Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | November 2, 2006

Colossians – Part 10.2 (Why Baptize an Infant?)

The following content was written about three years when I was wrestling with this issue.  There are alot of other resources out there, but hopefully this is helpful as well: 

The majority report in America for evangelical Christians is that baptism is only for those who make a profession of faith.  Therefore, with this condition required it limits the sacrament to only those who can believe, excluding infants of believers.  Nonetheless, the majority report throughout the history of the Church is that baptism is for adult converts and the children of the faithful.  Why has there been this significant paradigm shift in the view of something as important as baptism?  The claim that you will always hear as a defense against infant baptism is that it is not taught in the Scripture, thus unbiblical.   They claim that the only examples given in Scripture are of people who responded in faith to the call of the Gospel.  Another is that the Greek word ‘baptizo’ means to dunk or immerse in water, which cannot be done to an infant.  At a quick glance this appears to be a solid case that this is the proper way to administer baptism.  However, is this truly being faithful to the whole counsel of Scripture? The Churches greatest theologians would not agree with this claim.  Let us begin with the meaning of the Greek word ‘baptizo’.   The claim is that it means – to make whelmed, fully wet, or to immerse, therefore it excludes any form of sprinkling.  This is an example of a little bit of knowledge being really dangerous.  Although, this misconception is partially right it does not take into account all the forms of this Greek words meaning.  This same word which is used to defend immersion in the New Testament is also used in the Old Testament for washing or sprinkling.  Therefore, what appeared to be a formidable argument is deflated when put to a more extensive test.  The next misconception is that there are no examples of infant baptism in the Bible.  Thus, they ignore the many references to believer’s whole household being baptized (1 Corinthians 1:16; Acts 10:24, 48; Acts 16:15 and Acts 16:31-33).  Admittedly, this is not explicitly propagating infant baptism, however they do infer evidence of the Biblical teaching of infant baptism indirectly.  This brings us to the Biblical teaching of infant baptism, which is the reason the Church has administered baptism this way for almost 2000 years.  Absent its references in narrative passages, the New Testament is strangely silent on the methods of administering baptism.  It seems peculiar that there is no didactic or direct teaching on something as important as baptism.  After all it was a commandment by our Lord in the Great Commission that all believers were to receive.  Surely, you would think that there would be detailed instructions on how to administer the sign of faith.  Nonetheless, since there is no didactic material the doctrine needs to be developed carefully based on sound exegesis and proper hermeneutics.  Otherwise, the chance for misconceiving the Biblical teaching is very likely to occur.  We do not have this problem with other major doctrines.  For example, there is explicit didactic material on many other important doctrines such as the atonement of Christ, the Deity of Christ, spiritual gifts and the Lord’s Supper.  Keep this in mind while we review the Jewish understanding of how the covenant sign was to be administered in the Old Testament.  The Jews ever since God made the promise to Abraham received the sign of circumcision as infants.  This sign of circumcision signified Abraham’s faith in God and the Covenant promise that from his seed all nations on earth would be blessed (Romans 4:11-12).  (Later, in the New Testament we learn that was fulfilled in Christ Jesus).  The Israelites were a people in Covenant with God and gave the sign of faith to all who were born into the nation.  Even those who later rejected the faith received the sign of circumcision as infants, such as Ishmael & Esau.  Furthermore, converts to Judaism who were not born into the nation had to undergo the initiatory rite of circumcision.  They could not be part of the Covenant people without receiving the sign of the Covenant, which requires an act of faith or belief in God’s promise.  Once they were grafted into the Covenant nation they in turn put the sign of faith on their infant children.  Therefore, as a Jew in the first century when you thought of God’s Covenant sign it wasn’t limited to those who were making a profession of faith, it was given to their offspring while in infancy.  During this period of time the Messiah had come, died and rose again to establish an everlasting Kingdom.  Our Lord gave a commandment to put the sign of faith on all new believers, changing the original sign of circumcision.  As a first century Jew who was present at Pentecost during the Apostle Peter’s sermon how would that first century Jew interpret who to give the new sign of faith too (Acts 2:38-39).  This is where we get into the hermeneutic of implied continuity.  This teaches that if God has established something only a direct command to change the original command should result in a change.  If God is silent about something His already established rule should stand.  Thus, the silence of the New Testament comes into play with great importance.  The Bible does not tell us to not put the sign of faith on our children.  In fact in the Old Testament it explicitly commands us to put the sign of faith on our children.  The New Testament silence on the matter implies that the command should remain in affect.  The Apostle never forbade the sign of faith to be put on children.  In fact they not only baptized believers, they baptized their entire household most likely including their children.  As a result, we should not withhold the sign of faith from our children because they can’t make a profession of faith.  Even the Apostle Peter stated to those at Pentecost “the promise is for you and your children.  Thus, to those who deny the Biblical teaching of infant baptism can find new meaning in the following passage:   Mark 10:13-15:  And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

Scripture’s referred to above:

  Acts 2:38-39:  Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.

Romans 4:11-12:  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.

Acts 16:31-33:  They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

Acts 16:15:  And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord come into my house and stay.”  And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 10:24, 48:  On the following day he entered Caesarea.  Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends…And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Then they asked him to stay on for a few days

1 Corinthians 1:16:  Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

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