Who should be baptized?

This is part 3 in a series. The first two parts are: Part 1, Part 2.

When you read the New Testament, there is no question that believers should be baptized. Baptism was consistently offered to those who turned to Jesus in repentance and faith. The real question is should infants be baptized or just adult believers.

I believe the Bible clearly teaches believer’s baptism. This means that only adult believers, and not infants, should be baptized.

In the Bible, baptism is performed on those who confess, repent and believe in Jesus Christ. In Acts 2:38-41, Peter urges his listeners to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The story concludes with the statement “So those who received his word were baptized” (2:41). This indicates that the ones baptized were the ones who were capable of understanding the message and responding to it. In Colossians 2:12 we are taught that baptism joins us to the work of Christ through faith. In 1 Peter 3:20-21, baptism is called an appeal to God for a clean conscience. That is another way of saying calling upon God. All of these texts indicate a conscious response of faith and belief on the person being baptized.

The reason we should not baptize infants is that they are incapable of making this profession of faith. They have neither experienced nor expressed the reality that baptism signifies. Furthermore, there is no direct evidence in the Bible that infants were baptized. Many have appealed to the passages that refer to entire households being baptized in an effort to read infant baptism into the Bible. The problem is that this is an argument from silence. There is no evidence that there were or were not infants or young children in those households. Furthermore, in two of the three instances where household baptisms are mentioned, there is evidence that all in the household were converted and believed. Acts 16:34 indicates the entire household believed. 1 Corinthians 16:15 implies that the entire household of Stephanas (baptized in 1 Corinthians 1:16) was converted and ministering on behalf of the Lord. This implies that all who were baptized were old enough to understand the message, be converted and begin serving.

Baptizing infants leads to a number of problems. First, it gives people a false assurance of faith based on their baptism. Second, it robs people of the Biblical means of identifying with the church when they do become believers. Third, it robs baptism of its rich symbolism of identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Based on the requirements of belief and repentance that consistently accompany baptism, the intention and symbolism of baptism, and the lack of direct evidence of infants being baptized, it seems best to hold to the practice of believer’s baptism.

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