Infant baptism is very predominant in the Catholic church. In fact, parents are taught to baptize their babies within the first few weeks. But, is it biblical? Let us see what the Bible actually teaches about baptism. For clarity, each Catholic argument supporting Infant Baptism is shown in blue, followed by the actual Biblical teaching in black, and scriptures quoted in red.
A) Luke 18:15 Now they were bringing even infants to him. 16. “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” which seems to suggest they could do so under their own power.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. [BI]
39. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
While the Catholics are right in pointing out that EVERYONE must be baptized in the name of the Lord, they miss out on the major pre-requisite: REPENTENCE. Peter very clearly says that one must first repent, and then be baptized. Not the other way round.
But the Catholics contend that Lydia and the Jailor in Acts chapter 16 were baptized with their entire household, which may have included infants. Luke 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household. The Bible doesn’t specifically mention that Lydia’s family included infants; So, this argument doesn’t hold good.
And regarding the Jailer’s family, let us see the context of the full passage:
Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
Paul very clearly says that the Jailer and his family must FIRST BELIEVE before being baptized.
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized.
We read that those who heard the word and gladly received it were baptized. This implies that those who were baptized were mature enough to understand, discern and believe what Peter and Philip preached. Also note that it says only the men and women were baptized. Not infants.
Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Here we see the eunuch asking Philip what hinders him from being baptized. And Philip answered, “If you believe with all your heart, you can be baptized”.
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself made this very clear:
Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. To be baptized, you must first believe. This is not possible in the case of infants and children who have not attained discerning maturity.
B) Under the Old Covenant, babies were circumcised when they were eight days old (Gene 17:12; Lev 12:3). This was the sign by which they entered into the covenant. St. Paul actually calls baptism the “new circumcision” when he writes:
Col 2:11-12 “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead”.
While Baptism is indeed compared to Circumcision, we must not neglect what the Bible intends as its purpose. Apostle Peter teaches that Baptism serves for a good conscience towards God.
1 Pet 3:21like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Infants and little children don’t possess a fully developed discernment and conscience, thereby defeating the intended purpose of baptism.
C) The Council of Carthage, in A.D 253, condemned the opinion that baptism should be withheld from infants until the eighth day after birth. Later, Augustine taught, “The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned . . . nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (Literal Interpretation of Gen 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).
Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men.
The Bible very clearly teaches us to abstain from and avoid extra biblical traditions which originate from men. The Catholic Church has erred greatly in this by establishing numerous extra-biblical traditions, sacraments and liturgy. The fact that the Pope claims to be the “Vicar / Representative of Christ” is extreme blasphemy. When Jesus offered His life for us on the cross, the veil of the temple was “rent in twain” (torn in two), symbolizing that everyone has direct access to God. Jesus Himself is the sole advocate and mediator, and nobody else can claim that office.
Having said that, any creed or doctrine established by man is not the basis for defining the truth. Rather, it is the Word of God which instructs and teaches us in the way we should go.
Before being baptized, a person must make a conscious decision to follow God and live a holy life for Him. This is not possible in the case of infants and little children. Also, baptism alone does not save a person. But believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and doing His will is what brings salvation and eternal life.