Baptism is a Sacrament (a visual sign of invisible grace, that actually does what it signifies) where we die to our old selves and rise up new. Sin is washed away completely as the person is reborn. Baptism also makes us sons and daughters of God, co-heirs with Jesus; and body parts of the Body of Christ. The cross marked on our forehead (and other body parts) is a sign that our souls are indelibly marked as such.
But we can choose to refuse our position as adopted children of God, waste our inheritance, and poop all over God’s love and care. He will always take us back, up until the last moment… but we have free will, so we can do the wrong thing if we want.
Of course Baptism doesn’t assure our salvation. If we really, really want to reject God later on, He is not going to hold us against our will. No guns to our heads, no forcing us to live in bliss forever and ever.
Jesus instructed us to baptize people. He didn’t say that He wasn’t going to baptize people too!
The formal way of saying this is that Jesus has granted graces to the Church, to be distributed through the Sacraments. But He is not bound to distribute graces only in that way. The story of the workers in the vineyard tells about that sort of situation.
But although we can trust Jesus to take care of emergency stuff, He has made it clear that He expects us to baptize. So we can’t put the burden all on Him.
[quote=“BornInMarch, post:85, topic:459188”]
If it’s a way of devoting your life to Christ then why do we baptize people before they’re old enough to know what that is?[/quote]
It’s an adoption. Tons of babies get adopted. Adoptions are one example of a covenant action (ie, a way of creating family bonds between unrelated people). Plenty of adoptions of babies, so it’s not a surprising thing to see baptisms of babies, either.
Another example is circumcision, which made Jewish males into members of God’s extended clan. It was a family matter, so their parents could give consent to it for them. If a guy grew up and wanted no part of God, he could leave. A lot of Jews did.
Of course it’s more advantageous to grow up under a covenant than to have to negotiate one. What other tribe or family could be better than God’s family? If a child’s parents are in it, why would they want the kid to be excluded?
(“Please cut my baby out of the will until she’s old enough to torque you off,” said nobody ever.)