As I sat around the dinner table in the home of new parents looking forward to their son's Baptism, I was thankful to know that this child was going to be baptized and then raised by parents who confessed the faith, and were eager to begin their task of handing down the faith to their newborn.
We spoke of the challenge that many families face in choosing baptismal sponsors for their children, how sponsors are chosen based on their friendship, or because there's an even number of family members to go around, or for some other well-intentioned reason.
If parents knew that in Holy Baptism their little child was given an enemy that will harrass him as long as he lives, would they choose sponsors more carefully? This is how Martin Luther puts it:
“Every Christian as soon as he's baptized, is marshaled into an army in confrontation with the devil, and from his baptism onward is saddled with the devil who harasses him as long as he lives.”A sponsor is to be chosen because he or she will partner with Christian parents in handing down the faith. In the baptismal rite, sponsors promise to teach the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. How can a sponsor take that vow before God and man when he or she doesn't confess the Christian faith, or doesn't know the Ten Commandments, or hasn't prayed the Lord's Prayer in years. This would be similar to a bride and groom making vows, and then walking out of the church to live as if they had not.
But, on the other hand, when sponsors are chosen because of the sturdiness of their own faith, children are not only given an enemy for the rest of their lives, but a team of defenders. Parents don't have a choice. Their vocation as parent calls them to care for their child, and to teach them the faith into which they have been baptized. And when this happens, their children become eternal treasures they can take with them into an eternity with Christ.
But the task can be daunting. Almost inevitable is a time when children don't heed the advice of mom or dad. Sure to come are moments when even the baptized children of God will see no need to hear the Word of God, to be fed by their heavenly Father the food of everlasting life. And in these moments, Baptismal Sponsors play a vital role. When mom or dad can't say anything right, and are definitely not seen as wise, Uncle Lee, or Aunt Dawn, a close family friend named Debbie, or even the church Elder named Jim that took you under his wing, are invaluable as Baptismal Sponsors.
They are spiritual teammates against the life-long enemy, reminding the baptized child that God's promises are irrevocable, that he invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father, that He defends us against all danger and guards and protects us from all evil -- purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.
Holy Baptism not only gives the Holy Spirit, forgiveness of salvation, and promises life everlasting, it also gives the baptized a life-long enemy named the Devil. Rest assured, however, for that young child has also been given an army of defenders who will place him in the hands of His great protector, from which nobody can pluck him.
May all the baptized learn to sing with confidence the words of this great hymn, God's Own Child I Gladly Say It:
God's own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth's treasures many? I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free Lasting to eternity!
Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger: Jesus' cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me Since my Baptism did release me
In a dear for giving flood, Sprinkling me with Jesus' blood?
Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation, I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I've traveled, All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!
Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes Faith's assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine To make life immortal mine.
There is nothing worth comparing To this life-long comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising, Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ; I'm a child of paradise! (LSB, 594)