Baptism: Should Babies Be Baptized?

Infant baptism. Is it scriptural?

The Bible clearly teaches that baptism is essential to salvation and forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21) and is needed in order to become a disciple of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20; Gal. 3:26-27).  Concerning this act, a question many have is whether infants should be baptized.  This question is relevant especially to me at this point in my life, being a new daddy with an infant daughter a little over a year of age.  Is my daughter in need of salvation and forgiveness of sins?  Should she be baptized today?  Should I have baptized her a year ago when she was born?  A careful study of everything the Scripture says about baptism and sin in general reveals that the baptism of infants is not the baptism one reads about in God’s Word.

 

Does the touching of “holy water” on a baby’s head truly constitute biblical baptism?

For one, biblical baptism is actually immersion in the original Greek, rather than pouring or sprinkling.  Today, the “baptism” of infants as commonly practiced is a misnomer, in that water more often poured or sprinkled on the baby.  It could only be truly called “infant baptism” if the baby was immersed.

That said, immersion is not the only thing which constitutes biblical baptism, because the baptism one reads of in the New Testament requires certain prerequisites.  First, one must have faith in Christ before being baptized (Acts 8:35-38; Mark 16:16; cf. Rom. 10:9-10).  An infant is incapable of believing in anything, much less in Jesus, and certainly cannot confess that faith as is commanded by Paul and exemplified by the Ethiopian eunuch.  Secondly, one must also choose to repent of their sins before being baptized (Acts 2:38).  Repentance requires having godly sorrow over one’s sins (2 Cor. 7:9-10).  An infant does not have the capability to have godly sorrow over sin and thus make the decision to repent or turn away from said sin.

In fact, the Bible actually teaches that infants have no sin in their lives that they need to repent of or be saved from the wages of (Rom. 6:23) in the first place.  A widely held belief in the denominational world is that babies inherit the guilt of their ancestor’s sins, going all the way back to Adam.  It is this belief that in fact led to the establishment of the practice of infant baptism by men two centuries after Christ lived on this earth and the church began.  However, the Bible very specifically states that people are not held accountable for the sins of their ancestors (Ezek. 18:20).  In fact, Paul described a time in his life when he was spiritually alive before becoming a sinner (Rom. 7:7-11).  He also described Jacob and Esau as having not yet done either good or evil while in the womb (Rom. 9:10-11).  If the doctrine known as “original sin” is true, Paul would not have been able to say this about himself or about Jacob and Esau because they all would have been physically born sinful.  But if children are born free from the guilt of sin and remain so until they reach an accountable age as taught in the Bible (Is. 7:15), then Paul’s statements about himself and Jacob and Esau are correct.

Finally, consider the fact that no one enters into the new covenant with the Lord without first knowing him (Heb. 8:6-13).  In the old covenant, the Israelites entered into it by virtue of being born into a Jewish family.  The males entered the covenant by way of circumcision when they were eight days old (Gen. 17:9-14), and as they grew older they had to be taught to know the Lord.  But under the new covenant, you are first taught the gospel about the Lord (Rom. 10:17; Mark 16:15).  Only after having obeyed it through faithful, penitent, baptism do you enter into that covenant relationship with God with a “circumcision without hands” (Col. 2:11-12).  Where infant baptism is practiced, this distinctive feature of the new covenant is no longer present.  Infants who have been baptized and supposedly entered a covenant relationship with the Lord at that point would still need to be introduced to know the Lord as they grew older.  However, what the writer of Hebrews said about the new covenant is true only when baptism (the means by which we enter a covenant relationship with the Lord today) is administered to penitent believers.

Therefore, God’s Word teaches me that there is no need for my infant daughter to be baptized.  If I did so, I would only accomplish getting her wet and going against what the Bible teaches myself.  Eventually, she will grow enough so that she will become accountable, and then it will be inevitable that she will sin (Rom. 3:23).  That is when she will need the salvation and forgiveness of sins that only the penitent baptism of a whole-hearted believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide.

Biblical baptism: The immersion of an accountable, penitent believer in Christ

What about you?  Were you baptized as an infant?  If so, I encourage you to consider that you need to be baptized again, baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, baptized into his body which is his church (1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4; Gal. 3:26-27), so that your sins will be washed away (Acts 22:16).  If you believe in Jesus with all of your heart and are willing to repent of your sins and dedicate your life to him, there is no better time than today for you to be baptized (Acts 8:35-38; 2:38; cf. 2 Cor. 6:1-2).  Jesus is extending to you his invitation right now.  Accept it by obeying his commands.  Only then will he truly be your Lord and Savior (Luke 6:46; Matt. 7:21-27; Heb. 5:9).

9 thoughts on “Baptism: Should Babies Be Baptized?”

  1. Thanks for the great article. When I read and study the Bible I often wonder where people come to believe the things that they believe in because when I study I can’t seem to find the things they say that they believe in. Isn’t it much simpler and logical to take the Bible for what it says and follow it like we’re suppose to than to come up and try to keep up with all the things people come up with trying to justify whatever it is they believe in?

    1. Good question, Richard. One thing I would urge you to consider is that the psalms are poetry, and thus frequently use poetic hyperbole to make a point, and thus should not be taken in a completely literal sense.

      Take the passage which you brought up. Verse 3 says that the wicked “go astray from birth, speaking lies.” Taken literally, this would mean that these little babies, right at birth, start verbally speaking lies. Of course, that makes no sense…if taken literally without consideration of David’s use of poetic hyperbole.

      Just a few verses later in v. 6, David asks God to “break the teeth” of the very wicked he was talking about in vs. 3-4. If he was talking about literal newborn infants in vs. 3-4, does this mean that they had teeth at the time they were born? After all, David asked God to break their teeth! 🙂 But infants don’t have teeth, nor do they have the capacity to speak lies, or even to form in their minds lies (due to not yet having developed the capacity for cognitive thought.)

      Obviously, David is speaking figuratively in this psalm, using figurative language to exaggerate for the sake of emphasis. The figurative point David is making is similar to the statement in Gen. 8:21, that “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” All of us are led astray and fall short of the glory of God while we are young, but that is a far cry from the idea that we are born sinfully depraved.

      Take another psalm to illustrate my last statement. In Ps. 139:14, David is describing his life in the womb of his mother prior to his birth, and says to God, “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works.” So David is praising God for fearfully and wonderfully making him in the womb. So if David was totally depraved at the time of his conception, and the work of forming him in the womb was God’s, then it was God who made him totally depraved at conception. That flies in the face of everything the Bible says about God.

      Again, good question. I’m glad you asked it. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you around here again. 🙂

      1. Another good question. I think the best way to answer it is to ask you if you yourself have ever spoken figuratively. And, if you have, does that mean that none of what you say could ever be taken literally?

        For example, have you ever said, “Just a second,” when asked to do something by someone else which you were not ready to do? Like, did you ever say, “Just a second,” when the doorbell rang because you needed to get dressed before you answered the door, or something to that effect? I’m sure you have, we all have. Now, did it take you longer than a literal second? Sure it did. Therefore, you spoke figuratively rather than literally. Does that mean that all that comes out of your mouth must be discounted? Of course not.

        If we are willing to grant credibility to the use of figurative language by ourselves, we must also grant credibility to the Bible when it does the same.

  2. Thank you for this article, it is very timely for me. We have many friends who are of different faiths. Two very sticky subjects are baptism and once saved always saved.

  3. If some of scripture can be used figuratively, then why not all? How does one pick and choose which is figurative and which is literal? What of instruments in church? Nothing stated one way or the other so why take it literally? Couldn’t that be figurative?

    1. Good question, Richard. Context is the key, both immediate and overall.

      Again, consider your own use of figurative language. What makes it apparent that it is figurative to use and everyone else is the context in which you use it. For example, “OH, I just ate a TON of food!” is interpreted by all who hear you say that to be a figurative statement, because they can see from the plate in front of you that you did not just eat a literal ton of food. They see what is clearly literal in the context of the real world around you, and thus conclude that your statement is figurative in nature.

      In like manner, the clearly literal statements in the Bible help define the figurative. Bringing the conversation back to the subject of the article under discussion, the Bible clearly states that babies are born innocent (Ezek. 18:1-20; Rom. 9:11-13). Therefore, any language in other places of scripture (such as the psalm you cited) which would suggest otherwise must be concluded to be figurative in nature. What further strengthens this notion is when we see clear figurative statements in the immediate context of the psalm in question, as was brought out earlier.

      If you want to continue this discussion, let’s do it privately. E-mail me. One of the goals I have for the comments section in my blog is for the discussions to not get repetitive in nature. This one is getting close to that, so if you want to continue it, e-mail me.

      1. Thank you for your response and offer, but I’ll pass. I learned long ago to speak about things of this nature publicly.

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