By Cecil Willis
In our last article entitled “Who Should Be Baptized?”, we pointed out that infants were not subjects of baptism, for a subject or candidate of baptism must have the intellect capable of being taught, must be a believer in Christ, must repent of his sins, and must confess his faith with his mouth. An infant could not do any of these, and therefore, an infant is not a subject of baptism. This week we want to continue our study about the unscripturalness of baptizing babies.
There are several large denominations, representing literally millions of people, whose common practice it is, to take children, when they are eight days old, and baptize them for the remission of their sins. It is our purpose to focus the attention of the people in these denominations upon the fact that there is no scriptural authority whatever for such a practice.
The Practice Began in Error
The inception of the practice of baptizing infants was in error. The reason men began baptizing babies was for an unscriptural purpose. Incidentally, when I speak of “baptizing” babies, I am using the word “baptism” unscripturally. It is unscriptural because of two reasons: First, people usually sprinkle the babies when they “baptize” them, and sprinkling, in the light of the scripture is not baptism, and therefore it is a misuse of the word baptism to say that it is sprinkling; secondly, since babies are not subjects of baptism, it is improper to speak of “baptizing” them. But inasmuch as so many denominations speaks of baptizing infants, I am using the expression, with the reservations that we have just stated. It is unscriptural from beginning to end.
As we said, though, men have a very definite reason for baptizing babies. They believe the delusion that the infant is born into this world guilty of sin. They think that the baby is inherently totally depraved. In other words, these false teachers say that because Adam sinned, all infants are sinners. Therefore, they used to baptize an infant to free him of his Adamic sin. To teach this doctrine is to deny both what Christ and Paul said. In Rom. 5:12-21, Paul argued that whatever man lost unconditionally in Adam, he gained unconditionally in Christ. Paul said that the blood of Christ is as capable of limitless universality as the unrighteous act of Adam. Christ died to free us of the effects of Adam’s sins. Notice just one verse of this chapter to see that this is what Paul is teaching: “So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life” (verse 18). Christ further taught, “Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Does it seem that the Lord taught that children are born totally depraved? He said that unless these disciples become as little children they cannot enter into the kingdom of God Did Christ say that unless they become totally depraved they cannot enter the kingdom of God? That would be absurd! Christ was teaching the purity of the little children.
If there is any time that one is pure and holy in this life, it is when he is a little baby. Mothers, look at that little child of yours and think, “Is he pure, or is he totally sinful?” Certainly he is pure, and sinless. There is no point in baptizing an infant in order to have his sins remitted, for he has no sins to be forgiven. The baptizing of infants was begun upon an erroneous premise, and must be denounced, and repudiated, if one is ever to be saved.
The infant is sinless. That is why we said last week that an infant is neither saved nor lost, but that it is safe. One cannot be saved until he has been lost, and since the infant has never been lost, then he cannot be saved. He cannot be lost, for he has done no sin, and so the baby is safe and neither saved nor lost. Christ taught the purity of the child, and not its total depravity.
The Practice Continued in Error
Another reason why some baptize babies, is not in order to forgive their sins, but to admit them to the kingdom or the church. They baptize them in order to put them into the church. But just as babies cannot be baptized, neither can they be members of the church. The church is comprised of baptized individuals, or of the saved, but men and women are saved by obeying the gospel. Luke said, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Luke already had told us what these people did in order to be saved as he recorded Peter’s command to them to “repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). They obeyed the gospel in order to be saved, and being saved, they were added to the church. A baby cannot be in the church for it cannot obey the gospel, as we saw in our study last week.
The Scripture further tells us who it is that may enter the kingdom of God in Jn. 3:5: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” This omits the baby, for he is neither born of water nor the Spirit. As he reached the age of mental maturity, he may then be born of both the water and the Spirit. To be born of the Spirit means to be begotten by the Word of the Spirit. Peter gave us a commentary on the birth of the Spirit when he said, “having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and abideth” (1 Pet. 1:23). To be begotten of the Spirit is to be begotten of the Word of the Spirit. So when one believes upon the testimony of the Word of God, he is begotten of the Spirit, and may then be born of water. Both of these requirements of entering the kingdom of God omits a baby. A baby has not the mentality to be begotten of the Spirit, for it cannot become a believer by hearing the Word, neither is it born of water. Sometimes people argue that a baby is born of water when he comes from its mother’s womb. They say that the fluid that accompanies a natural birth is water, and that this is the birth of water. But this is not true. The fluid accompanying a natural birth is not water, but amniotic fluid. Therefore a baby is born of neither the water or Spirit, and therefore cannot be the kingdom of God. To baptize a baby to put him into the kingdom is an impossibility, even though there are thousands that are trying it every year.
Infant Baptism has no Scriptural Authority
Let us establish a premise and approach the subject of infant baptism from another aspect. Anything that had its origin this side, or outside of the New Testament is not of New Testament sanction. Infant baptism has its origin both this side and outside the New Testament, and therefore the New Testament does not approve it.
Historically, let us notice that baptizing infants was begun later than the New Testament era. Any practice that did not begin until after the completion of the New Testament, that was not in existence until the death of the apostles, certainly could not be a part of New Testament Christianity. One may read the New Testament through, and nowhere in it will find a single instance of an infant’s being baptized, either for the forgiveness of “Adamic sin”, or to put him into the church. If you want to read the first statements made about the baptizing of infants, you must go to the end of the Second Century. The first mention one finds of baptizing infants is by Tertullian in 190 A. D. That is about 100 years too late for it to have the approval of the New Testament. Denominationalists now admit that the New Testament does not sanction the baptizing of infants, or at least the majority of them do. We might notice what one propagator of this doctrine of baptizing infants said about the practice. Mr. Henry Ward Beecher said that he had no authority from the Bible for the baptism of infants, and that he needed none; that he had better authority for it than if even the Bible commanded it; that he had tried it, and knew from actual experience that it was a good thing; he had the same divine authority for it that he had for making an ox-yoke – it worked well – and, therefore, it was from God. Now isn’t that some statement coming from a man who must some day stand before the God of heaven to be judged by the things written in the Bible? Historically, infant baptism has no support.
Justice would not be done to the arguments of those who contend that infants should be baptized, were we to fail to mention the scriptures that they suggest which they contend authorized baptizing infants. The only way anyone can ever use the Word of God to prove this contention is to read into the text what the Bible says absolutely nothing about. In Acts 16 we read a very interesting story of where Paul and obviously, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, met with a group of women down by the river side, or at the place of prayer, and instructed them in the way of the Lord. They had receptive hearts, and upon the hearing of the Word of God, they accepted it. Lydia is the main one mentioned in this instance, and the Scripture says “And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, if ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us” (Acts 16:15). Notice, and remember this passage, and what it says about the infants that were baptized for we want to refer to it again. It says that Lydia and her household were baptized. For this to be an argument for baptizing infants, one must assume that this household had infants in it. The passage does not say so. It is an assumption.
In this same sixteenth chapter, we read the story of Paul and Silas’ being cast into prison because they cast a spirit of divination out of a young maiden. When her masters saw that their hope of gain was gone, they caused Paul and Silas to be cast into prison. The jailer put them in the inner prison, put their hands and feet in bonds. About midnight they were singing and praying to God, when suddenly there was an earthquake and their bonds were loosed. The prison doors were also opened. The jailer was about to kill himself, fearing lest the prisoners had escaped, but Paul exclaimed, “Do thyself no harm, for we are all here.” The jailer asked what he must do, and Paul told him to believe on the Lord. He also repented for he took them and washed their stripes that he had been instrumental in inflicting. And then it is said that he “was baptized, he and all his, immediately” (Acts 16:33).
Now friends, these two instances are the strongest proof from the scriptures that men have ever offered for infant baptism. When it mentions that these two households, the Jailer’s and Lydia’s, were baptized, they imagine and assume that in these households, there were infants, and that they were baptized. You remember that the Scriptures offered no proof for infant baptism, but that the passages that men used to prove their doctrine were no proof at all, unless men read into the text that there were infants in these households. What do these passages say about the baptizing of infants? Not a thing in the word. And I repeat, these are the strongest arguments that they can make from the Scriptures for baptizing infants. If you think you can make a stronger one, I would be glad to have you write me telling about it. If I know my heart, I am open minded, and would appreciate being corrected in this matter if I am in error. If you know of a passage in which babies were baptized, let me know about it. If you are a member of a church that baptizes infants, and never gave thought to the scripturalness of it, search the Scriptures for just one passage authorizing it. If you cannot find it, then ask your preacher to help you. If he cannot find it, ask anyone else you might know that could help you, If no one can find it, give up the error and leave that error-teaching group.
If infant baptism is not in the Bible, then you have had to go outside the Bible to get it. We stated a premise earlier that still holds true: Anything that has had its origin this side or outside the New Testament is not to be done by the Christian. The Bible and the Bible alone is adequate for men and women who want to please God. Infant baptism had its inception this side of (in fact, it began no earlier than 190 A.D., almost a hundred years too late), and outside the New Testament. The historical part of it is of but little significance. If you were to find accounts in history of infant baptisms, going back to the First Century, that still would not be enough. What you need to find is an instance in the New Testament where an infant was baptized. It is not to be found, and no denominational preacher will ever pretend to find it.
The Bible is our complete and final guide. Paul said, “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Peter also said that his “divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). If the Bible can furnish us to every good work, and it says nothing about baptizing of infants, what must God think about it? Certainly He does not approve it!
Seeing that infants cannot render intelligent obedience to the gospel of Christ; that they cannot be members of the kingdom of God for they cannot be born of either water or Spirit; that there is no reason for baptizing them for they are not tainted with Adamic sin; that there was no baptizing of infants until one hundred years after the New Testament era; and most important of all, that the New Testament does not authorize infant baptism either in command, example, or necessary inference, we plead with you to remove yourself from any body of people that is teaching this error. Christ said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:12). This doctrine which we have been discussing is not truth, but error, and only the truth can make you free. Error is not a substitute for truth. We are hoping that you will leave your error, not because we say to, but because it is foreign to God’s Holy Word, and because you want to do exactly what He says do-nothing more or less.
Truth Magazine XX: 36, pp. 563-565
September 9, 1976