Baptism, Part 2: God’s Promise, Not My Pledge

Baptism, Part 2:  God’s Promise, Not My Pledge


“Allison Davis was ready to make a statement about what she believes.  So she took a leap of faith last Sunday- into the baptismal font at New Hope Church in Haslett.  ‘It’s me telling the world that I am a Christian and telling the world that I am committed to living a Christian life,’ said Davis, 22, of East Lansing.” (Lansing State Journal, March 23, 2008)


Allison’ statement reflects what many believe about baptism- that it is essentially my public proclamation that I am a Christian.  And thus, baptism is for adults who can consciously decide to make that pledge.


But the truth- and beauty- of baptism is that it is not essentially my pledge, but God’s promise.  Peter made that clear in his words to the crowd listening to his Pentecost sermon:  “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off– for all whom the Lord our God will call.'” (Acts 2:38,39)


Peter defined baptism as “the promise” (See in bold above).  And what did God promise in baptism?  The forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  (See underlined above)  We Lutherans baptize infants not only because (as we learned last time) infants are sinful, but because baptism doesn’t require anything on the part of those being baptized.  God is the one doing something.  He is promising and giving forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Why is the Holy Spirit necessary?  Because without the Spirit we cannot believe in Jesus and receive God’s forgiveness through him.  We come into this world in such a hopeless sinful condition that the Bible says, “You were dead in your sins.”  Thus the need for the Spirit to do this for us:  “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) “God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13) In  baptism God promises and gives his Holy Spirit to work repentance and faith in human hearts- infant hearts included.  “The promise is for you and your children…” (regardless of age)


When God makes a promise we can count on it. Psalm 145:13 assures us, “The Lord is faithful to all his promises, and loving toward all he has made.”  What a comfort it is to know that God is faithful to his baptismal promises to you even when you have been unfaithful to him!  (Remember- he made his gracious baptismal promises to you even though he knew all the sins you would commit!)  How blessed we are to be able to hold God to the baptismal promises he made to our kids in our prayers, even when they are straying from him!


If baptism is my public proclamation that I am a Christian and committed to living for Christ, how often has my sin shown me to be a hypocrite and a failure?  There is not a lot of comfort for sinners if baptism is my pledge to the world and to God.  But baptism is actually God’s promise designed for sinners since it is a promise of forgiveness, and even the promise of God’s Spirit so we (old or young) can believe that promise and be saved.  Now THAT IS comforting!