I believe that Luther was right when he insisted that the meaning of baptism is best revealed in infant baptism. Infant baptism is the norm. Adult baptisms are not. When the passive, utterly dependent infant is carried down the isle and has water poured upon her, this is a powerful reminder of the utterly free and sovereign grace of God. The sacrament is the work of God upon the child, not vise versa. Faith never comes first to be followed by God’s grace. God’s grace comes first and enables infants, children, and adults to believe. The sacrament of infant baptism is all about the free electing grace of God.
I believe this is the great scandal of infant baptism, which is so despised in America, the land that celebrates individual freedom and self-appointed destiny. Baptism reminds us that man is at the mercy of God and self-appointed destiny is a delusion. God freely saves helpless infant-like people. Baptism is not primarily the outward confession of the faith of the baptized. The action symbolized in this sacrament is not horizontal, but vertical, the movement from heaven to earth, from God to man. It is not a confession of what man has done or of the faith someone possess or of the experience that someone may have had. Infant Baptism is all about God in his Sovereign freedom acting upon a passive infant.
The infant has done nothing to merit such a covenant, such a gracious relationship. The infant cannot even exercise adult faith. There is nothing that the infant does to draw down the love of God. The love of God is freely given. With nothing foreseen or foreknown. This infant, in the all-controlling providence of God, was born by God’s precise appointment into this Christian family. And now God will formally enter into covenant with the child without asking the child’s permission. Without securing the child’s consent. The child is passive. The child does nothing.
The child by Adamic nature deserves eternal death. This is not a child dedication. As cute and as lovable as these children who are brought to the baptismal font are, unless we have abandoned the biblical faith, we must confess that they are dead in trespasses and sins. They are not to be paraded around the sanctuary before they are baptized as if this were some sentimental ceremony. Gee, God loves little babies so much doesn’t he? Well . . . he loves those who have been washed from their corruption and guilt. And he loves those babies who are united to his beloved Son Jesus Christ. And that is what we are about here at this font.
God will cleanse and deliver this little girl, even though she was born in sin. This is the meaning of the water being poured from above. Nothing and nobody - not the parents not the baby girl - nobody has any influence over God in the salvation of this child. No amount of Parental technique will assure her salvation. God decides her destiny. It comes from above, like the sprinkling.
This is the scandal of infant baptism. All baptism is infant baptism. Every adult who submits to baptism does so as a little child. Everyone enters the kingdom in the same way, as helpless children. Every baptism is a ritual reminder that God alone saves sinners. It is not a ritual display of the faith of the one being baptized, not for adults and certainly not for children. All baptisms are infant baptisms. “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”