For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11 (NRSV)
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 (NRSV)
The big deal about the universality of the sacrament of Baptism – why it is something meant for all, regardless of age or cognition or profession of faith- is that it’s God doing the calling.
God has a way of calling the unlikely, the underdog, the weak. This isn’t to say that baptism is not for those who come to faith as adults, but that it is always God’s Word that makes it effective regardless of who is brought to the font. It is God’s calling, whether through our own volition or through our parents and sponsors, that names and claims us through the water and the Word.
I have had the privilege of witnessing Baptisms of all ages, from an infant at the age of three days to my own grandfather who was baptized three days before he died at age 91. Whether the person was aware of what the pastor was doing and why, or not, the power of the Sacrament is still manifested there. God is the Author of our salvation and of our faith. It is His promise being given.
We can have confidence in what God promises, even though we might not fully believe and comprehend His promises. It’s always God doing the calling and the equipping.
Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. This now is perhaps somewhat acute but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word. –from the explanation of infant Baptism, Luther’s Large Catechism
Today’s children and young adults have tremendous challenges ahead of them. It is easy to get caught up in the things this world tempts us with and not give the things of God a second thought. Often teens and young adults stray from the faith and don’t understand or don’t acknowledge the promise they were given in their Baptism. Yet God is still at work in them and in their lives whether they acknowledge His work or not.
Baptism, and particularly infant baptism, clearly is an affirmation that God is in control. It is God Who redeems. It is God Who names and claims and restores.
Therefore I say, if you did not believe then believe now and say thus: The baptism indeed was right, but I, alas! did not receive it aright. For I myself also, and all who are baptized, must speak thus before God: I come hither in my faith and in that of others, yet I cannot rest in this, that I believe, and that many people pray for me; but in this I rest, that it is Thy Word and command. Just as I go to the Sacrament trusting not in my faith, but in the Word of Christ; whether I am strong or weak, that I commit to God. But this I know, that He bids me go, eat and drink, etc., and gives me His body and blood; that will not deceive me or prove false to me.
Thus we do also in infant baptism. We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err. –from the explanation of infant Baptism, Luther’s Large Catechism
Many of us have children or grandchildren who have strayed from the faith or who fail to acknowledge God. Yet we can call on God- and know that His promise given to them through His Word in their Baptism will not be empty.
If we have loved ones who have been raised in faith and baptized, but have strayed from God, we can take comfort that in their Baptism they too have been named and claimed, and that God will find a way to restore them.