07 May 2010

Question of the Week:
Baptism and Infants

by Anne Lang Bundy

Where in Scripture does it talk about infant baptism? Or is it just a human tradition?
~ Archie Palmer, Burlington KS

The last directive from Jesus before He returned to Heaven appears in Matthew 28:19 (NKJV):

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you."

To whom and how baptism is done—as part of making disciples—is a point of difference among denominations.

Scripture only speaks of baptism being performed as a response of faith, by those old enough to do so. Consider Acts 16:32-34 (NKJV):

Then they [Paul and Silas] spoke the word of the Lord to him [the jailer] and to all who were in his house... And immediately he and all his family were baptized... and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

This passage has been used to explain baptizing infants, since “all his family” were baptized. But the context indicates that these were people who listened to the Gospel and “believed.”

Some churches baptize infants, then practice “confirmation” when a child is older and can testify to faith. But this is generally done collectively, for an entire class, rather than at an individual’s initiative. It tends toward confirmation by default—unless one chooses to opt out—rather than in accordance with the biblical example of opting in.

The biblical ritual for infants comes from the command of God given to Moses in Leviticus 12. Males were circumcised on the eighth day. Then after a male was forty days old or a female was eighty days old, the mother brought an offering to the Lord. Jesus is presented at the temple (Luke 2:22) in accordance with this command. Thus the practice in many churches today is of dedicating an infant (or young child) to the Lord.

If infants are not baptized, are their souls in jeopardy? The Bible indicates that children are “sanctified” (made holy) by the believing parent (1 Corinthians 7:14). There is no indication of up to what age such sanctification continues. It might be: until an unspecified age of accountability; until a specific age of recognized maturity such as twelve or twenty; or for as long as the child remains in the believing parent’s house, under their “covering” of authority.

Do you have a question about the Bible or Christianity? Leave it in today’s comments to be considered for a future post.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image source: holycrossoh.org


  1. AnonymousMay 07, 2010

    If a child is sanctified by their believing parent, what about the children of the unbelieving?

  2. Thank you, Anne, for such clarity in explaining infant baptism!

  3. Good to learn more on this.
    ~ Wendy

  4. To Anonymous ~

    You were quick to pick up on the dilemma posed by that passage. The answer would be so lengthy that I will make it next week's Question of the week in follow-up.

  5. Thanks Anne ... There is some food for thought in todays post.

  6. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed your thoughts.
    I tend to believe that 1 Corinthians 7:14 has more to do with the influence and teaching that is passed along to the child by the believing parent, as is also stated in the earlier verses can also influence the unbelieving husband. The witness of the believers life before the unbeliever can testify of Christ and influence others to make that personal choice to follow Him.

  7. Bible Lover,
    Thanks for stopping by and taking a moment to leave positive feedback. It's appreciated.

    Russell, thanks again for the opportunity to share here.

  8. Patty, we certainly have a sancitfying influence by being salt and light, to both our children and others. But there is also a much larger principle of generational blessing and sin. It is spoken of in the second commandment (Exodus 20:5-6), and I believe that is in part what this passage addresses. I plan to go into it in some depth next Friday.

  9. I personally believe in a new birth experience. I don't see a lot of reason why a child would be baptized before he has known God. Isn't that when Jesus baptized everyone in the Bible? When they could finally submit to God's will and that they were unworthy without it? A 40-80 day child doesn't understand that. That's just my point. Interesting article!

  10. Duane (or is it Marty? I'm still confused ...) ~

    One point I failed to make is that both Jesus and John the Baptist preached a Gospel and baptism of repentance. You are correct in surmising that this component of faith requires one be old enough to acknowledge wrongdoing.

  11. AnonymousMay 08, 2010

    reading colossians 4:2-6. i am wondering about the words "seasoned with salt".

  12. It bothers my family that my children were baptized in a pool. I'm actually going to have them do it again formally at church. Nevertheless they are saved and filled with the spirit. What could be better?

  13. Nancy ~

    Though I generally avoid commentaries, I cheated on this one because I knew they'd have a clear and concise answer. The passage (from NKJV:
    Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside [the church], redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5-6)

    Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary:
    "seasoned with salt": Not insipid, not flat, not dull, not tasteless. Christians are to have an edge of liveliness, and to be marked by purity, wholesomeness, and hallowed pungency.

    I hope that is what you were looking for, Nancy.

  14. T ~ I applaud you for being so graciously accommodating. Family can challenge faith more than anyone I think. May the Lord direct and bless you as you continue to live out that balance.