INFANT BAPTISM, ONE of the sacraments of the Catholic Church, is not administered in the Church of Christ.
It is distinctively a Catholic invention that has evolved in time and has crept into the list of Catholic rituals. Having
been performed for more or less 18 centuries (definitely not earlier than Erenaeus, c. 140-203 CE), this practice has become
customary for babies born to Catholic parents. But, since infant baptism has become widespread only after the death
of the apostles and since it was recognized only in the third century, the question regarding its biblical soundness or doctrinal
validity becomes suspect, as it fails to trace its origin to the apostles.
Let us examine this religious practice in the light of biblical truth and discover whether or not it is
in any way supported by the Bible. Furthermore, let us try to gain understanding as to what should be administered to
children who haven't reached yet the age of reason, in fulfillment of the requirements of Scripture.
Holy baptism: the Lord's commandment
During His public ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His
disciples to baptize those who believed in His teachings, for their own benefit and salvation. He said this is the following
passage recorded in the gospel according to Mark:
"And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who
believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned'." (Mk. 16:15-16, New Revised Standard
In expressing His command that the gospel of salvation be proclaimed to the whole world, the Lord specified
the requisites of a proselyte who is to receive baptism. First, he must hear the gospel and proclaimed by God's messengers
- he must have the capacity to receive biblical instruction. Second, he must believe in the teachings and manifest his
faith in the Lord.
Apostle Paul, in support of such teaching, explains that faith can only be acquired from hearing the words
of truth from messengers commissioned by God. He declares that faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through
the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
The foregoing conditions that indubitably require conscious and sufficient understanding of the teachings
of the Lord prior to baptism cannot be met by an infant who is incapable of making independent choices and decisions, inasmuch
as he has not yet reached the age of reason or the age of discernment.
Infant baptism: a deviation from Scripture
Defenders of infant baptism cite biblical verses in reference
to the baptism of the households of Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and Stephanas, claiming that these "households"
must have also included the children. Let us quote these verses for further elucidation.
On the household of Cornelius: "While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard
the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been
poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone
withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?' So he ordered them
to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days." (Acts 10:44-48, NRSV)
On the household of Lydia: "When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying 'If you have
judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home'. And she prevailed upon us." (Acts 16:15, Ibid.)
On the household of the Philippian jailer: "At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their
wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay." (Acts 16:33 ibid.)
On the household of Stephanas: "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that
no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptized also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do
not know whether I baptized anyone else.)" (I Cor. 1:14-16, Ibid.)
Indeed, the preceding verses mention the households or families that were baptized by the authority of the
apostles. But, obviously, there is no hint whatsoever of infant baptism to have taken place. Neither do the verses
show that there indeed were infants present in these occasions.
Hence, to connote and to further conclude that the world "households" in the passages must necessarily include
infants is to stretch the verses too far. Moreover, the claim that there were infants in these households who received
baptism is nothing less than an unscrupulous attempt to corrupt the written word. Such assertion is but a twisting of the
genuine message of Scripture.
Also, to claim that the apostles baptized infants together with the adults is to accuse the apostle of violating
their Master's commissioning that they proclaim or teach the message of salvation and baptize those who believe for their
Dedicating the children to the Lord
Instead of having their infants baptized, parents should dedicate
them to the Lord and have them prayed over and blessed. This was done even during the time of the early Church:
"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder
them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'. When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there."
(Mt. 19:13-15, New International Version)
The laying on of hands by the Lord or by a minister in the Church of Christ is done for the purpose of granting
a blessing to an infant or to little children, the same as what Aaron did to bless the people and blessed hem; and he came
down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the offering of well-being." (Lev. 9:22, NRSV)
So, when the Lord Jesus Christ laid His hands on the children who were brought to Him, He granted them His
blessing through a prayer, for indeed He said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
When such children who have been dedicated in the service of the Lord would have reached the age of understanding,
they also must receive religious instruction and be baptized into the Church in the same manner that their parents were brought
into the Christian fold. With their baptism, they also receive the grace of forgiveness and salvation.
Parental authority and responsibility
The dedication of children in the service of the Lord is an investiture
of authority and responsibility on the parents - to care and lead their children in serving the Lord so that they may keep
for themselves the grace of salvation. Parents then are expected by the Lord to commit themselves in guiding their children
properly and in protecting them from all the evil influences of the world, thus preventing them from being led astray.
Apostle Paul admonished parents to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord
(Eph. 6:4). We, therefore, should strive to guide our children to lead a life of holiness and righteousness before the
Almighty God. We should be motivated in fulfilling this holy obligation of molding our children to spiritual maturity.
As responsible parents, we should see to it that our children regularly attend the Sunday school.
On such occasions, they receive the words of God that will guide them as they grow up. But, we ought not to leave the teaching
of religion to the Sunday school alone. More importantly, we should teach our children at home and reinforced the teachings
they receive from the Church at all times. The Bible commands:
"Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when
you lie down and when you get up." (Dt. 6:7, NIV)
Furthermore, to nurture our children toward spiritual maturity, we need to spend quality time with them.
We should set aside enough time to spend with them not only for leisure but, more than this, for religious instruction.
We should relate to them our edifying experiences and help them see the good things that God has been doing to us. We
should also share with them stories of how we have been able to overcome trials in life through the help and guidance of God.
The Bible says:
"But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen
nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children."
(Dt. 4:9, NRSV)
We should succeed in making our children spend their youthful vigor in the Lord's service and in keeping
His words in their hearts so that they would be armed in their battle against the evils of the world (Eccl. 12:1; Prov. 7:1-2).
By doing these we would have fully dedicated our children in the service of the Lord.