March 13, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
In the last blog I said we would explore the evidence that supports infant baptism. Being a Baptist, I admit I am biased toward adult baptism – believer’s baptism. But I want to be fair in presenting both sides of this controversial issue. I do have to say I do not find a lot of convincing evidence, especially from the scriptures, that supports infant baptism. However, one such passage is Acts 16:26 though 34. Paul and Silas had been arrested, beaten and imprisoned in the city of Philippi in Greece. Instead of bemoaning their lot, these two disciples of Jesus “…were praying and singing hymns to God…” during the night (Acts 16:25).
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison
were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s
chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and
seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his
sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice,
saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a
light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he
brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they
said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and
your household.” Then they spoke word of the Lord to him and to all who
were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed
their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now
when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them, and he
rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
It says, “…he and all his family were baptized.” A Roman centurian’s family would most likely be large, including servants and their families. There certainly could be children and even infants in this one household. Being a male-dominated society in those days, when the head of the house made a family decision, all the members of that family would follow suit. It does not say in the above scripture that infants and/or young children were baptized, but it could be inferred. More than anything else, it is an argument from silence on the subject!
An argument in favor of infant baptism is also presented from a Covenant Theology position. The idea is that the child is brought into the faith of his or her parents and the church family through baptism. It is then the responsibility of the church family (especially the parents) to see that that child is trained up in the Christian faith, personally trusting in the Savior when he or she reaches responsible age.
The actions and commands of God toward His covenant people in the Old Testament are seen as infant Baptism support through types:
• God commanded Abraham in Genesis 17:10 and 12, “Every male child among you shall be circumcised….He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised….” This was to be the sign forever of God’s covenant with Israel. Many see circumcision as pointing to baptism (including infant baptism) – the sign of God’s covenant of saving grace.
• As recorded in Exodus 14:22: “…the children of Israel went into the midst of the [Red Sea]…on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” Obviously that included adults, children and infants! The Red Sea passage is often seen as a type of water baptism.
• According to Numbers 14:29, when Israel rebelled against God at the negative report of ten spies and refused to enter the Promised Land of Canaan, the Lord told Moses, “Say to them…‘The carcasses of you who have murmured against Me shall fall in this wilderness, your entire number, from twenty years old and above.’ ” But those under twenty were not held responsible for their actions!
Some say the New Testament argues for infant baptism in the following ways:
• Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). John the Baptist was “…filled with the Spirit, even from His mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15). This is to show that God lays claim to children, infants and even the pre-born!
• In Matthew 19:13 through 15 Jesus received and blessed children, saying in verse 14, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
• In Luke 10:21 Jesus prayed to the Father, “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” But the Lord could have been referring to “…the wisdom of this world [which] is foolishness with God.” (I Corinthians 3:19).
• Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 18:6 not to cause “…one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin….” But was He talking about those who are immature and are called children in their faith? (see Hebrews 5:11-14).
• Paul argues in I Corinthians 7:14 (NIV) that the unsaved mate of a Christian husband or wife “…has been sanctified through his…” or her mate. “Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”
In summary, baptism – which includes infant baptism…
“…is not primarily a sign of repentance and faith on the part of the baptized….It
is a sign of the gracious election of the Father who plans and establishes the
covenant….a sign of God’s calling….also a sign of the substitutionary work of the
Son in which the covenant is fulfilled….Finally, baptism is a sign of the regenera-
tive work of the Holy Spirit by which individuals are brought into the covenant in
the responsive movement of repentance and faith.” (Geoffrey Bromiley, Baker’s
Dictionary of Theology, “Baptism, Infant”)