Holy Baptism is God working to save the lost and condemned through the Gospel, that is, the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe that God Himself joins His Gospel word of promise to the water of Holy Baptism and creates faith, forgives sins, and grants life and salvation. The one being baptized is a passive recipient of God’s grace in all of this—in other words, Baptism is not a symbolic action on the part of sinful man, but God’s gracious gift of life in Christ Jesus.
Although not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament, the baptism of infants is implicitly practiced in the New Testament Church. In Acts 10-11, Cornelius and his whole household, which likely included infants, received the gift of Baptism. Infants certainly are a part of the “all nations” in Jesus’ command to baptize in Matthew 28. Finally, our Lord tells us in Matthew 18:6, that children do believe. For these reasons, the universal practice of the Church has been to baptize infants.
In accord with this, Article 9 of the Augsburg Confession states: “Our Churches teach that Baptism is necessary for salvation, that the grace of God is offered through Baptism, and that children should be baptized, for being offered to God through Baptism they are received into His grace.” Lutherans, therefore, affirm that in Holy Baptism God shows His grace.
We must remember that a child coming to the waters of Holy Baptism, looking sweet and inocent on the outside, is actually bound to sin and a servant of the evil one by virtue of birth. The Psalmist says that we are all conceived and born in sin. In an admonition to the baptismal party and congregation, Martin Luther states:
…in the words of these prayers, you hear how meekly and earnestly the Christian Church concerns herself about the little child and how he confesses before God in plain undoubting words that he is possessed by the devil and is a child of sin and wrath, and prays very diligently for aid and grace through baptism that he becomes a child of God. Remember, therefore, that it is no joke to take sides against the devil and not only to drive him away from the little child, but to burden the child with such a mighty and lifelong enemy. Remember, too, that it is very necessary to aid the poor child with all your heart and strong faith, earnestly to intercede for him that God, in accordance with this prayer, would not only free him from the power of the devil, but also strengthen him, so that he may nobly resist the devil in life and death. I suspect that people turn out so badly after baptism because our concern for them has been so cold and careless; we, at their baptism, interceded for them without zeal….
In Baptism, God chooses us before we can choose Him. Our adoption into the family of God is not dependent upon our understanding, our accomplishments, our having the right experience, our feelings, our success, or our status. In Holy Baptism we are made children of God, priests of the Kingdom, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We baptize infants because this wonderful event depends entirely upon God and not upon us. We are justified (declared righteous) by God’s grace (His unconditional love) through faith (which He gives us in Baptism). Baptism is God’s great gift for all! Infant Baptism, therefore, is at the centre of the Lutheran understanding of the Gospel. In Baptism, it is God Who acts; God Who gives; God Who accepts. Let us rejoice in the God of grace!