As a Christian, I was born into the Church. I have followed in the traditions of my father and mother in my approach to following Jesus. When I was four, I followed Romans Road with my father, and accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal lord and savor. When I was nine I was baptized in the river. When I was twenty four, I received another type of baptism and was blessed with a new revelation of the Holy Spirit. All in all, I have walked out a very traditional, text book even, life in my tradition. I now have four children of my own, who are following in my own tradition. Children who are meeting Jesus for themselves, and experiencing his life, the way that I did. Only one of whom, my ten year old, has been baptized thus far, but all of whom have experienced Jesus. I am setting out to make a case for the practice of infant baptism. But in doing this I feel the reader needs to understand my own background. The reader needs to also understand that I do not necessarily plan to practice infant baptism for myself at any time in the future. The question I am asking really is this. What truths about the Gospel are missed by rejecting infant baptism?
In many of our traditions, we stress a few truths that are key to who we are through our practices of baptism. Every person must accept Jesus for themselves. We stress that God desires a personal relationship with each of us. We stress baptism as a public proclamation of our decision to follow Jesus. We are choosing to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus in baptism. Some, myself included, would even say that in baptism we see the beginning of the obedience to the command, take up your cross and follow me. We have a great deal of scripture to back up our position. In the Gospels and Acts you will never see an infant baptized, not without reading between the lines at least.
All of these things are true. But there is one area where I believe over emphasis on personal decision has become a stumbling block to us. That emphasis is on baptism as the point where we become members of the body of Christ. Biblically this is probably the number one emphasis of baptism. In the baptism of the Red sea, the Israelites become a people. In the baptism in the Jordan they are once again confirmed as the people of God. In the baptism held outside the temple at Pentecost, three thousand individuals were baptized into membership in the body of Christ. In Samaria the people heard the good news gladly and were baptized into membership in the body of Christ. The Ethiopian heard and was baptized into membership in the body of Christ. In the house of Cornelius, Gentiles were baptized into membership in the body of Christ for the first time. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 4.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
All of this is to say that baptism does mark our membership in the body of christ. The question I am posing here then, is not whether or not baptism marks our membership. But when can that membership take place. In my background, looking at baptism, we point out that belief in Jesus as lord always proceeds baptism. Therefore, it is believed that baptism can not occur until an individual is old enough to understand and believe in Christ for themselves. However there is another type of Baptism in the old testament that must be explored if we are going to come to a full conclusion.

In Colossians, Paul says this:

“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”

In this verse we gain imagination and understanding for what baptism accomplishes. Let’s quickly look through the old testament and see how circumcision relates to baptism in the good news of Jesus Christ.
The first circumcision, we are told of, is Abrahams. It is the mark that God gives to Abraham, marking him as set apart. But God does not stop with Abraham, he also has Abraham circumcise all those in his household. With Moses circumcision once again is enforced. First with Aron and his Sons, but then with the whole congregation of Israel. More than this a law is made that each male child should be circumcised on the eighth day. Throughout the Old testament circumcision is a mark that sets apart God’s people. That marks them as members in the people of God. As we have seen previously, Baptism is the mark of the people of God.
Here is the main point of what I am wanting you to hear. From the moment a child was born in Israel they were considered full members of the people of God. As soon as it was safe men were marked in their flesh, set apart as God’s people. The women were set apart no less so, if we take into account Genesis 3, “and the two shall become one flesh”. We see that the only people who were circumcised as adults were those who became part of God’s people as adults. Or in the case of the desert wanderings, those who were confirmed as part of God’s people as adults. The rest were circumcised into the covenant of their parents. This observation leaves room for the practice of infant baptism. After all every case of baptism that we hear about in the new testament involves adults walking into a new covenant with Jesus. We do not know how young the members of these families were when they were baptized. Only that baptism was done to them.
There is one very common practical misgiving in many of our traditions concerning infant baptism. From the outside looking in we see that many historically have felt that since they had been baptized they had been saved from hell and had no more reason to pursue God. Let me say this. I have seen this issue occur many times with Christians who were “saved” as adults as well. They say, I prayed the prayer, so I’m good. I was baptized, so I am good. The problem is not when an individual was saved, but that an individual believes they were saved by a ritual. It doesn’t matter whether the ritual occurred during infancy or in old age, rituals don’t change hearts. We are all called to be disciples of Jesus. This is a life long action, not a set of rituals.
The issue I am wanting to confront is the way that many of our traditions see children. Parents pray for our children, that they will know Jesus for themselves. We spend a great deal of energy looking forward to when our children will have their own relationship with Christ. This is fine. So long as we don’t believe that our children praying a prayer, or being baptized marks them as saved. We should be praying that our children will enter into lifelong discipleship with Jesus Christ.
The problem that I have seen with those who reject infant baptism is that children are not seen as fellow members of the people of God. This becomes especially obvious in kids ministry, or in the practice of some churches not serving communion to anyone who is not yet baptized. I heard a pastor say that we must drive the devil out of our children. What a foolish statement. Our children are members with us in the kingdom of heaven, and the devil has no place in them unless it is given. Didn’t Jesus say let the little children come to me?
Another place where a skewed view of this idea raises its head is in our approach to immaturity. Immaturity is not sin. Even Jesus himself. He who was without sin, was immature in his youth. We have only to read about him, at twelve, staying behind in Jerusalem without telling his parents to see this is true. Can you imagine how irritating that experience was for Joseph and Mary? We regularly make the mistake of believing that our children’s immaturity, actually just a lack of experience, is sin. Obviously children in their human nature sin. We sin in our self worship when we choose selfishness. We sin when we try to elevate ourselves above God and above those around us in rebellion. We all sin and it is only in submission to the Lordship of Jesus that we can be made whole. Many live as though their children are born with a death sentence hanging over their heads. The remarkable truth is that our children are born into our life in Christ. Yes they must eventually accept the Lordship of Jesus for themselves, even so they are born into the people of God.
It is destructive to our churches when we make the mistake seeing either immaturity or a lack of knowledge as sin. We must accept that every one of us is immature and when compared with the perfection that is Jesus. When we hold up a certain version of maturity or conformity as righteousness we are likely presenting a counterfeit to the Lordship of Jesus. Where Jesus welcomed questions, they make us uncomfortable; were Jesus trained immaturity, we often try to crush it as rebellion; were Jesus discouraged conformity to a system, we mistake conformity for righteousness. We are the people of God. We are a royal priesthood, the tangible Body of Christ on earth. Our job is not to drive the devil out of our children, or out of the world for that matter. Our job is to fill the earth with the goodness of God. We as God’s people are to be a beacon of light, displacing darkness and revealing truth.
Our children are born with us into the Body of Christ. In their early years we simply pick them up and carry them with us. Eventually we set them down and they walk with us, sometimes holding our hand for support. On a day further still, they will follow Him for themselves, and perhaps run after Him, far outdistancing our own journey with Christ.
If we reject infant baptism because we think that a person must be able to understand in order to become a member of the body of Christ, we have gone astray. If we believe our young children must believe for themselves in order to be saved, we have gone far astray. After all, think of all the times children were healed in the Bible based on the prayers of their parents. As members of the body of Christ raising fellow members of the body of Christ we would do well to meditate on Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
As parents of members of the body of Christ our job description may be somewhat different than we expected. We should teach them to pray. We should teach them to read the Bible for themselves. We should teach them to participate with the rest of the body of Christ. We should teach them the meaning of the sacraments. We should hold their hand and have them follow Jesus with us. Instead of a sense of relief when our child prayer the prayer, or asks for baptism, we as parents should feel the kind of deep joy felt when we watch our children take their first steps, or say their first complete sentence. After all whose children are they? Enjoy walking with them in God’s kingdom.
This paper is not to say that I am renouncing the practice of waiting for our children to ask for baptism. I myself will most likely continue to follow that tradition. I see it as a moment when my children let go of my hand and walk beside me. But if I were part of a church that believed that my children were anything less than citizens of heaven until baptism, I believe that I would feel compelled to baptize them immediately.
There are many good and healthy practices in the Church. We should never stand in judgment until we have come to appreciate the reasons and the meanings behind traditions. Few traditions in any branch of the church are completely without some well founded Biblical truth.

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