Is infant baptism valid according to the Bible?
Baptism is another piece of doctrine that has split churches. I myself have been baptized as an infant, and then again as an adult. Was that necessary? Was the first baptism invalid? What does the Bible say about baptism?
That’s what we’re going to look at today.
Baptism represents our old life being buried with Christ, and rising again to new life (Romans 6:3-6). So, it is, in a sense, both a remembrance of Christ’s death, and also a foreshadowing of our eventual recreation with perfect bodies.
The word baptize (in English) comes from the Greek word baptizo, meaning to immerse, to dip under, to submerge, and in the New Testament, this is what we see. For example, when Philip baptized the eunuch, they specifically went down into the water to perform the baptism (Acts 8:36-38). As well, we see John the Baptist (named for this very act) baptizing people in the river Aenon. Why? Because there was much water, and you need a lot of work in order to fully submerse someone (John 3:23).
Today some churches baptize by sprinkling or pouring water, but if that had been considered a valid method, John wouldn’t have bothered to take the trip. He could have just used a local well.
So, why do some people sprinkle or pour water? Well, because it’s a little scary submerging a baby. So, what then do we do with the infants? Should they even be baptized?
The Bible lists three requirements for baptism:
- You must be taught (Matthew 28:19)
- You must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:35-37)
- You must repent of your sins (Acts 2:37-38)
Infants can neither be taught, be expected to believe, or repent of their sins. Very simply, according to the Bible, infant baptism is not valid, because infants do not meet any of the requirements for baptism. There is only one valid form (Ephesians 4:5), and that is clearly baptism, of a reasoning, believing, repentant person by immersion.
So, why do many churches baptize infants? They will give you many reasons, depending on the denomination.
For example, the church I grew up in cites these verses:
And immediately he and all his family were baptized. – Acts 16:33b
The problem is the culture they were in. At that time, women and children were considered second class humans. When counting people, one only counted men of age (12 and older). When Jesus fed the 5000 people, he fed 5000 men, plus women, plus children. When the Israelites were numbered, the men only were numbered. So, this verse has been taken out of it’s historical context in order to try and prove the point, centuries after infant baptism was instituted.
Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. – Luke 18:15
Another argument is that Jesus allowed little children to come to Him. However, there is no mention of baptism, so this isn’t a valid verse to use either.
Some believe that baptism is to Christians as circumcision was to the Jews, and that was performed on infants. But, nowhere in the Bible does it give a link between the two. In fact, nowhere in the Bible do you see a child being baptized at all. As with many false doctrines, these arguments are all rationalizations after the fact. So, what is the real reason?
The real reasons is that about 200-300 years after Christ, there was a confusion that being baptized literally cleansed the sinful nature from someone. Eventually, parents were terrified of the unknown status of their children. They didn’t know what would happen if they’re child died without having their sinful nature cleansed. So, by 400 AD, the church made it official, that they would accept child baptism. Of course, it would only take a generation before all children were baptized and adult baptism was only used for converts. But, you can’t submerse a child in water, so they needed a new form. Luckily, pagan culture had an answer. They already had a ritual for newborns that involved taking oil and drawing a “T” on the forehead of the baby, to dedicate the child to Tammuz (one of the pagan gods). They would also put salt and spittle into the babies’s mouth to preserve it from evil spirits.
This practice got adopted by the church. They created “holy water” (which today still includes salt) to use instead of oil, and still draw a “T” on the forehead, though they say that this is for the cross, not Tammuz. 16 centuries later, most have forgotten. When the protestants split from Catholicism, they took this tradition with them, but had to make up their own reasons, and so, we have doctrines about infant baptism so that they can keep their man-made transitions instead of following the Bible.
This is why I was baptized twice. I was baptized as an infant, but obviously without the Biblical prerequisites being followed. So, when I became an adult, when I learned the truth, I felt compelled to be baptized again. Because, I had learned, I believed, and I had repented, and so, I wanted to be baptized, to signify my conversion (if a little late). This is part of the commission of the church (Matthew 28:19), and every believer should be baptized (Acts 2:38).
But, some are still confused by this. Baptism is not some magic ceremony. There is nothing in the water. The rivers where people were baptized in the New Testament (including Jesus’) were not holy. The Bible is clear, that believers should be baptized, but it is the belief or non-belief that is ultimately responsible for your fate (Mark 16:15-16). Your children are safe as children of believers (1 Corinthians 7:14). To baptize them as an infant, and teach them that it is right, only robs them of the chance to follow God’s commandment to be baptized as an understanding, believing, repentant adult, to witness to others the change that has already been made in them upon their conversion, or upon the day that their parents religion becomes their own.
So, that’s what the Bible says about baptism. What will you teach your children?