Light for our path: Infant Baptism

Light for our path

A friend who belongs to another church asked me where the Bible specifically speaks of baptizing infants. I could not find a verse like that. Can you help?

James F. Pope

Your search came up empty because there is no Scripture verse that specifically commands the baptizing of infants. However, that does not mean we are to withhold Baptism from them. On the contrary, the Bible lists compelling reasons why infants are to be baptized.

THE RECIPIENTS OF BAPTISM

When Jesus instituted Baptism in Matthew 28:19,20, he did not limit Baptism to adults. He said “all nations” were to be instructed in his Word and baptized. Think of all the people who comprise a nation. Think of who is counted as a citizen of a nation when a census occurs. All people are counted. If infants were to be excluded from Baptism, Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 would have been an appropriate place to indicate that. Because in every sense infants are included in “all nations,” they are to be the recipients of Baptism.

More than being people who are part of a nation, infants are to be baptized because they have a need for the forgiveness of sins. The Bible does not speak of any age of innocence or any time in life when infants and children are not sinners and not responsible for their sins. Just the opposite, Scripture speaks of people being conceived and born in sin. King David spoke for the entire human race when he confessed, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Jesus reiterated that truth when he informed Nicodemus that “flesh gives birth to flesh” (John 3:6). In other words, sinful parents have sinful children.

A final reason for baptizing infants is that the Bible reveals to us that children and infants can believe. Passages like Matthew 18:6; Luke 18:15-17; and 2 Timothy 3:15 provide proof of that.

So rather than a single verse addressing infant Baptism, it is the case of numerous Bible passages demonstrating why little ones too are to be baptized.

THE POWER BEHIND BAPTISM

Additionally, we baptize infants because we understand from Scripture how Christian faith originates.

A common reason used to reject infant Baptism is the child’s lack of intellectual development. That objection reveals a serious misunderstanding of the nature of faith. Who, after all, is responsible for faith? How does faith originate? Is faith an intellectual process that results in people making a decision for Christ or inviting him into their hearts? Not at all. God the Holy Spirit is responsible for creating faith. People—young and old—are the objects of the Spirit’s powerful working through the gospel (Ephesians 2:10).

The Bible explains that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). God uses the gospel—the Word alone or the Word connected to an earthly element, water—to call people to faith in Jesus. When it comes to conversion, people are on the receiving end of the Holy Spirit’s work. Faith is God’s gift to people (Ephesians 2:8). God can give that gift to young and old alike, and he does.

So the next time you witness an infant Baptism in church, marvel at the grace of God in providing a way through which he can come into the hearts and lives of his littlest ones! Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). That’s just what happens in Baptism.

Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.

James Pope also answers questions online at www.wels.net. Submit your questions there or to fic@wels.net.

 

 

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Author: James F. Pope
Volume 102, Number 8
Issue: August 2015

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