Who should be baptized? Most churches believe that only those who demonstrate true repentance and faith are eligible for baptism. Other churches believe that the babies of believers should be baptized. We practice baby baptism. At the same time, we strongly hold that this difference should never break fellowship between Christians.
In explaining our position, we believe it vital to have an answer to these questions:
- What is baptism? A question about the event.
- How does God deal with little children? A question of covenant.
- Who is a baptized person? A question of identity.
What is Baptism? A Question of the Event
Scripture always says that a person is baptized: not that he does something, but that something is done to him. In Acts 2:38, Peter states, “Let every one of you be baptized.” Paul related in Acts 22:16 that Ananias told him, “Arise, and be baptized….”
Baptism then is an act performed on a person. All Christians confess that it is God through His appointed minister who is acting. Baptism then is a passive sacrament; the person being baptized is doing nothing; God is doing something. It is important to realize that someone need not be aware that something is happening to him. Babies are commonly bathed at least once a day and never remember those baths.
What then is God doing? God means to assure the baptized person of at least two things: first, that his sins are washed away. Ananias said to Paul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Second, baptism brings the person into a new generation; he is baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). So Paul calls it “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). We would maintain that a person need not be conscious for God to perform this act upon him. Baptism is a sign of what God does, not of what we do.
How Does God Deal with Little Children? A Question of Covenant
Covenant is a relationship of unity, of oneness. God created families and dealt with them as a unit, both in salvation and in judgment. In the two major Old Testament events, the flood and Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God saved or destroyed babies based on the faith or unbelief of their parents.
God saved believing Noah and his family, and at the same time, God destroyed all the babies living at that time because their parents were unbelieving. Peter tells us that the flood was a picture of baptism (1 Peter 3:20, 21).
God saved all the Israelites from the destroying angel when they were under the blood of the lamb. Believing Israelites brought their babies under the blood, and they were saved although unaware of it. The Egyptian babies died because their parents were unbelieving.
Christ’s ministry fulfilled all the Old Testament pictures. He healed the daughter of the woman of Canaan because the mother had faith (Matthew 15:28). He raised Jairus’ daughter because Jairus believed (Mark 5:36). Christ’s pronouncement of judgment on unbelieving Jerusalem included little children. So He said to the Jerusalem mothers, “Weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28).
God, both in the Old Testament and through the ministry of Christ, saved little children because their parents had faith.
God in Christ said to Abraham, “I am your God and the God of your children” (Genesis 17:7). We believe that promise.
Who Is a Baptized Person? A Question of Identity
No one makes himself; he is born. God creates us all, even though He uses a father and mother. No one names himself; he is given a name. No one decides whether they will be man or woman, white or brown, rich or poor, American or Asian. What one can decide is whether to live out his or her identity, to live as God wills a man or woman should live or not; to live as a loyal American or not.
Baptism gives us an identity; through it, God says that we are His children. Ultimately, whether baptized as an adult or as a child, one chooses to live out that identity or not. Every baptized person, whether adult or child, will either affirm or deny their identity as a child of God.
A Final Word
What we offer here is an explanation of our infant baptism position. We are not arguing against believers’ baptism. We love the many Christians who deny infant baptism, and we would be delighted to discuss our position with anyone.
You may also refer to the Belgic Confession, Article 34, and the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 27, for a confessional explanation of our position.
We also offer the following references for a fuller understanding of the infant baptism position.
Infant Baptism, A Duty of God’s People, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Christian Education Committee, Westminster Presbytery, Presbyterian Church in America, 1988.
The Covenant Baptism of Infants, Jim West, Christian Worldview Ministries, Palo Cedro, CA, 1994.
To a Thousand Generations: Covenant Mercy for the People of God, Douglas Wilson, Canon Press, Moscow, ID, 1996.
Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism, Robert R. Booth, P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 1995.
The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism: Sacrament of the Covenant of Grace, Pierre Ch. Marcel, James Clarke & Co. Ltd., London, 1953.