Infant Baptism: The Perfect Picture of Sola Fide

I had a conversation lately with someone near and dear to me about Baptism. This person recently was baptized in a non-denominational church after coming to the conclusion that the baptism he had as an infant in the Lutheran church was not a “real” baptism.

To make his case, he had mainly two arguments. 1) To baptize means “to immerse” and 2)the demonstration that we find in the New Testament is that Christians confess their faith before being baptized—ergo baptism comes after faith. This conversation has led to many ponderings for me; most of which concerning the latter point. But I dare not let the first point go unrefuted; so here it is: To baptize doesn’t necessarily mean “to immerse,” in Mark 7:4 it says, “When they [the Pharisees] come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washings [here the Greek word for baptized is used] of cups, pitchers, and kettles." The word baptize means literally, “to wash.” This is why Titus refers to baptism as the “washing of regeneration” (3:5). If immersion was necessary for baptism, we would have that instruction in the Scriptures. Matthew 28 is where Jesus institutes Baptism when He instructs the apostles to “baptize and to teach.” He doesn’t say, “baptize by immersion and teach.” Many point to the baptism of Jesus to say that baptism must be immersion; but the text says that Jesus “came up from the water.” This is usually taken to mean that Jesus was immersed and He “came up out of the water.” But by the time Jesus comes up from the water, the baptism had already taken place. Matthew 3:16 says, “And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water…” It could be that Jesus was standing waist deep in water and John poured water over Jesus’ head. In fact, art from the 4th Century (only 300 years after the event happened) already depicts the event this way; John standing with Jesus in the Jordan river while John poured water on Jesus’ head. But in the end—it really doesn’t matter—I’m not opposed to immersion for baptism—I’m just opposed to people teaching that a baptism must be by immersion in order to be valid.

It’s the second point that got me thinking; that a baptism must be a response to faith because of the many examples in the New Testament in which a person confesses faith before being baptized. Here, I think the observation is a good one, it’s just the conclusion I disagree with. Certainly we do have many examples of those confessing the faith before they are baptized. And rightly so; if your unbelieving co-worker comes with you to church and receives faith from hearing the preached Word—he would rightly confess the faith publicly before he is baptized. But what if there is someone who can’t make confession of his faith? What if there was someone who didn’t have the mental capacity to articulate or vocalize the faith? Would you deny his baptism because he can’t make confession? No, of course not! When babies receive faith by the preached Word just as everyone else—why would we want to deny them baptism simply because they are unable to confess the faith that is in them. The temptation that exists when we observe that baptism frequently follows a confession of faith is that we are tempted to believe that baptism is our doing rather than God’s working externally to us. The Holy Scriptures reveal to us that there is a promise attached to baptism. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mark 16:16). “Baptism now saves you,” (1 Peter 3:5). “…be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins,” (Acts 2:38). With baptism is the promise of the forgiveness of sins. So we know that baptism is a work of God, not a work of man because forgiveness isn’t given by the work of man.

The real problem that people have with Lutheran baptism is primarily with infant baptism. And the real issue is simply because infants perfectly demonstrate the reality of human condition. The baby is simply born, and already it’s a sinner. Already it’s being selfish and knows how to disobey. And yet we teach that sinners are saved by faith alone. So if we are truly saved by no works of our own, then there is no reason that someone who can do no works is unable to have faith. But that grinds against our sinful nature. Surely the baby can’t have faith because he can’t do anything to obtain faith. That’s exactly the point! None of us can do works to obtain faith. So the fact that a baby can’t do anything doesn’t exclude the baby of possessing faith. Faith is a condition of the heart—not a condition of the mind. Faith is a gift not an act of ours. Going to church and having our children baptized and witnessing infant baptism is good for our old Adam…because we witness a soul being born into God’s family entirely out of God’s grace through faith—and it reminds us that faith is not a work but rather a gift that is given by God to us—and this faith receives all the benefits that Christ won for us: forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

Infant Baptism

I have been thinking of an additional way to defend infant baptism and to come to the true Jewish understanding of the Greek word baptize using the Old Testament.

In Acts 17: 11, we learn that “the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”(NIV). Since the Bereans were using the Old Testament scriptures to examine Paul’s teachings, this means that all of Paul’s teachings should be found in both the Old and New Testaments.

Johns states in John 1:24-25 “Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him [John the Baptist], "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?(NIV)" This passage indicates that the Pharisees were aware of baptism and were looking for the Christ to come baptizing way before Jesus stated his ministry. How is this possible?

The LORD [Jesus] in Ezekiel 36:24-28 states “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.(NIV)” Here baptism is a rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the passages that the Pharisees would have been interpreting to mean that the Christ would come baptizing. Moreover, this clearly shows that sprinkling is a method of baptizing.

When the LORD says that he will sprinkle the people in Ezekiel, this would remind the Jews of the way Moses sprinkled blood on the people in Exodus 24:8. I believe that Moses gathered all the people of Israel in the Exodus account and this would have included infants.

It is interesting that we have both water and blood came out of the side of Jesus when he is dying on the cross.

RE: Infant Baptism

That seems like a good argument against immersion only baptism.