At the end of Peter’s Pentecost sermon when the people were cut to the heart by the gospel and asked what they should do, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)
This is one of the key passages for understanding why we baptize our children. Let me point to 3 things very quickly: First, Peter says that everyone is to repent and be baptized. Baptism is a symbolic Exodus. In baptism, by faith in Jesus Christ, we are joined to His death and resurrection and participate in His exodus out of the Egypt of sin and through the Red Sea of death. One of the crucial moments in the story of the first exodus was when Pharaoh said that the Israelite men could go, but that the women and children would have to stay behind. Moses did not accept this compromise but insisted that everyone would go: men, women, and children. The children may not have understood exactly what was going on, but they could not be left behind, so we bring our children to be baptized. We cannot leave them behind.
And second, just in case we’re tempted to think Peter isn’t thinking about our children, notice that Peter immediately says the “promise is to you and for your children” – that is the language of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If the New Covenant was not supposed to include our children, this was a key moment when Peter needed to make that clear. Instead, he says that what those older covenants pointed toward is now being fulfilled in Jesus. The promise is for our children; so we baptize our children.
Lastly, notice that Peter says that the efficacy of this repentance and baptism is the Lord’s calling – those who come are those whom the Lord our God has called. Of course, it is also said that all who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. And so they are. But it turns out that our calling and the Lord’s calling go together. When we call on the Lord, it’s a sign that He has called us. And it’s the same with our children. We bring them to be baptized in faith believing that because they have been put into our families and into our covenant community, He is calling them.
And so as you raise your daughter, remind her of this day when the Lord began calling her, so that she may grow up learning to call on Him.