2007November26, Monday

Exhortation at the Baptism of William Marshall Austin, IV

Posted in The Church, Worship at 9:35 by Trey Austin

We come here today to baptize a child of the Church into official membership of the Church. Of course, when we do this, we are being very different from the people and the culture around us. Whether it be other Christians or the non-Christians around us, what our culture and the people in it treasure is personal, individual actions and accountability. This is, of course, a long tradition in America. It is, after all, how America was colonized and how, to quote the title of a very entertaining and compelling movie, “How the West Was Won.”

With that kind of idea in mind, there are many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who say that it is improper to admit infants and young children into the Church through baptism, because they can’t make their own decisions, they can’t think about their actions, and, in essence, they haven’t yet reached the point of being like adults in the way they do what they do. That’s why many of our fellow Christians wait until children are older, beginning their teen years, or on into their adolescent years before allowing children to make a profession of faith and be baptized.

Yet, as well-intentioned as we know they are, we can’t help but see how this turns around the order that Christ himself established in his holy Kingdom. In Matthew 18:1-4, when the disciples came and asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child to himself, sat him down in the middle of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

In imposing our cultural individualism and expectations on Scripture, many Christians have come to a system where they look at adults and say, “No need to change; remain adults, remain rational, and remain personally decisive in all that you do. You are just right to come to Christ.” And then turn to small children and say, “You aren’t yet qualified; you need to become more like these mature and sophisticated adults in order to come to Christ. Unless you do, you remain unqualified to be part of Christ’s Kingdom.”

Now it is plain to see, for anyone who is at all familiar with the teachings of the Gospels, that this turns Jesus’ teaching about how we come to him on its head. Rather than telling adults to become like children, as Jesus did, we’re telling children to become like adults, like good Americans who revel in their ability to pick themselves up by the boot-straps.

Of course, we can be fairly certain that those Christians who, for well-meaning purposes, follow such a teaching are not trying to make Christianity into a self-help religion, but we can see clearly that that is just what happens when that kind of thinking is followed out to its logical conclusion. It turns God into a manager, Christ into a salesman, and each man and woman (adults of course) into a consumer, who chooses, based on the latest consumer reports and success records, whether to take Christ up on what he is trying to sell. This is just the American mindset applied to Christianity.

Yet, when we come here today with a little child, we have in our midst, one like Jesus pointed to and said, “This is the kind of person who can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” This little child is an example to each one of us of how the Christian life is to be lived: loving, trusting, and submissive. And so it is important for each one of us here to remember, as we see this child beginning the Christian life we have long been on, that we not only need to begin the Christian life as little children, but we must always remain children—children of God, continually and perpetually trusting in our God and submitting to him as our loving and caring Father.

So, as we come here to this baptism today, we see that the baptism of an infant into the Church and Kingdom of Christ, is not something abnormal or unnatural; it is, really, the most natural and normal thing we can do, because no matter who does it, anyone who comes to Christ and enters into the Church through these baptismal waters must come as this child comes: as a helpless sinner who knows nothing but his own need and the provision given to him in love by his gracious Father.

Of course, this is just the beginning, and as Will grows and matures as a man, he must, at every turn, be taught what God’s Word says, and he must learn new obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ and how the Gospel applies to the new sins that crop up in his life. But his life should be no different than any other Christian’s, because that is precisely how we all must live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how old and mature we get, we still remain dull in our understanding and half-hearted in our obedience. That’s because no one needs to teach us how to sin or disobey; that comes naturally to all of us, because we are all born sinners in Adam. What we must learn by the Spirit’s power at work in our lives is the new obedience to which Christ calls each one of us. Will must learn and grow even as we all must; but it is our duty and privilege each day to point him to the Savior and Lord who claims him and us alike, holding Christ alone up as the only answer for his faults and failures, and reminding him of the promise and Covenant God has made with him in the Lord Jesus Christ.


1 Comment »

  1. tempe said,

    Preach it!

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