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WHY DO WE BAPTIZE BABIES?

Text Box: INFANT BAPTISM

The Command: Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The command is clear, we are to “make disciples” by our teaching and baptizing, or to put it Lutheran terms through God’s Word (the Bible, teaching) and Sacrament (baptizing). . .

	At the beginning of our discussion it should be noted that infant baptism has been practiced in the Christian Church as far back as we can trace. (1) There appears to be no time in the history of the Church when infants were not baptized. (2) Today roughly 80% of Christians practice infant baptism.
	But what about the person who asks, “where in the Bible does it say to baptize babies?” By saying this they imply that infant baptism is not a biblical practice. They say, "God never told us to baptize babies or infants!" This is true. However following that rather faulty logic one must also point out that: "God never told us to baptize adults." And, we should probably not baptize women either since Mark 16:16 (NASB95) tells us: He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 
	Setting aside these rather spurious arguments; what God did clearly tell us to do was Baptize "all nations." (Matthew 28:19-20) The Greek word for “nations” is éthnos, namely: A multitude, people, race, belonging and living together. The culture of Jesus' time clearly included infants/babies as people. Just think of the fact that Jesus as a newborn baby had to be enrolled for the Roman census. He was clearly counted as one of the "people" of Palestine. Thus we can say scripturally that Jesus has told us to baptize babies, adults and women if not in those exact words. 
	One of the few times that our Lord grew angry was when His disciples tried to keep the little children away from Him.

 ✏   “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant (angry). He said to them, “Let the little children (3) come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14 (NIV) In addition to this there is the fact that both in the New Testament and in the early Church, the children of Christian parents were normally baptized as infants. To put it simply. We find no trace of the children of believing parents being baptized as adults. Either they were baptized as children or they were not baptized.

 ✠   What this means is that we really do not have to defend the Biblical (4), holy, Christian, historic and Apostolic practice of infant baptism, it stands on its own. The burden of proof lies with those who would abandon it. Presently we find a small segment of Christianity practicing what they usually call ‘believers' baptism. (5) This group does not practice ‘infant' baptism but usually has some sort of consecration of the child to God. These ‘Baptists' as they are often called (and they go by many other names as well) are the spiritual descendants of the ‘Anabaptists' movement of the early 1500's. This group rejected ‘infant' baptism on the basis of a number of false assumptions:

 ✏   FALSE ASSUMPTION #1: A child is not held accountable to God for his/her sins until they reach some “age of accountability.”  (6) Thus they believe that baptism is not necessary before this age is reached.

 ●   This ignores the fact of original sin. Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death. Babies die every day. Thus God does hold them accountable. Romans 6:23 (ESV) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 ●   There is also a large problem in that this ‘age of accountability' cannot easily be determined. This has the effect of eroding ones confidence in God's gift of salvation. (Was I old enough to make the decision to be baptized . . .) 

 ●  Waiting till a child reaches an “age of accountability” places the focus on man’s effort with regards to salvation, not on God’s loving gift.

 ✏   FALSE ASSUMPTION #2: The second assumption is that faith must involve reason. The line of thought seems to be that since a very young child cannot reason – that child cannot have faith. Most Baptists believe that baptism is a work of man which demonstrates, or flows from, faith. (7)

 ●   This ignores the fact that the Bible teaches that salvation comes through faith and that faith itself is God's gift. Babies can certainly receive gifts!

 ●  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 

 ●  “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 God's Word cannot be bound. A child can be given a gift of a million dollars even though that child cannot appreciate it at the time. So a child can be given the gift of faith even if that child cannot appreciate it at the time. (8)

 ●   Secondly, by involving man (reason) in the process of salvation one turns God's action into something which we have a part in. Thus, one destroys the heart of the gospel message. Instead of being focused on what God has done for us the focus turns to sinful men and women. Did I do it right? Was I really sincere? Did I have enough faith? Faith is turned from a gift of God into a work of man. This has other complications:

 ●   Think about this for a moment. If saving faith (9) requires reason (for the person past the age of accountability) this seems to leave a large portion of the population without the ability to have saving faith or it seems to grant them an automatic salvation. One concern should be mentioned. For the adult Christian, healthy, awake and aware saving faith normally does involve reason and commitment. This is a valid concern that needs to be addressed.

 ✠   To summarize, we baptize infants because it is biblical.

 ●   Our Lord tells us to baptize ‘all nations.' Matthew 28:19 He never tells us to baptize just reasoning male adults. All nations clearly included the children and women of those nations.

 ●   Babies can have faith. (Remember faith is a gift of God!)  Just as they have simple loving faith in their parents love and compassion. So they can have faith in their heavenly Fathers love and compassion. (Matthew 18:5-6) In Baptism God gives these infants the gift of faith.

 ●   In Colossians 2:11-15 St. Paul refers to Christian baptism as a circumcision. Since throughout the Old Testament God required circumcision of ‘infants' on the eight day after birth [Genesis 17:10-14] (except when one converted as a youth or adult) then clearly the baptism of infants shortly after birth is also a biblical practice. (10)

 ●   Babies are also sinners held accountable before God for their sin. This is clearly seen in the fact that children die. Thus we are to “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 Today children come to the Lord through Holy Baptism.

 ●   Finally, in the New Testament we find examples of entire households being baptized. (1 Corinthians 1:16; Acts 11:14, 16:15,33; 18:8) Since almost every household in that day included children, some ‘infants' were almost certainly baptized. (11)

 ✏   Infant baptism has been the practice of the Christian Church from the time of the Holy Apostles onward. Thus we follow the normal practice of the Christian Church in baptizing infants. Clearly, infant baptism has been, and still is for the vast majority of Christians the normal means of entrance into God's family, the Holy Christian Church. We might also point out that we also baptize infants because, quite simply, it works! Millions upon millions of fine upstanding Christians have become part of God's family through Holy Baptism as infants. (12)
						
 ✠   Baptism of ‘infants' is a great witness to the fact that is God and God alone who saves us. That tiny child can do nothing for himself. God, and God alone gives that child the gift of salvation! (Eph.2:8-9)

 ✏  What about re-baptism? Dr. Luther writes: “If I should hold that the baptism of children is without effect, it doesn’t follow that they should be re-baptized when they grow up and believe, for if some at Mount [Sinai] hadn’t believed in the law (whether or not they believed in God), would it have been necessary to make a law again after they had come to believe? It’s one thing to have the effect of a work and it’s another to have the work. Everything depends on distinguishing between the work of God and the work of men. The work of God is unchangeable.”  Since baptism is God’s work – it is always valid and does not need to be repeated. (13)

 Polycarp (69–155), a disciple of the Apostle John, was baptized as an infant. This enabled him to say at his martyrdom. "Eighty and six years have I served the Lord Christ" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 9: 3).  Justin Martyr (100–166) of the next generation states about the year 150, "Many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples since childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years" (Apology 1: 15). Further, in his Dialog with Trypho the Jew, Justin Martyr states that Baptism is the circumcision of the New Testament. . .   There is no question that Origen was baptized as an infant in 180 A.D., just 80 years after the death of the last Apostle, John the Evangelist. Origen wrote in the third century that "according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants" (Holilies on Leviticus, 8:3:11 [A.D. 244]).  “Among the fathers, Tertullian himself not excepted “for he combats only its expediency” there is not a single voice against the lawfulness and the apostolic origin of infant baptism.” (Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1997). History of the Christian church. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)  The Council of Carthage, in 253, condemned the opinion that baptism should be withheld from infants until the eighth day after birth.  Born in the mid fourth century (358 A.D.), Augustine wrote, "This doctrine is held by the whole church, not instituted by councils, but always retained." Augustine taught, "The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned . . . nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic" (Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).  One argument in support of the baptism of infants comes from the fact that controversy over the practice is conspicuously absent from the history of the early church. Francis Schaeffer argued, "Those who would teach that the practice of the early Church was not infant baptism should be able to show in Church History when it started. There is no such break recorded."  In the 1,500 years from the time of Christ to the Protestant Reformation, the only bonafide opponent to infant Baptism was Tertullian (160–215), bishop of Carthage, Africa. His superficial objection was to the unfair responsibility laid on godparents when the children of pagans joined the church. However, his real opposition was more fundamental. It was his view that sinfulness begins at the "puberty, of the soul," that is "about the fourteenth year of life" and "it drives man out of the paradise of innocence" (De Anima 38:2). This rules out the belief in original sin. Tertullian’s stance, together with other unorthodox views, led him to embrace the heresy of Montanism in 207. Montanism denied the total corruption and sinfulness of human nature.”   To summarize, from the beginning of New Testament Christianity at the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2: 38-39), to our present time, unbroken and uninterrupted; the church has baptized babies. Entire households (Jewish, proselytes and Gentiles) were baptized by Christ’s original twelve Apostles (1st  Corinthians 1:16; Acts 11:14, 16:15,33, 18:8) and that practice has continued with each generation. Infant Baptism in Early Church History, by Dennis Kastens, Issues, Etc. Journal - Spring 1997 - Vol. 2 No. 3 
Many inscriptions from as early as the second century give little children the title of "children of God," a title given only to the baptized, or explicitly mention that they were baptized: (cf., for example, Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, 9727, 9801, 9817; E. Diehl, Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres (Berlin 1961), nos. 1523(3), 4429A.) 
A child or children recently born, a baby, infant (Matt. 19:13, 14; Mark 10:13–15; Luke 18:16, 17 [cf. 18:15 where it is tá bréphe {1025}, the infants]; John 16:21). Also of those more advanced . . . (Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.)
  The Scripturalness of Infant Baptism is established by Scripture passages such as Mark 10:13–16 and Col. 2:11–12. In the first text two things are evident: (1) Also little children (Luke calls them τὰ βρέφη, infants, 18:15) are to be brought to Christ; (2) Infants, too, are able to receive spiritual blessings and actually are members of the Kingdom of God. Theirs is not a potential but an actual faith, that is, one they have now as children (Matt. 18:6; 1 John 2:13), and they not merely expect to be members in the Church, but are members (Mark 10:14). Col. 2:11–12 states that Baptism has supplanted the Old Testament Sacrament of Circumcision. It is therefore the means of grace for children. Calov comments: “Sacramentum baptismi Christus surrogatum voluit circumcisioni.” At the bottom of the opposition to Infant Baptism is usually the singular notion that adults indeed can believe, but not children (Matt. 18:3; Mark 10:14–15). Cf. “The Faith of Infants” (Vol. II, 448 f.) and “Baptismal Customs” (Vol.III, 282ff.). Again, the objection is raised that Infant Baptism is nowhere expressly mentioned in Holy Writ and that therefore Infant Baptism cannot have been practiced in the Apostolic Church. But by the same token we may argue: Infant Baptism is not expressly mentioned in Holy Writ because it was a common practice. Scripture lends at least some support to this view, reporting, as it does, that entire families—some of which, at least, would normally include children—were baptized (1 Cor. 1:16; Acts 11:14; 16:15, 33). Furthermore, Holy Writ declares that Christ cleanses “His Church,” of which children are a part (Matt. 18:6; Mark 10:13–16), “with the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:26). Again, Paul declares Baptism to be the anti-type of circumcision (Col. 2:11–12). Besides, from church history it can be proved that Pedobaptism was commonly practiced in the second century. Hase (Ev. Dogm., p. 432): “Tertullian bears witness to its prevalence by his disapproval of it.” Origen (Epistola ad Rom. V) declares: “The Church has accepted from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism also to the little children.”
The practice of considering as candidates for baptism only those who are already believers or are at least in a “covenant relation” through their birth of Christian parents. Lueker, E. L. (2000). Christian cyclopedia (E. L. Lueker, Ed.) (electronic ed.). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
 “To claim that a person must reach the "age of reason" or the "age of accountability" before receiving Baptism is to claim that there is something within the person that is able to cooperate with the grace of God. This is called synergism, a theological perversion that places man into a cooperative relationship with God in the salvation process. In some cases, the proponents of a "Believer’s Baptism" fall into the trap of Pelagianism, an early heresy that denied that man is dead in his trespasses and sin and therefore unable to contribute anything to his salvation - not even his human reason and understanding.” (Pastor Don Matzat) Issues, Etc. Journal - Spring 1997 - Vol. 2 No. 3
Luther reminds us that Baptism is an act of God; it is not conditional on the presence of faith in the recipient. Baptism is God’s work, not man’s work. Infants are not baptized because of their faith; rather, Baptism is given because it is commanded by God. It is an unalterable ordinance and means of Grace. God's Word accompanies the water in Baptism in an unconditional offering of forgiveness. Luther points out that God's covenants and gifts of grace have been given even when the people were unfaithful. Preaching on 1st Corinthians 10:2 Luther points out that God gave his covenant in the form of the Ten Commandments to all Israelites. In this case both the faithful and unfaithful were included. He argues that the rebellion of some unfaithful Jews did not annul God's covenant; nor does the lack of faith in a baptized person annul Baptism. Consequently any misuse of Baptism by the baptizer or the baptized would not invalidate Baptism since God is the agent. (Based on “Martin Luther’s Arguments for Infant Baptism” Zietlow, Paul H. Concordia Journal/April 1994, page 147)
Remember, infants are not baptized because they believe. They are baptized because of the clear Word, command and promise of God. They are baptized on account of God’s grace, not on account of their faith. Martin Luther writes, "For my faith does not constitute Baptism but receives it" (Tappert: p. 443). (Don Matzat) In Concerning Re-Baptism, Luther points out that John the Baptist was born with faith and was given faith even in the womb. God accomplished this when His Word was spoken to John's mother Elizabeth. (Zietlow)
“Faith, our reception of God’s gift and response to His Word is itself the work of God, born out of His self-giving love. To affirm otherwise would be to make the human response a "work" meriting salvation. Such an affirmation is a direct contradiction of the nature of saving grace (Ephesians 2: 8-9). After all, it is the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep, it is not the sheep who are searching for the shepherd. Salvation, therefore, is not dependent on the subjective response of the person. The New Testament indicates that saving faith in any individual (regardless of age) is there not on the basis of any human power that generates it, but exists because God has grasped the heart, surrounded it, filled it with His self-giving love. God’s divine action always precedes and empowers human reaction. Like our physical life is a gift, something we did not create, so is our spiritual rebirth. To what then can we compare saving faith? It is like the darkness of a closed room that is suddenly lit; the darkness has no other capacity than to receive the light. It contributes nothing to the light but is simply there to be illuminated by the light. Saving faith is also like the silence that is filled with just one sound. It is only there for the sound to fill. When the sound occurs, the silence itself is transformed into what it was not. The silence is not itself the sound, but participates wholly in the quality and nature of the sound that has come to fill it. Thus, saving faith is the echo in the human heart created by the sound of the Word of Christ, the Light of the world, displacing all spiritual darkness.” (Dr. Richard Shuta) Issues, Etc. Journal - Spring 1997 - Vol. 2 No. 3
 Luther reasoned that Baptism has the same import as circumcision, and as children were circumcised so also children should be baptized. Abraham's circumcised children were accepted by God at eight days old, and were called God's people. But note that Luther does not equate circumcision with baptism; for unlike Baptism, circumcision is not a Sacrament and does not offer forgiveness of sins. Yet, both illustrate God's unconditional acceptance of infants. As a Biblical support, Luther cites God's promise in Genesis 17:7: “I will be God to you and to your descendants after you.” Luther explains that it was God's will to receive circumcised infants of Abraham as His own. Likewise, in His providence, He receives baptized infants into His care. (Zietlow) 
 There are five references in the New Testament to the Baptism of entire households. Peter baptized the household of Cornelius (Acts 11:14). In Philippi, Paul baptized the household of Lydia and the household of the jailer (Acts 16:15, 33). He also baptized the household of Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks of baptizing the household of Stephanas (1:16). The Greek word for household is oikon and refers to all the inhabitants of the house including slaves, servants, infants and children. Can anyone seriously suggest that within the households of Cornelius, Lydia, the Jailer, Crispus and Stephanas there were no children or infants present?
 On this point Luther presented a cause-effect argument: the fruitfulness of the church and Saints (the effects) is proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Baptism (Cause). He contended that the validity of Baptism can be assessed by its fruit. To support this point, Luther refers to several saints who possessed the Holy Spirit, such as St. Bernard, John Hus; he argues that “If God did not accept the Baptism of infants, he would not have given any of them the Holy Spirit nor any part of him.” Besides the example of his own life, he points out that the presence of millions of fruitful witnesses who were baptized as infants is proof that God approves of infant Baptism and works favorably and powerfully through it. If on the other hand, God opposed infant Baptism, the church would be accursed and unfruitful. (Zietlow) (see: Tappert: Book of Concord, [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959] pp. 442-3)
 Luther, M. (1999, c1967). Vol. 54: Luther's works, vol. 54 : Table Talk (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 

Copyright 2012,  Rev. Mark Danielson (part of his Christian Discipleship Class)