Our Position On Infant Baptism
By Rev. Jeffrey C. Kinery +
Adult converts to Christianity have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior from sin by the hearing of faith (Gal. 3:2) through the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). They confess their faith before Baptism (Acts 8:13,37) and thereafter Baptism strengthens their faith as does the Lord's Supper. Thus, adults are first instructed and then baptized (Acts 2:41; 8:35-38; 10:47-48; 16:14-15, 30-34; 18.8).
In dealing with infants, however, it is a different matter. Little children come into the Christian Church through Baptism. All orthodox (true, pure-teaching, right-thinking) churches practice paedobaptism (infant-baptism). Only sects that grew out of the heretical Anabaptists of the 16th century deny infants this means of grace. the Augsburg Confession of the Lutheran Church teaches "that children are to be baptized, who, being offered to God through Baptism, are received into God’s grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism." (AC, Art. IX, para. 2-3, Triglotta, p. 47) Again, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession reads: "It is manifest that God approves of the baptism of little children. Therefore the Anabaptists, who condemn the baptism of little children, believe wickedly." (Ap. IX, 53, Trig. 245) The Evangelical Lutheran Church, on sound Biblical and historical grounds, practices infant baptism for the following reasons:
- Little children, infants, NEED Baptism because they, like adults, are by nature thoroughly corrupted by original (inherited) sin. Even babies are known to cry out of pure jealous selfishness--a trait not learned or taught but inherent in their nature. By nature babies are bad! They, too, are descendants of and are of like nature to the same tbieving gardener (Adam) and again of the same drunken sea-captain (Noah). The Lutheran Confessions condemn the following heretical teachings. “That children who are not baptized are not sinners before God, but righteous and innocent, who in their innocency, because they have not yet attained their reason (the use of reason), are saved without Baptism (which, according to their assertion, they do not need). Therefore they reject the entire doctrine concerning original sin and what belongs to it.” Also condemned are those that teach “that children are not to be baptized until they have attained their reason, and can themselves confess their faith.” Further rejected is the idea “That the children of Christians, because they have been born of Christian and believing parents, are holy and children of God even without and before Baptism; and for this reason they neither attach much importance to the baptism of children nor encourage it, contrary to the express words of God's promise which pertains only to those who keep His covenant and do not despise it. Gen. 17,7ff.” (Original emphasis, Formula of Concord, Epitome XII "Erroneous Article of the Anabaptists", paragraphs 4-6, Triglotta p. 839. See also FC, Thorough Declaration, para. 2-4, Trig. p. 1099.) Even infants, at times, die. The Bible teaches that death is a result of sin (Rom. 6:23)--babies are sinners!
- Genesis 5:3; 8:21; Psalm 25:7; 51:5; 58:3; Proverbs 20:9,11; Job 14:1-4; 15:14; 25:4; 13:26; Ecclesiastes 7:20,-John 3:6; 9:34a; Romans 3.10-12, 19b, 22b, 23; 5:12, 15, 18-19, 22-23; Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2:14.
- Infants are certainly included in the COMMAND to baptize “all nations”. Children were included in the censuses of ancient nations. If some argue that infants are not specifically referred to in Jesus' institution of Christian baptism then we might point out that neither are grown, mature men or women singled out in the words: “all nations”.
Matthew 28:18-20 (It is typical for Baptists to insert into this Great Commission of Christ a time element and sequence that is grammatically inadmissible. “Make disciples of all nations” is an entirely correct translation of mathateusate. This is followed by the participles baptizontes and didaskontes. By this construction the meaning is conveyed: "make disciples by baptizing and teaching.” Two MSS (B and D) even have baptizantes, that is “having baptized.” What the Baptists do is explain the verse as though the words were: mathateusantes (participial) …. baptizete … didaskete, namely, “having made disciple of, baptize and teach,” which false exegesis, besides making little sense, actually declares that disciples of Christ can be made before they are baptized and taught. However could this be done? What possible means and method could be used to accomplish this? Unfortunately, no sensible answer is given, and, we believe, none possible. (From “Baptism--Who and Why” by S. Twenge in: The Faithful Word, Vol. 13, No. 4, Nov. 1976, p. 6.)
- The PROMISE of salvation through baptism is given to children: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gif t of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:38,39. Here the Greek word for “children” is teknois. It is a term that is inclusive of descendants and children of any age, including little babes. (Cf. Luke 1:17; 3:8; Acts 17:28,29)
- The Sacrament of Baptism is COMPARED TO CIRCUMCISION by St. Paul. Circumcision in the Old Testament was the sacrament that brought infant, eight-day old male babies into the Covenant of Israel--the Church. Gal. 3:6-8 informs us that the covenant God made with Abraham was a Gospel relationship. According to Genesis 17:9-14 the sacramental sign of this covenant of grace was to be circumcision. It was to be kept by Abraham and his seed "in their generations." It is clear, though the sign of circumcision has been abolished, that little children are still to be included in the covenant of grace (Gal. 3:15-17). As male children were made partakers of the covenant by circumcision in the Old Testament, so are all children to be made recipients of God's grace through Baptism in the New Testament. St. Paul calls baptism “the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, Who hath raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:11,12) In Romans 2:28,29 Paul speaks of the “circumcision of the heart”.
- Circumcision was commanded in the Old Testament (Lev. 12:3) and failure to perform it on the part of an Israelite was a grave sin (Exodus 4:23-26). Were the baby boys not circumcised it would be a reproach to the people (Joshua 5:2-9). But even the Old Testament spoke of the "circumcision of the heart" and, moreover, commands the Jews to circumcise "the heart of thy seed". In the New Testament, Baptism accomplishes this very thing. Cp. Deut. 10:16; 30:6 with Col. 2:11,12)
- In Ephesians 5:25-26 we read of the SANCTIFICATION OF THE WHOLE CHURCH. Paul writes: “… Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for It; that He might sanctify and cleanse It with the washing of water by the word. " Since children are also to be part of the church, they, too, are to be sanctified and cleansed with the washing of water by the Word--with Baptism.
- Jewish rabbis and commentators speak of various JEWISH BAPTISMS in the Old Testament. Maimonides says: “By three things did Israel enter into covenant, by circumcision and baptism and sacrifice. Circumcision was in Egypt, as it is written: ‘No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.’ Baptism was in the wilderness just before the giving of the Law, as it is written: ‘Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes (washing of garments was understood to mean the washing of the whole body) . And sacrifice, as it is written Exodus 24:5’” In the New Testament we read of the Jewish “doctrine of baptisms” (Hebrews 6:2) and of “divers washings (baptismois)” (Hebrews 9:10) Some of these washings or baptisms included the bathing with, throwing and sprinkling of water or blood (Exodus 29:4,21; Leviticus 14:7-916:14-19; Numbers 19:7,13-21). The point is that children were included in all of these baptisms. Edward W. A. Koehler writes, “It is irrelevant to our present purpose to show whether or not this baptism (the above mentioned by Maimonides) was a divine institution; suffice it to say that the Jews believed that in the wilderness all the people, including the children, were baptized. They furthermore held that this baptism availed for all their descendants; filius baptizati habetur pro baptizato.” It is granted that these Old Testament baptisms are not Christian Baptism. However, if the people were used to baptizing infants along with adults, why would not Jesus, when instituting His baptism, specifically exclude children if they are not to be included? Koehler again states: Whenever a custom is continued, nothing need be said; but if a radical change is made, then those who have grown up under the old custom must be told." The rite of baptizing was nothing new to the Jews. Jesus gave a new meaning and power to an old practice which
- included infants as its object of concern. Christ has not excluded infants from His Baptism; neither dare we:
- Similar to the previous argument is the case of PROSELYTE BAPTISM. The Jewish authorities tell us that when a Gentile convert (proselyte) to Judaism would enter that faith in the Old Testament, he would be baptized with his children. The Gemara Babylon states: “If with a proselyte his sons and his daughters be made proselytes, that which is done by their father redounds to their good.” “They are wont to baptize such a proselyte in infancy upon the profession of the House of Judgment.” The Mishna of both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds speak of proselytes being baptized under three years of age. Maimonides writes: “The Gentile that is made a proselyte, and the slave that is made free, behold, he is like a child new born.” This new birth as accomplished by a baptism for Maimonides continues: “An Israelite that takes a little heathen child or finds a heathen infant and baptizes him for a proselyte, behold, he is a proselyte.” Again, the point is that this common practice was intended for adults and inf ants alike. The new meaning and power attached to the ancient practice did not exclude children in the New Testament. .
- All Jews--men, women and children – were baptized unto Moses in the misty cloud and RED SEA. Of this Old Testament type we read: “And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, besides children.” (Exodus 12:37) Exodus 14 tells us of the crossing of the Red Sea by all the children of Israel. In the New Testament we read, "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
(1. Corinthians 10:1,2) Certainly, the children participated in this and were not left to be slaughtered at the hands of the Egyptians. Furthermore, St. Paul tells us, “Now these things were our examples” (v. 6).
- As mentioned before, there is NO SPECIFIC TEXT IN SCRIPTURE THAT BARS BABIES FROM BAPTISM. We would expect this considering the widespread custom of Baptizing infants of Jews and Jewish proselytes. On the other hand, the inference and implication of the plain texts of the Bible clearly assume the practice of infant baptism. The teaching is clear though we admittedly have no direct words such as: “Baptize babies.” The practice of infant baptism is based upon a necessary, logical deduction from the words of the Bible that teach all mankind, including infants, are sinful, need a Savior and that Baptism is the means whereby any person may appropriate saving faith in Jesus Christ. (E.g. Though the word “Trinity” is not to be found in the Bible, the doctrine of such is still Scriptural because it is derived from the naked texts of the Bible which instruct us that there is only one true God Who has revealed Himself in three distinct Persons--Father, Son and Holy Ghost--thus Trinity or Tri-Unity, Three Individual Person in One Divine Being or Essence.)
- Christ NEVER ESTABLISHED INFANT DEDICATION. Some churches try to fill the void left by their denial of infant baptism by practicing the bringing of babies before the congregation or altar for blessing and dedication. This may be a lovely practice but it has no divine mandate. Jesus neither instituted adult nor infant baptism just simply baptism--baptism for all. It is the Savior’s gracious provision intended for all the inhabitants of earth that are human souls. Half-hearted substitutes will never do.
- The practice of HOUSEHOLD BAFTISMS in the New Testament was most assuredly inclusive of infants. Not only children, but also slaves and their children were included in the Jewish, Greek, and Roman concepts of families and/or households. In Acts 10:24 we learn that Cornelius had “called together his kinsmen and near friends.” At Peter's preaching “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” (v. 44) Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (v. 48) It is proclaimed by Peter to Cornelius that by this “thou and all thy house shall be saved.” (11:14) Likewise Lydia “was baptized, and her household” (Acts 16: 15) ; the Philippian jailer “was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” (Acts 16:33); “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house . . . and were baptized” (Acts 18:8); and Paul writes that I baptized also the household of Stephanas:" (1. Corinthians 1:16)
- The EXAMPLE OF CHRIST AND PAUL are sometimes misused to negate the necessity of baptism for anyone, let alone infants. It is said that Christ never baptized for John 4:1-2 states-“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,) He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.” Yet, the baptism by Jesus’ disciples was nevertheless a valid baptism in His Name. John 3:22 says, "After tbese things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea; and there He tarried with them, and baptized." Again, "And (John's disciples) came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to Whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all come to Him.” (John 3:26) Jesus’ baptism, performed by His disciples upon all whom came unto Him, was still His authoritative baptism. Though Jesus never Himself baptized others, He did show an example to us all by Himself being baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17) and providing ministers to perform it upon us. Moreover, though St. Paul writes, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel,” the fact is that Paul did baptize “Crispus and Gaius” and many others. (I Cor. 1:14-17) Paul himself was baptized (Acts 9:18). Paul’s claim to the Corinthians was made under such circumstances “lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.” (v. 15) Rather, the examples of Christ and St. Paul are an urging for all to be baptized, including children.
- The TESTIMONY OF THE EARLY CHURCH demonstrates that infant baptism was practiced. The Apostolic and Church Fathers testify to its use and acceptance. Polycarp, Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian (by his opposition), Origen, Cyprian, Pelagius and Augustine all testify to its practice from the beginning. Listen to some of their testimonies:
Augustine, 354-430, comforts those who are disturbed “that some people do not bring their infants to Baptism with the faith (purpose) that they may by spiritual grace be regenerated to eternal life.”
Pelagius, b. 330, writes, “I have never heard of even any impious heretics who asserted that infants ought not to be baptized.”
Council of Carthage, 254, the sixty-six bishops said. Ne ought not to hinder any person from Baptism and the grace of God, who is merciful and kind to us all. And this rule, as it holds for all, we think more especially to be observed in reference to infants, even to those newly born."
Origen, 184-254, holds: “According to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants, when, if there were nothing in infants which needed forgiveness and mercy, the grace of Baptism would not seem to be necessary.” Again he writes: “For this also it was that the Church had from the apostles a tradition to give Baptism even to infants. For they to whom the divine mysteries were committed knew that there is in all persons a natural pollution of sin, which must be done away by Water and the Spirit, by reason of which the body itself is also called the body of sin.” Again, “Infants are to be baptized for the remission of sins.”
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's centennial series, The Abiding Word, Volume II, pp. 399400 cites additional historical testimonies:
Additional Testimony for Infant Baptism: Augustine (d.430): “The Pelagians have never dared deny Infant Baptism, because they know that if they had denied it, they would have to fight quite manifestly with the whole Church” (cf. Lib. 1.26). Again he says concerning Infant Baptism that “the whole Church is making use of it" and that the custom of baptizing infants “stems from the holy Apostles.” In his Tenth Session he admonishes his hearers: “Let no one mislead you by false doctrine. The Baptism of children the Church has practiced at all times . . . and has guarded it to this day continuously.” (Quoted in Rambachs Erlaeuterungen, p. 681; for the entire quotation cf. Canada, 1888, p. 45.) The same report quotes also a decree of the Council of Carthage (418): “Whosoever denies that newly born children are to be baptized, let him be accursed” (ibid. p. 46). The report, moreover, quotes Tertullian’s argument against Infant Baptism (Tertullian, d. ca. 220): “For the nature and disposition, indeed, also the age of each person, the delay of Baptist is much more useful, and this applies especially to little children . . . Let them, then come as they grow up; let them come as they learn (that is), as they are taught to what they come. Why should the innocent age hasten to forgiveness of sins? In earthly matters people certainly act much more cautiously; they entrust to those divine things to whom they do not entrust earthly goods. Let the children first learn to ask for salvation, so that it is clear that we give to those who ask f or it. For the same strong reason also the
unmarried also are to delay (Baptism). If anyone recognizes the importance of Baptism, he will be more afraid to obtain it than to delay it.” (Ibid., p. 48.) The report quotes Luther as saying that “Tertullian was among the church fathers a real Carlstadt” (p. 47) -Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (d. A.D. 258) was a friend, but not a follower of Tertullian. This Cyprian rebuked a presbyter in Numidia, by the name of Fidus, because he taught that little children should not be baptized before the eighth day, because in the Old Testament male children were circumcised on the eighth day. He writes: “And so, dearest brother, this was the final verdict at our Council (at Carthage) that no one should be kept by us from Baptism and from the grace of God who is merciful good, and faithful to all. Since, then, this (gracious, divine) purpose should be referred to and maintained with regard to all, we hold that this purpose pertains all the more to young children, as also the newly born.” (Ep. LIX. Ad Fidum. Ibid., 49.) Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp, who himself was a student of St. John the Apostle, was Bishop in Gaul (France) since A.D. 177. In his well-known writing “Against the Heretics” he says (11:22): "Christ is come to save all through Himself, I say, all, who are born again through Him unto God, the infants (infantes) and the little children (parvulos) no less than those who are boys or young men or old men.“ Here Irenaeus does not mention Baptism expressly, but, as the report shows, he always writes of the regeneration and salvation of little children in such a way that Infant Baptism must be presupposed (ibid., 49). Again the report shows that Justin Martyr (b. A.D. 89; d. A.D. 166) in his Dialogue with Trypho. the Jew, states that Baptism is the circumcision of the New Testament, and in his Apology addressed to Antoninus Pius (A.D. 81-166), he writes: “Very many people of the age of sixty or seventy, both men and women, who from a child were made disciples of Christ (he here uses the same verb, matheteuein, which Christ uses in Matt. 28:19), remained spotless and unmarried.” Very clearly Polycarp here refers to Holy Baptism. But that means that Infant Baptism was practiced not only during his life (ca. A.D. 100), but even while some of the Apostles (e.g., St. John) were still living (ibid., p. 50).
The fact of the matter is that these men were much closer to the Apostles in time than we are. Their overwhelming voice evidences the practice of infant baptism. Are the practices of modern-day deniers of infant baptism (founded upon the radical speculations of 16th century Anabaptists) to serve as our guide or are the concrete testimonies of many godly men (who are in line with the Scriptural truth) to be our example?
- The EXAMPLE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST should cause us to baptize babies for it is written that there “went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan., confessing their sins.” Certainly infants were included in such a host.
- One of the main arguments of those who oppose infant baptism is their claim that babies cannot believe. The Bible teaches, however, that little children can believe --INFANTS CAN HAVE FAITH! Certainly the faith of infants is not a reflective faith (fides reflexa) --a conscious and reasoning faith. Yet, theirs is a real faith (fides actualis) which actually lays hold of its object --Jesus Christ. This fides directa, which directly appropriates Christ, is not a possible or potential faith but a real and saving one. Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you. Except ye be converted, and become as little children (paidia), ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child (paidione), the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child (paidione) in My name receiveth Me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones (mikrone--microscopic, tiny ones) which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. . . . Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-6,10) Again, the Savior says, "Even so it is not the will of your Father, which is in heaven, that one of these little ones (mikrone) should perish." (v. 14) In Matthew 19:14 Jesus speaks of “little children” (paidia) and says, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Thus, we should become like them in faith to inherit God’s Kingdom. They are the highest examples of faith and possess trust that we should all imitate. Jesus says, “Verily I say unto
- you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child (paidione) shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:17) In Luke 10:21 (Matthew 11:25) we read. “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes (napiois).” Matthew 21:15-16 remarks about “the children (paidias) crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David”; this displeased the chief priests and scribes and thus Jesus rebukes them by quoting the Old Testament (Psalm 8:2) which reads: “Have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings (napione kai thelazoatone) Thou hast perfected praise?” Luke 18:15 mentions that “they brought unto Him also infants (brephae) that He would touch them.” When the disciples turned these away Jesus says, “Suffer little children (paidia) to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (v. 17) These “newborn babes (artigenaeta brephae) desire the sincere milk of the word” (1. Peter 2:2) Note especially that “infants” (brephae) include also the fetus in the mother’s womb (Luke 1:41,44; 2:12,16; 18:15; ActS 7:19; 11 Timothy 3:15). St. John constantly addresses believers as “little children” (teknia and paidia) in his three letters (1. John 2:1,13,18,28; 3:7,10; 4:4; 5:21; 2. John 1,13; 3. John 4). It is clear that the Greek words for “children” (teknois), “little children” (paidia), “babes” (napione), “tiny ones” (mikrone), “infants” (brephae) and “sucklings” (thelazontone) are used interchangeably in Scripture and it is predicated of such that they “believe”, “are of God’s Kingdom”, “praise God”, and that we are to become like them. If it is insisted that conscious intellectual understanding is a demand of saving faith, then we ask does a person have faith while asleep, unconscious, deranged, in a coma or severely retarded? Babies may believe and baptism works in them that faith.
- Christians are commanded to BRING BABIES TO JESUS CHRIST. In Mark 10:13-16 (Matthew 159:13-13; Luke 13:15-17) we are told not to hinder little children but permit them to be brought to Jesus. Previously Jesus has said, “Whosoever shall receive one of such children in My name, receiveth Me.” (Mark 9:37) Do not Christian parents bring babes to Christ when in baptism these infants “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27)?
- BAPTISM IS NECESSARY to enter God's Kingdom. In John 3.3-6 we read: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” In Mark 16:16 the Lord states: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” Parents who refuse to baptize their children are like the “pharisees and lawyers” who refused to be "baptized with the baptism of John" and. thus "rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. " (Luke 7:29,30) We have no comfort to offer such as refuse and reiect baptism. We dare never to give them the impression that they may obtain salvation by despising God's sacrament. If they throw up the example of the thief on the cross that Christ promised paradise to then we must ask: 1) How do we know that he might not have been baptized into John’s baptism during his lifetime (While it does not mention his baptism, neither is there a denial of it.)? 2) May an exception granted by Christ to His rule in John 3:5 and granted to one individual in Luke 23:43 be applied to all in general? (We are limited to the means of grace, Christ is not.) 3) Christ had not yet instituted His baptism; He did so immediately prior to His ascension (Matthew 28:18-20).
- We must always remember that Holy Baptism works the MIRACLE OF CONVERSION, wrought by the Holy Ghost through God's Word, in the heart of a child or an adult. Those who oppose infant baptism always start from a synergistic view of conversion (Synergism--from the Latin synwith, argo-work; thus to “work with”—posits that man can cooperate with God in his own conversion). It is said that a person must come to “the age of accountability” in order to surrender, decide for, invite into their life, choose to believe, or seek out Jesus as their personal Savior. The Bible, however, tells us that salvation is the result of God’s decision about us and never of ours concerning Him. Otherwise our “decision” would be a good work on our part which precedes faith and thus shows that we would merit or take part in our own salvation. We cannot get salvation by works (Rom. 3:24,28; 5:15,18; 11:6; Titus 3:5; Eph. 2:8,9; Gal. 2:11); we can only receive it as a gift by faith. Salvation is totally by the working of God (monergism) through His word (John 6:44,65; 15:5,6;
Romans 9:16; Ephesians 1:19,20; 2:13; 1 Cor. 12:3; Colossians 2:12). Baptism is water with God’s Word. It actually saves! Note the following blessings given by baptism:
Acts 2:38.”... Be baptized every one of you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Acts 19:5-6. “When they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came on them ... “
Acts 22:16. “Arise and baptized and wash away thy sins.”
Romans 6:3-14. “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. ... Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. .. . For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the Law, but under grace.”
1 Cor. 6-. 11. “But Ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
1 Cor. 12:13. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
Galatians 3:26-27. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Ephesians 4:3-6-“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Ephesians 5:25-27. “Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
Titus 3:5-7-“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
1 Peter 3:20-21. “In the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us”
Is it so hard to believe that the God who rends bare the hearts of grown men and brings them to faith through His Word might through the association of His Word in the application of water work a conversion in the heart of a little child -an infant -and send in His Holy Spirit? The same Spirit cries out through the mouths of babes: “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15-16)
Is Baptism Absolutely Necessary? What about those children of Christian parents who die before they could be baptized? If the parents of these children were believing (not heathen) persons who intended to baptize their babies and did not reject Baptism, we, as reads the Lutheran Liturgy, “commit this child to the mercies of the Lord.” We have good reason for this practice:
- The contexts of those passages which would seem to teach the absolute necessity of baptism indicate that these words were pronouncements of Law, not Gospel. John 3:5 and Luke 7:29, 30 were
- spoken to unbelieving, baptism-reiecting. Pharisees. Mark 16:16 lacks the negative clause “and he that is not baptized shall be damned.” Only unbelief damns. Luther says in the Small Catechism that it is the contempt f or and not the lack of baptism that damns. Luther says, “The unbaptized believer is not damned. He stands condemned who does not believe.” (St. Louis ed., XII, 1706)
- Although we are bound to the Means of Grace (Word and Sacraments), remember that God is not bound. He can, if He so chooses, create faith in the infant outside of baptism just as He could raise up children to Abraham from stones (Matt. 3:9). There is some indication that God not only could but did create faith without means. a) John the Baptist -Luke 1:15,41,44; b) Little girls in the Old Testament; c) a little boy in the O.T. who died before circumcision but went to heaven – 2. Sam. 12:18.23; d) babes and sucklings -Matt. 21:15.16 (Psalm 8:2); e)the babies of saints before the covenant of circumcision was given. These examples must never be used to justify neglect or rejection of baptism, though.
- Christian parents commit unborn and newly-born children to God in prayer; not that the faith of the parents rubbed off, but that prayer is effectual (Jas. 5:16).
4. Children of (a) believing parent(s) are consecrated or set apart as “holy” (hagios) unto the Lord
(1. Cor. 7:14). This is a very difficult passage and might be interpreted as analogous to 1. Tim. 4:4,5. In any case, the above mentioned points are given as pure Gospel comfort to Christian parents whose babes did not have a chance for baptism and die. We leave the ultimate care of their souls in the hands of a merciful God. This is the trust that is incumbent upon us according to the First Commandment.
Is the Lutheran Practice of having “sponsors” Biblical? According to the Small Catechism, sponsors are a) To testify that the children have been properly baptized; b) to assist in caring for the Christian education and training of their godchildren, especially if these should lose their parents; and c) to pray for them. Since a sponsor promises to raise and train a child in the same faith into which he was baptized it behooves the church to insist that the sponsor be of the very same fellowship so as not to burden the person's conscience and to be assured that the vow will be fulfilled. The practice of having witnesses to establish the truthfulness and the occurrence of an act is quite Biblical. (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Cor. 13:1)
May God grant to all who read this tract a pious appreciation for the converting Spirit who works through the means of Holy Baptism to bring little children unto Jesus, their Savior. Amen
Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis, Mo; Concordia, 1921
Dallmann, Wm. “Infant Baptism” a tract published by Holy Cross Press, n.d.
Koehler, E.W.A. “Infant Baptism”, printed in the Concordia Theological Monthly, Vol X, No. 7 (July 1939), pp. 481-491. A Summary of Christian Doctrine, n.p., 1952, pp. 206-209.
Mueller, John Theodore. Christian Dogmatics, St. Louis, Mo.: C.P.H., 1955, pp. 497-498. “Holy Baptism” in The Abiding Word, Vol. II, St. Louis, Mo: C.P.H., 1947, pp. 398-400. “Why Baptize Children?” a C.P.H. tract, n.d.
Pieper, Francis, Christian Dogmatics, St. Louis, Mo: C.P.H., 1953, Vol. III, pp. 277-278.
Twenge, S. “Baptism -Who and Why” in The Faithful Word, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Nov., 1976), pp. 4-12.