Some of my best friends and my most admired heroes of the Christian faith believe in the practice of baptizing infants and bringing them into the membership of the church apart from any profession of faith. My love and respect for these dear brothers and venerable men of God has on more than one occasion inclined me to reconsider whether they’ve got it right and I’ve got it wrong.
But after “revisiting” the issue several times, I’m still a Baptist. I could offer several reasons. But one reason involves the teaching of a text that’s often overlooked in the Infant Baptism (Paedobaptism) vs. Believer Baptism (Credobaptism) debate. That text is John 1:12-13.
But to as many as received [Jesus Christ], He granted the legal warrant to become children of God, even to the ones who believe in His name, who were born not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the decision of a husband, but of God (author’s translation).
This passage teaches that the conferral of covenant sonship status under the New Covenant is limited no longer to the Jewish nation and is predicated no longer on natural descent but on supernatural descent, the fruit and evidence of which is saving faith in Jesus the Messiah. Such a conclusion runs contrary to the practice of baptizing non-professing children of believers and bringing them into the membership of a New Covenant church. Consider the following three observations and their implications for baptism and church membership:
Should infants be baptized? William Shedd thought so. Here, in this excerpt from his text Dogmatic Theology, he explains why:1
Baptism, being the initiatory sacrament, is administered only once. While symbolical only of regeneration, it yet has a connection with sanctification. Being a divinely appointed sign, seal, and pledge of the new birth, it promotes the believer’s growth in holiness by encouragement and stimulus. It is like the official seal on a legal document. The presence of the seal inspires confidence in the genuineness of the title deed; the absence of the seal awakens doubts and fears. Nevertheless, it is the title deed, not the seal, that conveys the title.
Baptism is to be administered to believers and their children:
Therefore, there is a precedent in the Bible (both OT & NT) for a spiritual understanding of circumcision. These passages speak of dedication, repentance, and purity. Col. 2:11–12 fits into this description of circumcision when we examine it closely. The text mentions “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (v. 11). Then comes the connection to baptism. The words of Col. 2:12 echo those in Rom. 6:4.
Christian baptism is an identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Rom. 6 is in a context of why believers should not continue in sin though grace abounds (6:1–2). Part of the answer to that question is a discussion on the meaning of baptism. Because we have pledged ourselves to follow Christ and identify with His death, burial, and resurrection, it should make a difference in our lives. Our pledge is not for salvation, but rather it is a commitment made before witnesses (note the examples of many baptisms in the book of Acts) that we intend to live for Him. If we have believingly done that, we should no longer continue in sin. We should forsake it and live in newness of life—a life of dedication.
From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2018, with permission.
Most Baptists have heard of Reformed and Presbyterian churches who baptize babies, because “the practice of circumcision in the Old Testament (OT) is replaced by infant baptism in the New.” Verses cited in support of this analogy include Gen. 17:7–8; Gal. 3:9, 14; Col. 2:11–12; Acts 2:38–39; Rom. 4:11–12; 1 Cor. 7:14; Matt. 28:19; Mark 10:13–16; and Luke 18:15.1 The challenge for those who use this analogy is that these passages either mention circumcision (Gen. 17:7–8; Rom. 4:11–12) or baptism (Acts 2:38–39; Matt. 28:19) or neither circumcision nor baptism (Gal. 3:9, 14; 1 Cor. 7:14; Mark 10:13–16; and Luke 18:15). What is required for this analogy to work is a link between circumcision and baptism.
There is only one text in the Bible that mentions both. That passage is Col. 2:11–12. Is this the missing link that connects circumcision to baptism and therefore justifies infant baptism? Before addressing this, it remains of vital importance to understand that the analogy has always been and can only be between physical circumcision (involving a literal cutting of the flesh) and water baptism. Those who use this analogy connect it to Abraham’s participation in God’s covenant with physical circumcision as the sign of this covenant (Gen. 17:1–16).