Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Short Defense of Infant Baptism

In an email dialogue tonight, a friend asked me to articulate a defense of infant baptism. A better defense would have been longer, but I threw this together rather quickly, brevity being key. I believe it gets to the core, and does a decent job explaining why we believe infant baptism is consistent with the teaching of Scripture.


God's way of relating to man is through His Covenant. The Covenant takes many forms throughout Scripture, which is something I won't get into right now. But we see in the Old Testament that the Covenant included not just believers, but also their children. In the Old Testament, the sign of the Covenant was circumcision. That's why God required Abraham, the recipient of God's covenant promises, to circumcise not only himself, but also his sons, his male servants, and their sons. They were all in God's covenant under Abraham's headship, so they had to receive the sign that they were in the covenant. The New Testament makes it clear that circumcision is no longer something to be practiced, because the Old Covenant (or Testament - the words are interchangeable) is over. A new sign has been instituted, though, and that is baptism. Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant. Lest we think that children are no longer in the covenant, and recipients of the covenant promises, Peter says in Acts 2:39, "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And in the same breath, in verse 38, he commands all to be baptized. Rather than excluding children, he seems to very clearly include them. And in that context of his sermon, it's clear he is talking about the Abrahamic Covenant. Colossians 2:11-12 seem to associate circumcision and baptism together - the circumcision of Christ, in which the body is put off, is the burial and resurrection of baptism.

One argument to consider is this: Hebrews 8:6 refers to the New Covenant as being a better covenant than the Old Covenant. How can it be a better covenant if children are excluded from it?

The baptist will say there are no infant baptisms in Scripture. But we would say that's irrelevant. There are three household baptisms mentioned in the NT: the Philippian jailer's household (Acts 16), the household of Lydia (also Acts 16), and the household of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16). The implication of the word "household" is such that if infants were present, they would be included, as the whole household was baptized, none excluded. Also, while there are changes from the OT to the NT, there are lots of things that aren't changed. And we are offered no evidence in the NT to suggest that children are no longer in the covenant, and therefore aren't supposed to receive the covenant sign. Quite the contrary. To put it succinctly, God doesn't have to repeat Himself. And if he wants us to stop doing something, he always makes it clear. He nowhere says, "the covenant sign is only for those who are old enough to clearly and verbally articulate faith in me, and consent verbally to the covenant sign." That wasn't required in the OT, and so unless He tells us otherwise, we can safely assume that it isn't required in the NT.


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