Sunday, November 13, 2011

Regarding Infant Baptism

My wife has a tapestry in our garage from her childhood. It has letters sewn on its surface that read: “Gillian Ingersoll, born August 31, born a child of God October 13th.” Her parents attended a Lutheran Church at the time, and when Gillian was less than two months old she was baptized and declared a child of God, as is tradition in the Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and many other churches today. But is infant baptism biblical? That is the only question that ought to really concern a Christian. Without further ado we will explore the New Testament for evidence that points toward or against the practice of infant baptism.



Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen,” Matthew 28:19-20.


The NKJV translates the beginning of verse 19 as “make disciples of all nations.” The first command is to make disciples among the nations without prejudice or bias. The criterion for discipleship would be belief in the subject the teacher presents: in this case the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then disciples (and only disciples) are baptized in the triune name of God. Furthermore continued discipleship is the goal of a believer’s life to gain maturity, understanding and to grow in the faith. An infant cannot accept doctrine since they cannot understand doctrine. Therefore the injunction to disciple someone before baptizing them would have to be ignored to justify infant baptism. Matthew’s account finds no grounds for infant baptism.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned,” Mark 16:15-16.

Here we have a statement by our Lord that is fairly straight forward. There is a positive and negative connotation to this passage. The positive is that he who believes (an act of both comprehension and will) and is baptized shall be saved. The negative is that those who do not believe will be condemned. The contingency then hangs on belief rather than baptism in this passage. Unbelievers will be damned; believers will be saved. An infant can be neither, since they are far too young to comprehend the gospel that saves, much less make a conscious choice regarding its moral implications. There are no grounds in this passage to justify the practice of infant baptism.

Now it is true that traditionally apologists advocating infant baptism have found grounds for their traditions from the book of Acts. So it is there that we shall focus most of our attention.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls,” Acts 2:41.

Here we have the first mention in the book of Acts of public baptism after Peter’s great Christian sermon about Christ as the risen Lord and Messiah of Israel. Three thousand men and women responded to the message and were baptized; only after gladly receiving the word Peter preached. Again, this predicates a cognitive response infant children could not perform. There are no grounds to teach infant baptism here.

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women,” Acts 8:12.

In this passage Philip preached Christ to the Samaritan cities and many believed his message and were converted to Christianity. Philip had been evangelizing the lost and many heard his word, believed the gospel, and were saved. The result of their salvation was instant obedience; they followed Jesus’ first command to the infant church about being baptized in the triune name of God as a profession of their newly established faith, Matthew 28:19. The fact that Luke recorded that men and women believed and were baptized precludes any hope of assuming infants were among them. The idea is clear: the crowds heard Philip’s message, and those who believed came forward to be baptized.

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him,” Acts 8:36-38.

Again we find Philip following the Holy Spirit’s leadership; this time he pursues and evangelizes a eunuch on his way back from worshiping at Jerusalem. Philip finds the opportunity to preach Christ to the man who responds to the message, and after a confession of faith decides to be baptized as a profession of the faith he just espoused. Philip’s caution to the eunuch was simply this: if you believe with all your heart you may be baptized. Once more we find an impossibility in Scripture to justify infant baptism. Infants cannot believe anything with all their hearts.

And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized,” Acts 9:17-18.

Here we find Saul, soon to be known more famously as Paul, stripped of his sight, praying and fasting. Ananias went to minister to Paul, and prefaced his greeting with the title “brother,” gently demonstrating to the stricken Pharisee that he had been saved by the same faith Ananias professed. He was to return Paul’s sight and then Paul would be filled with the Holy Spirit; mind you he was not receiving the Holy Spirit but being filled with Him. We receive the Holy Spirit upon believing the gospel; we are filled with the Holy Spirit when God equips us with the ability to perform His will on this earth. Paul named Christ Lord on the Damascus road, an act indicating saving faith, 1st Corinthians 12:3. 

In other words, God was readying Paul to go out straightway and testify of Jesus Christ, and he would need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to possess an effective witness. With his sight restored and purpose give him, Paul immediately obeyed the first injunction of our Lord: he was baptized in water. Baptism is a public profession of one’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It is a visible demonstration of inclusion into God’s heavenly family, the church universal. Paul was saved and then baptized as a demonstration to Jew and Christian that his faith was now in the sufficient and perfect death, burial and resurrection of his newly acquired Lord: Jesus Christ.

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days,” Acts 10:44-48.

The implication of this passage is clear. The Gentile believers, represented by Cornelius and his household, would be granted salvation through faith in Christ just the same as the Jewish believers had received; evidenced by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter later testified of this very thing in the Jerusalem council when the issue of whether or not Gentiles ought to keep the law was raised, Acts 15:7-11. Verse 7 concludes that everyone in Cornelius’ household believed, and therefore received the Holy Spirit as a seal and pledge of their newly acquired eternal life. After they were saved Peter commanded that such should be baptized in accordance with the Lord’s command. Here we see Peter employing the keys of the kingdom and allowing Gentiles into God’s kingdom; Cornelius and his family having heard the gospel first from him, Matthew 16:19. Peter used these “keys of the kingdom” to loose the gospel to the Jews (Acts chapter 2) and then to the Gentiles (Acts chapter 10). Nowhere does infant baptism rear its head.

"And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house,” Acts 16:32-34.

Here is potentially the passage which most apologists for infant baptism rest their argument upon. However, a simple exegesis of the verses in question forbids such a rendering of the text. Note that Paul and Silas spoke the word to the jailor and all who were in his house. First, by inference it seems apparent that only those who could understand the word were gathered to hear it. After hearing the word of God, the gospel of salvation, the jailor and his family were baptized as was the command of Jesus from the first. If there is any lingering debate regarding what was meant by all his house Luke clarifies the matter in verse 34. The jailor had believed in God with all his house. In other words, everyone present to hear the word was also old enough to understand what was being spoken and make a conscious choice as to whether or not they accepted Christ. In short: there were no infants in the jailor’s household at this time. This passage is bereft of evidence to support infant baptism.

We could explore every slight mention of water baptism in the New Testament and fail to find anything vaguely satisfactory to support infant baptism, simply because one was to hear the gospel and confess Christ before they were permitted to be baptized. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ made one a member of the household of God; baptism was the symbolism (or antitype 1st Peter 3:21) that publicly showcased one’s identification with Jesus Christ, Romans 6:4-5.

While this tradition is firmly established within professing sects of Christendom it has no roots whatever in the Bible; a sad example of men simply embracing the doctrines and traditions of men. We must rightly divide the word of God to discern what is truth from what is error, while holding fast to the former we must thoroughly reject the latter, 1st Thessalonians 5:21-22. Otherwise we ride the shifting sands of human opinion which holds no authority in the light of Scripture. Infant baptism is folly to practice, as it gives a false assurance to the ones performing it on their child’s behalf. It is deceptive. I only pray that more of God’s children realize this and reject the false teaching that we call infant baptism.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you Ian for this very informative post regarding infant baptism. I have several posts and pages on my blog where I have had heated discussions with folks from the Lutheran and RRC, and neither will accept the truth of God's Word. God's blessings my friend. Lloyd

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  2. As Gillian says "infant baptism is silly!" I wouldn't have worded it quite like that, but it is rather amazing that something so large and integral can infect the church and have positively no foundation in Scripture. Man's traditions are powerful things, and it should make every Christian who wishes to practice discernment beware.

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  3. One of the primary reasons for the adoption of sprinkling rather than immersion was to enable infant baptism, even though sprinkling doesn't fit the meaning of the Greek word.

    Great Post, Ian.

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  4. You young guys get right into this.
    A great post from all.
    The thing about believing that may need some clairity is that before believing one is TAUGHT [brought to a clear understanding] as to what they are to believe. Not so in infants. Rom 10: 14 speaks to preaching the word of God
    Even when Jesus called the first diciples said "...I will make you fishers of MEN" It's a process to believe as it is in maturing.
    Truman

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  5. Thank you for the clarification, Truman. Romans 10:17 states that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. We must hear and understand in order to believe; and the faith that results brings justification to the hearer. Amen to God for the free gift of His salvation!

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