In infant baptism, God makes a loud and wet announcement about the future of the church. The church has a future. God has a plan. He is building. The future is coming.
My son Seth was baptized this past Sunday. It was a great day for our family. Here at our new church in Columbus (IN), retired minister Bob McCracken performed the baptism in front of our new congregation, as well as much of our family.
As I’ve reflected on Seth’s baptism, my thoughts have gone to God’s simple announcement of hope for our future. Of course, baptism speaks to the past – the finished work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. And baptism speaks to the present, a discovery of what God has done right now in drawing an individual into the covenant community.
But baptism points and lifts us as well to future hope. Let me give two Scriptural examples to draw this out.
In Genesis 17, Abraham is given the promise of circumcision, that sign anticipating baptism (see Colossians 2:11-12). After years of promise that his promised heir would come, he was left childless. Where is the promise?
There and then, God offers the covenant of circumcision. The sign told the story of Abraham’s future: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations … I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.” (Gen. 17:4,6).
The sign tells Abraham: you have a future.
And Abraham believes. Abraham trusts. Abraham claims in confidence that God’s plan for the future will come about. Abraham moves forward in hope.
If anyone had reason to wonder about the future, it was Jeremiah. He saw the people of God enter exile. His own life suffered immense torment. But, somehow, no prophet spoke more of future and hope than Jeremiah!
Who doesn’t know the famous words of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope.”
The context there in Jeremiah is exile, the apparent cutting off of the people of God. Will they find a future? Will the generations to come tell the praise of the LORD? In many ways, their questions would be the same as Abraham’s in Genesis 15-17.
And how does God answer the question or concern? How will that future promise be realized in the people of God? Jeremiah’s answer lands where Abraham’s did: children of the promise knowing and walking with the LORD.
Jeremiah 30:18-20: “Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small. Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all who oppress them.”
Jeremiah 31:17: “There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.”
God’s answer through Jeremiah: look to the next generation. God has promises still to be fulfilled from one generation to the next. Children will come. The next generation will receive and know the grace of God.
The call of Jeremiah: walk in Abraham’s footsteps. Life will feel like exile at times. The future will be muddy.
So, believe. Hope. Trust. Know that God is not about to be done with His people.
Abraham, Jeremiah, and Me
And so back to last Sunday for me. When we bring a child for baptism, we are watching, claiming, believing into the faith of Abraham and Jeremiah. We are claiming that God has a plan for the future of the church, and it is worth celebrating.
So here’s what I’m embracing and believing today for the future of Jesus’ church:
- I believe that, unless Jesus comes back first (Lord, come quickly!), the next generation will be full of glorious stories of redemption. It will be full of stories of those united to Jesus Christ and washed in His blood.
- I believe that the church will suffer in ways that echo the longings of Abraham and Jeremiah. But that’s no reason to give in. It’s a reason to believe that there that Jesus may announce His purpose for the future most clearly.
- I believe that I am called as a parent to love my children toward that future. I will in love appeal to them with the love of the father of Proverbs. And so I will appeal “My son” (and “my daughter”) – warning, guiding, encouraging, pointing them to the glory of the wisdom of God in a fallen world.
I look at my newly baptized son. And I believe God has a plan for the future of the people of God.