Arguments against infant baptism

Dear BPCWAians, I hope that after last week’s pastoral, you are able to explain the Biblical reasons for infant baptism. We baptise infants because it is the sign of the covenant which believing parents are in with God, because it is covenant keeping with our covenantal God, and because it is the receiving of the covenantal promise from God. My initial intention for this week was to write to you about what should happen after infant baptism. But I felt it was needful that before we answer that, we should address some common misunderstandings and questions that arise regarding infant baptism. Our understanding and convictions on this Biblical practice must be firm and we must be ready to give an answer so as to help others come to the right Biblical understanding too. Without a right understanding, parents may do it only as a matter of ritual and lose the real intent.

Here are common arguments against infant baptism and the Biblical responses:

(1) It is a Roman Catholic practice. The Roman Catholic’s erroneous beliefs and teachings regarding a right doctrine does not make the correct practice of that doctrine wrong. Just like they have wrong beliefs about the Holy Communion (which they called Eucharist), it does not make the practice of Holy Communion wrong. They believe that infants who do not get baptised will not be saved. They practice infant baptism with the belief that it confers salvific powers. These are wrong beliefs about infant baptism.

(2) Baptism should be for those who have believed, but infants have not yet believed. We emphasize that infant baptism is different from believer’s baptism. God did not tell His people to wait till their children has grown up and have believed in Him, and then circumcise them. He commanded parents to do so while they were infants. Infant baptism is about the believing parents keeping their covenant with God. It is not about whether the child is saved or not at that point.

(3) Female babies are baptised today, but female infants were not circumcised back in the Old Testament days. The signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace are implemented differently by God in the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT). This is why for the same Covenant, the Covenant of Grace, Heb 8:13 calls one the Old Covenant (same Greek word for Testament) and the other New Covenant (Testament). The different administration of the sign and seal made the previous one old. Now, we have a new sign and seal which replaces the old. The OT believers kept the circumcision and Passover, but Christ replaced the Passover (bloody with killing of the lamb) with the Lord’s Supper, “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Lu 22:19-20). Christ, who shed His blood once for all, brought on a new administration of the covenant. Broken bread (non bloody) and the cup (non bloody) replaced the bloody administration of cutting of the flesh in circumcision and the Passover killing of the lamb. In the OT, failure to circumcise came with warnings of serious consequences, even death (Gen 17:14), but there was no such severe warning about the sacrament of water baptism which replaced circumcision. In the OT, there were no severe warnings regarding the Passover, but there is the serious warning of sickness and even death for partaking of the Lord’s supper unworthily (1 Cor 11:29-30). God has every right to implement and administer the covenantal sign differently, which He did as mentioned above. We cannot enforce our own expectations of direct transposition of the old signs and new signs – we cannot say that if only males were circumcised, then we cannot say that water baptism (which involves both male and female infants now) cannot be the replacement covenantal sign. If we were to do so, then we also have to insist that the Passover cannot be replaced by the Holy Communion because the latter has death warnings but not the former. God is sovereign and He chooses the changes in the signs as He sees fit.

(4) But my child grew up wicked despite infant baptism. God willing, this question will be covered next week when we answer what happens after infant baptism.

Yours in our Lord’s service