In a discussion with someone who is a believer in infant baptism, he had the same responses which I’ve read time and time again. Basically, that Baptism is today’s Circumcision. That Circumcision was applied liberally to all who were genetic descendants of Abraham, and therefore we, as Christians, should apply Baptism to all of our genetic descendants. So, this was my response:
Here’s three things to note:
1) The baptisms of John performed before the start of Jesus’ ministry are not the same thing as a Christian baptism. It was a ceremonial rite for those in the Jewish faith to “prepare” them to enter into the sanctuary. It was a ritual cleansing, but did not symbolize Jesus’ sacrificial death and rebirth on our behalf. Those who were baptized into John’s baptism were not baptized into the family of Christ.
2) Read through the new testament. I mean the whole thing. Numerous times. Every time the “Circumcision” is brought up, it’s to refer to the “old ways”. Circumcision is a term that Paul uses to refer to the Jewish ways which were hung on legalistic following of the Mosaic law. Could they keep it? NO! The law was never intended to be kept, but to be used as a sign that pointed us to God as our savior. Men-only, in the old covenant, were circumcised to show that they were in the people of Israel. But what does Paul say?
Romans 2:29 – But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Circumcision as a rite is of little overall value, but it points to a generalized fact that you are related to those in the chosen people of God. Nothing more. Now, in Rom 3, Paul asks “what is the value of circumcision”, again referring to belonging to the “chosen people of God” and not the actual rite, because if it did, then it wouldn’t include the women, would it? And, he says “much in every way”. They were taught the laws of God, they were brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, etc. But did their circumcision guarantee salvation? No.
Romans 4:9–10 – Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.
3) What is the value of baptism on your infant children? This is where it gets tricky. In the middle ages, children didn’t live that long, so they were baptized as a “salve” and the parents were told that their children would be in heaven with them, or at least purgatory, and wouldn’t be lost to Limbo (which the RCC in the last 10 years finally did away with) or cast into hell. It was used as a method to control people with fear. Moreover, as men and women were allowed to read the text of scripture on their own during and after the reformation, they started to see the same themes repeated in scripture – that unlike circumcision, which was an outward sign on men to remind them that they belong to the “people” of God, and is applied to them whether they know it and follow after the faith of Abraham or not, baptism is a ritual that links us with Christ in his death and resurrection on our behalf, and is only conferred upon his believers.
There was a lot of confusion about this in the past, and given that Jews (those of the “circumcision party”) were the first believers, they tended to carry over their old ways with them. But what does Jesus say about this?
Matthew 9:17 – Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
This is a new thing and with it come new rites.
So, I ask you. What is conferred upon the infant in their baptism? Is it that you’re marking them for God for conversion? If you believe that, then you’re as bad as my wife’s grandmother who condemns herself to this day that she only baptized 2 of her three children, and the one she didn’t is an outright atheist, unlike her other two children, which seem to worship at the altar of therapeutic moralistic deism (which itself is not Christian, though they think it is).
Infant baptism merely gets babies wet, which they are perfectly content to do on their own anyway. It’s a salve for the parents to think that their children are “in the family of God” and to presume that their children will follow after Christian principles. But you can’t expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian as an adult, nor as a child, and if you merely teach them to live that way because they’re “little Christians” then you’re teaching them moralism, not Christianity. Christianity isn’t based on rules, or moral commands, but on Christ who died in our place. His salvation is purchased for his elect and we cannot control who his elect will be. If God saves me, my wife, and both of my kids, then God is to be praised in this, not me for baptizing them, and not me for training them properly, and not me for keeping them saved. God is the one who does this, not me, and it’s not on me to keep them there.
Your salvation must be your own. That’s what’s meant by Paul in Philippians 2:12 – that we must “work out” our own salvation – we must do the work of believing, and acting in faith upon that belief, on our own. We are not catholics, who believe that you may be a son of the devil, but if you were baptized as an infant, and after you died, your holier aunt or uncle can make a payment or perform some penance and get you sprung into heaven.
To that end, your baptism must also be your own. Read throughout the new testament. Baptism is performed on believers. What about those in the Cornelius’ “household” (Acts 10)? “Household” must also include infants, right? If it did, it was wrong. More than likely, it meant those who were in the house at the time whom Cornelius had brought together (Acts 10:24) to hear the word of God. Those whom, God placed outward signs
of this revelation on them so that these Jewish Christian could see that God had given to them the same thing that he had done with others (Acts 10:44-45). Now, it’s also likely that if there were infants there, that those same infants would have had manifested the outward signs of the Holy Spirit. So, I ask, would you wait for an outward sign of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation on those infants, as Paul did in withholding baptism from those in the “household” of Cornelius until they also had this same manifestation (Acts 10:47-48)?
As you can see, the process is simple. We are to repent and believe, then we are to be baptized. There is no different formula based on age or size. Scripture is clear.