by Jefferson David Tant
A well-known practice in various denominations is that of infant baptism. This would include Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and others. The question is, “Is this Scriptural? Is authority for this found in the Bible?”
An examination of historical records indicates that there is no definite evidence of infant baptism being practiced in the 1st Century, the day of the early church. Some maintain that the mention of a “household being baptized” includes infants.
Acts 24:14-15 is given as an example. “And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. 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.”
Note that there is no mention of any infants or children in the “household.” To infer that infants were present is a guess or speculation. But the truth is not based on guesses. Truth is based on facts. The fact is, there is never a mention of any infant being baptized in the New Testament.
Historians pretty well agree that infant baptism did not come into practice until after the 1st century. The earliest mention of infant baptism is in the writings of Irenaeus in his work Against Heresies, which was probably written about 180 A.D. Three passages by Origen (185-254 A.D.) mention infant baptism as being customary. History indicates from the 3rd Century on, infant baptism became common. While the practice was becoming common, it was still not without objection. Tertullian, in his writings about 198-203 AD advised the postponement of the baptism of little children.
Why baptize babies? It is argued that they are born in sin, having inherited sin from Adam. Therefore we are all born sinners, and since baptism washes away our sins (Acts 22:16) babies, as well as adults, need to be cleansed from sin.
Let us consider a few points that would argue against this common practice.
Sin Is Not Inherited
In the first place, we do not inherit sin, although this is a common belief among many denominations. Consider God’s Word from Ezekiel 18:20: “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”
If we inherit sin, then every baby that is aborted, or that dies in delivery or in infancy that has not been “baptized” goes to hell. Obviously, there are millions of such infants that have not had their sins washed away. Who can believe that God would send a three-day-old baby to hell if the child died before being “sprinkled” or had water poured on its head?
Belief Is Missing
In the second place, there are clear instructions in the New Testament as to what one is to do before being baptized. In Mark 16:16 Christ said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Thus faith comes before baptism. What faith does a baby have?
Repentance Is Missing
Then there is the matter of repentance. In the first gospel sermon after the resurrection, there were 3,000 that were baptized after hearing the message. Peter brings his sermon to an end with these words: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38).
Confession Is Missing
A confession of one’s faith is also mentioned. “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9). What “confession” does a baby make except cry when doused with water?
Baptism Means Immersion
The New Testament was written in Greek, the universal language at that time, and the word “baptizo” means to “dip, plunge or immerse.” All Greek scholars agree on that. It was long after the first century before men decided that it was more convenient to pour or sprinkle water in the place of immersion. The question then is — by what authority has the change been made — by the authority of God, or of men? If by God, then why does my Bible still teach “immerse?”
Note something Christ said to the Jews in his day. These were people who believed in God, who believed in Moses and the Prophets, but they had their own traditions and practices that were not in keeping with the word God had given. “But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Mark 7:7).
And so it is with denominations today that add to, subtract from, or change what God has revealed to us. They may worship God and believe in Christ, but when they follow the precepts of men rather than the Word of God, Christ said their worship is in vain. There are many such examples, as in ordaining women as pastors, ordaining homosexuals, eliminating the Lord’s Supper, and even eliminating baptism altogether. The question for any change or disregard of what the Scriptures say is “By whose authority?” God says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). That phrase “do all in the name of,” means “by the authority of.” We have clear warnings from God about making any changes to what he has told us.
“Do not add to His words Lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar” (Proverbs 30:6).
“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any-one adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).