Biblical Baptism: Infants and Adults Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

baptism was "dipping." The word was widely used in the New Testament in Jesus' teachings and also in the letters of Paul. Jesus uses the term 'baptism' to refer to the death/suffering that awaited him (Mark 10:38)[footnoteRef:2]. He draws parallels between the suffering that awaited him and some form of immersion -- which he was to be drowned in. He says that the immersion was necessary and until he emerged from it, his work is incomplete (Luke 12.50). It therefore means that, right from the start, baptism symbolized Christians sharing in the suffering of Jesus Christ by immersing themselves into a mold similar to that of the suffering of Christ. Paul talks of baptism 'into' Jesus' death (Romans 6.3). Christians experience this as they celebrate Good Friday and also during the Holy Communion as they break the bread.[footnoteRef:3] [2: Williams, Rowan. Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer. 2014: 1] [3: Williams, Rowan. Being Christian: 2]

With Christians reflecting more about this with the passage of time as its art and liturgy developed, Christianity came up with other associations. When Jesus was being baptized, he walks into River Jordan and the Holy Spirit comes down onto him and a voice is heard from heaven saying: 'You are my Son' (International Standard VersionLuke 3.22).[footnoteRef:4] Drawing from this, prayers of those baptized will be prayers that move in depths not comprehensible to human beings. Paul alludes to this when he writes to the Romans: 'the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans' (New International Version, Romans 8.26). Prayers coming from those baptized are more than just the words; it is far deeper -- to levels that the human mind cannot comprehend. It is neither about the results nor what pleases the individual but what is done by God when He is close to him/her. This aspect points to a deeper meaning and substance to baptism.[footnoteRef:5] [4: Williams, Rowan. Being Christian: 2] [5: Politics of Religion, Volume 2. The Oxford History of the Christian Church. Oxford Scholarship Online,


Infant Baptism

Fundamentalists believe that Baptism is to be reserved for adults and those children who are a bit older as a prerequisite to baptism is 'salvation' -- one having "accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior." When one is 'born again' they become Christians and they are forever assured of 'salvation'. What follows is Baptism but not much value as far as 'salvation' is concerned is drawn from baptism. Actually, someone who has been saved but fails to get baptized before they pass on will still enter the kingdom of God. Fundamentalists view baptism as ordinance and not as a sacrament. It is just a public acceptance and manifestation of a Christian's conversion. But since only older children or adults have the capacity to seek conversion, they deem baptism as not appropriate for infants or those children that have not attained the age of reason (conventionally deemed to be 7 years of age).[footnoteRef:6] [6: Stookey, Laurence Hull. Baptism, Christ's Act in the Church. Nashville: Abingdon, 1982:7]

Fundamentalists hold the view that before reaching the age of reason, young children and infants are saved automatically. The need to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior only arises once one has attained the age of reason. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus tells the disciples to allow the children to go to him. Fundamentalists hold the view that the application of this excludes the children who have not attained the age of reason, as, the implication is that the children Jesus is making reference to already had the capability to seek him through their own power and will.[footnoteRef:7] [7: Best, Thomas F. Baptism Today: Understanding, Practice, Ecumenical Implications. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2008.8]

Fundamentalists argue that the children referenced in those passages were able to walk and so had the ability to sin. But Luke 18.15 says that "Now they were bringing infants to him." The word 'infants' here is translated from the Greek word brepha which is the Greek equivalent for infants. This implies that the children were not able to make it to Jesus on their own and so they may not have had the consciousness to 'accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior'. This is the reason Fundamentalists refuse to baptize infants and younger children as they are not yet able to decide for themselves if they want to be 'saved'. But again Jesus stated: 'to such as these (referring to the children) belong to the kingdom of heaven'. There was not a requirement from Jesus that they decide consciously if they wanted to go to heaven. Jesus says that the likes of the children are the kind which on coming to him will receive the kingdom. Given this explanation, on what grounds, we should ask the fundamentalists, should the children be denied baptism? If the Lord himself said that the children should be allowed to go to him, where do we get the power to deny them baptism? Fundamentalists continue to turn a blind eye to the early writings which legitimized the baptism of infants. They are making attempts to sidestep historical facts by stating that faith is a prerequisite for baptism and that children are not able to have faith. It is indeed true that Jesus prescribed faith and instruction for the converts who were adults (Matt. 28:19 -20), but the law on the need for baptism (John 3:5) does not restrict baptism. While infants are part of the law established by Jesus, the requirements which the children cannot meet because of age isnot a must for them. The children are not capable of receiving instruction and manifesting faith. This is also the case with circumcision; it was required of adults to have faith while the children were obviously exempted.[footnoteRef:8] [8: Best, Thomas F. Baptism Today: Understanding, Practice, Ecumenical Implications:7]

Infant Baptism in the Context of the Catholic Church

From the era of the New Testament, the Catholic Church's understanding of baptism has always been different. Their teachings say that baptism is a sacrament that achieves many things, for instance, sin remission (actual and original sin for adults and the original sins for the infants). Peter in (New International Version, Acts 2: 38) replied "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."Peter in saying that the gift of the Holy Spirit will be received on repentance and baptism explains what takes place when a person gets baptized. This teaching was however not limited to adults as he adds that the promise is to them and their children and every person that God calls to Him. Acts 22:16 (New International Version) also tells us that "Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name." The commands apply to everyone including infants. Moreover, the commands clarify what connection exists between salvation and baptism as 1 Peter 3:21 (New International Version) explicitly states: "Baptism... now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."[footnoteRef:9] [9: "Tracts." Infant Baptism:11]

Water baptism by immersion is public display of obedience in following Christ's example for His baptism (Matthew 3:16). Baptism does not make you a believer -- it shows that you already believe. Baptism does not "save" you -- only your faith in Christ does that. Baptism is like a wedding ring -- it's the outward symbol of the commitment that you have made in your heart. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." (New International Version) Ephesians 2:8-9.[footnoteRef:10] [10: "Baptism Is a Public Statement about Your Relationship with Jesus." NorthRidge Church. Accessed May 26, 2015.]

According Acts 16:15 (New International Version) "one of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home." Lydia together with her household, as stated in the New Testament, was converted and baptized (Acts 16:15). The same was the case with the Philippian jailer that had been converted by Paul and Silas in Acts 16:33. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, he says "I did baptize also the household of Stephanas" (New American Standard Bible1 Cor. 1:16).[footnoteRef:11] [11: "Tracts." Infant Baptism:13]

In all these instances, the whole household was baptized. This implies that the children were part of the baptism. The texts did not say, for instance, 'the Philippian jailer and the wife' and so we cannot assume that it was just…

Sources Used in Document:


"Baptism Is a Public Statement about Your Relationship with Jesus." NorthRidge Church. Accessed May 26, 2015.

Best, Thomas F. Baptism Today: Understanding, Practice, Ecumenical Implications. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2008.

Britton, Dennis Austin. Becoming Christian. Oxford: Fordham University Press, 2014.

Ervin, Howard M. Conversion-initiation and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Critique of James D.G. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1984. Print.

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