A couple that my husband and I had discipled for almost two years had a baby. As soon their little girl was born, the mother came to me one night asking if I thought they should baptize their new baby. I was surprised at this question. We have been through the foundations of God’s word for over a year and they were growing in grace and truth. It seemed that she was being pressured from friends and family to have this done so as to spare her child if something were to happen to it. As we talked things over she naturally came to a scriptural conclusion which put both her heart and mind at ease as well as gave her a response to use when questioned. What she concluded is that baptism is an act of faith stemming from salvation, not the means for salvation. So there was no reason for her baby to be baptized, that decision would need to be made by this child in the future when she understands the gift of grace offered by God.
Baby baptism seems to be a hot topic. Even people who do not believe in Jesus will have their children baptized so they will go to heaven even though there is no scripture to support such a claim. This is because a lot of denominations teach that baptism saves a person. So they offer this ritual to new parents, as if this decision could be made by anyone other than the individual.
This practice stems from circumcising infants at eight days which was what God instructed Abraham to do ( Genesis 17:12 ). Circumcision was a sign of the covenant God made with Abraham. All males born out of this promise would undergo the rite of circumcision at eight days. Circumcision was a sign or token of the promise to remind the person that they were in covenant with God. Many assume baptism in the New Testament correlates with the token of circumcision in the Old Testament. However as New Testament believers, our token to the covenant between God and mankind is not baptism which illustrates the cutting away of the flesh or sin nature ( Colossians 2:11-12 ), our token to this covenant is the deposited Holy Spirit living inside us, a gift that God gives to remind us of what has taken place. This can only happen by invitation, period. A baby can neither understand, invite nor accept this gift.
Because of this, there is no scriptural basis for baptizing infants. The things that are required for water baptism actually disqualify babies. The first thing is that the person is required to repent and believe ( Acts 2:38, Acts 20:21, Acts 17:30 ). This requires a change of heart and mind resulting in turning to Jesus to be forgiven. “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” ( Acts 2:38 ). Next, the person must exercise faith in Jesus as Lord and savior ( Mark 16:16, John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10 ). “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” ( Mark 16:16 ).A baby cannot repent, cannot confess, cannot believe and cannot receive. Therefore they are completely disqualified from being baptized according to the Scriptural example of water baptism.
However, at the heart of why people want to baptize their children lies idea they want to protect their children. Whether they are completely ignorant of salvation or they simply use this as a covering until the child reaches an age where they can understand for themselves what it means to believe in Jesus as their savior. While the intent is noble, it is void of truth. We can achieve the same assured peace by simply understanding God’s nature and scripture as a whole.
When questioned by the Pharisees who had the intent to trap him, Jesus answered “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” ( Matthew 22:29, Mark 12:24 ). The Pharisees knew the Scriptures but had no knowledge or understanding of them. Neither did they understand the true nature of God. If they had, they would not have asked the same questions. The same is true for us. If we really understood the complete and true nature of God we would not be looking to infant baptism as a way of protecting our children. We would realize that God has always operated from grace, especially when innocence is concerned.
Children do not have the capacity to understand their sin in relation to God’s holiness. While they may understand when they are naughty and do something wrong (even from an early age) they cannot comprehend that they are actually sinning against God, therefore God does not hold them accountable until the time when they can understand this. Paul said in Romans, “For before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law" ( Romans 5:13 ). The law is what shows us our sin in contrast to God’s holiness. Which is why Paul said later on in Romans, "Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died." ( Romans 7:9 ). It is at that point when we are held responsible before God for our sin and understand the need for Jesus as our savior. It is God’s holiness that puts this into perspective for us. Young children are, by nature, disqualified from this type of accountability which will come later in life.
Until this point in life, God always operates in grace. David understood this which is why he said after the death of his child, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” ( II Samuel 12:22-23 ). David knew God’s loving nature and knew that his dead child was already and eternally with the Lord.
Baptizing infants solely for the sake of protecting them lest something should happen is a work in which you are doing something in exchange for salvation. However, trusting in God’s nature and character for their salvation up until the time that decision can be made with understanding by the child, falls in the realm of faith which always pleases the Lord ( Hebrews 11:6 ). My friend, who was a new mother came to this same conclusion and rejoiced as she understood the Lord had always held her daughter, securely wrapped in His amazing grace. There was no need to intervene because the Lord would take care of everything if something should happen.
Tomorrow we will finish this study on baptism by looking at immersion verse sprinkling. Please join me for part 5, What is the Difference Between Sprinkling and Immersion?