Response to Why Lutherans Sprinkle Infants

by Raymond Warfel

A few days ago, I came across a post on why Lutherans baptize (sprinkle) babies. As I read through the nine points, I saw the need to respond.

Because of Grace

If you understand grace you can understand infant baptism. Many believe that only those who are able to make a decision for Jesus can be baptized. However, we are saved by grace through faith. Faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s doing, not our decision. John 1:13 clearly says that we are God’s children “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, but born of God.” In other words, God gives us new birth. It is not a matter of decision. Also, baptism is never described as our work or our testimony.

My Answer:

The idea that God decides to give me faith and I don’t have any involvement in it disagrees with Scripture.

First, the Holy Spirit revealed the gospel to the apostles, and when I read or am taught the gospel, it produces faith (See Romans 10:17; Acts 2:36-38). This is how the Spirit does the work of giving us faith (through the gospel). “Has believed” in Mark 16:16 shows that belief is something I do. Otherwise, if God does not give me faith, then I’m lost because He failed to provide me with faith, not because I failed to believe the gospel and obey. Peter says that God is patient and does not want anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). This being the case, then He should give everyone faith, and no one would perish.

Second, in Acts 11:14, when Peter is telling about what happened in Cornelius’ house, he says that Cornelius had seen an angel who told him to send for Peter and that Peter would “speak words by which you will be saved.” This agrees with what happened in Acts 8:12 when Philip was in Samaria. These people had to hear words, then believe those words, and then obey those words. There was a decision to be made by those who heard. Remember that when John was preaching, and people were being baptized by him, some rejected his message, and the text says, “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.” These men made a decision, didn't they? Also, notice in Acts 2:41 the phrase “received his word.” This indicates that these people who heard the apostles decided to accept what they heard and obey it.

Third, how does a baby repent? Repentance requires some thought, awareness, and enough maturity to understand what it means to leave sin and follow God (Romans 6:12-14). Baptism is a spiritual birth and a work of God that I do in response to the gospel message (Acts 2:36-38). Paul says we are buried with Him (Christ) in baptism (Romans. 6:1-7; Colossians 2:12). This is when we have newness of life (new birth). Just a note on John 1:13: This simply says that the way people are saved was not designed by men but by God.

Because Infants Are Also Included in All Nations

Go therefore and teach all nations baptizing them” (Matthew 28:19). God places no age limit.

My Answer:

Notice “teach all" and "baptizing them” in Matthew 28:19. Yes, no age limit was given, but there is a limit at which a person can be taught and understand what is taught. Also, note that the teaching comes before the baptizing. You have the order backward.

Because Infants Also Are Sinful

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalms 51:5). Babies die just like adults. The Holy Spirit works faith through baptism. What a comfort the picture of cleansing by the blood of Christ.

My Answer:

First, why does Jesus say we are to become like little children if children are sinners? See Matthew 18:1-4. Because they are innocent, the Lord wants Christians to be innocent (Philippians 2:15).

Second, what passage says faith comes through baptism? I read that faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), but I don't read that faith comes when one is baptized.

Third, it is sad that the NIV translates Psalm 51:5 as it does. David is not saying he was born a sinner, but that he was “brought forth in iniquity” (NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV, etc.). This iniquity is not his own but that of someone else, or maybe he was speaking of the world into which he was born. Note: Was David saying his mother had committed adultery when he was conceived? This psalm is David’s confession of his sin involving Bathsheba, which was against God. He is crushed under the guilt of his sin and is longing for God’s forgiveness.

Fourth, when a child is born, what sin has the child committed? (See I John 2:16; Ezekiel 18:20) A Lutheran minister (LCMS) told me one time that children in the womb sin. As I think about that, what about all of the aborted babies are they doomed to hell because they were not baptized? (Side note: baptism is not sprinkling, but immersion, check the meaning of the Greek word.) Then compare that with what Paul says in Romans 6:3-4. What about all of the babies that die in infancy and the thousands of other small children who die not knowing about baptism? Sin is personal, and Paul says we will be judged for the things done in the body. What has a newborn child or one still in the womb done in the body? What David says here shows his deep regret and penitent heart about his sin. It is similar to Paul saying he was “the chief of sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). I am curious in II Samuel 12:22-23, when David’s child dies, David seems to think he will be with him again. How, if this child was a sinner?

Because They Must be Born Again

Except a person be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Notice again that there is no age limit. Every person must be born of water and the Spirit.

My Answer:

Those that have sinned must be born again. True! What sin has a baby committed? What law of God has the child violated coming forth from its mother’s womb? None!

Because Infants Too Can Believe

Jesus said in Matthew 18:6 “These little ones who believe in me... Jesus then took them in his arms.” Faith or belief is from the Holy Spirit, not from our adult wisdom. Scripture never describes baptism as our work.

My Answer:

Just what does or can an infant believe? This passage does not say when the little ones will believe.

Because of the Witness of the Early Christian Church

The early Christian church baptized infants. Why would they do that if the apostles had forbidden it? (For example, Polycarp, a student of the apostle John, speaks of the fact that he was baptized as an infant.) I realize that this doesn't prove anything. This is not the Word of God, but the practice should not be totally ignored.

My Answer:

This argument lacks evidence and is based on an assumption. Polycarp never said he was baptized as an infant. I could say the same thing. I have served the Lord for seventy years (all of my life), but I was not baptized an infant.

Because the Bible Says in Acts 2 "Repent and be baptized for the promise is for you and your children

My Answer:

I agree that the promise is to all, but it is based on repentance, faith, and baptism. When and how does the infant repent? Again, notice the order.

Because Entire Households were Baptized

Acts 16. The jailer of Philippi and his household, Lydia and her household, and others.

My Answer:

First, the problem is that you must assume that these two households had small children. I know that a household can exist without small children; see Hebrews 11:7. This empty argument proves nothing.

Second, notice in Acts 5:14; 8:12 there is no mention of children being added to their number or being baptized, but it does say that men and women were baptized. Also when Saul goes to Damascus the text says in Acts 9:2 he is going to bind both men and women (Those belong to the Way), but no children, isn’t that curious?

Because Baptism Is Compared to Circumcision in Colossians 2:11-12

A baby received circumcision as an infant at eight days of age. Why would baptism be compared to circumcision if babies are not to be baptized?

My Answer:

Remember, it was only boys who were circumcised, so if you take this thought to its logical conclusion, then only boys should be baptized. This argument is misusing what Paul is saying. He is comparing the cutting off (circumcision) of the literal flesh under the Law with the cutting off (circumcision) of the body of sin in Christ.

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