The Baptism of Infants — Stephen Hughes

At the time that this will be published, my wife will have just given birth to our first child. It is a very emotional time for both of us, and it is one that I look forward to with great anticipation. There is, however, some trepidation involved in this undertaking. We now have the task of raising this little girl in a Christian household with Christian values. I pray every day that we are up to this task. I also pray that she will grow up to be an amazing Christian woman so that she will be with the Lord in eternity some day. The weight of bringing a soul into the world that may one day end up in hell motivates me to be the best Christian father I can be.

It is the common practice among many, including Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians, to baptize infants. If my wife and I were members of these denominations, then we would have already scheduled a baptismal service for our baby girl in a few months. This practice of infant baptism, also known as paedobaptism, runs counter to the teachings of Scripture as this article will prove.

Throughout the New Testament, there are only accounts of adults who were baptized. Each candidate for baptism had the capability to believe in Jesus and repent of his or her sins—infants cannot do either. Despite these facts the proponents for infant baptism will bring up certain passages of Scripture to defend their practice. This article will examine the most widely used of those passages to see whether or not this practice is authorized by Christ in His Word.

Jesus And The Little Children

The first passage under consideration is recorded in three of the four gospel accounts. Matthew’s reads, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matt. 19:13-14). The problem is that baptism is not mentioned at all in this passage. Luke does record that infants were involved, but this is hardly conclusive concerning baptism (Luke 18:15-17).

This passage teaches something much more profound. Jesus says in Mark’s account that, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15). It is not possible for someone to enter into the kingdom of God unless he receives it as a little child would, with sincerity and trust. One should not be gullible when he hears something of a religious nature, but when it comes to Scripture, he ought to be humble, trust it, and obey it as a little child would. This passage has nothing to do with the baptism of infants.

Whole Households

One of the most widely used argument for infant baptism is the fact that whole households in apostolic times were baptized. Some even argue that surely there were infants in these households. There are five instances in the New Testament where whole households were baptized: Cornelius (Acts 10:2; 11:14), Lydia (Acts 16:15), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:34), Crispus (Acts 18:8), and Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16). J. W. McGarvey commented on this very issue, saying that “There is positive proof that in three of these [households] there was not an infant. In that of Cornelius there was none, for they all spoke in tongues and believed [Acts 10:46; 15:9]; none in that of the jailer, for they all believed and rejoiced in the Lord [Acts 16:34]; and none in that of Stephanas, for ‘they set themselves to minister to the saints’ [1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15]” (McGarvey 94). McGarvey leaves out Crispus in his analysis, but Luke records that his whole household believed. His point is that in none of these three cases do we see infants, for infants cannot believe, speak, let alone speak in tongues, or become ministers, yet Luke records that all the members of these respective households did these things.

Luke’s account of the conversion of Lydia, however, does not mention the faith of Lydia or her household. It says, “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized …” (Acts 16:14-15a). While the faith of Lydia is not explicitly mentioned, it is implied, just as the faith of her household is implied. Even many paedobaptists of McGarvey’s day admitted that there is no evidence one way or the other whether or not Lydia had infants in her home. He quotes Dean Plumptre who said, “… there is no evidence that she had children, or even that she was married. The household may well have consisted of female slaves and freed-women whom she employed, and who made up her familia” (McGarvey 95).

Baptism Unites With Christ

The question the paedobaptist will ask is why anyone would wish to exclude infants from the blessings found in Christ.  The person who is baptized is baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Sin, however, is what separates someone from God (Is. 59:2).  An infant has not sinned and is therefore not separated from God.  The guilt of sin is not passed down through the generations (Ezek. 18:20), but one does often bear the earthly consequences of the sins of his predecessors (Rom. 5:12; Ex. 20:5).

Paul described himself as a child then as an adult, saying, “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Rom. 7:9). Similarly, when one is born, he is alive spiritually. When he becomes an adult, he begins to understand what God requires of him, and the commandment has come. Then only after he breaks the commandment does he die being separated from God. An act to bring reconciliation to God is not necessary for an infant who has not yet been separated from Him.

Typically the paedobaptist will resort to tradition when it comes to the practice under consideration. Some do attempt to use the Bible, but their reasoning falls flat. There is no record within Scripture of an infant being baptized.

As I consider these arguments with the birth of my daughter, I cannot help but desire the best for her and for her to be in heaven one day. Baptizing her as an infant, however, will not increase her devotion nor will it alter what my wife and I teach her. Most importantly, the Bible does not require it nor teach it. I do pray that one day she will be baptized, but it will be after she has heard and understood the gospel, believed it, repented of her sins, and confessed the beautiful name of Christ. Only then can she have her sins washed away with the blood of Christ in baptism. That will be a glorious and beautiful day—not only for my wife and me, but for the angels in glory as well. 

Stephen and his family worship at the Walterboro Church of Christ in Walterboro, SC.

 

 

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