November 02, 2021 Eric Gawura

What's the Deal with Infant Baptism

What's the Deal with Infant Baptism

What’s the deal with infant baptism? Why do some churches practice it and other churches don’t?

The “What’s the deal with” blog series is meant to be a quick look and summary of a wide variety of questions that people may have about the Christian faith. It is not meant to provide long, in-depth explanations of those questions. With that in mind, the question of whether or not to baptize infants can be summarized in the following points:

Throughout most of Christian history the church has baptized infants because it has recognized the need for them to receive Baptism, and because the Bible commands that they be Baptized.

Let’s look at their need:

  1.  All people born into this world are conceived and born in sin. This is what the Bible calls “original sin.” Adam and Eve were created in the image of God – perfect in truth, holiness, and righteousness. But when they used their free will to disobey God those gifts were lost. The children that they produced also lacked those gifts. See these verses:

  • Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, NIV84)
  • For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5, NLT)
  • When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:3, NIV84)
  • The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5, NIV84)
  • As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10, NIV84)

This is not an exhaustive list, but it shows that everyone is born into this world as a sinner and therefore in need of a savior, infants included.

Being sinners, we lack the ability to change ourselves into righteous people. We cannot get back the lost gifts of perfect truth, holiness, and righteousness (the Image of God) on our own.

God, in His mercy, decided to save us from the eternal punishment that is due to all sinners. He sent His only-begotten Son to become a human being to save us. He saved us by living a perfect life for us and then dying to sin in our place. Having suffered the punishment for our sin as our substitute through death, God raised Him from the dead. Jesus of Nazareth is our Savior from sin. As the Bible says, ““Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12, NIV84)

We receive the forgiveness of our sins, and therefore salvation and eternal Life, through faith in Jesus. Faith is a gift from God, not something that we produce ourselves, and is given to us through the Gospel.

  • For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV84)
  • Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NIV84)
  • I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”” (Romans 1:16–17, NIV84)

Because God knows that our sin-weakened mind and heart have trouble trusting the bare word of the Gospel, He tied the gospel promises of forgiveness and salvation to two certain rites. Put another way: when we hear the general promises of the Gospel we have no trouble believing them. But when our conscience is disturbed and becomes troubled, we have trouble believing that the general promises of the Gospel apply to us individually and specifically.

So, in order to give us certainty that He has dealt with us individually – not as a member of a mass of humanity, but as an individual person – He gives us Baptism (and the Lord’s Supper, a matter for another future post) so that we can know that He has forgiven us and saved us.

Because the water of Baptism goes on my head then I know that the Gospel has been applied to me and that I have been given the gift of faith and thus salvation.

So, Baptism is a means by which God extends His grace to an individual and saves them. So, the Bible says of Baptism:

  • 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, NIV84)
  • And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’” (Acts 22:16, NIV84)
  • … baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21, NIV84)
  • Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16, NIV84)

2.   Let’s look at the command to Baptize:

  • Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19, NIV84)
  • 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, NIV84)

And regarding infants, Jesus says that this: “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matthew 18:14, NIV84)

So, for all of these reasons we baptize infants.

There are Christian denominations who do not baptize infants. Their reasoning has to do with a complete, or partial, rejection of the Bible's teaching on sin (original sin in particular) and an understanding of the nature of faith that differs from what the Bible teaches. Lacking an understanding of the need and a conception of faith that makes it a good work, these denominations do not baptize infants. Baptists, Menonites, Amish, Pentecostal, and many non-denominational churches fall into the category that deny infant Baptism.