Jeslyn just looked at me. I had some very important questions for her, but she gave no answer. “Do you renounce the devil and all his wicked works and all his ways?” Obviously, that is a question to which you would hope to hear an unambiguous “YES!” answer. But, Jeslyn said nothing—she just looked at me.
Why the silence to such an important question? Well, Jeslyn was three weeks old. Her parents had brought her to be baptized in the name of the Triune God. As a three-week-old, of course, she couldn’t answer for herself the questions that have traditionally been asked as part of our Lutheran order of Baptism. So at her Baptism her parents were asked to answer for the child.
For many of us, being brought to the baptismal font as an infant was the beginning of our Christian journey of faith. When we were baptized in the name of the Triune God, the Almighty put His name on us and said, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
After Baptism, Christian parents strive to be diligent in raising their children in the Christian faith. From home devotions, to worship services, to Sunday school and, if possible, a Christian day school, Christian parents want to do everything they can to fulfill the second part of Christ’s Great Commission by “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)
About the sixth or seventh grade, parents will begin to enlist the help of their pastor in training up their children in the Christian faith through catechism class. Using Martin Luther’s summary of Bible teachings as a guide, the child is taken through the basics of the Bible and the Christian faith.
Then, after two or three years of instruction, those traditional questions that were once asked at Baptism are asked again. This time, after hearing and learning God’s Word, that young person is ready to answer for himself whether he renounces the devil, believes in the Triune God, and holds to the teachings of the Bible. In doing so, this young person “confirms” that what his parents said for him at his Baptism is what he himself believes.
Although the rite of confirmation is not commanded in Scripture, it is a fine Lutheran tradition that gives Christian young people the opportunity to stand up before the congregation and profess their faith in Jesus publicly. It is one way in which the confirmand may “give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”
(1 Peter 3:15)
Confirmation is also a great blessing for the entire congregation. It gives each of our members the opportunity to reflect on their own Baptism and confirmation. The blessings which Christ shared with this young person in Baptism, He has also shared with you. You both were covered with Jesus’ holiness as you were “baptized into Christ” and have “put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) In Baptism, Christ “sanctified and cleansed” you by the washing of the water by the Word (Ephesians 5:26). Both you and this confirmand were instructed in the same Christian faith from the Bible. You both share the same faith and confess it openly. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Jeslyn still has about eleven years to go before she’s ready to answer for herself. Until then, may the Lord help her and all His baptized children grow in Christ. This spring, as those confirmands stand nervously before the congregation, ready to answer for themselves questions about God and their faith, we will give thanks for the good work that has been begun in them by the Holy Spirit and pray that they, with us, will remain faithful to our Lord and this Christian faith, even unto death. May the Holy Spirit help each of us to always be ready to answer for ourselves about the hope that is within us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Nathan Pfeiffer is pastor of Berea Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.