(Answered on 10/03/2015 Program)
Infant baptism has been a common practice among many Christian denominations for centuries. To answer this, let’s look at some passages and think about who is being baptized and what preceded it by the listener who was baptized:
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.
From this passage we see those who were baptized heard Philip’s preaching, believed and then were baptized. In this case, it was men and women who were baptized.
Acts 2:36-38, 41 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
- Pierced to the heart: from the Greek terms katanyssomai and kardia, meaning “to cause pain or metaphorically, emotional sorrow” and “the center of all physical and spiritual life” (See Strong’s number G2660 and Strong’s number G2588).
- Repentance: from the Greek word metanoeō, meaning “a change of mind, that leads amending sinful behavior (See Strong’s number G3340). Repentance always precedes baptism.
Here, these souls heard the message Peter preached (Acts 2:14-40) and were “pierced to the heart” suggesting their conscience was affected by what they heard. Then Peter instructed them what they must do to be forgive their sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: Repent and be baptized.
Acts 18:7-8 And he departed from there, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Titus Justus, one who worshipped God, whose house was next to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized.
We see a pattern here for who was being baptized and what lead to the baptism. These people were old enough to hear the message and understand it. In believing the message, they responded by willingly being baptized. The times I’ve seen an infant being sprinkled with water; they’ve more often been tearful than a willing participant. So far with these Biblical examples, an infant would not be one who is able to hear, believe and respond to the command of baptism.
Considering the call to repentance, there is an appeal to a conscience that knows right from wrong. An infant who is not mature enough to have a trained conscience does not know right from wrong and could be considered innocent. They have no sin to repent of (yet) and no ability to comprehend what is “right”. It appears it takes enough maturity to choose to change your ways (repent) and also there is an element of the heart where the Bible describes as the place we hold things that are important to us. When a eunuch ask Philip about being baptized, Philip even puts a condition of belief “with all your heart”:
Acts 8:35-38 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. (NASB)
Whatever Philip was teaching the eunuch when he “preached Jesus to him”, it must have included a need to be baptized and believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Notice the condition here: Philip makes it clear that if the eunuch believes with all his heart, then he can be baptized.
Sprinkled, Poured or Immersed
The questioner say they were baptized as an infant. Let’s look at the definition of the Greek word for baptism.
- Baptism: from the Greek word baptizō, meaning “to dip, to plant, to cover, to overwhelm, to immerse” (See Strong’s number G907). The term “baptism” used in the Bible is one of the few transliterated words (Mapping the characters of a word from one language to form a word in another language)
Note there are other Greek words that are not used when describing baptism:
- Rhantizó meaning “to sprinkle” (See Strong’s number G4472)
- Epicheō meaning “to pour upon” (See Strong’s number G2022)
It is dip (baptize) that Jesus used in Matthew 28:18-20 “teaching them and baptizing them”
Listen for the reason why John the Baptism chose this place to baptize:
John 3:23 “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.”
The baptism of the first century required “much water”. This was not a little sprinkling process; it was immersion. Listen to these passages that draw a picture of baptism as a “covering” or “planting”:
Romans 6:3-4 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (NASB)
Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (NASB)
Baptism is a burial and a resurrection. Here also an indication of age: To be “raised up with Him through faith”, implies they were old enough to have faith. There is much more to learn about baptism from these passages that you should study further.
An argument is sometimes made to suggest infants were baptized point out passages where there are “households” being baptized. Let’s look at the bible to see what we can observe. This is the account of Lydia who was merchant from Thyatira (Acts 16:11-15) selling in Macedonia where Paul was:
Acts 16:15 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. (NASB)
And here is a passage that is a part of the story of the Philippian jailer.
Acts 16:31-34 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 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. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized
The first observation as we mentioned earlier was that the ability to hear and belief is a necessary part of this process (infants aren’t capable of this). Secondly, none of these instances mention infants which is necessary to assert infants should be baptized. A “household” does not necessarily include children. Many years ago there were infants in my household, but not now.
If you believe with all your heart…
If you were sprinkled with water as a infant and want to follow the pattern you read about in the Bible for those becoming Christians, you, as an adult who is able to hear the word, repent of your sins, and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, you should be baptized. There are several other passages that include baptism that you should study to better understand baptism and what it is for.