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Friday, November 16, 2012

Bringing the Little Ones to Jesus - A (Partial) Case for Infant Baptism

“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it”” (Luke 18.15-17).

Some readers are new to the world of infant baptism, and several may never have seen infants and children being baptized. I suspect that some might consider our actions as either superstitious or simply squishy sentimentalism. I understand why you would think this. I too once said things like that and thought in that way. I once was a Church of Christ minister who preached regularly against infant baptism. So I want to show you two or thee of the reasons, biblically, why I long ago embraced infant baptism. Try to keep your defenses down for a bit and set your biases to the side, and attempt to see some of the things I came to see. To help the reader, I will unpack the passage above, but it might be helpful if you have a Bible open so you can see the context.

Bringing Little Ones to Jesus (15a and16a). To begin with, notice who were being brought to Jesus: Infants: brephos - ‘unborn child, embryo; baby, infant’. That’s the same word used in 1.41 and 44. The idea is that these were the smallest and youngest of children. These were babes who had to be carried and don't appear, at least on the surface, to have the intellectual ability to “believe”- as adults think of “believing”. And so what does Jesus want to happen to these infants? Does He want them to wait until they have reached some fabricated age of accountability? No, but instead “let the little children come to Me.” And how can they come to Jesus? How were these little nursing brephos/infants coming to Jesus? They were being brought on their mamma’s hips and in their daddy’s arms. The parents came to Jesus bringing their kiddos to Jesus!

[a] Jesus is setting the pattern for New Testament discipleship: Parents come to Jesus, and they bring their children to Jesus. Surprisingly this pattern of New Testament discipleship is in line with the Old Testament pattern of discipleship (Gen 17.1-14; Acts 16.31-34, etc).

[b] We are to teach them, coddle them in the arms of the Faith of Christ by catechism, Scripture reading & memorization, drawing them into the communal, mutual, public worship of God, etc.

Keeping Little Ones from Jesus (15b and 16b). Next, see how the disciples reacted to this. They seem to have thought too adultishly of Jesus and of Jesus kingdom-program. They wanted Jesus to be too busy for little children, they wanted Jesus to focus on their adult egos (or something). But Jesus makes a clear, strong and smashing edict: stop forbidding the children from being brought to me and coming by their parents. This point should caution all those who scorn baptism of infants and children and those who want to exclude children from the communal, public worship of God.

Following Little Ones to Jesus (16c-17). Finally,
[a] Jesus explodes our rationalist notions about Children, believing & belonging. “for to such” …. “like a child [does]”. Jesus assumes and affirms that they do believe – though maybe not with the full cognitive punch and pow that adults supposedly do. Even David described his faith as being nurtured in his infancy, “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God” (Psalm 22.9-10).

[b] This episode is surrounded by 2 scenes (9-14 and 18-25) which show what happens when one is too full of themselves and not willing to follow the little ones to Jesus (read the 2 stories surrounding 15-17). In both episodes around this passage are examples of adults coming in all of their adultish brilliance, full of themselves, full of their ability, impressed with their own Curriculum Vitae. But the only way to be in the kingdom is in the unfussy way of the children, just like the tax collector in Jesus’ story. In fact, he’s the one who goes to his home justified.

Therefore, in the words of a dear friend of mine (retired Anglican priest, Fr. Jon Stasney), that means that all true Christian baptism is essentially, and at its root, infant baptism! The only way to Jesus is by following the children in simple, uncomplicated trust.

{***I preached this on 18 August 2013 at Heritage Presbyterian Church. Here is the audio file}

[NB: I may post more on Infant Baptism if I get a request to do so. Therefore, don't be shy, post a comment]


Anonymous said...

Pastor, Although I am not in support of paedocommunion and very much in support of paedobaptism, I am having difficulty in separating your defense of the one sacrament, baptism, from not applying it to the other, communion. Can you help differentiate between applying the scripture proofs to both sacraments?

Thanks a bunch!

Mike Philliber said...

Short answer now, longer answer in the next post.

We don't baptize based on faith, but based on the promise of God (more later). But we commune based on professed faith; we [as ministers] implore communicants to take and receive in faith.