St. Paul writes, “And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5; ESV). Christ’s righteousness and forgiveness and salvation are received by faith, and faith alone. “That is why it depends on faith,” writes Paul, “in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (v. 16). Faith is the receiving hands of the gracious gifts of God, including salvation itself. So if infants cannot have faith, cannot trust in Jesus Christ, how are they to be saved?

Our Lord Jesus, however, declares that infants and little children are to be our models of faith. Jesus prayed, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Matt. 11:25), νηπίοις in Greek, infants! “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (19:14). In this case the Greek word is παιδία, again meaning infants or very young children. “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child (παιδίον) shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15). What does Jesus mean by all of this? Think of the faith of little children even just in human terms. They do not question what they are told. They just believe. Anything is possible. If Dad says there was once a boy named Jack who climbed a bean stock into the clouds and found there a giant, it must be true. Of course, Dad would be lying if he represented that story as true to his child. But the child would believe it nonetheless. How much more when God our heavenly Father, who cannot lie, tells His children of remarkable things, like the death of His Son on the cross which brings forgiveness of all sin, the creation of the heavens and the earth in 6 literal 24 hour days, a flood that covered the whole earth leaving only 8 people and the animals they had gathered into an ark to survive, or that bread and wine are also really Christ’s body and blood. Little children have no problem with any of these things. They believe God. They trust Him. If God says their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, little children believe Him. Why would they doubt Him? Infants and little children do, indeed, believe. It is we adults who have trouble.

But how do little children, and particularly infants believe? They cannot begin to intellectually grasp the faith. They cannot verbalize their faith in Jesus Christ. But who ever said we are saved by intellect or the ability to verbally communicate? You won’t find that anywhere in Scripture! Faith is trust, not intellectual or verbal ability. God gives this faith, this trust, to infants in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, as you have witnessed this morning. Thus Jesus says in our text, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Madelyn was born of the flesh on February 7th. But she is a daughter of Adam. In Adam’s sin, all mankind fell. She has received the original sin of our first parents from her immediate parents. And believe me, even at this young age, as precious as she is, she is guilty of many actual sins as well (especially in the middle of the night!). She is wholly corrupt. It is true of her also, what the Psalmist, King David, said of himself in Psalm 51: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5). From the moment of conception we are sinners, in the spiritual possession of the devil, spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. Our will is bound. We cannot love God or serve God. We are wholly opposed to God. It breaks my heart to say it, but my daughter is no exception.

And that’s why God has given us Baptism. We must be born again of water and the Spirit. We need a new start. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. To be born again means to be baptized! Baptism is the means by which infants come to saving faith. It is the means by which infants become believing members of God’s family, the holy Church. It is the means by which their sins are washed away, their old Adam, the sinful flesh is crucified, and the new man daily emerges and arises. It is the means by which they are incorporated into and given the righteousness, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and everything else that He has won for us. It is the means by which an infant’s will is freed from the bondage of the devil and bound to God as Father, the means by which the spiritually blind are given sight, the spiritually dead are raised to new life, and those at enmity with God are reconciled to Him. All that is Christ’s becomes the possession of the Baptized, even as all their sin and wickedness becomes Christ’s and is nailed to the cross. Never underestimate the power and importance of Baptism. In Baptism, the Holy Spirit works faith in the heart. This is particularly true of the infant, but it is true of you, as well, no matter how old you were when you were baptized.

I think the big hang up when it comes to infant faith is the nature of that faith. When adults have faith, they are led to intellectually think about that faith and confess it with their lips. Infants cannot do that, and this is one reason we have sponsors, who along with the parents and congregation verbally confess the faith on the infant’s behalf. But again, faith is not the power of the intellect or the ability to confess that faith with the mouth. Faith is trust. An infant’s faith in Jesus is much like an infant’s faith in his or her mother and father. An infant cannot intellectually think through the trust she has in her parents. She cannot confess that trust. She doesn’t even know her parents’ names. But trust them she does! I am amazed at how my daughter trusts my wife and me. She knows our voices. It calms her to be in our arms. She depends on us for her every need. She knows that we will provide for her every need. That is faith! In the same way my newly baptized daughter trusts her Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit has given her faith in Him, much the same way St. John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit and before he was even born, leapt in his mother’s womb when he heard the voice of the pregnant virgin Mary. Dr. Luther writes:

"What if all children in baptism not only were able to believe but believed as well
as John in his mother’s womb? We can hardly deny that the same Christ is present
at baptism and in baptism, in fact is himself the baptizer, who in those days came in
his mother’s womb to John. In baptism he can speak as well through the mouth of
the priest, as when he spoke through his mother. Since then he is present, speaks, and
baptizes, why should not his Word and baptism call forth spirit and faith in the child
as then it produced faith in John? He is the same one who speaks and acts then as now."[1]

Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, baptizes the infant and grants His Holy Spirit, who brings the baptized to faith. We can be certain that infants believe because they are not responsible for their own faith. Neither are you, by the way, you adults. Faith is God’s responsibility. It is His gift. It is a passive act on our part. And the nature of Baptism as the passive reception of faith and the gifts of God is supremely illustrated by infant Baptism. Luther continues:

"I maintain as I have written in the Postil that the most certain form of baptism is child
baptism. For an adult might deceive and come to Christ as a Judas and have himself
baptized. But a child cannot deceive. He comes to Christ in baptism, as John came to
him, and as the children were brought to him, that his word and work might be effective
in them, move them, and make them holy, because his Word and work cannot be
without fruit."[2]

Infants can and do most certainly believe when they are born of water and the Spirit in Baptism. By this faith they receive eternal salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness of Christ, and every other grace and blessing. In short, they receive the very kingdom of heaven. And all of you who are baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection, are likewise the recipients of these gifts. You receive His kingdom as little children. All of you children of Adam who have received the washing of regeneration can know for certain that you have a loving God, a God who calls Himself your Father, who sent His Son Jesus to die for you, and who has also raised Him from death, that you, likewise, might rise from the dead. The promise is for you and for your children. You have been given saving faith in Baptism. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Christ has snatched you from the devil’s grasp. He has rescued you from the tyranny of sin. He has delivered you from death. That is why in every circumstance, be it filled with joy or fraught with sadness, in the day of strength and in the day of temptation, in faith and in doubt, you can confidently declare, “God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!” (LSB 594:1). And then you can make the sign of the cross and speak those words, that Name, the Christian family Name which was bestowed upon you in your Baptism: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Martin Luther, “Concerning Rebaptism,” Luther’s Works: American Edition Vol. 40. Conrad Bergendoff and Helmut T. Lehmann, eds. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1958), 242-43.

[2] Ibid., 244.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Eli and Megan Davis said...

Congratulations! We rejoice with you in not only Madelyn's birth, but also in her birth from above in the waters of baptism.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Thank you. And congratulations on John Thomas as well. Great name, except you spelled "John" wrong.
Blessings,
Jon Thomas Krenz

5:03 PM  

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