Why do we have infant baptisms?
Gateway encourages parents to make public vows of consecration of their children. Some parents choose infant dedication. Other parents choose infant baptism. We affirm and celebrate both sets of parents, seeking to be a church that embraces diversity in those areas of the Christian life where sincere, faithful, Bible-trusting, Christ-followers hold different opinions on matters that are not essentials of faith.
John Pence, a 19th Century minister of the Free Church of Scotland wrote, “My belief in infant baptism is not a hill upon which I would die. When push comes to shove, there is only one hill I would die on, the same hill Christ died on, for what He accomplished on that hill, in His death and resurrection, is that without which the gospel is powerless and meaningless. Men and women are saved by Jesus Christ… they are saved by grace; their beliefs about baptism are, in my opinion, matters of secondary importance to the gospel.” That sounds like the motto of the E.P.C.: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.
Having said all that, some people want to know the case for infant baptism. Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology) reviews the basic argument for infant baptism.
“Infants Were Circumcised in the Old Covenant: In the Old Testament, circumcision was the outward sign of entrance into the covenant community or the community of God’s people. Circumcision was administered to all Israelite children (that is, male children) when they were eight days old.
Baptism Is Parallel to Circumcision: In the New Testament, the outward sign of entrance into the 'covenant community' is baptism. Therefore baptism is the New Testament counterpart to circumcision. It follows that baptism should be administered to all infant children of believing parents.
Household Baptisms: Further support for the practice of baptizing infants is found in the “household baptisms: reported in Acts and the epistles, particularly the baptism of the household of Lydia (Acts 16:15), the family of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33), and the household of Stephanas (I Cor. 1:16). It is also claimed that Acts 2:39, which declares that the promised blessing of the gospel is 'to you and to your children,' supports this practice.”
One other perspective on the symbolism of baptism is given by Michael Green. He says:
“Infant baptism stresses the objectivity of the gospel. It points to the solid achievement of Christ crucified and risen, whether or not we respond to it. …Not that we gain anything from it unless we repent and believe. But it is the standing demonstration that our salvation does not depend on our own very fallible faith; it depends on what God has done for us.”
He goes on to say:
“Infant baptism stresses the initiative of God in salvation. …Should it be attached primarily to man’s response, or to God’s initiative? That is the heart of the question. …For the Baptist, baptism primarily bears witness to what we do in responding to the grace of God. For those who baptize infants, it primarily bears witness to what God has done to make it all possible.”
Infant dedication, on the other side, is a ceremony for parents who believe that baptism is a later-in-life decision for their children to make, but who want to make a public declaration of gratitude and promise making in their role as parents. Choosing infant baptism over infant dedication then is a decision based on the parents’ view of baptism.
Finally, whatever choice parents make, the important thing is their determination to keep their vows. We ask these questions for both infant dedication and infant baptism.
1. Do you reaffirm your own faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?
2. Do you claim God’s covenant promises on your child’s behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for (his/her) salvation, as you do for your own?
3. Do you now unreservedly promise, in humble reliance upon God’s grace, to set before (child) an example of the new life in Christ?
4. Do you promise to pray with and for him (her) and to bring him (her) up in the knowledge and love of God?
5. Do you promise to be faithful and active members of the body of Christ wherever you may be?
6. Do you dedicate your child to the glory of God?
At what age should we baptize our children if they are already all dedicated?
Parents should not decide for their children when to be baptized. That decision is for the individual believer when he or she has a strong , Bible-informed, Spirit-led conviction that it's the right time - and that could be at any age.