|Baptism for little ones, too…|
Terry Dashner……………...Faith Fellowship Church PO Box 1586 Broken Arrow, OK 74013
Why would I, a former Southern Baptist minister, advocate infant baptism? As I grow older in the Lord, some topics that I once labeled—“errant-church doctrines”—now have come under closer scrutiny. One doctrine I have reviewed and renewed my thoughts to is infant baptism. Why?
I do this for several reasons. For one, the Holy Spirit has been directing me this way. The Holy Spirit has impressed upon me that there is more to baptism than the argument of immersion verses sprinkling. He has shown me that there is more to the scope of baptism than simply baptizing a new (adult) convert in water.
What I’m about to share with you does not include the ontological, metaphysical, or philosophical import of Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ). Although I concur that these precepts are very important to the doctrine of baptisms—for the sake of time and space—I’m going to keep this very simple. I also stipulate the fact that we are called unto salvation from the beginning. Also, I stipulate the fact that salvation is a work of God’s grace—totally.
Granted. There is an awareness that people grow into with age that prompts them to call upon the Lord for salvation; however, the awareness and faith to believe unto salvation does not nullify grace. God provides everything for my salvation. I don’t add anything, not even the faith to believe. God called me even before I was in my mother’s womb. God convicts me of the need for His salvation in His timing. God provides the grace and the faith to receive His salvation (Eph. 2:8-10). Grace always comes before faith.
With that said, let me return to baptism. The argument against infant baptism is this. An infant is not capable of confessing his sin and calling upon the name of Jesus for salvation; therefore, no infant should be baptized because baptism always follows the conversion of person who has reached the age of accountability. May I ask you this: What is the age of accountability? Is that term found in the New Testament? No, it isn’t. As a matter of fact, it is a term coined by some of the radical groups of the Reformation, such as the Anabaptists (re-baptize). The Anabaptists believed that infant baptism was wrong and re-baptized all their adult converts who had been baptized as infants.
Here is an important point. Infant baptism is older than the Reformation. It was practiced by the early church, then the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Greek Orthodox Church and was undisputed until the 16th century. To the Roman Catholic, infant baptism is a “sacramental theology” issue and not a “church ordinance” issue as upheld by many Protestant groups. The Roman Catholic believes that the baptism of an infant washes away the original sin of the infant. The Bible declares that ALL are born into Adam’s sin. I agree, but for me the issue is neither “sacramental theology” nor a “church ordinance” issue. I believe that the baptism of an infant has more to do with “covenant relationship” than washing away the infant’s sins.
Allow me to explain, please. In I Corinthians 16:1 Paul writes, “Now I did baptize the household of Stephanas…” The word “household” is the key word. In the Greek New Testament the word oikos is translated, “household” and means the entire family—men, women, and children (infants too). There is no evidence of this word being used either in secular Greek, Biblical Greek, or in the writing of Hellenistic Judaism in a way which would restrict its meaning only to adults.
As a matter of fact, the Old Testament parallel for “house” carries the sense of the entire family. The Greek translation of the original Hebrew manuscripts (completed in 250 B.C.) uses this word when translating the Hebrew word meaning the complete family (men, women, children, infants). I believe that a Christian home should baptize every one of their new-born babies into God’s covenant relationship that He has established with the parents. In this way—as Paul alludes to in his letter to the Corinthians—the children are sanctified. I believe the rite of infant baptism sets apart, as special, the children of Christian parents. These children will grow up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” to embrace God’s salvation more fully as they mature in age. The baptism is a special covering of God’s grace.
Let me continue, please. Circumcision, the sign of God’s covenant between the people of Abraham and Himself, was performed on every male child who was eight days old (Genesis 17:12). Many see a direct parallel between circumcision and Christian baptism in scriptural passages such as Colossians 2:11-12. If baptism is the “New Testament circumcision” there can definitely be no objection to “sealing” the infant of a consecrated Christian family in Christ’s New Covenant.
Continuing. Moses led his people through the Red Sea. This is seen as an Old Testament foreshadowing of Christian baptism. (See I Corinthians 10:1-4.) It is worthwhile to note that “all were baptized” through Moses’ leadership in crossing over the Red Sea. He did not leave the infants or children on the shores of Egypt to become prey to the angry armies of Pharaoh because they were not old enough to believe in the promise of the Old Covenant. But, rather, entrusted to the arms of their parents’ faith, they were carried through the “baptism of Moses.”
Continuing, please. The saving of Noah’s entire family by the ark can also be seen as a prefigurement of a baptism which includes infants. All that needs to be said, as in the case of Moses’ passing through the Red Sea, is that the entire family was on board the ark. In this regard, why should infants be left out of the ark of baptism?
Continuing. Larry Christenson, in his pamphlet “What About Baptism” quotes Edmund Schlink (author of The Doctrine of Baptism) as stating that the rejection of infant baptism was based on the secular philosophy of the sixteenth century which assured man’s individuality, and was not the result of a new scriptural inquiry: “Belief was seen in rationalistic and volitional terms, as an act of the mind and the will. ‘Because an infant cannot think or decide, it cannot have faith, and therefore should not be baptized.’ To this day, that is the only argument raised against the validity of infant baptism. One tosses off the sentence as though it were self-evident truth: ‘A child can’t believe.’ But that ‘truth,’ upon examination, is neither self-evident, nor is it Biblical.”
Christenson goes on to say that faith is not merely a product or reason but revelation. It is a relationship of love and trust, a relationship which is not limited to the mind. (Consider these scriptures: Psalm 22:9, Mark 9:42 and Luke 1:44.) Again, time does not afford me the opportunity to quote the early church fathers and their teachings regarding infant baptism. Suffice to say that almost all were in agreement that infant baptism was scriptural and should be carried out in the church.
I believe that baptism of the infant is significant to our covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ the Son. I believe that infant baptism should be practiced in the local church; however, I defer my personal belief to the parents. If the parents want their baby baptized, I will perform the baptism with the infant’s dedication. Again, the issue is not to divide the body who dissents but to cover the babies with covenant before God. This can’t hurt but only help.
Keep the faith. Stay the course. Jesus is coming again soon.
About the Author
Pastors a small church in Broken Arrow, OK. US Navy veteran, retired police officer with the city of Tulsa, and father of three grown children.
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