Why We Can and Should Baptize Infants
Many members of the True Jesus Church know that they can baptize their children, but often they find it difficult to articulate why. Recently, this topic came up in a conversation and I heard a long-time member speculate, “Isn’t it because the faith of the parent is imparted onto his infant?” This answer sounds attractive, and may also be the first reason that surfaces in our minds. However, taken verbatim, this is completely unscriptural; there is no biblical example of anyone’s faith being counted as another’s. So the question remains: why do we baptize our infants even though they cannot believe and repent? And why should we, if we can?
Before we address these questions, it is beneficial to first look at this issue from a historical perspective.
Samuel Kuo—Cerritos, California, USA
INFANT BAPTISM IN CHURCH HISTORY
When we examine the history of the Christian church, we should remember that the baptism of infants was practiced in the early church without significant controversy. As one scholar wrote,
Although Christian baptism was often surrounded by contention in the patristic centuries, especially in the western church, the period saw no significant disagreement about the acceptability of baptizing babies. There is no precedent in the era of the Fathers for the baptismal divide of the sixteenth and subsequent centuries.
The only controversial views of note in the early Christian centuries were those of the Latin Church Father, Tertullian (c.160 – c.225 AD), who wrote in his De Baptismo, “And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children.” In summary, he advocated the deferment of baptism because he thought it to be more profitable. However, it must be understood that he was not an outright opponent of infant baptism. To him, it was still acceptable to baptize young children.
There were other contentions with baptism, but on the whole, the church continued to baptize young children for centuries.
It was only in the 16th century, during the Reformation, that infant baptism started to become a divisive issue. Factions arose that completely opposed infant baptism and considered it an invalid institution. A division arose between those who supported paedobaptism, the baptism of children, and those who supported credobaptism, only baptizing those who could confess belief.
The most significant group to arise during this time was called the “Swiss Brethren,” who later came to be called the Anabaptists by their opponents. The movement started in Switzerland, spread almost instantaneously over many countries, and ran as a side current to the main stream of the Reformation.
Conrad Grebel is known as the father of the Swiss Brethren. He had been led to the evangelical faith by the Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli, and became a prominent member of the church in Zurich. However, he was soon disappointed with both Zwingli and Martin Luther. Grebel and others felt that these reformers were not moving fast enough in purifying the church and applying the principles taught in the Scriptures. (Luther and Zwingli often cooperated and waited on the State before instituting religious reforms.) They detested how many members who converted to Protestantism in mass conversions did not change their lives, but continued to use the doctrine of salvation by faith only, without good works, as an excuse for loose living. Seeing the low quality of the converts, the Swiss Brethren insisted that membership in the church be limited to those who consciously committed themselves to Christ. They objected to easy memberships in the church by way of the State. Because of these views, they vehemently opposed infant baptism. They saw it as an invalid practice. Those baptized without professing faith needed to be baptized again.
These criticisms culminated in January 1525, when an ex-priest named George Blaurock, who had been baptized in his infancy, asked Conrad Grebel to rebaptize him. After Grebel complied, Blaurock baptized fifteen others. This event marked the birth of Swiss Anabaptism. The opponents of this movement called its members Anabaptists, which literally means, “one who baptizes again.” The movement quickly spread to other parts of Switzerland, to southern Germany, and Monrovia.
Given this history, it should be no surprise that the orthodox Christian denominations (i.e., Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox) and the denominations stemming from the Magisterial Reformation (i.e., Lutherans, Calvinists, Reformed tradition) continue to practice infant baptism today. The denominations that have been directly or indirectly influenced by the Anabaptists (i.e., Mennonites, Amish, Baptists) practice a strict credobaptism. Pentecostal denominations typically practice credobaptism as well.
WHY WE CAN: GOD AND THE HOUSEHOLD
As with many doctrinal controversies, we need not choose sides too quickly, lest we jump into ideological traps. We must have a clear biblical understanding of why we can and should baptize our young children.
To begin, we must understand that the spirit of God’s covenant with His chosen people is “to you and your descendants after you in their generations in an everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:7; cf. Deut 29:10–13; Josh 8:35). God extends His covenant to the entire household. Yes, the Anabaptists’ concern was valid: every individual and every generation must build their personal relationship with God (cf. Isa 54:13; Jer 31:31–34). Nevertheless, God’s grace and God’s covenant are given freely to everybody within the household of faith. Therefore, we do not baptize just any infants. We baptize infants in the household of God.
Another principle we see in the Bible is that one adult believer can represent his or her entire family. In the Old Testament, we see that it was through Noah’s faith that his entire household was saved (Heb 11:7). In the Gospels, when Zacchaeus accepted Jesus Christ in faith, Jesus told him, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk 19:9, emphasis added). During Paul’s second missionary journey, the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to heed the things spoken by Paul, following which, she and her household were baptized (Acts 16:14–15). Similarly, the Philippian jailer believed and his whole family was baptized (Acts 16:30–33). Lydia and the jailer serve as two specific cases of how individual believers could represent their entire household. Like Noah’s and Zacchaeus’ families, grace and salvation came to these households through one person’s faith. In both incidences, not a word was mentioned about the faith of the other household members. They confirm that God desires to save entire households as a unit, not just individuals. More importantly, in these two cases, we see the direct connection between the individual’s household and the sacrament of baptism. In other words, water baptism is allowed to be administered to the family members of a believer, including their children.
All of these biblical examples confirm Peter’s proclamation on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2:38–39a, emphasis added). So, can an infant believe, repent, confess sins, and integrate into the holy community? Certainly not. But we cannot forbid their baptism for these reasons. Since they are part of the household of a believer, they are accorded the covenant promises. Grace has come to the entire house.
The Anabaptists’ concern of weak Christians and loose living is still valid though.But we must remember that:
The baptism of the entire household does not guarantee that every member will be saved in the end. Even though the entire household, including the children, enters into God’s covenant of salvation through baptism, it is still essential that every member establish their own faith and relationship with God. The heads of the household who have brought their children to baptism need to take up the responsibility of also teaching them and guiding them in the faith.
This is related to the next issue of why we should baptize our young children, knowing now that we can.
WHY WE SHOULD: FAITH AND DUTY
Some members hesitate to baptize their children in fear of them sinning greatly against God, and leaving the faith when they are older. They think that it may be better for their children to make their own personal choice as an adult. So they may hold similar views to that of Tertullian, who advocated the postponement of baptism. Though raising children who eventually commit apostasy is a natural fear in Christian parenthood, the best course of action is still to baptize our infants. There are several reasons we should consider:
The first reason is that although young children may be innocent from conscious sins, the Bible tells us that all are sinners (Rom 5:12–14), including infants (cf. Ps 51:5). Thus, young children need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins—especially since it is impossible to predict if they will be able to live until they can make their own decision. Who can know the future? If misfortune were to strike, wouldn’t the decision not to baptize our children become the greatest regret?
Secondly, as parents, we instinctively seek to give the best to our children. When they are only a few weeks old, we have them vaccinated because we desire for them to live healthy lives free of preventable diseases. Similarly, without a second thought we enroll our children in formal schooling, even as young as three years old, because we know that education is essential for a productive life. We never hear of parents delaying until their children are adults so they can decide for themselves if they want to be vaccinated and go to primary school. That would seem absurd! But if we are so magnanimous with earthly things like health and education, should we not be even more eager to give the best gift to our children—to baptize them and allow them a chance to enter the heavenly kingdom (cf. Jn 3:5)?
Finally, as parents, we know that raising godly children is our God-given duty (cf. Mal 2:15; Deut 6:4–9). The very act of baptizing our young children serves as a great driving force in fulfilling this duty. Since baptism ushers them to the Lord (cf. Gal 3:26–29), this fact alone drives us to make every effort to ensure that they can remain in the Lord. After all, in any discipline, wouldn’t we strive so much harder knowing there is no turning back over knowing there is a “safety net” underneath us? This is similar to approaching a marriage with or without a prenuptial agreement. The first choice presumes failure and allows for divorce, while the other completely commits to the marriage, knowing that there is no return. Similarly, we must approach the baptism and upbringing of our infants with the same no-holds-barred mentality.
As we have seen, baptizing our children is not only acceptable, but is encouraged. May the Lord continue to give us wisdom not only in defending infant baptism, but also in the upbringing of our precious children.
 Infant Baptism in Historical Perspective, 2007, David Wright, p.22
 Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, 1885, On Baptism, Chapter 18, p.678.
 Infant Baptism in Historical Perspective, 2007, David Wright, p.25-26
 For this reason Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin are often known as the “Magisterial Reformers” since they argued for the interdependence of the church and state. In contrast, the Anabaptists were known as the “Radical Reformers.”
 The Church in History, 1965, B. K. Kuiper, p.205
 A History of the Christian Church, 1986, Williston Walker, p.449
 Other examples include Crispus’ household (cf. Acts 18:8; 1 Cor 1:14), and Stephanas’ household (1 Cor 1:16). For more information please reference The Doctrine of Baptism, USGA, 2011, Chapter 9.
 The Doctrine of Baptism, USGA, 2011, Chapter 9.
 Not that delaying baptism serves as any “safety net” at all, for there is no guarantee that our unbaptized children would even choose the faith in their adulthood.