Should I Baptize My Baby?
Why Baptize Babies?
The Bible doesn’t tell us anywhere how old a person must be at the time of baptism. Jesus commanded us to baptize “all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and doesn’t make any mention of an individual’s age. The jailer at Philippi and all his family were baptized (Acts 16:33). This must have included people of various ages, possibly even a little child. God does not restrict baptism to any one age. He doesn’t say, “Baptize only children,” or “Baptize only adults.” He simply commands us to baptize. People who agree on what the Bible teaches about why baptism is needed and what baptism does will usually agree on the question of whether or not we ought to baptize babies.
Babies Need God’s Love
The Bible describes human nature as it is, sinful and godless. In Psalm 51:5 David confesses: “Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” God’s verdict in Genesis 8:21 is: “Every inclination of [man’s] heart is evil from childhood.” Every person who comes into this world is a sinner who is lost without God’s grace.
How did human nature get that way? “Sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sometimes babies die, and there is only one way to explain such a happening: “All sinned.” We die because we are born sinners, says Jesus, “Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:5,6).
The combination of “Water and Spirit” is baptism. Jesus speaks of it as a birth. You and I did not do anything to bring about our physical birth. We did not make a decision to be born; it was not an act of our will. It happened to us. Jesus’ words make clear that spiritual rebirth is not a human accomplishment either. It is the Spirit’s doing and it is connected with water.
What Does Baptism Do?
It gives a new birth, so that the children of Adam (flesh) become the children of God (spirit). Paul writes in Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. God did it “because of his mercy,” and through the “washing of rebirth.”
What does baptism do? “Baptism . . . now saves you also”(Peter 3:21). Baptism is the way used by God to bring people to faith or to confirm them in that faith. What does baptism do? It brings us into relationship with Christ, a relationship in which we share in the blessed results of his death and resurrection: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3,4).
Because of their need as sinful human beings, and because of what God does in baptism, we should baptize babies.
But What About Faith?
Faith is God’s gift, whether to an adult, a child who has reached the age of reason, or a newborn infant. It does not depend on a person’s intelligence, it is not a personal decision. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). God made the decision, took the initiative, gave the gift. He did it through the gospel, and baptism is one form in which the gospel comes to human beings.
That God should give this gift to infants is a marvelous demonstration that his gracious gift of faith does not depend on anything in us. That infants may not be conscious of their faith does not mean they can’t have faith. We know that they have faith in their mothers and in others – although they are not conscious of it. We are not conscious of our faith either, while we are sleeping. That does not mean we are unbelievers for seven or eight hours of every day.
What Should We Do?
In view of what the Bible says about our sinful condition, we can be sure that infants need God’s grace. In view of what the Bible says about baptism we can be sure that it is more than an act of obedience, more than a sign of faith, more than a ceremony of initiation. It is all of those, but especially it is a means of grace. The Holy Spirit through the Word of God accompanied by the water is a way in which God gives the blessings of faith and forgiveness to undeserving sinful people, including babies.
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off; for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38,39)
[This text is from a brochure produced by Christian Life Resources entitled, “Should I Baptize My Baby?” The brochure is available for purchase at the CLR Store on this site.]
May 4, 2018