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WHO PRACTICES INFANT BAPTISM?
Infant baptism is practiced by the Roman Catholic Church, the various groups representing Eastern Orthodoxy, as well as by most of the denominations that withdrew from Rome during the Protestant Reformation, including Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodist.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: “By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. ... The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ‘reborn of water and the Spirit.’ God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism ... Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. ... From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant” (The New Catholic Catechism, 1994, # 1263,1257,1265,1267).
EASTERN ORTHODOX: “We confess one baptism for the remission of sins” (Constantinopolitan [or Nicene] Creed, 381). “Our sacraments, however, not only contain grace, but also confer it on those who receive them worthily ... Through baptism we are spiritually reborn” (Council of Florence, 1438-45). “When one asserts his faith in the Son of God, the Son of the Ever Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, he accepts first of all the words of faith into his heart, confesses them orally, sincerely repents for his former sins and washes them away in the sacrament of Baptism. Then God the Word enters the baptized one, as though into the womb of the Blessed Virgin and remains in him like a seed” (The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, Russian Orthodox Church, Issue No. 4, 1980). “Sacraments ... are not simply symbols of divine grace, but sure agents and means of its transmission. ... [through baptism one] becomes a member of the church of Christ, being liberated from the controlling power of sin, and being reborn in the new creation in Christ” (International Eastern Orthodox-Old Catholic Theological Dialogue Commission, 1985).
LUTHERAN: “Baptism effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare. ... It is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water” (Luther’s Small Catechism, 1529, IV). “It is taught among us that Baptism is necessary and that grace is offered through it. Children, too, should be baptized, for in Baptism they are committed to God and become acceptable to him. On this account the Anabaptists who teach that infant Baptism is not right are rejected” (The Augsburg Confession, 1530, IX). “Being by nature sinners, infants as well as adults, need to be baptized. Every child that is baptized is begotten anew of water and of the Spirit, is placed in covenant relation with God, and is made a child of God and an heir of his heavenly kingdom” (Baptism formula used by Lutheran pastors in baptizing infants, The New Analytical Bible and Dictionary of the Bible, Chicago: John A. Dickson Publishing Co., 1973).
The August 2001 issue of The Berean Call contains the following warning from a reader of that publication: “Enclosed is my ‘Memento and Certificate of Baptism’ and my daughter’s ‘Certificate of Holy Baptism,’ both as babies into the Lutheran Church. As you can see, my certificate was printed by the Missouri Synod’s Concordia Publishing House and reads, ‘In Baptism full salvation has been given unto you; God has become your Father, and you have become His child.’ My daughter’s reads, ‘You are a child of God because God has made you His child through this act. All of God’s promises belong to you as you live under Him in His Kingdom.’ You must know that Luther’s Catechism, used in every Lutheran Synod, declares concerning the ‘Sacrament of Baptism,’ that ‘it works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.’ It also states regarding the ‘Sacrament of the Altar’ [the Lord’s Supper], ‘namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words.’”
ANGLICAN: “Baptism is a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed.... The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ” (The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, XXV, XXVII).
METHODIST: “Sacraments are ... signs of grace ... by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him. ... Baptism ... is also a sign of regeneration, or the new birth. The baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church” (The Articles of Religion, 1784, XVI, XVII).
REFORMED: “We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that young infants, born of faithful parents, are to be baptized. ... We therefore are not Anabaptists, neither do we agree with them in any point that is theirs” (The Second Helvetic Confession, 1566, chapter XX).
PRESBYTERIAN: “Baptism ... is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins ... Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience to Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized. ... by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, XXVIII).
WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: “Through baptism, Christians are brought into union with Christ, with each other, and with the Church of every time and place. Our common baptism, which unites us to Christ in faith, is thus a basic bond of unity” (Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, 1982).
THE ERROR OF INFANT BAPTISM
1. THERE IS NO EXAMPLE OF INFANT BAPTISM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. The bottom line with this issue is that it is not a practice that is found in the Bible. To find evidence for it, one must attempt to read something into the Scriptures.
“For some, infant baptism is a doctrine by implication. It is implied that in five households in the N.T. that were visited by salvation, there must surely have been young children. These were the households of Cornelius in Acts 10, Lydia in Acts 16, the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, Crispus in Acts 18, and Stephanas in 1 Cor. 1:16” (The Church of God: A Symposium).
We will take consider of these five examples, one by one:
The Case of Cornelius. “It is stated in v. 24 of Acts 10, that those gathered with him in the house were his kinsmen and near friends. He sends word that they are ‘all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee [Peter] of God.’ In v. 44 the Holy Spirit fell upon all them which heard the Word. We know from other Scriptures that, in the N.T., the Holy Spirit acts thus only upon those who have believed. Those gathered were capable of hearing the commands of God with a view to believing and obeying” (The Church of God: A Symposium). It is specifically stated in Acts 11:17 that those who were saved and baptized with Cornelius were those “who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Obviously these were not tiny infants.
Lydia and Her Household (Acts 16:14-15). Nothing is said about infants in this passage, and it is highly unlikely that this busy merchant woman would have had tiny babies. There is no evidence here whatsoever for the practice of infant baptism.
The Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16:30-34). This passage clearly says that Paul spoke the Word of God to the entire household (v. 32) and that the entire household believed (vv. 32-33). This could not be said of infants.
The household of Crispus (Acts 18:8). Those who were saved and baptized in this family were all believers, for we are told, “Crispus ... believed on the Lord with all his house...” We are not told how old the members of Crispus’ family were, but we are told that each one of them believed on the Lord. Obviously they were not infants.
The household of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16). Again nothing is actually said about infants being present or baptized. In 1 Cor. 16:15 we are told that this household addicted themselves to the ministry. This could not be said of infants.
“No one has the right to interject what is omitted from Scripture just to bolster subjectively a supposed doctrine and ignore the clear teaching of many other portions of the Word of God” (The Church of God: A Symposium).
2. INFANT BAPTISM IS CONTRARY TO THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING ABOUT BAPTISM.
Infant baptism uses the wrong mode--sprinkling rather than immersion. The word baptism means to immerse or dip. Strong defines the Greek word “baptizo” as “to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet).” The New Testament describes baptism as a “burial” in Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:12. Neither sprinkling nor pouring depicts a burial, but immersion in water does. 2. John the Baptist needed much water for baptism (Jn. 3:23), but neither the practice of pouring or sprinkling require much water. The early Christians baptized by going down into the water and coming up out of the water (Acts 8:38-39). This is a perfect description of baptism by immersion, but it does not describe the way that pouring or sprinkling is practiced. Infant baptism is commonly practiced today by pouring or sprinkling, but there is no N.T. support for these practices and they corrupt the proper symbolism of the Scriptural ordinance.
Further, infant baptism uses the wrong subject--infants unable to believe and be born again. The Bible teaches repeatedly that one must first believe before being baptized.
The case of Jesus’ command in the Great Commission: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15).
The case of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
The case of those who were saved on the day of Pentecost: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
The case of the Samaritans: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).
The case of the Ethiopian eunuch: “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37).
The case of Cornelius: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47). Cornelius and his friends were not baptized until they had first believed and received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 15:7, Peter said the Cornelius and his friends had believed.
The case of Lydia: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us” (Acts 16:14-15).
The case of the Philippian jailer: “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:30-33).
The case of Crispus and others at Corinth: “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).
It is obvious from these examples that repentance and faith must precede baptism, and it is impossible for an infant to exercise either.
3. INFANT BAPTISM IS ESTABLISHED UPON THE FAULTY COVENANT THEOLOGY DOCTRINE.
Consider, for example, the following from the Life Bible-Presbyterian Weekly from Singapore:
“The Covenant of Grace that God made with Christ is the means of salvation both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Saints in both the Old and the New Testament times were saved by grace through faith in Christ. In the Old Testament, the sign of the covenant was circumcision. This was required not only of believing adults, but also of male infants, born to believing parents, when they are eight days old. In the New Testament, the sign of the same covenant has been changed to baptism. And again, this is required of believing adults as well as infants (male and female now) born to believing parents.
“The relationship between circumcision and baptism is clearly seen in Colossians 2:11,12 - ‘In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.’ In a real sense therefore, water baptism can be called the ‘Christian circumcision’ just as the Lord's Day (Sunday) can be called the ‘Christian Sabbath.’”
BIBLICAL REPLY TO THE COVENANT THEOLOGY CHALLENGE
First, it is a great error to say that the New Testament is the same covenant as the Mosaic. This is one of the central errors of Covenant Theology. The Mosaic Covenant is contrasted with the New Covenant of grace in Christ many times in the New Testament. Consider, for example, Galatians 3:10-28.
The O.T. was a covenant of works; the N.T. is a covenant of grace (Gal. 3:10).
The O.T. brings eternal judgment; the N.T. brings eternal blessing (Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26).
The O.T. requires obedience; the N.T. requires faith in Christ (Gal. 3:12).
Under the O.T. men serve God in our own strength; under the N.T. men serve God by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:14).
The O.T. is an unsure covenant; the N.T. is sure (Gal. 3:17-18).
The O.T. is a covenant of death; the N.T. is a covenant of life (Gal. 3:21).
The O.T. condemns all men; the N.T. makes it possible for all men to be blessed (Gal. 3:22).
Under the O.T. we are servants; under the N.T. we are children (Gal. 3:26).
The O.T. was only for the Jews; the N.T. is for all men (Gal. 3:28).
As for COLOSSIANS 2, while it does liken circumcision to baptism, it does not say that baptism has replaced circumcision. Nowhere does the New Testament say that baptism has replaced circumcision. From Matthew to Revelation “circumcision” is mentioned 44 times, and I have studied every single one of these. It is never used in connection with the ordinance of water baptism.
It is imperative to understand that Colossians 2 is not referring to the ordinance of baptism at all but to spiritual regeneration. Circumcision is used here to describe salvation. Consider what Col. 2:11-13 is talking about. It is something that is “made without hands.” It is the “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.” It is to be “risen with Christ through the faith of the operation of God.” It is to be “quickened together with him.” This certainly does not describe the ordinance of baptism. It describes salvation itself. If the Presbyterians want to use Colossians 21:11-13 to support their doctrine that the ordinance of baptism has replaced circumcision, they will have to go all of the way with it and hold to baptismal regeneration. See also Rom. 2:29, where circumcision is again used to describe regeneration -- “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Whereas circumcision is used to describe spiritual regeneration, it is never likened to the ordinance of water baptism. In fact, there are far more biblical contrasts between circumcision and baptism than associations. Circumcision was only for males, but baptism is for both male and female. Circumcision was for unknowing infants, but baptism is for repentant believers. Circumcision was for Jews, but baptism is for any sinner that believes, whether Jew or Gentile. Circumcision was a work that was required on pain of rejection and death, but baptism is a testimony of grace that is done because of love for the Saviour. Circumcision was for all Jewish male children and had nothing to do with their personal salvation, but baptism, legitimately, is only for those who have believed in Christ and been born again.
4. INFANT BAPTISM IS BUILT UPON THE UNSCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF “FAMILY SALVATION.”
Consider another quote from the Life Bible-Presbyterian Weekly from Singapore:
“The reason both for infant circumcision and for infant baptism is that the scope of influence and blessing of the Covenant of Grace includes the family of the believer. When God chose Abraham, He did so in order that Abraham may instruct his family in the way of the Lord: ‘For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.’ (Gen 18:19) This passage indicates that God had plans for Abraham’s family, and not just for Abraham alone.”
To the contrary, New Testament salvation is not a family matter but a personal, individual matter. There is no example of anyone being saved merely because he or she was a part of a family that was saved. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). In the Great Commission, Christ again emphasized the personal nature of salvation, saying, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
The Bible Presbyterian Church gives five examples to support the doctrine of “family salvation.” We will consider each of them and will see that one must read such a doctrine into them and that is not the proper way to handle the Word of God.
Acts 2:39 -- “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Peter was not saying that salvation is a family matter. He was saying that the promise of the Gospel was to that generation and to succeeding generations, as long as the Lord continues to call men by His Spirit.
1 Corinthians 7:14 -- “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” This passage says nothing whatsoever about baptism. If you want to say that it is teaching family salvation, then it is a salvation that does not require baptism. In fact, though, the verse does not say that an unbelieving spouse or child of a believer is saved; it says he is “sanctified.” That is not the same thing. Sanctified means “to be set apart” and it is often used in Scripture to refer to something other than salvation. The articles in the tabernacle were sanctified (Num. 7:1). Fields were sanctified (Lev. 27:19). The believer, in fact, is to sanctify the Lord God in his heart (1 Pet. 3:15). That certainly does not mean that God is somehow saved. It simply means that the believer is to have God set apart in his heart so that he is continually mindful of Lord and He is not crowded out by other things and the believer is ready to give a testimony for Him. When 1 Cor. 7:14 says the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband and the children are holy (which is the same Greek word as that which is translated “sanctify” in the same verse), it simply means that they are “set apart” in a special sense and that they are the objects of special blessings that other unbelievers do not enjoy. They hear the gospel more frequently; it is explained to them more clearly; they see it lived out in believers’ lives; they are the benefactors of Christian charity; they learn precious biblical truths from the Word of God about God and life and marriage that most unsaved do not know and that shines great light upon their lives. They are the objects of the earnest prayers of the believing spouse and of his or her Christian friends and church family.
Acts 16:15 -- “And when she [Lydia] was baptised, and her household...” Though this verse does not say that Lydia’s household believed before they were baptized, we know that they did because that was Christ’s explicit commandment (Mark 16:16) and that is the Scriptural pattern through the book of Acts, as we have already seen. Further, Lydia was a prosperous business woman and it is extremely doubtful that she would have had infants, and no commentator has the authority to read infants into this passage.
Acts 16:33 -- “... and was baptised, he [the Philippian jailer] and all his, straightway.” The passage plainly says that all of those that were baptized had believed. Acts 16:34 -- “believing in God with all his house.” Obviously there were no infants in this home, because infants cannot believe.
1 Corinthians 1:16 “And I baptised also the household of Stephanas.” To claim that this verse supports the doctrine of “family salvation” is to read everything into it. We are not told how old the family members were. We do know, though, upon divine authority that whoever they were and whoever old they were they first believed before being baptized. Christ made that much very clear (Mark 16:16).
5. INFANT BAPTISM EITHER STATES OR IMPLIES THAT SALVATION OR SPIRITUAL BLESSING CAN BE IMPARTED THROUGH RITUAL, OR THROUGH THE FAITH OF ANOTHER.
For example, the Anglican Church says, “...they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church” (The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, XXV, XXVII).
A Lutheran baptismal formula says, “Every child that is baptized is begotten anew of water and of the Spirit, is placed in covenant relation with God, and is made a child of God and an heir of his heavenly kingdom” (The New Analytical Bible and Dictionary of the Bible, Chicago: John A. Dickson Publishing Co., 1973).
And the Westminster Confession of Faith that is used by Presbyterians says, “...by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto...” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, XXVIII).
By way of contrast, the Bible says all blessings of salvation are received through personal faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 15:8-11; 16:30-31; Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Tim. 3:15). We receive eternal life by personal faith (Jn. 3:16). We become children of God by personal faith (Jn. 1:12). We receive justification and peace with God through personal faith (Rom. 5:1). We receive the Holy Spirit by personal faith (Eph. 1:12-14). Scriptural baptism does not impart anything. It is, rather, a public testimony of one’s faith in Christ and it is a picture of the Gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the believer’s spiritual identification with Him in this.
6. INFANT BAPTISM RESULTS IN FALSE SECURITY.
Multitudes of people baptized as infants grow up thinking they are ready for Heaven even though they have never been born again through personal faith in Christ. They are trusting in their infant baptism and in their church membership. Such are deceived by the teaching of their own denominations.
“This false sacramental gospel kept my parents from ever telling me that I was a sinner and needed a Savior. They thought that I had received eternal life in baptism. I am positive that there are millions of Lutherans believing the same thing my parents did and which I was taught and believed for many years. I was saved at age 45 when I finally heard the true gospel and believed it. We believe that millions of souls are at stake because of this false teaching” (The Berean Call, August 2001).
7. INFANT BAPTISM RESULTS IN CHURCHES BEING PEOPLED BY UNREGENERATE MEMBERS.
In some churches the infant becomes a member immediately at the time of the baptismal ceremony. In others, the infant is not yet considered a full member, but is admitted as a member in later years without having to show evidence of regeneration. Either way, infant baptism results in those churches being filled with members that are not truly saved. This, of course, destroys the church and is a chief cause for the spiritual deadness of most Protestant denominations.
8. INFANT BAPTISM CAUSES THE OFFICIATING MINISTER TO DECLARE FALSEHOODS.
He declares a falsehood when he says, “I baptize you,” because he is not baptizing but sprinkling. He declares a falsehood when he says, “This child is regenerated and grafted into the body of Christ’s church” (Anglican Book of Common Prayer). Infants are neither born again nor true church members. He declares a falsehood by saying, “It has pleased God to regenerate this infant with His Holy Spirit; to receive him for His own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into His holy church.” None of these things can be true for an infant and none of these things are imparted by baptism.
9. THERE IS NO PARTIAL SALVATION TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE.
Infant baptism either truly saves or it does not save at all. Yet most denominations practicing infant baptism believe it results in partial salvation for the infant and that it must later add works such as the catechism, mass, and confession to be fully saved. The following Bible passages show that when a person is saved, he is fully, eternally saved. The same passages reveal that this salvation is not through an infant baptism, but a personal, repentant faith in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Tit. 3:5-7; Eph. 1:3-7; Rom. 5:1-2; Col. 1:12-14; 1 Jn. 5:12-13).
WHAT ARE WE TO DO FOR OUR CHILDREN?
1. Christians can rejoice that their children are sanctified by the parents’ relationship with Christ (1 Cor. 7:14). Though we might not know everything this involves, we do know that (a) the passage is not speaking of sanctification by a baptismal ritual. Nothing is said here or in any other N.T. passage regarding the necessity of baptizing infants before they can partake of this family sanctification. (b) Children are eternally safe if they die in early childhood. The case of the death of David’s son illustrates this. After the child’s death, David said he would one day go to be with him (2 Sam. 12:22-23). This shows David’s assurance that the baby was safe with God. If this were true for the children of O.T. saints, surely it is true for the N.T. believer. (c) At a certain point in the child’s life he becomes personally responsible before God for his relationship with Jesus Christ. The Bible does not say at what age or point this occurs, but Jesus encouraged children to come to Him (Lk. 18:16), and Timothy was taught the Scriptures as a child with the goal that he come to salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).
2. The parents must dedicate themselves to train the child in the way of Christ. It is not really the dedication of infants that is essential; it is the dedication of parents. Parents are wasting their time if they go through a public ceremony of dedicating their child to God, but fail thereafter to discipline and instruct him in the right way. Let us do both! Let us offer our newborn children to God and plead His best blessing upon their lives, and let us carefully train them for His holy service.
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