Pastor Petersen had some beautiful insight today regarding baptism and raising children in the faith. I can only paraphrase.
He was catechizing from the Book of Concord - Augsburg Confession, Article IX, where it is stated "Our churches teach that Baptism is necessary for salvation" (Mark 16:16, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;" I Peter 3:21 "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you."). We tend to fudge on this. Can faith exist before baptism? Yes, definitely. Are there those who have been saved without it? We have the example of the thief on the cross. But these are exceptions, and they rely on God's mercy, and God is a merciful God. I've had many friends who came to faith who put off baptism, because they already have faith. That's not Biblical. The Biblical example is the Ethiopian eunoch who after coming to faith says to Philip, "Here is water, why should I not be baptized?"
But God confers faith and blessing through baptism, so why would we not baptize when we are able? Baptism is important. The Holy Spirit is truly present and gives faith and forgiveness of sins through baptism. The Bible talks about how we are made one with Christ's death in baptism. If we die with Him, we will surely rise with Him. (Romans 6, Colossians 2). It's critical. It's important. Do it. Scripture treats it like it is urgent, so why shouldn't we?
But also, baptism doesn't mean we are done. As Pastor Petersen so concisely stated, "The goal isn't a baptized baby. The goal is an old man who is saved and who has lived a life of good works." So the next step is to have a child who is catechized and able to come to the Lord's Supper, because forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith are there also. God wants to bless us through Baptism, through the preaching of the Word, and through Holy Communion...always and often. Do we say "No thanks Holy Spirit, I've had enough forgiveness and strengthening of faith. I'm good." No, we receive God's blessings where they are given and rejoice that they are plentiful, because we are constantly being attacked by Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh. That's why they are called the Means of Grace.
In the end, we want a mature Christian --a person who knows their Scripture, who treasures Worship and the Sacraments, who fears and loves God and serves Him because has been saved by His love.
I love that. "The goal is an old man who is saved and who has lived a life of good works." Having come from a family that treated baptism and confirmation like items on the list to check off, it clarifies things. And if the faith is taught this way to us, and emphasized to parents, doesn't that make those Sunday baseball games and all of those things that take children away from the Church clear? Doesn't it put the responsiblities of parenthood into perspective?
It isn't to raise a good athlete or someone who will go to college and be successful in their career, or who will make lots of money (not that these things are bad, in and of themselves. They are just not the ultimate end, and we often treat them like they are. They decorate the Christian life, they are not what is in the end the most important). For a Christian, to raise a child is to raise someone who will die in Christ.