The Infant Baptism Question
“Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas” (v. 16a). - 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
The Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed churches all practice infant baptism. Today we want to look at four lines of evidence that show the validity of this practice.
First, just as baptism is the sign of entrance into the community of the new covenant, so circumcision was the sign of entrance into the core community of the old covenant (the people of Israel; God-fearing Gentiles did not have to be circumcised). Circumcision was a sign of faith and was performed on the infant sons of covenant members. It called them to hold onto the faith as they grew up as a sign that they, even as children, were a part of God’s household. In the new covenant, all members of the church are part of the “core community.” The analogies between circumcision and baptism validate baptizing infants (Colossians 2:11– 12).
Second, the new covenant is universally more inclusive than the old. If children had been suddenly excluded in the new covenant from the sign of the covenant, this would have been very controversial with the early Jewish believers. The silence of the New Testament indicates that there was no such controversy and points to the continuation of including children.
Third, the household baptisms of the New Testament (Acts 16:15, 33, etc.) indicate infant baptism. The term oikos (house, household) has been studied carefully in recent years. In classical Greek usage and in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word often has a particular reference to infants. Thus, the use of oikos strongly suggests the baptism of infants.
Fourth, the writings of the “apostolic fathers” of the second century reveal that infant baptism was being practiced in the church at that early date. Perhaps this shows that the new covenant church had lapsed into an erroneous “old covenant” practice. If this were true, however, we would expect some indication of controversy over infant baptism. The absence of controversy anywhere in the early church indicates that the church was comfortable with infant baptism, and was carrying on the apostolic tradition of the New Testament.
The issue of whether adults or children should be baptized is at once significant and emotionally charged. Because it is so emotionally charged we must speak gently. Because it is so significant we must study the matter carefully and diligently. Recommit to following the Word of God above the traditions of men.
Passages for Further Study
- Joshua 24:1–19
- Acts 16:13–15, 29–34
- Colossians 2:6–12
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