Infant Baptism Scripture

baptismal font We celebrated the baptism of a beautiful little girl yesterday. I was asked by a church member for the Biblical support for this particular action, and I really enjoyed the resulting Bible study. I’m posting these verses here in case anyone else would be interested in the fruits of that request.

Matthew 28:19-20 – Jesus talks about the need to make disciples, not converts
Ephesians 6:1-4 – And here’s the reminder that children are to be included in this process of discipleship (esp. verse 4)
Acts 16:15 – Baptism applied to members of a household (you’ll note that ages are simply not mentioned)
Galatians 3:29 – Here’s the New Testament idea of the Abrahamic Covenant – note especially the last phrase, “heirs according to promise”.
Here are the references for parts of the Abrahamic covenant:
Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-7; 17:1-14 – made between God and Abraham
Genesis 26:1-5, 23-24 – includes Issac, Abraham’s son
Genesis 28:10-15; cf. 48:15-16; 50:24 – includes Jacob, Abraham’s grandson
Exodus 2:24; 6:2-8 – includes all of Israel, descendants of Abraham
Genesis 17:9-14 – signs that accompanied biblical covenant
– please notice that the sign includes children – babies are circumcised before they understand being brought under the covenant

We are not justified by the covenant of works, but by the covenant of grace. And since the covenant of grace has fulfilled the requirements of the covenant of works, a new sign to reflect the new covenant is appropriate. That sign is baptism.
Acts 8:12 – notice both men and women participate in the new sign of the new covenant
Colossians 2:11-12 – notice that baptism has REPLACED circumcision THROUGH Christ (the bridge between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace)
Galatians 3:7 – The promise that God made to Abraham in the covenant is still in effect; Christians are, by faith, still ‘children of Abraham’

Since that covenant is still working (Romans 9:8) but its sign has been changed from circumcision to baptism (Colossians 2:11-12), it is reasonable to understand that children are included in that covenant of grace (Acts 16:15). If children are included, then children are able to be baptized.

Since parental faith was exercised in the Abrahamic covenant on behalf of children (Genesis 17), it is reasonable for parental faith to apply in the new covenant, since faith by the father is counted to the children (Romans 4:11).

Consider all of the “household belief” Scriptures in the book of Acts:
Acts: 1:14; 3:4; 4:27; 5:1; 10:2; 14:13; 15:22; 21:5

I hope this blesses you as much as it blessed me!
KFJ – Ed

4 Responses to “Infant Baptism Scripture”

  1. 1 Seth Jones September 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Thanks for this, Ed.
    At my Lutheran seminary, one of my professors justified infant baptism by saying we are always helpless before God, and baptizing an infant is not only justified but is also representative of how we always stand before God. Further, at what point do we really have a ‘conscious’ understanding of what is happening in baptism? I actually understand LESS what happened at my baptism at 15 years old than I did then.
    Seth Jones

  2. 2 Chris Meirose (@mrclm) October 22, 2012 at 4:17 am

    For transparency: I grew up Lutheran (born, baptized, confirmed, 20+ years) but came to faith as a Baptist and was re-baptized as a professing adult and did my M.Div at a Baptist seminary while serving a Baptist church.

    I think the verses you listed are why we can allow for both modes of baptism – my church practices both, with our most recent being 4 baptisms by immersion in August.

    With that said, I see the overwhelmingly clear pattern in the New Testament being professing believers going down into a body of water to be baptized. It was the way Christ was baptized. Baptism by immersion is rich in symbology tied to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. The primary use of the Greek baptizo is to immerse (though there are variants that broaden the definition). So while I’ll allow and preside over other baptisms, my preference is and will remain immersion. Also of consideration is the belief that baptism is obedience rather than salvific.

    Chris Meirose

    • 3 pastoredb October 22, 2012 at 10:59 pm

      Chris, thanks so much for your reply.

      I certainly agree with you that the pattern in the New Testament is of the immersion of believers in baptism. It’s certainly my preferred method as well. I’d also agree with you that baptism is not salvific.

      I will push back, just a bit though, on your comment about the “overwhelmingly clear” comment. I must agree with you that the New Testament certainly advocates believer’s baptism. However, we need to realize that the New Testament only covers a very short amount of elapsed time, especially as compared to the Old Testament, with its well developed sense of covenant signs, and also in comparison with the rest of elapsed church history.

      With that in mind, the New Testament really only gives us a very short snapshot of time – certainly not long enough for significant development of infant baptism as a normative practice.

      I’m personally cautious about using New Testament practices as norms for current day faith. If we use the standard of “overwhelmingly clear pattern” usage to determine what is practiced today, then should we sell our individual belongings and live together in common… because that was the pattern in the book of Acts? Should we forego the use of electricity in church buildings because we know that electricity wasn’t used in the New Testament?

      Thanks again for your comment – it’s always a joy (and a bit of a shock) to discover that other people read this blog!
      KFJ – Ed

      • 4 Chris Meirose October 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

        Ed – I think the selling of our possessions and taking care of one another is something we are missing out on in the modern American church. This is practiced in other parts of the world. When I preach on that, I preach on it as a practice we’ve lost out on (among others – gathering daily for regular breaking of bread etc.). The big picture idea is the depth and level they cared for one another and their commitment to one another, and we just don’t have that (for the most part) in our highly individualized and self-centered society.

        And while the NT only covers a short amount of time, it is nonetheless God breathed scripture. And while I know all about the various forms of biblical literature, this passage is pretty straight forward in style, leading me to believe that Luke records it not just as a reference to a cultural phenomenon. While it doesn’t have to be (shouldn’t be) codified into law, it can be the benchmark for standard practice.

        I think the electricity is a red herring in that the early church used what was available to them technologically at the time.

        And I didn’t (previously) read your blog. When you commented on the church thread in the NA Clergy Facebook Group I visited your church site and eventually wondered over here. Seeing Seth’s comment I thought I’d jump in. So it was either a random accident or God’s providence…and I’m leaning toward the latter! 😉

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