In a recent radio talk the pastor of a large denominational church in Western Michigan dramatically described the death of a six-year old boy in his congregation. Little Jimmy had been stricken with a fatal illness. Summoned to the hospital, where the child was being given every available medical aid, the pastor found him remarkably calm and submissive. The fast-moving disease was resisting all the potent drugs being administered to him. Death was quite inevitable. The pastor spoke to Jimmy about heaven and offered a comforting prayer. Death came that same night and Jimmy went to be with the Lord. “This child,” said the pastor in his talk, “had been dedicated by his parents to the Lord”…“Jimmy was God’s boy.”
The pastor was solemnly sure about this. Jimmy had a testimony. He knew that Jesus was his Savior. In his childlike way he had evidenced a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. No question about it! Jimmy was God”s boy!
This public asseveration by Jimmy’s pastor raises an interesting question. Why is it that this particular interdenominational church withholds baptism from the children of believing parents? “Dedication” is recognized and even encouraged, but not presentation for baptism. Is it because a six-year old child is too young to make a “credible profession”? What do we mean by “credible profession”? Certainly, we mean the opposite of “incredible profession.” A credible profession is simply one that can be believed. Apparently Jimmy’s avowal of faith was such. At least his pastor believed it!
But let us look at this from another point of view. If Jimmy was God’s boy—and we have no reason whatsoever to doubt it -he was God’s boy fiat by virtue of his testimony, not by virtue of his parents’ dedication, but solely by the grace of regeneration. All anti-paedobaptists* in the evangelical church agree that “except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). All evangelicals agree that this new birth is from above. It is “of the Spirit.” It is the work not of man but of God. When one is God’s man or “God’s boy,” it is because God has made him so through regeneration. One may testify, as did Jimmy, that Jesus is his Savior, but certainly it is not the testimony that produces this saving relationship. Salvation by grace can never be salvation by testimony or by dedication. So, six-year old Jimmy, who in his infancy had been dedicated to the Lord by his believing parents, was “God’s boy.” He was that, not because of what he said or what his parents did, but because of what God did.
Little six-year old Jimmy was a regenerate. If the pastor had any doubts about that, it is not likely he would have called him “God’s boy.” Now, if a six-year old child of Christian parents can be a regenerate, may we not believe that a five-year old child of Christian parents similarly can be a regenerate? And how about a four-year old child? A three-year old child? Just where will you draw the line? And just where is to draw the line? Where did they draw the line in the ancient Christian Church? The records here are open to everyone. They are open to the undenominational churches as well as to the denominational churches. Let them take up the records and read them for themselves. This is what they will read: Justin Martyr, writing about A.D. 138, says that “there were among Christians of his time many persons of both sexes, some sixty and some seventy years old, who had been made disciples of Christ from their infancy.” lrenaeus, who died about A.D. 202, says: “He came to save all by himself—all, I say, who by him are born again unto God, infants and little children and youths.” The practice of infant baptism is acknowledged by Tertullian, born A.D. 160. Origen, born in Egypt A.D. 185, says that it was “the usage of the Church to baptize infants,” and that “the Church had received the tradition from the apostles.” Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, A.D. 248 to 258, together with his synod decided that baptism should be administered to infants of Christian parents before the eighth day. St. Augustine, born A.D. 358, declared that “this doctrine is held by the whole Church, not instituted by councils, but always retained.”
When little children, barely beyond the age of toddlers, are asked to give their testimony in children’s religious radio programs—the writer has heard such testimonies more than once—it would seem that these children are to be regarded as members of Christ’s Church, “and therefore as members of His Church ought to be baptized.” For if their testimonies are valid—and if they are not valid, we certainly have no business broadcasting them -these little witness-bearers “should be baptized as heirs of the Kingdom of God and of His covenant.”
Our Christian brethren who reject our doctrine of Infant Baptism have a problem on their hands. They keep reaching into lower and lower age-levels for their testimony exhibits. Yet, they withhold baptism from these “little Christians,” these “little missionaries.” They praise God and rightly so!—for the work of grace in his little ones, but they deny them the sign and seal of that grace.
Jimmy was “God’s boy.” He should have been baptized!