Is Infant Baptism Scriptural?

The question whether infants of believing parents should be baptized appears to be perennial. It is put repeatedly. Hence this doctrine must be stated over and over again, in order that its Scriptural basis and character may not be lost out of sight. Here is an attempt to state these things as briefly and at the same time as fully as possible.

Though we frankly concede that there is no explicit command ( that is to say, a command put in so many words) in the New Testament that infants of believing parents are to be baptized, yet we hold that the doctrine is thoroughly Scriptural nevertheless. Such lack of explicit Scriptural statements is also found with other important doctrines and practices, such as the approach of women to the Lord’s Table (in the Old Testament times they were not required to come to the Passover), and the change of the weekly Sabbath from the last to the first day of the week.

Moreover, in the case of infant baptism the burden of proof rests with those who deny the Scriptural validity of the doctrine. Infants were included in the covenant of God in the Old Testament times and were circumcised (Gen. 17:9·14). If, then, they were not to be included in the covenant and were not to be baptized in the New Testament era one would reason· ably expect a specific statement forbidding infant baptism. Yet no such prohibition is found in all the New Testament.

In order to see that infant baptism is Scriptural, it is first of all necessary to concede and to confess the essential unity of the Bible. All artificial and arbitrary assertions of present day Dispensationalism notwithstanding, the Old and the New Testaments are essentially one. Their unity is in Christ. He is the Mediator of both Testaments. Christ speaks to the disciples on the way Emmaus, “These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which arc written in the law of lo.’loses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened He their mind, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:44, 45). The apostle Peter testifies, “To him [Christ] bear all the prophets witness, that through his name everyone that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).

Moreover the condition of the covenant, its blessings and its promises are the same in the Old and the New Testament, “For to you is the promise [made in the Old Testament] and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him” (Acts 2:39). In fact the apostle Paul emphasizes that the covenant revealed to Abraham projects itself into the New Testament and is, therefore, continued from one Testament into the other. Romans 4 and Galatians 3 are very important chapters for this teaching. In Romans 4:16 the apostle states, “For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace; to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Paul ends the third chapter of Galatians by stating. “And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise” (see also Galatians 3:7–9, 15–18). Moreover, in Colossians 2:11, 12 the apostle links circumcision to baptism. He states that the Colossians were circumcised. But their circumcision was not ordinary, since it was not made with hands. and since it was “the circumcision of Christ.” What then was this circumcision of Christ? The apostle explains that it consisted in their “having been buried with him [Christ] in baptism.”

Again, the organic character of the covenant is continued from the Old Testament into the New. That is to say, when individuals me saved they are not only included in the covenant and baptized, but their households also. Hence Cornelius was not only saved and baptized, but likewise all his house (Acts 10:48; 11:14); so also not only Lydia was baptized, but her household as well (Acts 16:15); in the same manner the jailer at Philippi was baptized “he and all his” (Acts 16:33; in line with this Paul states in I Corinthians 1:16 that he had baptized “the household of Stephanus.” We admit that this does not prove that infants belonged to these households and were baptized. It would certainly be strange if no minor children were included in all these households. But that is not the argument here. It is possible, though not probable, that no children were found in these homes. But that these individuals and their households were baptized does show clearly that the organic character of the covenant has been continued from the Old to the New Testament.

Moreover, infants are by no means ignored in the New Testament. Special attention is given them and remarkable statements made. “But Jesus said. Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for to such belongeth the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). The covenant promise is extended to children (Acts 2:39, quoted above) and even children born of so-called mixed marriages are said to be holy (I Corinthians 7:14).

All this cumulative evidence is sufficient to show that the doctrine of infant baptism should not only be very precious to us, but it should likewise convince us that it is wholly Scriptural in character. The neglect of it is not pleasing to our God.