From the Word
10 When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
Matthew 8:10–13, RSV
This heathen is so fully satisfied with Christ’s word, that he does not even desire his presence nor deem himself worthy of it. Therefore also his servant was healed in that hour by the power of his faith. Since the occasion is offered, we must say a little about alien faith and its power. Many are interested in this subject on account of the little children who are baptized and are saved not by their own, but by the faith of others; just as this servant was healed not by his own, but by the faith of his master.
First we must let the foundation stand firm and sure that nobody will be saved by the faith or righteousness of another, but only by his own; neither will anybody be condemned for the unbelief and sins of another, but for his own. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” What then becomes of the young children, seeing they have not reason and are not able to believe for themselves.
We conclude and declare that in baptism the children themselves believe and have their own faith, which God effects in them through the sponsors, when in the faith of the Christian Church they intercede for them and bring them to baptism. This is what we call the power of alien faith, not that anybody can be saved by it, but that through it as an intercession and aid he can obtain from God his own faith, by which he is saved. If I am to live, I myself must be born, and nobody can be born for me to enable me to live; but mother and midwife can by their life aid me in birth and enable me to live. Nobody can go to heaven for me; but he can assist me, can teach, preach, govern, pray and obtain faith from God for me, through which I can go to heaven. The centurion was not healed of the palsy of his servant, but he brought it about that his servant was restored to health. So children are not baptized in the faith of the sponsors or the Church, but the faith of the sponsors gains faith for them, in which they are baptized and believe for themselves.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 55–56.
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