When people express a desire to baptize their babies, they might do so for many reasons. The motivation might be to fit in with their family’s religious or cultural traditions. Familial acceptance can provide a powerful force. Or perhaps a priest or preacher might have told them it is necessary. There can also be a concern that their baby is spiritually lost until this is accomplished.
If we are going to allow the Bible to shape our understanding regarding whether babies should be baptized, here is what we discover:
- Within scripture, whenever people are baptized they do so as a result of hearing the gospel, believing it and choosing to rely upon Jesus. Baptism is for those who believe what God has provided for us in Christ (Acts 2:38,41;8:12,35-38;10:44-11:1;16:14-15;16:32-34;18:8-9; Colossians 2:12). If baptism could bestow salvation upon those who do not believe, then other verses like Hebrews 11:6 become nonsensical.
- The New Testament provides no examples of babies receiving baptism.
- There are Bible stories of entire households being baptized. However, those entire households were capable of understanding and believing the message (Acts 16:30-35; 18:8; 10:2,33,47-48; 11:14).
- Some people, believing that their babies are born with sin, want to request it in order to save them. However, babies are not born with sin (Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 18:3-4). Rather, we become guilty of sin when we sin and all of us have sinned. Romans 3:23; 5:12
I anticipate the objection, “Does not Psalm 51 teach babies are sinners?” No. Just as poetic hyperbole in texts like Ps. 22:6 and Job 3:1-10 vividly reveal the depths of human emotion, not theological truth, so too David poetically poured out with hyperbole his profound disgust over his sinfulness. We gain access to his turmoil and state of mind, not doctrinal truths about all babies.
The nature of David’s language in Psalm 51 becomes clear when we consider his statement, “I am forever conscious of my sin” (Ps. 51:3). Really? David never had a moment of distraction when he forgot his sin? To press this language as being literal would distort his message.
We understand what someone means when they say, “I have been a failure my whole life. I have never done anything right.” We realize what they are communicating. We do not force their words into conveying a literalness that would be untrue.
- Water baptism within the New Testament involves a burial and raising up from water (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12; John 3:23), is based upon the authority of Christ (Acts 2:38; 19:5) and from the earliest of times has been performed invoking the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
Within scripture, baptism is for those who desire to respond to the good news about Jesus. Babies are incapable of believing the message. Babies have not committed any sins, so they do not need forgiveness. Baptism was not intended for babies.