# What is the Biblical basis for infant baptism?

I've studied the Bible and am a fundamental independent Bible believing Baptist who believes what the scripture says about Baptism is clear.

1. It is an ordinance after salvation, i.e. believers baptism.
2. It is not part of salvation but a public profession of the inward change.
3. It is a picture of Christ's Death, Burial, and Resurrection.

I refer Acts 8:35-38, Romans 6:3-4.

If infant Baptism were supported by scripture, where are the verses? How can that be reconciled with Acts 8:35-38, Romans 6:3-4? Seeing how an infant cannot place his/her faith in Christ as they don't understand their need for Christ...

• – Flimzy May 7 '12 at 18:37
• It's not a matter of a few verses either way, it's really more about stepping back to the big picture of the history of salvation, then coming back in to make sure that the trees really do grow in the forest... – Caleb May 7 '12 at 19:21
• Here's an article on why one Baptist pastor was persuaded to an paedo-baptist position (there's also an article on the reverse conversion on the same site, which is friendly to both views). – metal Apr 12 '13 at 21:09
• I am not sure if the Bible is really specific on the timing of baptism. Well, apparently even the eunuch (castrated man) can be baptized. I wonder if that is supposed to teach something. – Double U Aug 25 '13 at 1:39
• Comprehensive list - scripturecatholic.com/baptism.html#baptism-III – user5286 Aug 25 '13 at 3:25

Acts 2:39 For the promise is to you, and your children, and to all who are afar off...

A lot of our argument comes from the inference that Baptism is to Circumcision as the Lord's Supper is to Passover.

Colossians 2:11-12 In [Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh*, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism... (emphasis mine)

Just as circumcision was the "putting off the body of the flesh", so baptism is being "buried with Christ", "into death" (Romans 6:4). They are signs of the same promise of the same salvation, one given to the physical race Jews, the other to the world-wide race of the elect.

Since the rite of circumcision was performed on male infants at eight days old, it makes sense to retain the age for Baptism.

Genesis 17:12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.

Note that those who are baptized are those "in your household" or those brought into the household, so by carryover this would only apply to children of believers in Baptism.

Just like we (usually) retain the general "age of accountability" for Lord's Supper (just like Hebrew boys generally were supposed to wait until they were 12 to take Passover), so it makes sense to keep the age for Baptism.

While the following verses do not stand alone to support infant Baptism, they support it because they do not reverse the age set in the Old Testament for circumcision.

Acts 16:14-15 ...The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well...

and

Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

While you would be right to say "ah, but this is an argument from silence," I would reply that it certainly stresses "her household" and "his family" and considering the emphasis given in the New Testament to making sure that the Jews understood that the sacrifices/ceremonial law were now nullified, it would seem foolish of Luke not to carefully point out that the infants and children were omitted in the baptism. Instead, he includes the household and the family in the event because the parents (particularly the father) were representative of their family.

When God makes his covenant with Abram in Genesis 17, he says "offspring" five times before giving the command to circumcise all males, beginning at those only eight days old.

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 suggests this has not been nullified for the New Testament and foreward; vs. 14 says

For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

My pastor, in a letter to our congregation, said:

Children of believers, like adult believers, are members of the visible church (church militant); and they, like we, are members of the invisible church (church triumphant) only by grace, through faith.

He has also called Baptism an engagement ring, placed upon the finger of the children of the covenant, and awaiting acceptance or rejection by that child as they grow.

• Very interesting, I've never thought about it this way! – John Peters Mar 27 '15 at 23:20

The understanding of infant baptism in most denominations (I'm speaking from the Reformed Presbyterian background) is a systemic difference in understanding regarding the meaning of baptism.

Very importantly, most denominations that practice infant baptism do not see infant baptism as something that saves.

It comes down to the understanding of the relationship between the church and Israel. Dispensationalists (of which I'm assuming you are, given that you are a Baptist), don't believe that the promises that applied to Israel apply to the church, but they apply to Israel. Covenant theologians, on the other hand, believe that the promises that were given to Israel apply to the church.

This includes certain promises, such as Genesis 17:7:

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

When God gave this promise to the Israelites, he was declaring that his promise was given to Abraham and his descendents after him. Covenant theologians believe that this promise still applies to believers in the covenant of Grace. Because of this, they believe that baptism is not an outward symbol of an inward change, but rather that the promises that God makes to us also apply to our children as well. This doesn't mean that our children are believers at two months old, but rather that, if they have faith in Christ, God will follow through with his end of the bargain.

In other words, it's less about our heart change, and more about God's promise.

Supporting verses include Acts 2:38-39:

And Peter said to them, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

and Acts 16:14-15:

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

• Not all Baptists are dispensationalists. There is also New Covenant Theology. A recent book in this line of thinking is Kingdom through Covenant by Gentry and Wellum, which got lots of publicity (e.g. here and here), particularly from Reformed Baptists. – metal Apr 12 '13 at 21:02

orthodox catechism:

Acts 16:15 "And when she was baptized, and her household"

Acts 16:33 "and was baptized, he and all his family"

Acts 18:8 "believed on the Lord with all his house"

Acts 10:44 "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word" 47 "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord."

1 Corinthians 1:16 "I baptized also the household of Stephanas"

Orthodox believers know for sure from Holy Tradition that apostles baptized the children.

But for the protestants who don't trust in Holy Tradition, arise some questions: Can any man forbid the water, that children should not be baptized? In house of Cornelius, does the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word or not? Children has ears to hear the word or not? Holy Spirit fall only on adults and avoid the children? The answer:

Matthew 19:14 "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven".

In the heaven, could be children prematurely died or not?

John 3:5 "I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God".

The apostles baptized the children because (Psalm 50:6) "in sin did my mother conceive me" (Romans 5:6) "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned".

• that's a really cool argument combining Matthew 19 and John 3. +1 – Thomas Shields May 7 '12 at 18:32
• The examples such as Acts 16 does not say anything about the age (or more importantly the faith) of the members of the household. It seems that everyone just assumes that "household" means there were babies or children than we too young to put their own faith in Jesus. – Ries Jan 8 '13 at 12:44
• @Ries I agree that Acts 16 and 18 doesn't say there are kids (I think there were but it doesn't say) but it also doesn't say if everyone in his household believed, YET the whole household was baptised. – Greg Apr 11 '13 at 23:41
• @Greg: Which means we cant use those examples to justify infant baptism. – Ries Apr 17 '13 at 12:52
• @Greg: My point is that these verses should not be used to support/justify infant baptism as it being done in many answers to the question posed here. If we dont know enough about the specific situation, the best we can do is not to make our own conclusions. The question of infant baptism should therefore be answered from other parts of the bible, and I find it difficult to support/justify infant baptism if the spiritual background and significance of baptism is taken into account. – Ries Apr 18 '13 at 8:50

I understand baptism from a familial perspective. When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit, the spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15), and we become sons of God. Now that we are God's sons, we are part of God's family.

In a family, parents make decisions for their children, when their children aren't old enough to speak for themselves. As a son of God, I can make a decision for my infant child, that he be incorporated in God's family just as I am. For a classic Biblical example of parents making decisions for their children, please see 1 Sam 1:11, where Hannah, the mother of the (to be born) Samuel, made a vow to the Lord to dedicate the boy to the Lord even before he was born. So in the case of infant baptism, the FAITH component that is necessary is supplied by the parents and by the church in general, because the child is unable to speak for itself.

In the same way, in Judaism, all males were circumcized and made part of the people of God (the "qahal", the New Testament equivalent of which is "ecclesia" or "church"). Wouldn't it be odd if babies could be part of the people of God in the Old Covenant and could not be part of the people of God in the New? After all, the law of the Old Covenant has only a shadow of the things that are to come in the New Covenant (Heb 10:1)

Now some argue that repentance is necessary for baptism, because the Bible mentions it in that order. But what do babies have to repent of? Nothing. Note that John's baptism was also a baptism of repentance (Mark 1:4), yet Jesus also took John's baptism. Did Jesus have to repent? No. So repentance is necessary only if you have committed sin, otherwise not.

Now to the passage -

And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." (Acts 2:38-39)

What is the promise? The gift of the Holy Spirit. Who is this promise for? For every one whom the Lord our God calls to him. Does our God call infants also? Surely.

"Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:16) In verse 15, it is recorded that they were bringing infants to him.

God is calling infants even today, but they have to be BROUGHT to him (like in Luke 18:15), because they cannot bring themselves.

Not a lot to add to the verses above (Gospel references to Jesus welcoming children, household baptisms in Acts & 1 Corinthians, the parallel with circumcision), but a few comments.

(a) The Bible comes to us as a whole. 2 Timothy 3.16 makes clear that all is inspired and profitable that we may be equipped for every good work. Therefore, be cautious about splitting up the Bible into bits that do and bits that don't apply in the age of grace. It is all God's Word, and all applies to us. But we do have to remember that the Scriptures of the former Covenants (i.e. OT) foretell and foreshadow, but do not have the fulfilment of, the gospel. The Scriptures of the New Covenant specifically deal with the fulfilment of the OT promises of salvation, the Messiah, his implications for the People of God, etc. But in all the various covenants of the OT and in the NT we are essentially dealing with one overarching covenant of the True and Living God: "I will be their (your) God and they (you) will be my people." We New Covenant believers are inheritors of the covenant with Abraham and are fellow members of the covenant people of God with all true believers whether they live(d) before or after the time of Christ. Old Covenant believers trusted in Christ without knowing who Christ would be. New Covenant believers trust on the basis of knowledge. John 20.29 applies.

(b) Assuming we are believers who know, love and serve the Lord Jesus in accordance with the Word of God, we want to bring up our children as believers. So at what stage can they become believers? They may not be able to make a decision to follow Jesus as babes in arms, but are they not able to be saved? I remember my twin daughters when they were 3 asking me about someone who didn't come to church, and I explained that the person in question didn't love Jesus. One of my daughters then said, "We love Jesus. That's why we go to church." Was she not a believer at that point? My mother says she gave her heart to Jesus at the age of 6 (took me 10 years more to realise I needed to!). Would she not then be eligible for baptism?

(c) We baptise children as if they were believers because we trust that a Christian upbringing will include opportunities for them to make or ratify a conscious decision to follow Jesus. Baptism takes effect as the "sign and seal of new birth" when there is faith in the Lord Jesus present. If a 3-year-old can love and trust the Lord Jesus, her baptism is appropriate, though she is not old enough to answer for herself. Believer-baptism applied only to people of a certain age or above, whether the (in reality, arbitrary) milestone is 12, 14 or any other age, can easily be construed as effectively saying to those under this age, "You're not old enough to be a Christian believer." And older people can learn how to jump through hoops if they want to get something, and can put on enough of a show to get baptised, even if they are faking it. Which is worse?

(d) As a clergyman/pastor I have baptised many babies in my time of whose parents I was not certain as to whether they were in a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That's not mine to judge. I tell them what Christians believe and they tell me they believe it. I ask are they sure they want to make the promises and they say, yes. Am I to refuse if I am not 100% certain of their relationship with the Lord Jesus?

(e) I have also known those to whom believer-baptism was applied who have gone back on their commitment made as disciples of Christ. Were they true believers at the time? Does that mean that their baptism was not valid?

So I conclude that what counts is not the age at which we baptise the person, but that they come to saving faith in Christ and persevere in it, and it behoves us, whether we be paedobaptists or credobaptists, to work hard at giving the people we deal with enough time, love and effort at witness for them to come to saving faith in Christ, including prayer to God to bring them to that point - for let us not forget that faith itself is the gift of God, not something we can teach or impart ourselves.

John 3:5 "I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God".

If this phrase, "Except a man/woman to be born of water", means baptism in water, then a child, who has not taken baptism in water will not enter into the kingdom of God in case of death.

Not all men are filled with the Holy Spirit when they take baptism. Therefore, whoever took baptism can not say that they are filled with the Holy Spirit because of baptism.

Regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Bible says without the Holy Spirit no one can say Christ is my savior; So anyone believes in God receives the baptism of Holy Spirit. Now the question is how a child is receiving the Holy Spirit without believing.

• This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. There some disagreement, and many denominations believe "born of water" is referring to natural child birth and amniotic fluid. You speak your answer as if here's no doubt about it, and by inference are stating that all those others are wrong, and you know better. This site has guidelines against that. One of the guiding principles here is that we're here to explain various Christian teachings, but we're not here to argue who's right. – David Stratton Jan 2 '14 at 23:34
• – David Stratton Jan 2 '14 at 23:34

Off the top of my head, the best case for infant baptism is made by examples like that of Cornelius in Acts 10, when his entire household is baptised.

• But personally, I'm with you that baptism is best seen as a believer following the picture of Christ's death/burial/resurrection. – Joel Coehoorn May 7 '12 at 18:10
• Examples from Acts are not even close to the "best case" of biblical support for infant baptism. – Bruce Alderman May 7 '12 at 19:36
• The examples such as Acts 16 does not say anything about the age (or more importantly the faith) of the members of the household. It seems that everyone just assumes that "household" means there were babies or children than we too young to put their own faith in Jesus. – Ries Jan 8 '13 at 12:39

From a dispensationalist perspective:

Before I give my answer based on Infant Baptism, I would like to give you my thoughts on baptism in total. (Keep in mind anything I do is with the King James Bible and nothing else. I will post a Question with my own Answer on this later).

2 Timothy 2:15 - "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

The term "Rightly Dividing" means to split the Bible up into 7 different time sections, and to know that not the entire Bible was directly written to us as Gentiles (Gentiles = non-Jewish). This does not mean we scrap out parts of it, just remember that some of the things were not meant for today.

We are supposed to base our Christian lives off of the teachings of Paul in what is called the Dispensation (Time period) of Grace. It starts when Paul was saved (the start of the Body of Christ), and ends in Philemon. Before Paul was converted, baptism was being taught as the way of salvation. This is not so today. At that time when Jesus was here on earth, yes that was the way, but Jesus provided us a way for our sins to be washed away, only believing in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection. (This can help you with the numerical list you placed above)

With that in mind, the question about infant baptism. Now keep in mind somethings within these old dispensations of the Bible, (Jesus was living in the Dispensation of law), that can carry out today.

`Matthew 18:14 - "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."

This is why I believe those who are too young to understand will go to heaven, because our God is a wonderful God who loves all.

• Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This is a classically dispensationalist answer, and well supported within that context. It would be helpful had you labelled it as such, however. Remember, not all Christians are dispensationalist! – Affable Geek Nov 18 '14 at 15:44
• A pro infant baptist dispensationalist? How unusual! – curiousdannii Nov 30 '14 at 0:00
• If you study the Bibles as dispensations you would notice that God does not take his wrath out on those who cannot understand – user3801378 Dec 1 '14 at 0:27

First off... the practice of infant baptism as a Christian principle can be likened in the OT where infant males were circumcised. Baptism with water and circumcision are outward sings of joining into the outward kingdom of God, only. Such is a profession necessary to join a congrgation and has no eternal benefit. This is easy enough to look up in your Bible.

Next, baptism and circumcision does not and can not produce salvation since this would be salvation via created things wielded by created beings. So too, man can not save himself by "accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior." This presupposes man has a faith which he places in Christ. Not true at all... unredeemed man is " faithless,"Mt17:17. Faith is a work, 1Thes.1:3 and faith is law, Ro.3:27,28. Trusting in Christ is a work, Lam.3:26. No one is saved by works of the law, Gal.2:16. The word "Law" in the Bible should never be capitalized because there are no capital letters in the Holy Scripture. " Law " in the Bible is synonymous with " word," and "witness," Isa.8:20, and "Word" is one of the many Names of Jesus Christ, Jn.1:1, The Everlasting Father, Isa.9:6. You are saying Christ paid the wages of sin for everyone... so for that to be true, every one is redeemed lest you preach Jesus Christ is a failed Savior. If Christ died for every one then every one is saved. How is it every one is Not filled with the Holy Spirit since all true believers are? Unbelief is sin, Jn.16:8-11... and since unbelief is sin Christ paid for that sin by His death, too.

Sadly enough, Christianity of today largely preaches a failed Savior in Jesus Christ whose dying is only half done... man makes up for the other half by saving himself through the work of faith, 1 Thes.1:3, the law of faith, Ro.3:27,28 and by his good work of trust. Besides that, how does the mentally ill " make a decision for Christ" when they don't even know their own name ? Salvation is denied every insane person, every Alzheimers sufferer, every Autism sufferer, every Dementia sufferer and the like because these folks have very limited awareness of reality. Fundamentalist gospels of salvation by the will of man, Jn.1;13, deny these people remission of sins and life eternal. Explain to God on Judgement Day why you preached a failed Savior while denying salvation to all those not as intelligent as you.

• are you claiming the Scriptures teach that all are saved and none perish? BTW, fundamentalists do have an answer regarding those who are not able to understand sin, e.g. children or those with a child-like mental capacity, etc. – Jim Jul 27 '15 at 21:26

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