What IS baptism?
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word. Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Why do we baptize?
Christian baptism is clearly commanded by Jesus Christ for all of God’s people from infants tothe aged. (Mt. 28:19, Acts 2:38, Jn. 3:5-6, Acts 2:38-39, Mt. 19:13-15) Baptism is more than “Christening” (giving a Christian name). It is a Sacrament of God. In and through baptism God grants forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16), provides spiritual regeneration (Titus 3:4-5) and gives eternal salvation (Mk 16:16, 1 Pt. 3:21). Because it is commanded by Christ, and through it God does these marvelous things, Christian parents want to bring their children to the Lord through Baptism as soon as possible.
When Christian parents bring their child to be baptized, they are saying that they acknowledge that their child - like themselves - is born in sin and therefore needs the love and forgiveness that God offers to all mankind (John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3); they are submitting to the command of Jesus to baptize “all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20); and they hold to the promise that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Therefore, they bring their child to be baptized so that he or she can receive the needed salvation that God offers through this means of grace (1 Peter 3:21).
Some parents give little thought or concern to choosing sponsors for the child’s baptism. They may choose someone as a sponsor to: Honor a relative or a friend, pay off a debt of gratitude, keep both families involved, maintain old ties, establish new contact, provide a generous godfather, etc. But there are more important reasons for selecting sponsors - reasons that are as old as the church itself.
The idea of sponsors arose when Christians were being persecuted for their faith. Christian parents knew that they might not live long enough to see their children raised, and therefore they sought out concerned and confessing Christians to stand by, “just in case.” They wanted their child to be brought up as a Christian and not to revert to paganism. Therefore they looked, as parents should today, for:
1. Concerned people - people who care about children and their continuing spiritual growth.
2. Confessing people - people who “stood up for their faith” and were not just members in name only.
3. Faithful people - people who believe in the Sacrament of Baptism and placed the relationship of faith in Christ Jesus above all other values providing the child with the example of a life of faithfulness in Christ and His Church.
4. Mature people - physically and spiritually mature people who could “parent” a child through the early stages of life.
5. Able people - people who could reasonably be expected to be alive during the child' s adolescent years and be physically capable of carrying out the duties of a sponsor.
Responsibilities of a Sponsor
1. To be a witness (a) to the fact of your child’s Baptism (b) to state publicly that by Baptism your child obtains and possesses the saving faith in the one true God and renounces the devil.
2. To pray for your child;
3. To remind your child periodically of his baptism; and
4. To say “yes” to the following question asked by the Pastor during the service:
Pastor: From ancient times the Church has observed the custom of appointing sponsors for baptismal candidates and catechumens. [In the Evangelical Lutheran Church sponsors are to confess the faith expressed in the Apostles' Creed and taught in the Small Catechism.] They are, whenever possible, to witness the Baptism of those they sponsor. They are to pray for them, support them in their ongoing instruction and nurture in the Christian faith, and encourage them toward the faithful reception of the Lord's Supper. They are at all times to be examples to them of the holy life of faith in Christ and love for the neighbor.
The pastor address the sponsors.
Pastor: Is it your intention to serve [name(s) of candidate(s)] as sponsors in the Christian faith?
Sponsor: Yes, with the help of God.
Pastor: God enable you [both] to will and to do this faithful and loving work and with His grace fulfill what we are unable to do.