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Should Infants Be Baptized?

Introduction

This article examines the Roman Catholic doctrine of infant baptism. The scriptures used to support this doctrine are examined below.

Mark 10:13-16

"And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.' 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them."

The Catholic stance reads a lot into these verses that simply isn't there. These people brought their children to Jesus, He touched their children, He told the others to let the children come to him, He held them, He put his hands on them, and He blessed them. However, it doesn't say (and there's no reason to believe) that He baptized them in water, and we cannot presume that they were infants. This passage refers to the simplicity of the gospel message being accepted through child-like faith, and it's not addressing the issue of water baptism.

Acts 2:38-39

"And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him."

This passage offers a promise, but it's offered on an individual basis. It doesn't offer a promise that will cover a person's children based upon the parent's faith. Rather, it offers a promise between God and the parent, as well as a promise between God and the children. Also, it doesn't make the promise effective for everyone at the same point in time. The promise applies to the children in the same way that it does to the adults: when they repent (change their mind and believe the gospel) they will receive the Holy Spirit. It in no way implies that the children can receive the Holy Spirit on the basis of anything their parents do, such as sprinkling them. Above all, it doesn't apply to infants, who are incapable of understanding the gospel and repenting.

Genesis 17:10

"This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised."

There is no basis in the Bible for treating water baptism like Old Testament circumcision, thus baptizing infants. There is also no Biblical basis for establishing the same rules for water baptism as for circumcision; i.e., administering water baptism on the eighth day.

Acts 16:14-15

"One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.' And she prevailed upon us."

Again, the phrase "with her household" does not imply that Lydia's faith covered other household members who didn't believe the gospel. The passage means that other members of her household also believed the gospel, and were baptized in water as a public symbol of their own faith in Christ. The word "household" doesn't automatically include infants. In fact, there is not mention of infants in Lydia's household.

1 Corinthians 1:16

"(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)"

Again, no infants are mentioned, and the term "household" doesn't include any household members who didn't believe the gospel--infant or not. If anything, 1 Corinthians 1:16 indicates that Paul did not place primary emphasis on water baptism, as Catholicism does, because he couldn't even remember for sure who he had baptized.

Ezekiel 36:24-27

24 For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

Again, this passage is used by Catholics as a desperate attempt to justify the sprinkling of infants merely because it has the word "sprinkle" in it.

Summary

Salvation comes from God by grace through faith (see the article on "Do We Go to Heaven Because of Certain Things We Do?"). Water baptism certainly has no saving power, as was the case with infant circumcision (Romans 2:28-29). Neither do I see a single instance in the Bible where an infant was baptized.

Owen Weber 2009