Infant Baptism

by Roger Shouse
published in Biblical Insight, Vol. 5, No. 7, July 2005.

Advocates of infant baptism wrongly assume that the term "household" includes infants.

Baptizing a baby is often viewed as a very special event in the lives of young parents. Grandparents come to witness the special occasion. A white baptismal dress is purchased for the baby. Photographs are taken. The little child, often crying and unaware of what is happening, is sprinkled with water by a robed priest or clergyman at the church house. Parents hug. Grandparents smile with pride. The little baptismal dress is stored away as a memento. Some of you who are reading this article may have been baptized as a baby. It is a very common practice. The term "christened" often refers to infant baptism. Why are babies baptized and what do the Scriptures teach about such things?

Actually, there are two different reasons why some believe babies ought to be baptized.

The Catholic view is based upon the idea that babies are born in sin. Origen had written around the year A.D. 250: "Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. In the church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and according to the usage of the church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3). Pope Clement IV declared in 1267, that infants who die without baptism die in their original sins and are excluded from the vision of God. The doctrine of "Limbo," the intermediate state between the suffering in hell and the glory of heaven, was developed to satisfy grieving mothers whose children died without baptism. For Catholics, infant baptism is a matter of salvation. There are some non-Catholic groups that practice infant baptism for this same reason. They have accepted the idea of inherited sin and this is a natural conclusion that comes from believing that.

The Protestant view differs from the Catholic view. To most Protestants, infant baptism is not seen as a matter of salvation. Generally, Protestants believe in salvation by faith only and would not accept baptism as necessary for salvation. Yet many of them will baptize their babies. Instead of baptizing the baby for the remission of sins, as the Catholics do, Protestant's baptize babies as a promise that the parents will raise the child in a godly home and bring the child to church services. Infant baptism is viewed as a sign or a pledge made by the parents to the child.

We need to point out that some groups, such as most Baptists, and the Seventh-day Adventist do not practice infant baptism.

Appeals have been made to the Scriptures to justify baptizing babies. One of the arguments that is made is the reference to baptizing "households.'

Acts 11:14: "and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household."

Acts 16:15: "and when she and her household had been baptized."

Acts 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."

Acts 18:8: "and Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household."

I Corinthians 1:16: "now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas."

Those who advocate infant baptism assume the word "household" includes babies. This is just that -- an assumption. The word household could include teenagers or even grown children. Some of these people, Lydia, Cornelius, and Crispus, were people of position and wealth. The word "household" could include servants.

Those in the household are those who were able to hear words "by which you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 11:14). Babies are not able to understand and accept the gospel of Christ. "Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord" (Acts 18:8). A baby cannot believe the preached word. The household of Stephanas "devoted themselves to the service of the saints" (I Corinthians 16:15). Infants are incapable of such a task.

Baptism is for those who have repented of their sins (Acts 2:38). Babies are not sinners. The doctrine of inherited sin or total depravity is not supported by Scriptures. Ezekiel 18:20 illustrates that the punishment of sin is not transferred to others. The Bible never shows baptism being used as a "pledge" or a "promise" to adults. it is not used as a sign to bring a child up in a godly way. In the New Testament baptism is an immersion into Jesus Christ. It removes sin (Acts 22:16) and is for salvation (I Peter 3:21).

There is no need to baptize babies. They are not sinners. They cannot repent. They cannot believe. Jesus said it best when He commissioned the apostles saying, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Origen was right when he said, "If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous"

The baptism of infants is superfluous! Let us be content with the Word and only the Word.

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