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10:10 AM   [21 Sep 2012 | Friday]

Baptizing Babies

Many Christian churches perform infant baptism, frequently called christening. The practice goes back at least to the third century. What does the Bible say about infant baptism?

Baptize is translated from the Greek word “baptizo”, and means to dip or submerge. It can be found in over eighty verses in the New Testament.

Overwhelmingly, the Bible presents baptism as something a believer does after he has placed his faith in Christ and repented of his sins. It is a public testimony of faith and obedience. The following verse is representative of those points:

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NIV)

If baptism is something you do after you make the decision to follow Christ, it seems to me that the practice is meant for adults, once they become believers.

In reading over the verses related to baptism, I did, however, find two that could possibly support infant baptism. Both of these verses make reference to the”household” of the person being baptized. The Greek word for household is “oikos”, and its secondary definition is “a household, family, lineage, and nation.” It is therefore possible to interpret this as to include children and infants.

(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)” (1 Corin. 1:16 NIV)

According to this verse, Paul baptized Stephanas, and his household. This could include children and adult family members.

“When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.” (Acts 16:15 NIV)

In this verse, Lydia, a woman by the river in Philippi, is baptized by Paul, along with her household. Once again, it is not unlikely that her household included children who were baptized at this time.

So, although the Bible definitely presents baptism as something adults do after they come to Christ, there are a couple of verses that infer that children were also baptized.

After my study of these verses, I have decided that baptism is meant for adults, not children. It is something Christians should do after they make their commitment to Jesus Christ.

I do not think, however, that there is anything wrong with a baby being baptized. By so doing, it is the intention of the parents to publicly present their child to Christ. The baby is named, given godparents, blessed, prayed over, and sprinkled by the minister. Often the congregation also prays for the baby and promises to assist the parents as they raise their child according to Christian teachings. None of this sounds like a bad thing to me. Actually, it sounds like a very beautiful thing.

The problem comes in, as I see it, if this is the only time a person is ever baptized during his life. If that is the case, then we have a believer who has never consciously made the decision to be baptized. It was done for him by his parents. But that is not the way it works. Everyone must come to the Lord Jesus Christ by his own decision.

I was brought up in the Methodist church, for the most part. Methodists are a denomination that practices infant baptism. I, therefore, was never baptized as an adult.

I write these blogs to, hopefully, lead at least one person in the right direction. In the case of this blog, I know I have succeeded. I have led myself in the right direction, because I am going to get baptized. It will probably be a pretty good show, watching this old guy go under the water and back up again. I will try to be as graceful as possible, but I am making no promises.

 

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