Why We Baptize Infants

by Pastor Mencarow

Baptism is the form that the circumcision which God gave Abraham in the old covenant takes in the new. The apostle Paul therefore called baptism “the circumcision of Christ,” (Col. 2:6-12), that is, given by Christ.

The outward sign has changed from circumcision to baptism, but it’s essence has not changed: they both are a sign which God has given to mark out His people from the world.

The seal has not changed at all. It is the seal of the righteousness of faith given to us, a indissoluble seal that binds us to the Lord.

Baptism, as was circumcision, is a gift of God to his people. It is not something we do to please God or to earn His favor. It is a gift from Him to us.  Does it mean we have faith, that we are saved?  Not necessarily.

There is nothing in the whole history of the people of God which they value more highly, on which they more securely depend, than that they are called by the name of the Lord. It was to this fact that they appealed when in their affliction they turned to the Hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble: “Thou, 0 Jehovah, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name: leave us not” (Jer. xiv. 9). It was in this that their jubilation reached its height: “I am called by thy name, 0 Jehovah, God of hosts” (Jer. xv. 16). When our Lord commanded his disciples to baptize those whom in their world-wide mission they should draw to Christ “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (Mt. 28:19),  precisely what He bade them do was to call them by the name of the Triune God, that they might be marked out as his and sealed to him as an eternal possession.

Naturally, therefore, this sign and seal of baptism belongs only to those who are the Lord’s.  There are no distinctions of race or station, sex or age; there is but one prerequisite — that we are the Lord’s. What it means is just this and nothing else: that we are the Lord’s. What it pledges is just this and nothing else: that the Lord will keep us as his own.

Does this mean we should not baptize infants?  The argument is that only a person who can make a decision for Christ should be baptized, and since infants cannot make such a decision, they should not be baptized — all, there have been many who were baptized as infants and who went on to reject Christ, some living horrendously sinful lives.   Hitler and Stalin were both baptized.

Remember what I just said: The sign and seal of baptism belongs only to those who are the Lord’s. Is this then an argument against infant baptism?  Not at all.  Obviously, if a baptized person dies while rejecting Christ as their Savior and Lord, they were never His to begin with. Their baptism signified nothing. So how are we to know if an infant is of the Lord if it cannot make a profession of faith? Well, is a profession of faith a guarantee that someone is saved? How many people have made a sincere profession, or a sincere-sounding profession, been baptized and then fell away? Millions, probably billions.  Possibly as many as have ever been baptized as infants. No one except God knows who is saved and who is not. A profession of faith is no guarantee. If we need a guarantee that a person is saved before we can baptize them, then we can’t baptize infants — and we can’t baptize adults, either.

Those who argue against baptizing infants confuse a profession of faith with salvation.

In fact, the Bible calls us to baptize all adults who come in faith and their children, even those too young to make a profession of faith.

Acts 2:38-39 says, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  The Holy Ghost, speaking through Peter, did not stop at “you,” but added, “and to your children.”   He repeats his meaning in different words to drive it home and to make sure they understand: “Every one of you.” This clearly includes the children.

Baptism is the New Covenant administration of circumcision (just as the Lord’s Supper is the New Covenant administration of the Passover meal, as the Lord Jesus made clear).  In the New Testament we  find several instances in which entire households were baptized.  One can claim this applied only to those who were able to make a profession of faith, but God’s Word does not say that.  There is no exegetical reason to believe that infants were excluded.

The argument for “believer’s baptism” is an Arminian argument — that one is not saved until a profession of faith is made.  The Bible, however, teaches that “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4, and many other places).  Chosen infants are God’s chosen (justified, saved) just as much as someone who has made a profession of faith.  To believe otherwise is to believe that all who die in infancy and all who, for one reason or another (mental illness, brain damage, etc.) are unable to make a profession of faith go to hell.  The Calvinist believes that elect infants and all those who, in the wisdom of God, are unable to profess their faith are with Him in heaven when they die.

If they fall away and die in their sins it doesn’t matter in the least at what age they were baptized. That is irrelevant. It simply proves that they were never the Lord’s to begin with.

I suppose that if someone thinks that all infants will go to hell if they die in infancy, then that’s an argument against infant baptism. But if you believe the Bible you cannot think that. If you believe the Lord when He says it is by His grace you are saved, through the gift of faith, not of works — Eph. 2:8-9;

if you believe the Lord when he says “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,” in order to be saved, Rom 9:15-16;

if you believe the Lord when He said that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost while still in his mother’s womb, Lk. 1:15 — “he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb”;

if you believe the Lord when He says that He loved Jacob and hated Esau before either of them were even born, Rom 9:11 “For the children being not yet born  neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand  not of works, but of him that calleth,”

As with adults, it is only the infants who are the Lord’s who are to be baptized; but equally naturally as with adults, all infants that are the Lord’s are to be baptized. We don’t know for sure who they are, but He does. Being the Lord’s they have a right to the sign that they are the Lord’s and to the pledge of the Lord’s holy keeping. Circumcision, which held the place in the old covenant that baptism holds in the new, was to be given to all infants born in Israel, even though we know that not all of them were saved — “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom 9:6).  Baptism, as the NT circumcision, “the circumcision of Christ,”(Col. 2:11) must follow the same rule.

The baptism of infants presupposes and declares that salvation is altogether of the Lord. If salvation depends on anything we do, no infant can be saved; for there is nothing that an infant can do. But there is nothing an adult can do to be saved, either. Paul’s purpose in explaining circumcision was to show from the case of Abraham that salvation is a gift from God, and signs and seals come afterward. Every time we baptize an infant we bear witness that salvation is from God, that we cannot do any good thing to secure it, that we receive it from his hands as a sheer gift of his grace, and that we all enter the Kingdom of heaven therefore as little children. Do not forbid the little children to come unto me — for such is the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 19:14).

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