Why Not Infant Baptism?

CWRC does not believe that the Bible teaches either explicitly or implicitly the practice of baptizing infants. The Roman Catholic religion makes it very clear that their infant baptism is for the forgiveness of sin. We view Rome’s practice of ‘baptismal regeneration’ applied to infants as heretical teaching destructive of the Gospel.

However, there are many mainstream Protestant religions that baptize infants as well. They do so for a variety of reasons. These reasons bring them to the threshold of Roman Catholic baptismal regeneration without the so-called ‘knock-out’ punch.

What is striking is that Protestant devotees to infant baptism use the same identical arguments as Rome to prove the validity of the practice of infant baptism albeit most fall short of Rome’s meaning.

The following is a debate of sorts between a Protestant Infant Baptist minister and a Protestant Believer Only Baptist minister. Protestant Infant Baptists do not deny Believer baptism. They do however deny that believers are the only ones that should be baptized.

We offer this discussion because we wish to move people away from the practice of Infant Baptism regardless of their reasons for performing the act. Roman Catholicism builds an entire apostate religion on her chief pillar that is the Sacrament of Infant Baptism. Christians should learn to avoid this practice and stay entirely clear of Rome’s ongoing error.

Beginning arguments for Infant Baptism

Introduction: The assumption of those who reject infant baptism is that those who hold to it do so strictly out of custom or superstition. The charge is that those who baptize the infants of believers somehow ignore the scriptures or, even worse, suppress them. In the following, I hope to show that although you may disagree with the correct Biblical interpretation of the passages I forward here in defense of infant baptism, nevertheless, those who practice infant baptism, such as me, have Biblical grounds for doing so and are not simply perpetuating a non-biblical tradition.

One of the greatest dangers facing Biblical interpretation today is the inevitable tendency to interpret the Bible anachronistically. An anachronism is when I take current circumstances or issues and projects them back into the Bible as though they were part of the original Biblical record, thus distorting the message of the Biblical text.

Old Testament ablutions were practiced extensively both as part of daily piety as well as part of the Temple rites and rituals. Something that was contaminated by the unclean was susceptible to cleansing; this cleansing was achieved by washing with water. As a result of the washing with water, the object was clean,

John the Baptist was not the only baptizer present and active in the years leading up to Jesus ministry. He was, in fact, one of several that we know of in first century Israel. In each of these movements, the underlying symbolism was the same. Baptism, or washing with water, cleansed its recipients and set them apart from the rest of the Israelite people who had become contaminated in their life and worship. This is an extension of the Old Testament system of purity.

It is not certain that this is an antecedent since there is no positive evidence that later forms of proselyte baptism were actually practiced in the first century, but this ancient practice does shed light on how water baptisms were understood in third century Judaism. Proselyte baptism was practiced was applied to Gentile converts to Judaism. The water was understood to cleanse these non-Jewish believers for participation in the people of God. It was applied to all converting persons. Circumcision was required for males but water baptism only for females. Males born to converts were required to be circumcised but females were subjected to no further rites. They were considered to be clean.

John’s baptism was a water baptism of repentance, preparing the way for the coming of Messiah. Understood in terms of its Old Testament background and New Testament context, it was a separation of a people who showed genuine repentance and accepted the need to be cleansed in order to receive the Messiah. This cleansing was in preparation for the holiness with which the Messiah would baptize, associated by John with fire.

Contra Infant Baptism

The baptism of John was administered to those who came with a heart of repentance. It was a “believer’s baptism.” John did not baptize infants. His baptism was more than cleansing. His was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins as well as an inauguration of the time of Messiah.

MAR 1:4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Jesus did not himself baptize in this lifetime, but his disciples apparently practiced a baptism of preparation analogous to that of John. This baptism was similarly viewed as separating a people apart who were cleansed to receive the holiness of the Messiah. Like that of John, this baptism required repentance and was viewed as a cleansing in preparation for holiness.

Contra Infant Baptism

The disciples of Jesus were baptizing those who came. It was a believer’s baptism. There is no evidence that they baptized infants.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Unlike baptism prior to this point, the baptism of Pentecost was the fulfillment of the promise of baptism with fire. This was the Messianic baptism for which water baptism, up to this point, was a preparation. Now, as of Pentecost, water baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit were practiced simultaneously, water baptism sometimes preceding, sometimes following, the reception of the Holy Spirit.

Contra Infant Baptism

All of the baptisms recorded in the New Testament are recorded as believer baptisms.

Faith, Repentance and Turning are all required to receive this baptism.

The Spirit may come without water, before water, during water or after water but the Spirit never comes to reside without faith/repentance.

Note: All of the passages listed here refer to the Believer’s union with Christ on the basis of faith/repentance...

a. Romans 6:4 – baptism into Christ’s death. ROM 6:3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? ROM 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. ROM 6:5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of Hid death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. ROM 6:6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;

b. 1 Corinthians 6:11 – washing with sanctification and justification. 1CO 6:11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

c. Galatians 3:27 – clothing with Christ. GAL 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

GAL 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

d. Ephesians 5:26 – sanctification by washing with water in the word. EPH 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;

EPH 5:26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

e. Colossians 2:11 – circumcision without hand, putting off of the body of flesh, circumcision of Christ. COL 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; COL 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Note: This circumcision is made without hands and is upon the heart. This is a New Covenant expression of regeneration. The baptism here is believer’s baptism. The recipient is pictured as being buried with Christ in baptism (no infant is buried with Christ in baptism) and raised up with Him through faith.

f. Titus 3:5 – vehicle of mercy through the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. TIT 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

g. Hebrews 10:22 – washing with hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience. HEB 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

h. 1 Peter 3:21 – not the removal of the filth of the flesh but the request of a conscience reconciled with God.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Up until this point, we probably all agree, in general, on the meaning of these passages. There are two remaining points of Biblical interpretation on which we differ in varying degrees which progressively widen the rift between those who practice adult baptism only and those who practice infant baptism as well as adult baptism.

The first of these two points is the relation of baptism and the new covenant. It must be noted that there is no explicit language identifying baptism as the sign of the new covenant. Although such identification may seem obvious, there is no specific language in the New Testament identifying it as such. The questions remains then, how does baptism relate to the new covenant?

Contra Infant Baptism

We would argue strongly that there is explicit language identifying baptism as the sign given to believers in the New Covenant. The biblical evidence is overwhelming. Baptism is not only commanded of all believers but is fully illustrated in the life of all New Covenant believers including the apostles.

Sign of Baptism in the New Covenant:

MAT 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

ACT 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

ACT 2:41 So than, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand soles.

ACT 8:36 And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
ACT 8:37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
ACT 8:38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.

ACT 10:47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”
ACT 10:48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They asked him to stay on for a few days.

ACT 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.

ACT 19:3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
ACT 19:4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
ACT 19”5 And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Argument for Infant Baptism

New Testament references to the new covenant do not explicitly relate baptism to the new covenant. However, as these references who, these passages place the new covenant within the context of the broader redemptive events accomplished in Jesus Christ of which baptism is, arguably a sign.

Contra Infant Baptism

The New Testament references the “New Covenant” as being in Jesus Christ. To be in Christ and to be in the New Covenant is the same thing. The only way to be in Christ is by Faith/Repentance. No one can be in Christ or in the New Covenant via baptism.

HEB 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
HEB 8:8 For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the Lords, When I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
HEB 8:9 Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, And I did not care for them, says the Lord.
HEB 8:10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
HEB 8:11 “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.
HEB8:12 “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
HEB 8:13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

2CO 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.
2CO 3:6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

  1. Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25
  2. 2 Corinthians 3:6
  3. Hebrews 8 – 10

Argument for Infant Baptism

There are suggested links between baptism and the new covenant present in the New Testament. Let us examine two passages. The first is Colossians 2:11-13. The second is Hebrews 10-15-23.

COL 2:9 For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, COL 2:10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; COL 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; COL 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. COL 2:13 And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

This passage suggests that baptism parallels and most probably replaces circumcision as the sign of entrance into the new covenant.

Contra Infant Baptism

At this juncture the Infant Baptist is simply wrong. Baptism does not replace circumcision as a sign of entrance into the New Covenant. Circumcision was never a sign of entrance into the New Covenant. How can baptism replace a sign that did not sign the same thing? Baptism stands alone as the sign given to believers who have entered the New Covenant in Christ. A closer look at Colossians 2:11-13 informs us that the comparison presented by the Apostle Paul is between the spiritual circumcision on the heart of a believer and the believer’s baptism. To be in Christ is to have the unclean flesh removed in a spiritual circumcision. The Apostle draws upon the picture of believer’s baptism as identification with the death of Christ through faith. Old Covenant infant baptism, into the nation of Israel, is not even present in the passage. Of what infant could it be said that: “you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; COL 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism?”

Argument for Infant Baptism

Hebrews 10:15-23 suggests that baptism is that means by which we are cleansed in the new covenant.

HEB 10:15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, HEB 10:16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And upon their mind I will write them," He then says, HEB 10:17 "And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." HEB 10:18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. HEB 10:19 Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, HEB 10:20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, HEB 10:21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, HEB 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. HEB 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;

In conclusion, although there is no specific identification of baptism as the rite of entrance into the new covenant, I think many of us would agree that baptism is that sign by which one is ushered into the new covenant.

Contra Infant Baptism

This passage says nothing of the sort. The heart sprinkled clean is a heart sprinkled by the blood of Jesus. The pure water is the cleansing only Jesus can give by faith. This passage does not teach that baptism either puts us in the New Covenant or cleanses us from our sins. However, if the author of the book of Hebrews had in mind that the “washed with pure water” of verse 22 was a reference to baptism, it does not fit Infant Baptism. Protestant Infant Baptists generally do not teach that baptized infants are washed clean and have their hearts “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.” This is the position of Rome. However, Protestant Infant Baptist creeds are, unfortunately, in line with Rome though very few Protestant Infant Baptists teach their own creeds without equivocation.

Also, Baptism nowhere “ushers one into the new covenant.” It is a sign of a believer’s identification with the death – burial – resurrection of Jesus Christ. The sign does not bring about the reality. The sign indicates that the reality is present.

[EZE 36:24 “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land.

EZE 36:25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
EZE 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
EZE 36:27 “And I will but My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
EZE 36:28 “And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.
EZE 36:29 “Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you.]

HEB 10:15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to u; for after saying,
HEB 10:16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them,” He then says,
HEB 10:17 “And their sins are their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” HEB 10:18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offer for sin.
HEB 10:19 Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place b the blood of Jesus,
HEB 10:20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,
HEB 10:21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
HEB 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with purse water.
HEB 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He we promised is faithful;

Argument for Infant Baptism

This brings us to our third point, the one at which those who practice infant baptism diverge from those who practice adult baptism only. It has to do with the nature of covenants in general and the relation of the new covenant to other Biblical covenants.

Contra Infant Baptism

We have arrived at a critical point in our dramatic differences with Infant Baptists. Infant Baptists put forward the argument that baptism in the New Covenant must follow the design, practice and order of circumcision in the Old Testament. It is readily apparent that circumcision was a sign given to all males born into or captured into the house of Israel. All males attached to the nation of Israel were given the sign of circumcision. It signified that they were a part of the nation. The sign of circumcision was not dependent upon the faith of the parent insofar as eternal life was concerned. All parents were expected to obey the law of circumcision or forfeit their rights to the benefits of the community. The promises given to Abraham at the institution of circumcision were land and wealth promises based upon God’s promise to raise up a mighty nation. However typical these promises may have been, leading to the ultimate fulfillment in Christ in a new heaven and new earth, they were nonetheless earthly, temporal and the sign that signified a male as a part of this nation was circumcision.

Given the Old Testament backdrop of circumcision, Infant Baptists begin to design and define New Testament baptism with the same set of guidelines. The Body of Christ becomes the Nation of Israel. The promises given to Abraham and his seed are now transferred over as the model of the promises given to Jesus Christ and His seed. Hence, just as infants were circumcised in the Abraham and Moses Covenants, so infants should be baptized in the New Covenant.

So convinced are Infant Baptists that they have the formula correct that they begin to re-define circumcision with terms reserved for baptism and re-define baptism with terms reserved for circumcision. From this premise comes a hodgepodge of Infant Baptist confusion that is utterly baffling.

In the Old Testament circumcised infants could grow up and walk away from the nation of Israel. They could walk the covenant. Also, in the Old Testament circumcised infants could grow up and be good citizens of the nation but be spiritually dead. They could enjoy the benefits of being in the nation of Israel but simply not believers in God. They could be apostate yet still Israelites.

Given this Old Testament premise, Infant Baptists seek to apply the same scenario to their baptized infants. They say that their infants have been given the sign of the New Covenant but they can walk the covenant. Or, they can be citizens in the Body of Christ and not be believers. They could bear the sign but be spiritually dead. Hence, baptism and circumcision are the equivalent of each other. They both are signs of being in a Covenant ordained by God. They both are to be given to infants. They both do not insure salvation. They both can be walked.

The ruination of all this forced comparison begins with the realization that the Old Testament Covenants are not the same as the New Covenant in Christ. Infant Baptists have inflicted severe damage upon the New Covenant with their insistence that it is inaugurated upon the same model as the Old Covenants in design and covenant sign. It is not. It is far from it.

In the first place, one cannot be born into the New Covenant. Whereas all infants in Israel were born into the Abraham and Mosaic Covenant, no one is born into the New Covenant. In the second place, no one receives the sign of the New Covenant unless one is in the New Covenant. Whereas all male infants in Israel received the sign of the Old Covenant; no one is signed in the New Covenant without faith and repentance. Thirdly, no one who is in Christ and thus in the New Covenant can walk the covenant. Whereas the Old Covenant was earthly and the promises of a temporal nature that could be walked; the New Covenant is eternal and heavenly and cannot be walked.

The thing signified in the circumcision of Israel was a national identity. It was automatically given by birthright. The thing signified by baptism in the New Covenant is life in Christ, eternal salvation and all the promises of God given to those in Christ. It is given by faith and is not automatically given by birthright.

Infant Baptists are signifying something that is simply not a reality when they baptize their infants. The granting of the sign of being in Christ to those who are not in Christ is foolishness. Sensing this to be the case, many Protestant Infant Baptists speak out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand they may say, “God has promised to save our infants and children and this is why we give them the sign of salvation.” On the other hand, they may say, “God has His elect and they alone will be saved. We baptize our infants in the hope that God will save them.” Either answer is outside of the biblical strictures placed upon baptism.

As we shall read, Infant Baptists also equivocate. Children of believers are said to be put in a special relationship with the Lord based upon the faith of at least one parent. Or, because of the household blessing bestowed upon the faith of the head of the house, children are susceptible to blessings from God. All of these kinds of statements fall short of baptismal regeneration. But they are indicative of the willingness of Infant Baptists to allow the framework of Old Covenant blessings dictate to them the meaning of the New Covenant and baptism.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Covenants, as related in the Old Testament, were pacts made with representative heads of people groups and, by extension, to their descendants. Reception of the covenant made them and their descendants susceptible to both blessings and curses as a result of their special relation with God. The covenant extended to the community as a whole although the realization of the blessings of the covenant depended on the response of the individual.

The covenant extended to Noah included his sons and their wives. The inclusion of the sons in the blessings of the covenant (rescue from the flood) depended on their entrance into the ark together with Noah.

Contra Infant Baptism

The promises given in the covenant with Noah were given to those who entered the Ark. It was a believer’s affair. Also, this was physical deliverance and not a covenant for eternal salvation. In addition to what has been said about Infant Baptism and the Old Testament covenants there is emerging from the Infant Baptist argument a formula that equates the “obedience” required to benefit from the blessings offered in Old Testament Covenants with the “faith” that is required to receive the benefits of the New Covenant in Christ. The idea is this. In the Old Covenant the covenant blessings came to the obedient. However, they already had the sign of circumcision. Likewise, in the New Covenant, the blessing comes to those who, having already been given the sign of the New Covenant, now need to exercise faith to keep it. This “you are in the Covenant if you keep yourself in it” mentality flies in the faith of the absolute unilateral, monergistic electing love of God. It also re-defines the New Covenant as consisting of parents and their baptized babies. This is something the New Testament is quite unwilling to do.

In essence, Infant Baptists would have us believe that their baptized babies are signed as though they are in Christ and are to be treated according to the reality behind the sign until they reject the reality. This is putting the cart before the horse to say the least.

We observe further that there is no point of comparison between Noah’s sons entering the Ark upon hearing the Gospel and infants gaining an interest in the New Covenant via baptism.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Abraham and his descendants, Moses and the people of Israel, Eleazer and his descendants, the covenant with David and his descendants, in each of these instances introduction into the potential blessings and curses of the covenant was extended to the children of the recipients of the covenant. The extension of the promise to the children into the covenant did not signal the reception of the promise that reception depended on meeting the stipulations of the covenant. The promises remained latent until they were realized by the compliance with the terms of the covenant.

Contra Infant Baptism

In the Infant Baptist argument there is a forced point of continuity between local covenants given to specific tribes, nations and kingdoms and the New Covenant in Christ. In the case of Israel, as has been noted, the sign of the nation was mandatory for all male infants. The New Covenant in Christ is altogether different. The sign of the New Covenant is not mandatory for infants. It is only mandatory for those who believe and repent. When once we see that the sign of circumcision was for a different set of purposes, it is easier to separate it from New Covenant baptism. In the life of Israel, circumcision was commanded by God for male infants. However, the sign of baptism, given in the New Covenant, comes after the reality of faith and repentance. It is a different Covenant with a different sign and different model for the sign.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Most of those who oppose infant baptism would not contest this view of Old Testament covenants. The difference of opinion lies, however, in whether the new covenant is structured like Old Testament covenants and whether the same or similar principles of initiation would be applied under the new covenant. In what follows I will explore some those Biblical passages that seem to indicate that the new covenant operates on the same principles of initiation as the Old Testament covenants.

Contra Infant Baptism

As we have argued above, the New Covenant is not structured like the Old Testament Covenants. It is not similar in principles of initiation. The purposes of the Old Testament Covenants are different. The New Covenant is new and unique. The purposes, signing and content of the signification, including candidates, are well developed within the New Testament. Infants Baptists miss the point as they foist the Old Testament structures and signs onto the New Covenant.

Argument for Infant Baptism

In Acts 2:39, this passage, introducing the baptism of the crowds at Pentecost, seems to use the language of Old Testament covenants: “The promise is to you and to your children and to all who are far away – as many as the Lord will call.” This passage is important not because it commands the baptism of infants (which it does not) but, rather, because it reveals that the same structure of covenant community seems to be in place in this explanation of the new covenant.

If this is, indeed, structured along Old Testament lines, then the promise, communicated in baptism, lays out before the participants in baptism the blessings and curses of the new covenant. In the case of the believer, these promises are realized immediately in baptism. In the case of the children of believers, these promises are latent, remaining to be actualized throughout their life. As with all covenant promises, the actualization of the latent promise is contingent upon keeping the conditions of the covenant. In this case repentance.

Contra Infant Baptism

Here we see the sign of baptism split as to meaning. Infant Baptists are forced to admit that, ‘upon faith and repentance’ the sign of baptism is given. At the same time they insist on asserting that baptism is to be given ‘in anticipation of faith and repentance’ expressed at some future point. But the text does not yield such a conclusion. The promise of forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit are dependent upon confession in the waters of baptism and the calling of the Lord. Only a repentant confessing infant called of God can qualify for the sign of baptism.

Everything is dependent upon the Lord who will call. The promise is not restricted to only the immediate audience. It has a far flung range to it. The infants of believers have no advantage over anyone who is far off. Some view the ‘call’ here as the outward call of the gospel. If this is so, given the reasoning of Infant Baptists, why not baptize all those who are called outwardly by the Lord? Should they be baptized because they have heard the message? More than likely this ‘call’ is the inward call of efficacious grace. If it is the inward call then it is for the elect only and baptizing babies without this knowledge of God’s elect is completely without warrant.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Let us now consider Acts 11:14; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:31, 34; Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16. In each of these passages, reference is made to the baptism of entire households. In some instances there is mention of belief in conjunction with the baptism but, in other, no mention is made of the disposition of the other members of the household. Those who oppose infant baptism argue one of three things regarding these passages: 1) there were no infants present in these household. 2) When the Bible says households, it means only those members of the household who believed. 3) The term household does not include children. Number one is speculation based on circular reasoning (i.e., there were no infants because infants would not have been baptized and the absence of infants support the argument that infants were not baptized.) Number two may be true in those passages where the belief of individuals seems to be indicated but is once again speculative when it comes to those instances where the disposition of the individuals is not indicated (Acts 11:14 promises salvation to Cornelius and his house before Peter arrives at his home; Acts 16:15 only mentions the faith of Lydia; Acts 16:31 offers salvation to the Philippian jailor and his household based on his belief not that of his household). Number three is simply wrong. The term “household” or “house” both in legal terminology and in common parlance, referred to all members of the household, including slaves.

Contra Infant Baptism

The speculation is on the part of those who say that there were infants in the household and that they were baptized. The text says neither. It is difficult to run with the Infant Baptist here. He argues from complete silence. He maintains, “Since there is no mention of infants, there were probably infants present.”

Here is the baptism of the house of Cornelius:

ACT 11:14 and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.'
ACT 11:15 “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning.
ACT 11:16 “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
ACT 11:17 “If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?

Here is the baptism of the household of the Philippian jailer:

ACT 16:30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
ACT 16:31 Andy they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”
ACT 16:32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.
ACT 16:33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
ACT 16:34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

The word household does not have to refer to children or infants. It is general term that means the members of the household. It could include aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters. The specific mention of infants is absent.

Argument for Infant Baptism

If we are correct in assuming that the structure of Old Testament covenants is preserved in the new covenants, then the communal nature of the promise revealed in these household passages is exactly what we would expect. This is more than just coincidence. This is an insight into the way the covenant functions. When salvation comes to the head of a group, the promise of salvation is extended to those under the representative authority of that group. Remember Joshua’s affirmations: as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua, as a representative head of the household placed not only himself, not only those who agreed to the transaction, but all those who were members of his household under the banner of faith. Covenants build on the existing structural authority present in the household to extend the promise into future generations.

Contra Infant Baptism

We would strongly disagree that the structure of the Old Testament covenants is preserved in the New Covenant. There is no call in the New Testament to baptize infants in hopes that they will obey the stipulations of the New Covenant. There is no special assurance given by God that infants baptized by their parents will be saved. We need to keep in mind that the Infant Baptist does not mean certainty of salvation when he says, “the promise of salvation is extended to those under the representative authority of that group.” When asked if God really promises salvation to infants of believers the answer is “yes” provided they come to Christ. But in so saying, he reiterates what all Christians, who do not baptize their infants, know already. The promise of salvation is for all who come to Christ from families of believers or unbelievers.

Perhaps at this point we need to review exactly what the New Covenant means. The New Covenant is the Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ whereby God has forgiven all of the sins of His people forever based upon the blood of Christ. This Covenant between God and Christ and Christ and his people includes eternal life, eternal security, eternal redemption, eternal justification and eternal salvation with attendant definitions of reconciliation and propitiation. Those in Christ are God’s elect. They are eternally in Christ by His choosing. They are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. To be in Christ is to be in the New Covenant. To be in the New Covenant is to be in Christ. It is unbreakable. It is new. It is secure. The only entry is through faith and repentance. There is no other way of being in Christ. Infants cannot be in the New Covenant. If they are then they cannot get out. They are secure. Unlike the O.C. that could be walked, the New cannot be walked.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Finally, let us consider 1 Corinthians 7:14. This enigmatic passage mentions the sanctification of the husband of the believer and the resulting holiness of the children of these unions. In this passage Paul borrows from covenantal language to describe how the faith of the parent is passed on to the child. There are two separate influences here. First, the husband is “sanctified” by the wife. This is a reference to the way in which vessels, which in and of themselves are incapable of retaining holiness, are sanctified for the temple rituals. By being sanctified, they thus can be used without fear of contaminating other elements of the ritual. So also the spouses of the believer are “neutralized” in their relationship with their believing spouses through sanctification. This sanctification is external rather than internal and makes possible the resulting holiness of the children. Unlike unbelieving spouses who are “sanctified,” the children of such unions are holy. They are not only susceptible of bearing holiness but actually acquire the trait of holiness through the believing parent.

Contra Infant Baptism

Here is the passage in question:

1CO 7:13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away.
1CO7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.
1CO 7:15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.
1CO 7:16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

The Bible uses the same Greek root here for the sanctification of the wife/husband and the holiness of the children. There is no difference. If the unbelieving husband/wife is sanctified by the believer then he/she should receive the covenant sign as is expected for the hagios [sanctified-holy] child in this passage. The child no more takes upon himself the faith of the believing parent than the unbelieving spouse does.

Argument for Infant Baptism

This statement may seem shocking to these who tend to think of the individual as the basic unit of faith. But, like Old Testament covenants, Paul considers the family as the most basic unit of faith. Paul is taking into account here the unique nature of the relationship of parents and children. To ignore the role of children in the spiritual formation of children is deny the obvious. Children inherit their spiritual orientation from their parents. They actually, inevitably participate in their parent's faith unless and until they decide to reject that faith.

Contra Infant Baptism

This is salvation by association. To participate in their parent’s faith is to say that they are in Christ. It is to say that they are elect. It is to say that they are saved until they are lost. Some Reformed Confessions say as much. They are in gross error.

Argument for Infant Baptism

Other advantages of this position are that it is more in accord with how faith is formed in children. Faith is hereditary. All things being equal, the children of Hindus grow up to be Hindus, the children of Muslims will grow up to be Muslims and the children of Christians will grow up to be believers in Jesus Christ. This is the way that faith is communicated and formed. Children born to Christian parents are at a tremendous advantage. They will inherit a belief structure which is based on the truth in Jesus Christ. This inherited faith is not in any inauthentic unless the object of that faith itself is inauthentic. Infant baptism recognizes the legitimacy of this process and claims this advantage. Children who are born in a Christian home will begin, at the very earliest ages, to express repentance for their sins. They will begin to express faith in Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord. In effect, even from the very earliest age, all the elements required by adult baptizers as signs of authentic faith are already present.

Contra Infant Baptism

Faith is not hereditary. Faith is not passed on from one person to another. Faith is the first fruit of regeneration. Faith is not a process. One must be born again by the Spirit of God. With this the Westminster Confession heartily agrees.

[All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call,1 by His Word and Spirit,2 out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ;3 enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God4 taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh;5 renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good,6 and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ;7 yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. 8

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls,1 is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts,2 and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word,3 by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.4 ]

Argument for Infant Baptism

Children who are born in a Christian home will begin, at the very earliest ages, to express repentance for their sins. They will begin to express faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. In effect, even from the very earliest age, all the elements required by adult baptizers as signs of authentic faith are already present in the children of believers yet without the benefit of baptism. In fact, this faith begins at such an early age that it is impossible to pinpoint when it begins.

Adult baptizers put themselves in the awkward position of contending that the early expressions of faith in their children are somehow unacceptable or inauthentic. Jesus took a child and placed it in the middle of his disciples and said,

“Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Those who reject the faith of children seem to reverse this order: unless you children become like these adults, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If children should not be baptized until they believe in Jesus Christ, the question is, who do the children of believers believe in before they believe in Jesus – Buddha, Vishnu, Allah? No, it is obvious to any Christian parent that there is no answer to this question except one: Jesus. Your children believe in Jesus. Why does this not merit inclusion I the church of Jesus Christ.

Contra Infant Baptism

Children often times believe only what their parents believe. It is not their own faith. Also, infant baptizers baptize infants not believing children, Jesus did not set an infant in their midst and say, “unless you have the faith of this infant.”

Arguments for Infant Baptism

Identity is shaped I the very earliest of ages. Expectations are based on identity. When we communicate to our children that they are not believers in Jesus or not yet believers in Jesus, we erode or diminish the power of their identity in Christ.

Contra Infant Baptism

This is the very worst danger of this inherited faith position. The assumption of salvation is taught at the expense of evangelizing our own children. There is no such thing as a biblical identity in Christ apart from being born again. It is nonsense to say that a child is in Christ if that child has not come to faith and repentance through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Arguments for Infant Baptism

Generation after generation of believers who were baptized as infants have grown up into faithful service to Jesus Christ. Imagine if we were to exclude from authentic Christian faith all those who were baptized as infants. We would have to exclude Huss, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Edwards, Wesley, and Whitefield, not to mention many, many, many generations of lesser lights. By delaying Christian identity until later childhood or even adulthood, we delay the opportunity of the child to pursue his or her calling in Jesus Christ from the earliest ages.

Contra Infant Baptism

In the first place, there is no denial of true faith. All of the men listed exhibited true faith as adults or as young men who understood the gospel for themselves. They were not Christianized as infants! Secondly, for every one of the above there are countless men and women raised in Christian homes who are totally lost. Were they in and then out? Did they lose their election? Did they lose their security of being in Christ?

Final Comments in favor of Infant Baptism

In conclusion, although we may disagree on the interpretation of certain New Testament texts, it is simply wrong to argue that infant baptizers do no believe or respect the Bible. There are strong Biblical grounds for the inclusion of children in the community of grace and many, many advantages to recognizing the legitimacy of the faith expressed by our children from the earliest ages.

Final Comments in opposition to Infant Baptism

Recognizing the faith of children, coming on their own at an early age to request baptism, is altogether different from the practice of Infant Baptism. Often times in conversation with Infant Baptists there is a shift away from baptism of infants [which is wrong] to baptizing children who have come to faith and repentance [which is right]. Arguments for baptizing believing children are not arguments for baptizing infants.

In summary, Infant Baptists cannot marshal one single verse in the Bible that gives an example of or teaches by way of logical deduction or necessary inference Infant Baptism. Their arguments do not center upon what the Bible has to say. Rather they argue strictly from a forced comparison between circumcisions in the nation of Israel or the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant sign of baptism.

Protestant Infant Baptists come very, very close to declaring that God is obligated to save their children. They also confuse basic theological distinctions. Signifying something as ‘really there’ that is not there at all is dangerous business. Soon the ‘sign’ loses all meaning. Infant Baptists further muddy the waters of God’s free electing grace by putting baptized infants in a ‘more favorable’ position for salvation. Though falling short of baptismal regeneration, the Infant Baptist is left with some regrettable conclusions stemming from a portion his reformation heritage. Here are the sobering words of John Calvin and the Augsburg Confession.

“God pronounces that he adopts our infants as his children before they are born, when he promises that he will be a God to us and to our seed after us. This promise includes their salvation. Now will any dare to offer such an insult to God as to deny the sufficiency of his promise to insure its own accomplishment?”
Book 4, Chapter 15, line 20. (emphasis mine)

Augsburg Confession: 1530

Of baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that by Baptism the grace of God is offered, and that children are to be baptized, who by Baptism, being offered to God, are received into God’s favor. They condemn the Anabaptists who allow no the Baptism of children, and affirm that children are saved without Baptism. (emphasis mine)

Westminster Confession of Faith on Justification

I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies;(1) not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake along; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, (2) they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. (3)

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the along instrument of justifications: (4) yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love (5)

III. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf.(6) Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father from them:(7) and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead;(8) and both, freely, not for any thing in them; their justification is only of free grace;(9) that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.(10)

IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect,(11) and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for the justification:(12) nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.(13)

V. God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified;(14) and although they can never fall from the sate of justification,(15) yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.(16)

VI. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament. (17)

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