Why do we baptize babies?

 


The short answer to that question is: "Because it's biblical." It is faithful to Scripture on several levels. First and most obviously there is ample evidence in the biblical text that babies were baptized in the New Testament. Those who deny infant baptism often claim there are no examples of babies being baptized in the Bible. That claim is not completely accurate. There are instances of the apostles baptizing entire households (1 Cor. 1:16 – Paul said, “I also baptized the household of Stephanas.” Acts 16:15 Lydia and her household were baptized). Entire households include all members of that household from the very young to the very old. The Bible shows that apostolic baptism did not discriminate in regards to age.

Those who hold to “believers baptisms” also say that the Bible never says we should baptize babies. This seems to ignore the fact that the Bible never says we should baptize only adults either. In fact, there is no age or developmental requirement given for baptism.

If one looks as Christ’s own command regarding baptism one can see that Jesus too was very inclusive and non-discriminatory with regard to who should be baptized.


Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matt 28:19-20


Jesus speaks of “all nations” as the object of baptism. There is nothing in his command to suggest that He only intended it to apply to those old enough to make decisions for themselves.

 

The Example of Circumcision:

The objection to infant baptism usually comes from proponents of “Decision Theology.” They believe that baptism is not valid unless one makes the personal decision to be baptized for him or herself. Their view is that any decision made on one's behalf by someone else holds no meaning for that person. Such a claim is contrary to the biblical witness. In the Old Testament God commanded circumcision of all males at 8 days old (Gen. 17:12). Obviously a baby 8 days old can't make a decision to be circumcised for himself. Parents made the decision for them.  This mark of circumcision was a “sacramental” mark. It joined that child to the family of Israel (God’s people) - just as baptism joins the child to the family of Christ. That baby boy was part of God’s covenant with Abraham because of circumcision. Without circumcision he was considered cut off from God's covenant (Gen. 17:14). It was unthinkable and expressly forbidden by God that parents should let their sons grow up to some age of decision and then decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to take the mark of circumcision and thereby join the Abrahamic covenant.

 

The heart of the Abrahamic covenant was the promise of the Messiah who would proceed from Abraham’s family. To be joined to the covenant was to be joined to Christ who was yet to come. Baptism joins a person to Christ. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” - (Gal 3:27). Baptism is the New Testament counterpart to the Old Testament sacrament of circumcision. It is better than circumcision in that it joins both male and female to Christ.

 

 

The Whole Point of the Gospel

The very heart of the Gospel is that God chooses us. You did not choose Me, but I chose you (John 15:16). If our being joined to Christ depends on our decision then the Gospel is nothing but something else we have to do. In other words the Gospel is turned into a law when our decision is what makes or breaks baptism. The whole point of the Gospel is that we don’t do a thing! We don’t decide to accept Jesus. He decides to choose us. He doesn’t wait for us to do something. He chooses to give us His grace even when we were His enemies. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).

Infant baptism is a beautiful expression of God doing it all. Infants can’t decide, can’t choose, can’t do something good. They are utterly helpless. God comes to them in their helplessness – apart from their thoughts, deeds and decisions. He decides to claim them as His own and join them to His forgiveness. He gives them His Holy Spirit who will stay with them and guide them and help them grow in understanding and faith over time. God does it all. That’s what infant baptism teaches.

Once Jesus was surrounded by women carrying babies. The disciples thought it was beneath Jesus to be troubled by these helpless, crying, squirming infants. So with the best of intentions for Jesus honor they tried to shoo the women away from Jesus. When Jesus saw what they were doing he called them over to him and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.  Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." (Luke 18:16-17) The Greek word that is translated “little children” is in fact the word for “infant.” Jesus says that infants are part of the kingdom of God and that anyone who doesn’t receive His kingdom like an infant won’t enter it! Infants are the perfect picture of what it means to be saved because they are helpless and totally dependent on others for everything.

That’s what the Gospel is. It is our total dependence on Christ for everything and His giving us everything we need apart from anything we can offer Him. Infant baptism expresses the Gospel very clearly, while insisting on decision baptism actually denies the very heart of what the Gospel is.

Baptism Forgives!

I know, I know – that’s a hard pill to swallow. Most of American pop Christianity and non-denominationalism say that’s impossible. They say baptism doesn’t forgive anything; it’s just a symbolic ritual. Look at what Scripture actually says though:

And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.' (Acts 22:16)

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38)

 

“This water [of Noah’s flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also . . . It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ .” (1 Peter 3:21)


“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)


“All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27)

 

One wonders what else God has to say or how He could say it clearer. Baptism forgives. Baptism saves. Baptism gives Christ. Baptism is rebirth by the Holy Spirit. It’s right there in black and white. It always amazes me how people who consider themselves “Bible believing” Christians can simply choose to ignore what the Bible says because it goes against their philosophical presuppositions. They approach the Word with the belief that baptism doesn’t save or forgive, so when they come to verses like these that say it does, they just ignore them because it doesn't match what they’ve been conditioned to believe.

But believe it or not, the Word of God does say baptism forgives, gives Christ and the Holy Spirit and saves. We baptize babies because we believe Christ also forgives their sins (yes, babies are born sinful - Psalm 51:5), gives them His Holy Spirit, joins them to His life, death and resurrection, and saves them.

Infant baptism was the practice of the apostles, the ancient church during the centuries after the apostles, and the Christian church ever since.  It is our practice.  Thanks to God for this great gift given us even as infants in baptism.