- Catholic Church has always understood baptism differently, teaching that it is a sacrament which accomplishes several things, the first of which is the remission of sin, both original sin and actual sin—only original sin in the case of infants and young children, since they are incapable of actual sin; and both original and actual sin in the case of older persons.
- Peter explained what happens at baptism when he said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). But he did not restrict this teaching to adults.
- "For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him" (2:39).
- "Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16).
- connection between baptism and salvation, a connection explicitly stated in 1 Peter 3:21: "Baptism . . . now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
- Christ Calls All to Baptism
- for Jesus said that no one can enter heaven unless he has been born again of water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). His words can be taken to apply to anyone capable of belonging to his kingdom. He asserted such even for children: "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14).
- Luke’s account of this event, which reads: "Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God’" (Luke 18:15–16).
In Place of Circumcision
- Paul notes that baptism has replaced circumcision (Col. 2:11–12). In that passage, he refers to baptism as "the circumcision of Christ" and "the circumcision made without hands." Of course, usually only infants were circumcised under the Old Law; circumcision of adults was rare, since there were few converts to Judaism. If Paul meant to exclude infants, he would not have chosen circumcision as a parallel for baptism.
- In the Old Testament, if a man wanted to become a Jew, he had to believe in the God of Israel and be circumcised. In the New Testament, if one wants to become a Christian, one must believe in God and Jesus and be baptized.
- those born into Jewish households could be circumcised in anticipation of the Jewish faith in which they would be raised. Thus in the New Testament, those born in Christian households can be baptized in anticipation of the Christian faith
- If one is an adult, one must have faith before receiving the rite of membership; if one is a child too young to have faith, one may be given the rite of membership in the knowledge that one will be raised in the faith.
- people whose baptisms we read about in Scripture (and few are individually identified) are adults, because they were converted as adults. This makes sense, because Christianity was just beginning—there were no "cradle Christians," people brought up from childhood in Christian homes.
- during the time when children were raised in the first Christian homes, we never—not even once—find an example of a child raised in a Christian home who is baptized only upon making a "decision for Christ." Rather, it is always assumed that the children of Christian homes are already Christians, that they have already been "baptized into Christ" (Rom. 6:3). If infant baptism were not the rule, then we should have references to the children of Christian parents joining the Church only after they had come to the age of reason, and there are no such records in the Bible.
Specific Biblical References?
- we read that Lydia was converted by Paul’s preaching and that "She was baptized, with her household" (Acts 16:15).
- Philippian jailer whom Paul and Silas had converted to the faith was baptized that night along with his household. We are told that "the same hour of the night . . . he was baptized, with all his family" (Acts 16:33).
- greetings to the Corinthians, Paul recalled that, "I did baptize also the household of Stephanas" (1 Cor. 1:16).
- given the New Testament pattern of household baptism, if there were to be exceptions to this rule (such as infants), they would be explicit.
Catholics From the First
- Origen, for instance, wrote in the third century that "according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants" (Holilies on Leviticus, 8:3:11 [A.D. 244]).
- Council of Carthage, in 253, condemned the opinion that baptism should be withheld from infants until the eighth day after birth.
- Augustine taught, "The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned . . . nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic" (Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).
- evidence that infant baptism was the accepted practice in the early Church is the fact that if infant baptism had been opposed to the religious practices of the first believers, why do we have no record of early Christian writers condemning it?
- It is true that Christ prescribed instruction and actual faith for adult converts (Matt. 28:19–20), but his general law on the necessity of baptism (John 3:5) puts no restriction on the subjects of baptism. Although infants are included in the law he establishes, requirements of that law that are impossible to meet because of their age are not applicable to them. They cannot be expected to be instructed and have faith when they are incapable of receiving instruction or manifesting faith. The same was true of circumcision; faith in the Lord was necessary for an adult convert to receive it, but it was not necessary for the children of believers.