“Baptism now saves you,” says Peter in his first epistle (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is never spoken of as something we do for God, but as something God does for us – an expression of the gospel. In The Gospel According To St. Mark, we are introduced to John’s “baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” and then to our sinless Savior who comes to Jordan’s bank for baptism as our Substitute to fulfill all righteousness.
Understandably, as people were first won for the faith, the number of adult baptisms was quite high. Once these adult converts had children, it was also quite natural to bring their children for baptism. It is good to review why we also baptize little children.
Except for Tertullian and a few other critics, none of the ancient church fathers ever questioned infant baptism until the so-called “Anabaptists” – a fringe group at the time of the Reformation in the 1500’s. Luther, of course, utterly rejected these false teachings of the Anabaptists. More importantly, we baptize infants and little children because THE BIBLE points us in this direction:
1) Scripture teaches that children are born sinful and in need of salvation (Ps. 51:5).
2) Christ commands us to “make disciples of all nations.” How so? First, by “baptizing them…”, and then by “teaching them…” And children are certainly part of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
3) Paul compares baptism in the New Testament to the covenant of circumcision in the Old Testament – something that was done in infancy (Colossians 2:11-13).
4) Entire families or households were baptized in the book of Acts. The word for “household” in the New Testament includes the children (Acts 10;24, 28; 11:14; 16:15; 16:28-36; 18:8).
5) Jesus plainly states that infants can receive the gift of faith – that they can believe – .i.e – “these little ones who believe in Me” (Matthew 18:6).
6) Referring to baptism Peter said on the day of Pentecost: “The promise is for you and for your children” (Acts 2:39).
7) Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them (Luke 18:16). Interestingly, the same Greek word for “hinder” is used in Matthew 3:13; Acts 8:36; 10:47 & 11:17 in regard to baptism! – as in, “What keeps [hinders] me from being baptized?”
8) Baptism is a means of grace – a visible expression of the gospel – the good news that Christ died and rose again. This gospel – whether in word or sacrament – carries the power to create and then also to sustain faith. The Bible does not picture baptism as an “ordinance” of the law, or as part of a “decision for Christ.” We did not choose Christ. He chose us. (1 Corinthians 12:3). Baptism passages always have to do with the forgiveness of sins (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). This is why the Nicene Creed speaks of “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Of course, once faith is created, it must not be left to wither and die. Parents must feed their children’s faith with the gospel. To ignore regular church attendance and instruction in the Bible is to deny God Himself parental rights with His own children. It is unspeakable spiritual child abuse. “Let the little children come!”