By Larry Ray Hafley
Infant baptism is practiced by a number of denominations. However, the Scriptures do not assume the rite. Rather, they are filled with presumptions against the ceremony. The New Testament presumes the immersion of penitent, adult believers. Before we labor to sustain our thesis, let us notice some facts which do not forbid the baptism of infants.
Several aspects of baptism do not exclude infants.
Element. Baptism is in the element of water (Matt. 3:16; Jn. 3:23; Acts 8:36-38; 10:47), but that fact alone does not forbid infants as subjects of the ordinance.
Agent. Man is the agent, the administrator, of baptism (Matt. 3:131,14; 28:19; Jn. 3:23; 4:1,2; Acts 8:38), but the agency of man does not presume either for or against infants as candidates for baptism.
Action: The action of baptism is immersion, a burial (Matt. 3:16; Jn. 3:23; Acts 8:36-38; Rom. 6:3,4; Col. 2:12), but the process itself does not preclude infants. (One may object that infant baptism is actually sprinkling. True; and that is an abuse of the action, but it does not mitigate against the inclusion of infants. If a Catholic priest corrected his practice and immersed a baby, would that make it scriptural? No, for the action itself does not tell us whether or not infants should be baptized.)
Design: The purpose of baptism is the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mk. 16:16). That aim does not deny infant baptism. Once the true nature of sin and guilt is shown and known (1 Jn. 3:4; 5:17; Jas. 1:13-15; 4:17), the purpose does exclude infants, but the purpose itself, alone, does not.
Passages Which Presume Adults
(1) Romans 6. (A) The persons in these text had lived in sin (v. 2), and they could have chosen to “continue” to do so (v. 1). Infants are precluded, for they could not so decide. (B) Those baptized were to “walk in newness of life” and “henceforth . . . should not serve sin” (w. 4-6). (C) These Romans had yielded and obeyed sin; later, they obeyed “from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered” to them and “became the servants of righteousness” (vv. 16-18). Babies cannot have doctrine delivered to them, nor can they obey it “from the heart. ” (D) They were “now ashamed” of what they -had done and subsequently were to yield themselves “to righteousness unto holiness” (vv. 19-21). All of this is a. presumption against infants as the ones who were “baptized into Jesus Christ.”
(2) Galatians 3:26-29. (A) These baptized believers had been brought “unto Christ by the law (v. 24). (B) They were children of God by faith (v. 22). They had “run well” (5:7). (C) They had been called by the gospel into God’s grace (1:6,7). (D) They were adults who had been entangled with the yoke of bondage, but were now to let their faith work by love (5:1-7). The book of Galatians is a presumption against infants as the ones who were ‘ ‘baptized into Christ.”
(3) Colossians 2:11-13. (A) The Colossians who were “buried with him in baptism” were adults (1:5,6; 9-11; 21-23; 2:4-8). (B) They had been risen with Christ through the faith of the operation of God. Infants cannot have faith in the operation or working of God when they are baptized. (C) Those baptized Colossians had sins forgiven which they had committed (1:21; 2:13; 3:5-7; they had “lived in them”). This precludes infants. (D) After their burial, in baptism, the Colossians were to “seek” and “set” their mind on “things above” and deny the lusts of the flesh (3:1-5). Infants could not do that.
(4) Acts. (A) Those baptized in Acts 2 were old enough to hear, believe and repent prior to their baptism (2:6,14,22,36-41). (B) The Samaritans were “men and women” who heard and believed prior to their baptism (8:5-12). Observe, too, that they were old enough to have been deceived by Simon the sorcerer for a “long time.” (C) Cornelius and his household were of sufficient age to hear the words of Peter, fear God, believe, repent, work righteousness, obey commands and speak (10:2,35,43,46-48; 11:14,18). (D) The Philippian jailer’s house heard, believed, ate food and rejoiced in the events surrounding their baptism (16:25-34). (E) The Corinthians and Ephesians were not infants for they heard, reasoned, trusted and believed (18:4,8; 19:1-7; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; 4:15; Eph. 1:13). Also, they had formerly committed sins that only adults could commit (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:22).
This brief treatise shows that the Bible presumes against infant baptism. It certainly does not assume it.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 11, p. 332
June 4, 1987