A Closer Look at Spirit, Water, and Infant Baptism
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God;
because many false prophets have gone out into the world. I John 4:1
The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the doctrine of baptism, with special attention given to the role it plays in salvation, and whether or not it was intended for infants. A brief examination of Martin Luther's teachings on this subject are also included.
Because it is impossible to please all people and accommodate all views, some who read this may be offended. It is not my purpose to offend but only to tell the truth based on the Scriptures and from what we know about church history. Some may accuse me of trying to cause divisions; however that is NOT the reason I wrote this, nor has it ever been my intention to do so. Nor is it my intention to tear down anyone’s faith -- unless it is placed (or misplaced) in someone or something other than the person and work of Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross, and His subsequent resurrection, and ability to save us apart from our own "good" works: John 6:28-29; Acts 4:12; Rom. 3:20-23; 10:4, 9-13; Eph. 2:8-9; I Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:1-11; Titus 3:5.
The most important thing to remember is that we are saved because of our faith in Jesus -- apart from our ability to be good or to keep God’s laws: Rom. 10:4; Eph. 2:8-9; 4:30; Rev. 12:11. And a Christian will (still) sometimes sin even after he or she places their faith and trust in Christ and is Born Again -- I John 1:8-10.
After we are saved, we are supposed to obey the Lord in order to please Him and demonstrate our love for Him, because of what He did for us on the Cross. For it was the sinless Life of Jesus, and His Death on the cross that provided a way for God to remain righteous, and yet forgive sinners like you and me. This is also how we receive God's gift of eternal life, and how we are adopted into God’s family: John 14:15-17; 15:7-14; I Jn. 3:1-3; I Tim. 2:5; I Pet. 1:21; John 14:1-6.
We are not to suppose that by being good we can earn our salvation (Rom 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Such attempts or good deeds are referred to in the Bible as “dead works”: Heb. 6:1. Our changed life and good behavior are outward evidence of our inward faith: James 2:14-20; 2 Pet. 1:3-11.
We (believers in Jesus) were NOT saved because we deserved it, or because we were “good enough,” nor are we kept in a saved state because of our perceived worthiness (or ability) to keep God’s laws, but rather because we are in Christ. I mention these things because they are important to the discussion of water baptism. For those who wish to study this subject further, the following Scriptures also shed light on this subject: I Pet. 1:14-16; Gal. 5:13-15, 24-26; Rom. 6:1-23; 8:1-2; Eph. 4:30; I Cor. 3:1-17; 11:27-31; II Tim. 2:11-13; I John 2:3-5; 2:28-3:3; 10-11. See also the Link Page to various other papers on this subject. This page can also be accessed from a Link at the bottom of this paper.
Although water baptism is a work performed with human hands (or more accurately a work of righteousness--Titus 3:5) and one which can never (in and of itself) save anyone (Acts 8:14-17--esp.vs.16; Rom. 8:9; I Cor. 12:13 and Eph. 2:8-9), it is nevertheless an important Christian doctrine and an act of obedience which we are commanded to do as believers or disciples who have acknowledged our sinfulness and professed personal faith in Christ (I Pet. 2:7; Matt. 28:19-20). It is often the first act of obedience in the life of a follower of Christ and not something that should be administered lightly. For example, we are told in Acts 2:41 that “...those who had received His word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” And in Acts 9:17-20 we see that the apostle Paul, after his conversion (or after he believed in Jesus) was baptized and immediately thereafter began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
Then there is the account of Philip in the desert (Acts 8:26-40). After preaching the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch “as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Acts 8:36-37.
Note: Although some manuscripts do not contain verse 37, the NASB and the KJV do and those that don’t simply jump from verse 36 to verse 38--thus indicating that verse 37 was either missing from the manuscript the translators were using, or that the translators themselves chose to leave it out due to the fact that it doesn't agree with the the doctrine of infant sprinkling, simply because an infant couldn't "believe" in something they didn't even understand: much less with all their heart. In fact, the very nature of the eunuch’s question itself begs for an answer, and Philip’s answer doesn't go against any Christian doctrine except the doctrine of infant baptism.
Martin Luther often quoted Mark 16:16 to support the belief that water baptism was necessary in order to be saved; however, there are serious doubts about the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20. This section of Scripture is missing from the most reliable manuscripts. We are told so in the footnotes of many Bibles. This is the portion of Scripture which also says that if a Christian drinks any deadly poison he or she will not be harmed by it. In addition, since this verse is not found anywhere else in the Bible, we would be wise not to insert the word “water” before the word “baptism” and build a doctrine upon it without carefully and closely looking at what the rest of the Scriptures have to say about this.
The Apostle Peter
In I Pet. 3:21 we are told that “baptism saves you;” however, Peter goes on to say that the baptism he is talking about is not the result of an outward washing with water (as in water baptism), but rather a "baptism" of belief in God and the resurrection of Christ. A belief that is genuine, and results in an appeal or a response toward God for salvation, which in turn (because of the Holy Spirit's ability to regenerate those who humbly come to God and confess their need for salvation) creates a clear conscience in the believer. Water baptism is an outward sign (or public statement) to the world that a person is placing his or her trust in Jesus for salvation. It is also a command which we are told to do to believers (or disciples) in Matt. 28:19. And those who truly believe in Christ will want to submit to the Lord's command to be baptized, just as they will want to live a life that is pleasing to God.
Notice also what Peter says in the previous chapter:
“This precious value, then, is for you who believe...” I Pet. 2:7
He does not say it is for you who have been water baptized, but rather for you who believe. The emphasis and priority in salvation is always placed on belief in Christ and repentance from sin, not upon being water baptized or faith in the power of water baptism. In fact, as far as baptism is concerned, the emphasis is upon Spirit baptism -- which only happens to those who believe in Christ. This will be discussed in more detail shortly.
The Origin of the Word "Baptize"
According to some, the word "baptize" or "baptism" did not exist in the English Language until the year 1611 because the men who translated the King James Bible didn't translate the Greek word "baptizo" into English, but rather "transliterated" it, or rather merely invented a new word: the word "baptize." And while it is true that the King James translators didn't translate this word, it appears that they were not the first to do so. That's because their predecessors, the translators of the Bishop's Bible, did likewise in the year 1561. They did so simply because they didn't want to get in trouble with the church of England (the Anglican Church): a church that practiced infant "baptism" and did so by sprinkling, as opposed to immersion. In other words, the translators of these early Bibles didn't want to get in trouble with the King by challenging something that the church of England (which was heavily influenced by Catholicism) had already been practicing for centuries, and so they just "transliterated" it (i.e. didn't translate it into English) like their predecessors before them had done. For more on how the word "baptize" came to England see Link Page at the bottom of this paper -- especially the article by Bob Ross.
The actual word that "baptize" is derived from is the Greek word "baptizo." It means:
"to immerse, submerge for a religious purpose, baptize (Jn. 1:25). Washing or ablution was frequently by immersion, hence the pass. or mid., baptizomai, to wash oneself, be washed, wash, i.e. the hands (Mk. 7:4; Lk. 11:38; Mk. 7:3); to baptize or immerse in or wash with water in token of purification from sin and from spiritual pollution..."
From The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D.
The word baptizo is however directly translated in other New Testament passages that are not specifically dealing with ceremonial washings. And when it is, the word used is the word "dip" or "dipped" or to wash by immersing (such as in a tub or body of water). For instance, when Jesus "dipped" the morsel of bread and gave it to Judas immediately prior to his betrayal (John 13:26), the word here is the same Greek word that is elsewhere "transliterated" as "baptize." And in Rev. 19:13 Jesus is wearing a robe that is "dipped" or "baptized" in blood -- which is symbolic of the blood that He shed for the sins of mankind.
In fact, John the "Baptist" was actually known as "John the Dipper," because that is how he "baptized" those who came to him. But the important thing to remember here is NOT whether you were immersed or sprinkled (the Greek word rantizo), but that you have acknowledged your sins and have called on the Lord (Rom. 10:13) to save you, and that you are now trusting in Him and living your life for Him (Eph. 2:8-9; John 6:37). And in this regard, I am convinced that my own father (at the age of 82) came to believe in Jesus, and was (to my knowledge never baptized) -- except perhaps as an infant, since my Grandmother (who believed strongly in Jesus) was Lutheran. And even after I became aware of his newly found faith, the thought of having him water baptized (or re-baptized) never even crossed my mind -- nor his. I was just thankful that he finally came to know the Lord in a personal way.
For more on the meaning of the words bapto and baptizo refer to the Link page and the various articles that discuss this in far greater detail.
Believers commanded to be Baptized
Since the Lord commanded His followers to be baptized (Matt. 28:19-20), and further told us that “he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36), we can say that those who claim to be believers in Christ and yet refuse to be water-baptized may not be a true believers at all. Their faith could be characterized as a vain (or empty) belief. I Cor. 15:2. On the other hand, those who truly believe in Christ will want to submit to the Lord’s command to be baptized. I myself became a believer in December of 1978 and I received the Holy Spirit on Jan. 1st, 1979. However, I was not water baptized until about six months later -- not because I desired to wait that long, but because I was not committed to a church at the time, and because the first minister I went to (in Nov. of 1978) for baptism refused to baptize me until I understood the basic message of the gospel and made a public profession of my faith. But since I didn't sense that God wanted me to continue going to that church I was not baptized until about six months later -- after a stranger came over to my house and started asking me questions about God, and then offered to pick me up and go to church with him, and which I did. Note also that I was 20 years old at the time, had long hair, but that didn't stop this man from asking me questions nor from asking if I was "certain" that I was saved, or if I wanted to "know for sure," that I was going to Heaven.
Water baptism is for those who have acknowledged their sins and their need of Salvation, and who are willing to repent (change their ways) and follow the Lord (Matt. 3:6-8, Acts 22:16, Rom. 10:9-13). In other words it is for those who are sorry for their sins and have agreed with God that they should change their ways and ask for His help in doing so. And just as important, they have acknowledged that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for them on the cross to pay the price of their forgiveness, so that they may be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life (John 6:29; 8:24; I Pet. 2:24). It isn't enough to believe in God alone, or in another God. We must believe in The Son as well (I Pet. 1:21; John 14:1,6; 15:20-24; Psalm 16:4). And since infants are neither conscious of sin, nor of whom the Lord is, nor of what He did for them; and since they have not yet made a decision to repent, nor are they even accountable for their sinful nature, it is premature and unscriptural to water baptize them.
Christians should be baptized simply because THAT IS WHAT He tells us to do so. It is an act of submission to His Lordship over your life and a public testimony of your faith in Christ. However, in Scripture it was always something that a believer did, of his or her own free will. Therefore it is questionable (as best) to sprinkle infants who don’t know what they are doing, and who don't have anything to repent of, or to confess, and who don't understand the basic teachings of the gospel ( John 3:16, 6:27-29, 8:24; Rom. 10:4,9-13; John 5:11-13).
Water baptism is an outward sign to the world that someone is publicly declaring their faith in the Lord. Going down into the water is symbolic of our old nature being "buried" with Him in His (baptism of) death (Rom. 6:3-11, Luke 12:50, Mk. 10:36-40), and coming up out of the water is symbolic of our being raised with Him in order that we might live a new life that is pleasing to God. It is also (often) the first act of obedience that a new believer does as a follower of Christ.
Baptism by the Holy Spirit
The baptism which saves is that which is done by God. In Scripture it is referred to as the baptism of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:13; Rom. 8:9). It is also sometimes referred to as being “born again” or “born of the Spirit” (John 3:1-8; Romans 8:1-9), being “sealed … with the Spirit” (Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30), and being baptized with the Spirit (Matt. 3:11).
For example, in Matthew Chapter three, John the Baptist said:
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matt. 3:11 Emphasis Added
In other words there is a baptism which is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than water-baptism. See also John 1:33 and Acts 1:4-5. And though it sometimes comes as a result of the laying on of hands by those who already have it, this is not always the case. Nor does it normally occur at the same time as water baptism. Sometimes it happens before water baptism and sometimes later, but it must occur for someone to be saved (Rom. 8:9). This act, or "baptism" is performed without human hands by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:13; Col. 2:11).
The Bible uses other terminology to refer to this baptism in and by the Holy Spirit. For example, in Ephesians 1:13-14 it is referred to as being "sealed" in the Holy Spirit. In John 3:3-8 it is referred to as being "born of the Spirit." In Col. 2:11-12 it is called the "circumcision of Christ." In Phil. 3:2-3 it is referred to as the "true circumcision," and in Titus 3:5 it is referred to as the "washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." Being baptized with the Holy Spirit and receiving the Holy Spirit are one in the same thing (Acts:8:14-17). “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing...” John 6:63; 7:38-39.
Another passage that sheds light on which baptism is most important is in Acts Chapter 19:1-6. Notice what Paul said to some of Christ’s disciples that he encountered at Ephesus.
“...Paul...came to Ephesus, and found some disciples, and he said to them ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said... ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ And when they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying....”
Since these men were disciples of John, Paul made sure that they believed in what John told them about Jesus. And after telling them about Christ, it appears that Paul re-baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus and then laid his hands on them and they received (or were baptized in and by) the Holy Spirit.
Notice that Paul's primary concern for them was not whether or not they had been water-baptized when they believed, but that they received the Holy Spirit. This is stressed even more clearly in Acts 8:14-17.
“Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.” See also Acts 11:12-18.
Note also that many (if not most) people who have the Spirit do not speak in tongues -- I Cor. 12:4-11, 27-30; 14:1-5.
The Teachings Of Martin Luther
At the risk of offending those who hold Martin Luther in awe, I feel that I should point out some questionable things he taught with regard to baptism. I am not here asking that people take my word for what I say but that they examine the Scriptures for themselves to see whether or not these things are so (Acts 17:10-11). The quotes from Martin Luther were taken from “Luther’s Large Catechism: A Contemporary Translation with Study Questions,” by F. Samuel Janzow; 1978; Concordia Publishing House, 3558 S. Jefferson Ave., St Louis, MO 63118-3968
What I have just said about searching the Scriptures goes against what Luther taught about baptizing infants. For in this regard he said:
“Let the simple and unlearned folk put the question out of their minds and let the learned discuss it.”--p.104.
Not only did Luther exalt himself and his learned associates by making this statement, but this is not what Jesus taught us in John 14:25-26, nor was this the attitude of the noble-minded Bereans in Acts 17:10-11, nor was it what the apostle John taught us in I John 2:27. See also Matt. 23:11; Luke 14:11 and 18:14 regarding what the Scriptures teach about exalting oneself.
To support his claims for water baptism and the necessity of baptizing infants (on p. 101) Luther quotes Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Luther goes on to say that: “Stated most simply, the power, effect, benefit,...and purpose of baptism is to save,” but if he is talking here about water baptism, then he is wrong. Only believers will be saved--Rom. 10:13; I Pet. 2:7; John 8:24. We do not become believers because we are (or were) water baptized, but rather we are to be water baptized because we believe in the Lord. Even in this passage Mark places belief ahead of baptism. Also, if Luther is correct, then what about the thief on the cross? Was he water baptized? Were Old Testament People saved because they were circumcised? If so, then what about women? Also note that Mark 16: 9-20 are missing from the most reliable manuscripts, and in the very next verses we are told the following:
“And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18. Emphasis mine.
I have heard various cases of Christians who after reading this passage drank a poisonous substance and died shortly thereafter. Also, if this passage were true then Christians would be immune from food poisoning; however, I can say from personal experience that this is not the case.
It is also significant to note that these words in Mark were spoken to the eleven disciples themselves “as they were reclining at the table” vs. 14; however, verse 19 says that “when the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven....” This didn't occur until Pentecost about 47 days later. And then the passage concludes with the statement that “And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions...” NASB. This statement makes this passage even more questionable since Peter and the other 10 disciples were supposed to have been present when “all these instructions” were handed down. Note also that the ending verses differ depending upon the translation being used. The New Revised Standard Version includes the following comment on this passage:
“Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9-20. In most authorities verses 9-20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these...the passage is marked as being doubtful... Other ancient authorities add, in whole or in part the following words:
‘And they excused themselves, saying “This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits. Therefore reveal your righteousness now”-- thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, “The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was handed over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, that they may inherit the spiritual and imperishable glory of righteousness that is in heaven.’”
The Ryrie study Bible contains the following footnote on verses 9-20:
"These verses do not appear in two of the most trustworthy manuscripts of the New Testament, though they are part of many other manuscripts and versions. If they are not a part of the genuine text of Mark, the abrupt ending at verse 8 is probably because the original closing verses were lost. The doubtful genuineness of verses 9-20 makes it unwise to build a doctrine or base an experience on them (especially vv. 16-18).”
Therefore, since there are serious doubts about this section of Scripture and its authenticity, and because there are no such verses in the other gospels, nor the rest of the Bible, we would be wise not use this section of Scripture to build a doctrinal position upon.
But even if this passage is correct, Mark still places belief ahead of baptism. Baptism without belief means nothing for the Scriptures also tell us that it is “by grace are you saved through faith, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast...” Eph. 2:8-9; I Cor. 15:1-11. Emphasis mine
Luther also makes a point of criticizing those who claim that faith alone saves; he calls them “know-it-alls” p. 101, then he agrees with them in the very next sentence when he says that “It is of course true that nothing in us does (save us) except faith...” Luther goes on to say that “faith must have something in which it believes, that is, something it clings to, something on which to plant its feet and into which to sink its roots. Thus faith clings to the water and believes Baptism to be something in which there is pure salvation and life, not through the water ....but because God’s name is joined to it...” p. 101. Emphasis mine
I must ask here whether or not infants even remember their baptism, let alone the words that were spoken to them at that time?
How can a person cling to something they can't even remember? I personally have no recollection of anything that happened in my life until I was about four years old. The only thing I know about this period in my life is what my parents told me. Not only this, but the Scriptures never tell us to cling to our water baptism as the object of our faith. To the contrary we are told to place our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross. John 7:38-39; 8:24; John 11:25-26; Rom. 10:4; I Cor. 15:1-8.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Rom. 10:17. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that faith comes as a result of being water baptized. See also I Peter 1:23-25, 2:7; Hebrews 11:6.
Luther also said that:
“baptism is a vastly different thing than any other water...--all because of the Word... When the Word is joined to the element or natural substance, the outcome is a sacrament, that is, a holy, divine thing and sign.” p. 100
And “...what a priceless value is to be attached to Baptism, since in it we obtain such an inexpressibly great treasure. This definitely shows that there is more here than simply ordinary water... What produces this effect is that the Word and the name of God is present in it.” p. 101
And “our prime concern here is not whether or not the baptized person believes; for if he does not believe, his Baptism itself does not on that account become invalid...This point is perhaps a little subtle, but it is based on what I said previously, that Baptism is nothing else than water and God’s word joined in and with each other; this means that when the word comes together with the water, then the Baptism is valid even if faith is lacking in the person being baptized...” p.105 Emphasis mine
Sounds to me like Luther was feeling a little guilty for baptizing those who not only didn't believe, but didn't even know what was going on (i.e. infants). So to justify his actions, he had to believe for them. Luther also said that:
“It is only rash and blockheaded persons who draw the conclusion that where there is no true faith, there can be no true baptism...” p.106
I must question these statements by Luther; this is not what I have been taught, nor have I been able to find Scriptures to support these statements unless they are twisted around and taken out of context. To the contrary the Scriptures teach water baptism is not what saves us (I Pet 3:21; Acts 8:16) and that our “prime concern” should be “whether or not” a baptized person believes and repents (Luke 13:1-5; John 8:24; Acts 8:37; I John 4:1-3; 5:10-13).
If what Luther says is true: that speaking the correct words is all that is necessary to make a person’s baptism valid and thus save them from eternal damnation in Hell, then why don’t any of the denominations who practice infant baptism purchase crop-dusters, and equip them with loud-speakers and fly over every city street, and beach, and outdoor stadium -- while speaking the Word of God -- and spray multitudes of people with holy water and thus fulfill the great commission?
Are speaking the right words all that is necessary?
For example, in Acts 11:13-14 we are told that Peter spoke words by which Cornelius and his household were saved. Lets take a closer look at what happened here.
Verse 15 says that as Peter began to speak, “the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning.” But since we are told more details about this in Acts 10:33--44, we should see what these say before rushing to judgment. Here (in verses 36-43) we are told how Peter preached the gospel to them before the Holy Spirit fell on them, and because of verse 43 we can say that all of Cornelius’ household believed Peter’s message. Note also what Jesus taught about the power of the words themselves. For in John 5:39 He said the following to the Jewish religious leaders who were challenging Him and His authority over all mankind:
“You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me.”
Jesus is here telling us that it isn't the words themselves that save us, but rather believing what they tell us about Him and what He DID FOR US. If just speaking the words were enough to save, then Jesus wouldn't have said some of the things He spoke. For example, in John 8:47 He said to the Jewish religious leaders:
“He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”
And in John 15:22 Jesus said to the same Jewish religious leaders who didn't believe in Him:
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” Emphasis Added
Jesus is telling us that the words themselves cannot save unless they are coupled with faith. For many of these religious Jewish leaders heard the words but didn't believe them. This is also why we are told to be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves...” James 1:22-23. It isn't enough to just hear the word of God, we also must believe what it tells us and act on it.
Luther gives more credit to the power of water baptism than is found in the Scriptures. He quotes Titus 3:5 and gives the credit to the act of water baptism instead of to the Holy Spirit. (p. 101). For the Scripture tells us that “the washing of regeneration and renewing” is a work of the Holy Spirit, not by (or as a result of) water baptism, or as a result of the work of human hands.
How Simple it is to Get Saved:
Jesus compared believing in Him to what happened to the ancient Israelites when they grumbled against God in the Desert. In this instance God was upset so He sent poisonous snakes throughout the camp to bite the Israelites. Then He told Moses to take a (plain old) piece of brass and form it into a snake and put it on a pole and carry it around the camp. The Israelites were told that whoever SIMPLY LOOKED AT that plain old brass snake would live. It was as SIMPLE AS THAT. See Numbers 21:4-9 for the account of this incident.
Those who looked lived, and those who didn't (because of pride, or unbelief) died. And Jesus told us that the same thing applies to believing in Him, and in what He did for all mankind by going to the cross. For in John 3:14-15 we read: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” And in the Book of Romans we find the Apostle Paul saying basically the same thing about how simple it is to get saved. See Romans 10:4 and 10:13. It is simply a matter of our own will, and our willingness to repent (i.e. turn away from our sins). See also Rev. 3:20 and John 6:37; Luke 13:1-5.
King David's Infant Son and the Ninevites:
For those who still question this I ask: was king David’s little boy baptized or circumcised? II Sam. 12:23. Or were any of the 120,000 Ninevites water baptized or circumcised? See Jonah 3:1-10; 4:11; Matt. 12:41. How was Abraham saved? Was it by circumcision, by keeping the law, or by faith? Rom. 3:20,23; 4:3. In addition, I Cor. 1:30 tells us that it is “by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” In other words, it is NOT by the pastor’s doing, or anyone else, but by God, Himself. See the Question and Answer section below for more on King David's son.
I Cor. 12:13 tells us: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one spirit.” Who does the “we” here refer to? Is it not for us who believe in Christ? I Pet. 2:7-8. If so then how can baptism be of any value unless it is coupled with belief? Or if a person does not believe in Christ, and yet that person is water baptized, how can that baptism be called valid? Jesus DID NOT say: “Unless you are water baptized you will die in your sins,” but rather “Unless you believe… ”--John 8:24.
In Ephesians 1:13-14 we are told how we got saved:
“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation -- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance...” Emphasis Added
And in Acts 11:16-17 we are told :
“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
Notice what it does not say. It does not say that “Because you were water baptized in infancy, and because of the words uttered by the minister you were at that time baptized and sealed in the Holy Spirit -- even though you didn’t understand what he was saying, nor did you have the foggiest notion of who Jesus was or what He did for you on the cross. You were saved simply because your parents chose to water baptize you and because of the words the Minister spoke.”
Luther says that baptism is valid even if those being baptized do not believe and he calls those who disagree with him “blockheads.” If no preconditions were necessary (to qualify for water baptism), then why would the apostles have used phrases such as: “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized...” and “If you believe with all your heart you may,” (Acts 8:36-37) unless there were indeed valid reasons not to baptize? In this regard even John the Baptist refused to baptize the Pharisees who came to him, unless they were willing to confess and repent (i.e. change their ways) -- Matt. 3:6-8.
The word of God places the emphasis on being baptized in and by the Holy Spirit since this is what places us into the body of Christ. This is why Paul said that:
“If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Rom. 8:9
If water baptism and speaking the Word were all that was necessary to save someone, then why didn’t Paul say: “Whoever is water baptized and has the Word spoken to them will be saved???” Or:
“Unless you are water baptized, you cannot be saved???”
In addition to this, calling those who sincerely disagree with you “blockheads” is similar to calling them fools: something that Christ warned us to be careful about doing, and especially to those who are your brothers and sisters in the Lord (Matt. 5:22). In fact, this is one of the ways that we, ourselves, can know whether or not we are saved (i.e. by our love for other believers, and by our actions -- I John 3:7-18).
Luther also claimed that water baptism is not a work of man but rather the work of God. p. 102-103. However, if we do not believe in the Lord and we are water baptized in our unbelief, can this rightly be called the work of God? To the contrary, the work of God is the faith that He gave us to believe in His Son (John 6:28-29) after we heard and understood the gospel -- Eph 1:13-14. Baptizing us into the body of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is also a work of God (I Cor. 12:13). It is also a work of God to save infants -- without our help or assistance. (I Cor. 1:30-31; 7:14; John 15:16; Jer. 1:5).
Can your Pastor save you?
In Romans 3:20-24 Paul tells us that salvation does not come as a result of one’s own good deeds. To use this passage to justify the baptizing of infants is putting far too much faith in the power of water baptism and the authority of a pastor. I Cor. 1:30; Matt. 3:11; I Tim. 2:5. Remember also that none of us will be judged by our Pastor or our Priest when our life on earth is over but rather by the Lord Himself: II Cor. 5:9-10; Heb. 9:27; John 5:22-24; Rev. 20:11-15. Note also that Acts 8:37 also places a Condition on which water baptism is to take place, and if this condition is not met, then (just like the outward act of Circumcision DOES NOT circumcise one's heart) it means nothing as far as salvation is concerned.
Also, if water baptism were essential for infants to be saved, then why were we NOT given even ONE clear (and specific) EXAMPLE of an infant being baptized in Scripture???
And why were we not COMMANDED to baptize infants as soon as they are born so as to ensure their eternal salvation??? For that is what the Jews were commanded to do to 8-day-old infants.
Some may say that it was not included because it was just a given (i.e. assumed), that every church would do so. But if this were the case, and doing so was VITAL for a little child to be saved, then why was this command LEFT OUT? Could it be because God really IS just, and knows who should be held accountable, and who not to because they didn't know any better?
And also why would it state in Acts 8:37 that : IF you believe you may? Why also would the translators of the NIV OMIT this verse from the Bible?
This is discussed in more detail below, including why we can say that infants will not be held accountable for their sin nature, and the fact that there IS an Age of Accountability.
The bottom line is that your faith should be in the Lord Jesus Christ and in what He did for you on the cross by shedding His very own blood for you and thereby paying the price for your forgiveness (if you are willing to humble yourself before God and ask for it, with a repentant spirit), as opposed to trusting in your own good deeds, or in the power of your denomination or your pastor or priest. In fact, the New Testament calls every born again believer both a Saint and a Priest. Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:1-3; Eph. 1:1-2; Phil. 1:1-2; I Pet. 2:7-10."If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have NO EXCUSE for their sin." John 15:22 Emphasis Added
What about little Children?
I further believe that the Scriptures make it clear that until one knows the difference between right and wrong, he or she WILL NOT be held accountable for their sin. But you don't have to take my word for it, for this is based on the words of Christ, Himself. For example, in John chapter 15 Jesus tell us that:
See also Rom. 3:20 and note the words "knowledge of sin". Note also in Romans 5:13-14 we are told that "sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam..." Also in Rom. 7:7, we note the words "know" and "known" are used in relation to sin, and imply again that for sin to be imputed, there must be knowledge: something an infant does NOT have. This is even more clear in James 4:17.
Note also Isaiah 7:14-15 what we are told about the baby Jesus, Himself: that he didn't know the difference between good and evil until he was old enough to eat curds and honey. In other words, children are innocent at birth -- thus the term "at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good..." See also Prov. 24:12. This will be made even more clear in the sections that follow, when we discuss the Age of Accountability and the Death of David's Infant son.
II Sam. 12 and Matt. 19:13-14 are telling us that infants and those who die before birth, and young children are going to be in Heaven -- whether they knew about the Lord or not.
The Ninevites “believed in God” without being baptized or circumcised or even knowing anything about Christ, or His first or second coming, and yet we are told that they are going to be in God's Kingdom. It was their faith that saved them, and it came by hearing a message.
Rom. 3:19-24 tells us that no one will be saved on the basis of their “good” works, but rather by a free and gracious gift from God (v. 20, 24) as a result of our calling upon the Lord for salvation (Rom. 10:13).
Martin Luther seemed to believe that God is going to send infants to Hell unless they are ceremoniously sprinkled. If he is right, then I Cor. 1:30 and Col 2:11 are very much in question.
I wonder also what Luther, or the Catholic Church would say with regard to unborn babies who die as a result of abortion or through miscarriage. Are these going to Hell because they were not yet ceremoniously sprinkled???
Sin involves knowledge of right and wrong, and therefore infants are incapable of sinning in the eyes of God. See II Sam. 12:14-23; 23:1-3, esp. v. 2; Isa. 7:14-15; John 15:22; Rom. 3:20; 5:13; 7:7; James 4:17; Numbers 14:29; Prov. 24:12.
And with regard to John 3:3-8, I do not believe Jesus was talking about water baptism. If He was, then why didn’t He use the word “bapto,” or “baptizo” or “baptizmo” but instead of the word "Gennao" (meaning to beget or to be born), and then repeat it in verses 6-8? Why did He also only stress the Spiritual birth in verses 6-8? And since water is symbolic of both the Word of God (Eph 5:26; John 15:3) and the Spirit of God (Jn. 7:37-39), and because we are told in I Pet. 1:23 that we are “born again...through the living and abiding word of God,” it is almost certain that Jesus was not talking about water baptism, but rather about the power of God's word, and its ability to convict a person of sin. See also Hebrews 4:12-13 for more on the Power of God's word.
Another possibility is that Jesus was comparing the physical birth to being born of water, which would explain why He used the term “born of the flesh” when asked further about this by Nicodemus, and then contrasted that with being born (again) of the Spirit.
Jesus said that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” He also said that the Ninevites (who numbered over 100,000) would “raise up at the judgment and condemn this generation...” (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32). I also think it is safe to say in this regard that Jonah didn’t baptize even one of these (heathen) Ninevites, and yet we are told that they are going to “raise up at the judgment and condemn” the unbelieving Jews. In other words, these non-Jewish, and non-Christian men (and most likely their wives and children as well) will enter into the kingdom of God having never been ceremoniously sprinkled with water, or ceremoniously dunked in water, or circumcised.
Baptism mentioned in same sentence with Circumcision: Also, in Col. 2:11-13, since water baptism (by burial / immersion) is mentioned in the same sentence, along with circumcision, and since we are told that circumcision of the flesh didn't save anyone (Gal. 3:3,21; 5:6; 6:12-15; Eph. 2:11-15), it seems logical that water baptism, by itself, also cannot save anyone. Note also that the above passage in Colossians tells us that we who were circumcised by the Spirit "were also raised up with Him (Christ) through faith in the working of God, who raised Him (Christ) from the dead." Emphasis mine.
The above passage does NOT say that we are to place our faith in the power of water baptism, but rather in the power of God -- who raised Christ from the dead. For this is the heart of the gospel, and in which our faith is supposed to be grounded, and by which we are also saved: by merely believing the message and living accordingly and unashamed. I Cor. 15:1-19, Rom. 10:13; John 3:14-15. In other words, our faith is supposed to be grounded in the fact that Christ died for our sins on the Cross, and was buried, and raised up again (to life), as opposed to placing (any) faith in a ritual (performed by a man) that we can't even remember -- or even one that we can remember for that matter. It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).
And I will say it again, anyone who truly believes in Christ, and who has the opportunity to do so, should be water-baptized simply because the Lord commanded us to do so. However, it is not the water that saves, but rather YOUR OWN FAITH in God and Christ. If someone says that they believe in Christ, yet they refuse to be water baptized in His name, then (unless they have a good reason not to - such as the thief on the Cross, or my dad, who was in his eighties and on crutches when he got saved) perhaps they have is a "vain" belief (I Cor. 15:2): i.e. one that has no substance because it doesn't cause us to act out, our newly found faith, nor to change our behavior in any way, and isn't genuine, and therefore cannot save. It is like someone who walked down the isle (to dedicate his or her life to Christ) when they were 12 years old, but then never again set foot in a church, and lived the rest of their lives as if God didn't even exist. They merely "talked the talk" without "walking the walk" by following after Christ and obeying Him.
Note also that the Apostle Paul stated that Christ did NOT send me to (water) baptize, but the Preach the gospel.
Note also what we are told in I Corinthians chapter 7 with regard do circumcision:
Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is keeping the commandments of God.” I Cor. 7:18-19.
Paul even tells us to “beware of the... false circumcision” and to put “no confidence in the flesh”--Phil. 3:2-3. What is Paul saying here? Is he not warning us to beware of false teachers who put confidence in the power of circumcision and in keeping the law in order to earn their salvation? See also Gal. 3:28; 5:6; 6:15; Col. 3:11; and Phil. 3:1-9.
A Caution in comparing Baptism to Circumcision: In Acts 15:1-29 and Gal.2:1-21 when the subject of circumcision comes up, the subject of baptism doesn't. In other words, IF it is true that baptism replaced circumcision, then why didn't the apostles say so in these instances -- where the issue of circumcision actually comes up? In other words, why didn't Paul simply state that Titus didn't need to be circumcised because he had been baptized, and/or that baptism has now replaced the Old Testament practice of circumcision? With that said, I am also virtually certain that Titus was indeed water baptized. In any event the inner working of the Holy Spirit, both in circumcising our hearts AND baptizing us into Christ IS what matters most (Eph. 1:13-14, I Cor. 12: 13; and Rom. 8:9). However, in the sense that Old Testament Jewish males were all supposed to be circumcised in their flesh, and the fact that all New Testament believers are supposed to be water baptized, there is a comparison that can be made: for both of these are outward acts that are supposed to represent one's inward faith in God and in Christ. See also: Does Col. 2:11,12 Teach Infant Baptism?
One Argument for Baptizing Infants: In other words, there IS at least ONE argument that can be used for baptizing infants, if one is so inclined. And that is simply the fact that, in the Old Testament, 8 day old infant boys were circumcised, simply because they were Israelites, and were expected to grow up believing in God, and obeying and serving Him as well. Therefore, it can be argued that if circumcision (of the flesh) was required by Old Testament Law, then surely no one can say that water baptism should be denied to children who are born to Christian believers. And even though I have argued against the practice of infant baptism throughout this paper, IF one is inclined to link baptism with circumcision, this argument can be used to justify infant baptism. However, IF one wants to make this link, then one should also agree that just as circumcision of the flesh, means nothing without faith, so also does water baptism. In other words, just as God was more concerned with the inner circumcision of one's heart, so He is also much more concerned with people being saved by being baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.
I also think that the focus should always be on faith and trust in Christ and what He did for us on the cross, rather than one's water baptism or in what church we attend, or anything we have done (i.e. good works) other than to "believe on Him whom He has sent" -- John 6:27-29; 8:24; Rev. 12:11, and follow and obey Him -- John 3:36, 10:14,27.
The Age of Accountability:
With regard to what age God will hold a person accountable for his or her sins, I do not think an exact age can be arrived at, and that it probably will vary with each individual. However, Numbers 14: 26-36 and John 15:22 clearly indicate that there IS an age of accountability, and that it cannot be the age of one or two, or even three, much less the age of Zero. For infants and small children don't even know the difference between right and wrong. In the case of the Israelites in the desert it was 20 years old. So for someone to say that God is going to hold little babies accountable for "sins" that they aren't even aware of, much less "guilty" of is Highly Questionable at best, and in my opinion (that is based on the Scriptures) it would go against God's very character of being an all-knowing, merciful, gracious, and loving God. See also Prov. 24:12; James 4:17; and Isaiah 7:14-16.
The Danger of Infant Baptism:
Those who practice and promote the baptism of infants may be deceiving many millions of people into thinking that they are saved merely because they have been ceremoniously sprinkled with water by the decision of their parents. In this regard, when I have a conversation with someone with regard to their salvation, I often ask two questions.
1. First I ask for their permission to ask a personal question. If they say NO then I stop. If they say yes, then I ask the following:
2. If you were to die today and stand before God, and He asked you why He should allow you into His kingdom, what would be your answer?
Their answer will (quite often) tell me whether or not they:
A: understand why Jesus Christ HAD TO GO TO THE CROSS, and
B: whether or not they are true, born again, Christians.
If they say that they are going to heaven because they were water-baptized (as an infant -- because of their parent's decision), or even as an adult, or because they are "good", or because they belong to a certain denomination, then I can say that they are probably not saved but rather deceived.
What is the correct answer?
I will illustrate it by telling a story about Queen Victoria of England.
When Queen Victoria, was nearing the end of her life, a woman with whom she had tea (when she was traveling in the vicinity of her home) wanted to know if she would see the Queen in Heaven. And so, because they were both getting old, and because she thought she might not see the Queen again, she asked the Queen if she would see her in Heaven, and the Queen responded by saying: "Yes by the grace of God, and the all availing blood of Christ..." This answer shows clearly that the Queen understood the meaning of the gospel, and what Jesus did for her on the cross. By giving this answer she was making it clear that she based her salvation on the one thing that has the power to save: a belief in Christ and what He did for us (who believe in Him) on the cross. Ann Coulter said something similar: i.e. "Christ died for my sins, nothing else matters."
The only thing that can save a person and give them eternal life is the blood of Christ and whether or not they ever came to know the Lord during their lifetime. This point cannot be stressed enough when we discuss the subject of salvation. For we are told quite clearly in Scripture that Jesus will condemn "MANY" people who come before Him on the day of their judgment because they never knew Him, and more importantly, because He never knew them either. For those who wish to read it for themselves see Matthew 7:21-23. Notice also what Jesus DID NOT say in this passage. I.E. He did not tell them they were being condemned because they were not water-baptized, but rather because He never knew them (as their Lord and savior), because they lived a selfish and sinful lifestyle and (very likely) refused to humble themselves before Him -- Matthew 18:3.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
When should we be Baptized?
A) Since we are told in Acts 8:37 that “If you believe with all your heart, you may,” and since the words “make disciples” occurs before the words “baptizing them” in Matt. 28:18-20, and since the word “them” refers to disciples, and because baptism in Scripture is always tied to either belief or repentance or confession or a voluntary appeal to God for salvation by the individual being baptized, then baptism is not intended for those who do not have at least a basic understanding of what they are doing, nor for those who do not believe in the Lord. Water baptism was intended for those who have placed their faith in Christ and should be done immediately after a person acknowledges his or her sins and calls upon the Lord for salvation--Rom 10:13; Acts 9:3-6, 17-20. The precise age at which a person should be baptized will vary depending upon the circumstances surrounding that person and their willingness to believe in the Lord and to live their life for Him and His glory – as opposed to only living for and serving ourselves.
Should a person who was Baptized as an infant be re-baptized?
A) Since this is not directly addressed in Scripture I can only give my opinion. The important thing is that you acknowledge that your water baptism is not what saved you, but rather your faith in the Lord. In other words, your trust should be in the Lord and what He did for you on the cross rather than in any good work that you (or others) have done for you. Rom. 10:4,13; John 6:28-29.
If you find that your conscience bothers you because it was your parent's decision to baptize you and not your own, then being re-baptized would be a good thing since it would give you a clear conscience about your baptism.
The important thing to ask yourself is this: In whom, or in what am I trusting to get me into Heaven? Is it in your "good works," or perhaps your infant, or adult (or water) baptism, or in your Pastor, Priest, or Church? If so, then (according to Scripture) your Faith is misplaced. You should be only trusting in the Lord, Himself, and what He did for you on the Cross – and the fact that you have called upon Him for salvation and are believing in Him and living your life for Him. Rom. 10:13. This is also STRESSED in Matthew chapter 7:21-14, where Jesus says that He will be telling MANY religious people to "Depart from Me, for I NEVER KNEW YOU, you who practice Lawlessness..." In other words, being a Christian involves knowing Jesus personally and intimately, as your own Savior and Lord -- meaning that He should be able to communicate with you by His Spirit, (John 10:1-9, 14, 27) and that you also should HAVE a DEEP INNER PEACE about your relationship with God (John 14:23-27; Col. 3:15; Heb. 3:7-19). And if you don't have a DEEP INNER PEACE with God, then something is wrong, and there is a good chance that God is trying to tell you that something needs to be changed (i.e. something that He wants you to do, or stop doing) or that something is wrong between you and another person whom you have either offended or to whom you need to forgive, or because you are not following Him to the best of your ability (perhaps because of things that your church teaches that are not in line with Scripture), or because the Lord is telling you to do something and you are refusing to obey His voice. See also Matt. 6:14-15, John 3:36, 6:37, 7:37-38, and Rev. 3:20.
Note: a changed life and a love for the truth and for other believers is one of the Primary evidences of someone who is a Christian. II Cor. 5:17; I John Chapters 2-5; Ps. 16:3. See also: Signs of a Christian.
Isn't Baptism the vehicle by which faith enters our soul?
A) According to the Scriptures, faith enters our soul as a result of hearing and believing the word of God. Baptism is our response to God that tells Him (and all those present) that we believe in Him and intend to obey His commands. Rom, 10:13-17; Gal. 3:1-2; Acts 2:41; I Pet. 3:21.
What about little Children, don’t they need to be saved?
A) The Bible tells us that children born to Christian parents are considered sanctified through the belief of their parent or parents. I Cor. 7:14. No mention is made of the need to baptize them at infancy in order to make them so. If water baptism were necessary for infants to be saved, then the Lord would have commanded us to do so; however, the plain and simple fact is that He did not do so, nor did the apostles.
King David's Son:
We also have the account of David’s infant child who was conceived as a result of adultery. We are told that the Lord struck the child so that seven days after birth the child died. David’s prophecy regarding the child is in 2 Samuel Ch.12:23 -- where he said: "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
And there is no indication that the child was water-baptized since this was not practiced until the time of John the Baptist, nor was the child circumcised, since that didn't take place until children were eight days old. Luke 1:59, 2:21-23. The Scriptures also tell us that David was a prophet--II Sam. 5:19-25; II Sam. 22:1-51; 23:2-3. David also wrote approximately 73 Psalms.
Some say that the “seventh day” (in vs. 18) doesn't refer to the seven days after the child was born, but rather to seven days after the Lord struck the child. I have a problem with this for the simple fact that the child is not given a name, but is only referred to as “the child.” And since it was customary to give a male child a name on the eighth day after birth (Luke 1:59-63; 2:21), it seems very likely that this child was not yet eight days old, when the Lord struck him, and that the seventh day does refer to the seventh day after his birth. For more on this, and the question surrounding infants and accountability see "The Death of David's Son" by Bob Deffinbaugh.
But aren’t Children sinners?
A) Yes they are; however, they will not be held accountable for their sins (at least) until they are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and have heard something about God. Prov. 24:12; Luke 12:47-48; John 9:41; 15:22; II Pet. 2:21; Rom. 5:12-14; James 4:17; and Isaiah 7:14-16. Note also that even Jesus, when He was and infant, didn't even know the difference between right and wrong and was (in this respect) just like any other infant child.
On what basis will the Lord forgive little Children their sins?
A) On the basis of who He is and the power He has to forgive sins. Remember that Jesus is the Judge and He is gracious and will be very fair--especially to those who knew little or nothing about their responsibilities. See Matt. 18:1-6; Matt. 19:13-14, 28:18; Mark 2:9-12; John 15:22; Mark 10:13-16; and I John 2:1-2.
What if the children do not yet have faith? Should we assume they will receive faith through the act of water-baptism -- along with the word?
A) Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to baptize infants, let alone to assume that God saves them or causes them to believe through this act. There is no Carte Blanche promise in Scripture that children born to Christian parents will become believers when they are grown, and teaching them that they were saved because they were water baptized when they were infants is (in my opinion) a perversion of the gospel of Christ and may also be a "stumbling block" (i.e. a hindrance) to them if it causes them to place their faith in their infant baptism instead of their own decision to believe in and follow the Lord because of what He did for them on the cross.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. What this means is that if we as Christian parents teach our children the ways of God, there is a very good chance that they will become believers in Christ. If water baptism were the vehicle whereby faith entered a person’s soul, then all children who were baptized as infants would end up becoming believers. But this is simply not the case.
What about Acts 2:39: Since Children are mentioned here, doesn’t this mean that they will all become believers, and that we should (therefore) Baptize them in infancy?
A) The promise of eternal life is for those who believe in the Lord--whether they are our children or to those who are far off--as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. Note that this passage does not say that the promise is “for you and ALL your children,” but “for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”
In fact, the promise does not even apply to the “all who are far off,” unless the Lord calls them to Himself and they each believe on Him.
The reason the words “your children” are mentioned here is because there is a greater chance that our children will become believers than children born to non Christian parents. This is because if we as parents go to church and take our children with us, and live out our faith before their eyes, there is a very better chance that they will "catch" it.
What about whole Households that were Baptized? Were not infants included?
A) As far as we know, no infants were present. And it is questionable (at best) to ignore the basic teaching of the Scriptures concerning belief, repentance, and baptism (in that order) and build a doctrinal position on an assumption. Every household does not have infants present, and there is no mention of infants being included here either. Nor are we told how large the households were; they could have been as little as three or four people. What we can conclude from these accounts is that the whole household believed in Jesus. For example, in the case of Cornelius we are told the following:
“‘And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bare witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.’ Emphasis Added
‘While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message...For they were hearing them speaking with other tongues and exalting God. Then Peter Answered “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did can he?” Acts 10:41-47 Emphasis Added
There is no indication that the “all” spoken of includes infants. Unless one is inclined to assume that infants were present, that they understood the Greek language, and that they also spoke in tongues. And if this were the case, why was it not mentioned? Would it not have been a noteworthy miracle for a baby to speak in another language? Note also that it doesn’t say “to all who were present” but “all who were listening to the message.” Comprehension is implied by the words “...everyone who believes...” in verse 43. And though some will say that John the Baptist leaped at Mary's greeting while still in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:15,39-41), this is because he was filled with the Holy Ghost before he was born. It was the Holy Spirit which caused him to jump. This does not mean that from infancy he understood who Mary was, or who Jesus was, or what his mission in life would be.
Many households do not have infants present for much (if not most) of the time they are a household. And before a son or daughter gets married, it is customary for him or her to move out of his or her parents house -- thus forming a new household. Therefore any sons or daughters who were married would (very likely) not be included in that household.
If the Lord wanted to emphasize the dire necessity of baptizing infants in order for them to be saved, why didn’t He (or any of His apostles) tell us to do so???
We also have the case of the Philippian jailer whose whole house was baptized. In this case we are told the following:
“And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!’
And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.” Acts 16:27-34 Emphasis Added.
The strong impression we get here is that the jailer’s whole household believed in God along "with" him. If one wishes to assume that the jailer had an infant present in his household, he or she must also assume that the infant believed along with him. However, at best, that is only an assumption. But since we are told that infants are not able to discern between good and evil (Isaiah 7:16), and that baptism is intended for believers, it appears very likely that no infants were present. Once again, if the Lord were telling us to baptize our (as yet) unbelieving infants, why are we not told that these were present and were baptized as well?
Note also that Paul here placed belief ahead of baptism (vs. 31) as is always the case in Scripture. To place baptism ahead of belief, and teach that this act saves a person is “Putting the cart before the Horse” and is simply not Scriptural.
But what about Matthew 21:15-16, doesn’t this teach that infants can be saved?
A) As we have already seen, infants who are born to Christian parents are saved simply because of their parent's faith and because they are not yet capable of sinning. In addition, the purpose of this passage in Matthew is to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 8:2 and to display the power of God. If God can make a donkey talk (Numbers 22:27-33), and give a dumb man the ability to speak (Mark 7:31-37), then He can use the mouths of infants to humiliate the Pharisees who refused to honor Him as their Lord. However, it is not normal for infants to speak. And unless these were two or three year old children it was a miracle.
Those who wish to take this passage out of context and use it to build a doctrine upon would be wise to note that there is no mention of these infants being baptized. If the Lord was trying to tell us of the need to baptize infants, why are we not plainly told in this passage that these children were also baptized?
If the salvation of Little Children, and/or infants was dependent upon them being baptized when they were infants, then why doesn’t the Scriptures somewhere tell us that:
“And as they were coming to John confessing their sins, some were bringing their infants also to be baptized...???” Reference not found
“Go and make disciples, baptizing them and their infants in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit???” Reference not found
“And even the infants were speaking in tongues, and they baptized these also along with the men and women and other children who were present???” Reference not found
“And when your children are eight days old you are to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit so that they too may be saved.”
Reference not found
Why wait eight days? Why not sprinkle them as soon as they are born?
A) Well, didn't the Israelites Circumcise their infants at the age of eight days? Wasn't Jesus, Himself, circumcised on the eighth day? What if the child died before he was 8 days old? In the case of David's (7-day-old) son, we are told that he would be with God. And what about women? They weren't circumcised at all. The very simple fact is that nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to baptize infants, nor those who don't understand the gospel, or who want nothing to do with Jesus.
What about John 3:5? Doesn't it say that unless one is water baptized he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven?
A) John quotes Jesus as saying that “...unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” But Jesus doesn’t stop there. In the next verse He explains what it means to be born of water. His point here is that it is not enough to be born of the flesh in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. One must also be born again of the Spirit.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.... The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:6,8.
In this passage Jesus uses the words “born of water” to signify the water sack by which we are all born out of at birth. If Jesus was talking about water baptism in verse five, then why would he suddenly talk about being born of the flesh in the very next verse and then contrast that with being born of the Spirit? It appears obvious that Jesus has not yet changed the subject (in verses 6-8) since He is still talking about being “born.”
But Doesn't The Scripture Teach That Water Baptism Cleanses Us?
A. Water Baptism may give us a clear conscience before God by knowing that we have obeyed His command to be baptized; however, there is no Scripture that teaches that water baptism goes beneath our skin to cleanse our soul. The Word of God itself, by the Power and presence of the Holy Spirit, cleanses our heart like water does for our skin; however, water baptism (by itself) only removes dirt away from the outside of our skin--I Pet. 3:21; Acts 8:16. And if one doesn't have the Holy Spirit indwelling him or her, then he or she is NOT saved. Rom. 8:9.
In John 15:3 we are told that the disciples were already clean “because of the word” which Jesus spoke to them, not because they had been water baptized.
There are other passages also that talk about being cleansed or born again by the word or God. I Peter 1:23 says that: “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is through the living and abiding word of God." See also Heb. 4:12; Acts 2:37; and John 8:47.
What about Ephesians 5:26? Doesn’t This Verse Say That Water Baptism Cleanses Us?
A) Some say that it does; however, note that the word “baptism” is not used here. What it says is that the word is what Jesus used to cleanse our soul. He compared it to an external washing with water. Jesus gave Himself up for us so that we could be clean on the inside. Verse 30 here tells us that we are members of Christ’s body. Did we become members because of our parent's faith in the power of water baptism, or by an act of the Holy Spirit because of our own personal faith? See John 10:1-14, Eph. 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Cor. 1:30-31; 12:13; Gal. 3:2-5; Rom. 8:9; 10:4, 10-13.
We are also told that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all our sins as we walk in the light and confess our sins to the Lord. I John 1:7-9; I Pet. 1:17-19.
Doesn’t Acts 2:38 tell us to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and that if we do we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?
A) Yes, but who was this directed to? Was it directed to those who never heard Peter’s message? Or was it meant for those who heard but were not convicted of their sins? Obviously not since verse 37 tells us that those who heard Peter’s words were pierced to the heart with conviction (i.e. guilt) and asked him what they needed to do to get right with God. And he told them that they first needed to repent (or be sorry for their sins and willing to change), and then to be water-baptized. Notice that this passage also places repentance before baptism and not the other way around.
This passage does not, however teach us to baptize infants since they would not have even known the difference between right and wrong, let alone have been pierced to their hearts because of their sins. Notice what Jesus taught in Luke chapter 13:1-5 and John 8:24 and ask yourself this question:
Did Jesus place the emphasis on repentance and belief or upon water baptism?
If Christ and his disciples always placed the emphasis for salvation on belief and repentance and receiving the Holy Spirit, then it is wrong for anyone, including an angel from heaven (Gal. 1:8), or the Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, or Methodist Churches, to change this by placing the emphasis for salvation upon anything else. This is why it is questionable (at best) to baptize infants; for they don't know or understand what they are doing, nor are they even aware of what sin is, and are therefore have nothing to repent of. In fact, in order for an infant to sin, he or she must KNOW the difference between right and wrong. And since they don't, they are incapable of sinning in the eyes of God. James 4:17; Isa. 7:14-16.
Notice also what Peter said in II Pet. 3:9.
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." Notice also that Peter makes no mention here of water baptism, but rather stresses the need for repentance.
Didn’t the Lord tell us to bring our little children to Him?
A) What He said was to “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them.” Mark 10:13-16. The words “permit” and “do not hinder” strongly imply that we are to allow children to come to Jesus of their own volition.
Doesn’t Infant Baptism Go Back To The Time Of Christ?
A) Since the Scriptures do not teach us to baptize infants, it is very unlikely that this was practiced by Jesus or the apostles. And for a church to build a doctrinal position upon this practice and demand that all members agree with it is asking its members to place more trust in their church leaders than in the Lord and what He and his apostles actually taught. This is the same thing that the Roman Catholic Church does today with its teachings about praying to mother Mary and Peter being the first Pope. They have taken a few Scriptures out of context and built doctrinal positions on them and called upon all their followers to agree with them before joining their church.
Note also that I do not have anything personal against the Catholic Church, or the Lutheran Church, or the Episcopalian Church, for I am certain that they each do a lot of good in the world; however, when they teach things that are not supported by Scripture, then they are on shaky ground, and that it is my duty before God and man to tell the truth, even if it means that many people are offended.
To answer the question though, it appears that sometime in the third century some churches began to practice the act of baptizing infants. Why they began doing so is undoubtedly because of a lack of understanding of the grace of God and how it is that He creates faith in our hearts. Also because they were unaware of what the Scriptures taught about infants; however, just because they did so did not justify it at that time, nor does it do so today. It should also be mentioned that it is very likely that many of these third century churches did not have the entire Bible. And even if they did, there were many other questionable books claiming to be the Word of God that were circulating in the churches at this time. Books that were a short time later rejected by the church fathers.
It wasn’t until late in the second century that the church fathers began compiling lists of the New Testament books that they considered to be authentic, and not until about AD 363 (at Laodicea) and AD 397 (at Carthage) before the matter was settled and the 27 books of the New Testament declared authentic and all others rejected.
For more details on how this was accomplished and the numerous (other) books which were rejected by the church fathers refer to “Ungers Guide to the Bible,” pp. 6-9 and 54-76; 1974, Tyndale House Publishers; and “A General Introduction to the Bible,” pp. 127-207, by Norman Geisler and William Nix, Moody Press, 1968.
See also the Link Page at the bottom of this paper for numerous other papers on this subject, including some that go into much more detail with regard to the practice of sprinkle-baptism (the means whereby infants today are baptized) and how this practice came about.
What about circumcision? Didn’t the Lord command the Jews to circumcise little infant boys when they were only eight days old?
A) This was commanded under the Old Testament Law; however, we are never told that this act saved anyone. In fact, the New Testament tells us plainly that:
Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is keeping the commandments of God.” I Cor. 7:18-19.
In addition to this, nowhere in Scripture did the Lord command us to baptize infants. Why not if it is (or ever was) necessary for their salvation?
What about John the Baptist: Wasn’t he baptized in the Holy Spirit from birth?
A) We know that the Holy Spirit was with him at birth; however, it appears almost certain that he was not baptized with the Holy Spirit as believers were after the Day of Pentecost. This is why John said to Jesus that he had need of being baptized by Him. For according to John, it was Christ who would baptize in the Holy Spirit. Matt. 3:11-15. This didn't occur until the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1-8).
In the Old Testament we are told that the Holy Spirit would come upon a person and leave that person at will--Ps. 51:11; Judges 14:6; 16:20. However, in the New Testament we are told that when the Holy Spirit comes into a person, He comes to stay--Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30; I John 2:1-2; John 6:37; I Cor. 3:1-3, 14-17.
To sprinkle or immerse? The following was pointed out to me by Ray Comfort, in a brochure titled, Save Yourself some PAIN, in which it is pointed out that in John 3:23 it says that "... John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there." Mr Comfort points out the fact that we are told there was "much water" at this location suggests that John was immersing: which would require enough water for them to go under. If John was simply sprinkling, then only a trickle of water would be needed. I agree with this assessment.
What about Acts 22:16? Doesn’t This Passage Teach That Baptism Washes Away Our Sins?
A) Because the Lord commands believers to be baptized, and further tells us that “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36), then we should obey the Lord's command to be baptized unless for some reason--such as the thief on the cross--we are unable to do so. Notice what else this passage says. First notice that Paul (still known as Saul) was a believer when these words were spoken to him. We can see this from verse eight where he asks the question ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’, and from verse 10 where he said ‘What shall I do, Lord?’, and from verse 13 where Ananias said to him ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ Note also that baptism is (once again) linked with an appeal to God (in this case “calling on His name”) for salvation. See Romans 10:13; I Pet. 3:21; and Matt. 7:21-24 for more on the need to make a personal appeal to God for salvation.
Baptism without belief in the Lord Jesus Christ cannot save anymore than speaking the gospel to an unbeliever who rejects the message, or using Crop dusters to spray water on spectators outside watching a sports game, while speaking the necessary words to make such a "mass-baptism" count (for anything).
As my own Lutheran Grandmother, Anna C. Berg, once said with regard to those who want to go to Heaven:
"But they have to believe in Jesus."
That was over 24 years ago, and today, I can say with near certainty that my dad came to faith in Christ at the age of 82. This happened because the Lord, Himself, appeared to him in his room on two occasions, as opposed to anything I myself said to him. At least that's what he told me, and afterward I noticed a significant CHANGE in him. For he no longer argued with me when I spoke about God, or about Jesus; nor did he cling to his own self-righteousness, but rather agreed with just about everything I said (I John 4:6), along with telling me that he now believed in Jesus.
And to all the denominations who wish to add all sorts of things to the above essential belief, I say: read the book of Acts and note that the only other essentials (for membership) that were placed upon the early churches were to abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, and from drinking blood, and to abstain from sexual relations outside of marriage (Acts 15:6-29). Note also that they did NOT include the doctrine of infant baptism, nor the belief that the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper means what your denomination says it means, but only that a man examine himself before partaking, and that he remember the Lord and that His body was broken for your very own sins on that cross, and that the bread is (in some way) representative of the Lord's body, and the wine of His blood. In other places we are told to abstain from living an evil and sinful lifestyle (II Tim. 2:19).
But today many denominations have added all sorts of other rules and questionable beliefs to the above list that their members must believe before they are qualified to partake of the bread and wine in THEIR church. And thus they LOOK DOWN on other believers who disagree with them. Perhaps they think that their places in heaven will all be front-row seats, while the non-denominational and other denominational believers will occupy the back rows, if they are even present at all.
Water baptism without faith means nothing in the eyes of God. Water baptism for the believer is an act of obedience that (in Scripture) was always done as a response to realizing and accepting (or believing in) what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. Going down into the water is symbolic of being buried with Christ in His death and coming out of the water is symbolic of being raised up with Him in newness of life (Rom. 6:1-11). Being sprinkled with water was not the method that was used by the apostles, nor does it symbolize being buried with Christ, or raised up with Him either. The practice of sprinkle baptism seems to have began around the middle of the 3rd century AD, probably at the same time infant baptism itself began, and very likely for this very reason. That's because infants could drown if they were dunked under water. Another reason for connection between infant baptism and sprinkling is because the churches that practice infant baptism are the same ones that also practice sprinkling rather than immersion. However, sprinkle-baptism was not the method practiced by the apostles. We can say that because the Greek word for sprinkle (rantizo) is also NOT the same word that is used in Scripture whenever water baptism is mentioned, but rather the words bapto or baptizo, which mean: to immerse or to wash.
The baptism that counts is that which is performed (without human hands) by the Holy Spirit (12:13; Col. 2:11). When this happens the believer is placed (and sealed) into the body of Christ (Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:9). This is done by an act of the Holy Spirit apart from any assistance from men (I Cor. 1:30-31) other than (perhaps) preaching a message about God, and the gospel of Christ. Sometimes it coincided with the laying on of hands.
Small children fall under the category of grace. They are saved because the Lord is gracious and because they are not yet accountable for their sins. In other words: they have an "excuse" before God simply because they don't know any better. Do you? John 15:22; Prov. 24:12; James 4:17.
No denomination has a monopoly on the truth. I further believe that Martin Luther was wrong for defending and promoting the practice of infant baptism, and especially in calling his brothers in the Lord who disagreed with him “Blockheads” (Matt. 5:22). And although he doesn't identify them, there is a good chance he was talking about the Anabaptists who were around before Luther’s birth. Such people also risked their lives to oppose the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of that day as did many other Christians over the centuries -- many of whom lost their lives in the process: i.e. the apostles themselves, Polycarp, John Huss, Joan of Arc, Saint Catherine of Siena, and many, many others whose names have been forgotten.
The Anabaptists later became known as Baptists, because they refused to baptize their infants, but rather stuck to a literal interpretation of the Scriptures and only baptized those who actually professed personal faith in the Lord. This is also what we are plainly told in Acts 8:29-40, and especially verse 37, where the eunuch said to Philip: "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" And Philip said: "If you believe with all your heart you may..."
Martin Luther was also a sinner, and therefore subject to error like any of us. Even the apostle Peter and Barnabas made the mistake of siding with the legalistic Jews instead of the apostle Paul and the newly converted gentile believers regarding the issue of circumcision (Gal. 2:1-16). They later repented (Acts 15:1-29).
Martin Luther made a great contribution to the cause of Christianity by risking his life to oppose the (then) very oppressive (if not evil) Roman Catholic church, who at that time would kill anyone who even possessed a Bible, unless they were a Catholic Priest or a Monk.
Let's also take note of something else Luther taught: that in discussing, reading and meditation of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit would be present “to supply always more light and new insights...” (p. 7). It is my sincere hope and prayer that this paper on baptism will add insight and greater understanding of the Scriptures to all who read it. John 14:26
Copyright, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011 Randy S. Berg;
Permission granted to distribute copies freely for educational purposes.
For those who want to know more see:
The Baptism Link Page
Who was Jesus Anyway
Can I really Know God Personally?