Is Baptism Something for Infants?
It is indeed fitting that this article follows the previous one posted on January 1st, the Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord. Why? Because baptism has replaced circumcision in the New Covenant! St. Paul makes it clear that baptism is the “circumcision of Christ.”
“In whom also you are circumcised with circumcision not made by hand, in despoiling of the body of the flesh, but in the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him up from the dead.” Col. 2:11-12
According to Jewish Law (Genesis 17:10-14 and Leviticus 12:3) states that circumcision is to take place on the eighth day after the male child is born. This was a sign of the keeping of God’s Covenant with His People. No one would argue that a child of 8 days old is not an infant – thus this “sign” was made upon an infant who made no choice in the matter – it was a decision by his parents. Likewise, baptism, being “the circumcision of Christ” is a decision made by Christian parents for their children (and no longer just a sign among male children, baptism is for male and female alike).
Note as well, is the act of faith an operation of the person being baptized, or is it “the operation of God?” St. Paul makes it clear, the operation is that of God! With that in mind, does it matter if the person being baptized decided to be baptized or not? Is God less empowered to act/operate if the person being baptized is an infant? Certainly not!
Some will try to argue that the only baptism spoken of in Scripture is that of a “believers baptism,” that is – one has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and THEN are baptized. Other wording may include that baptism is only for the regenerated (born again). Certainly there are examples of this in Scripture but along with the above evidence that baptism replaces circumcision as the covenant sign of the New Covenant, we also have at least three examples of “entire households” being baptized. (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33 and 1 Cor. 1:16). In none of these examples are the children or infants excluded. We could challenge those who accept only this “believers baptism” of the “regenerated” with a question of how many in their church/community are unregenerated? What happens to children who have not been baptized and die before receiving baptism? If only the regenerated can receive baptism – are all those children lost and damned to hell forever?
All Were Baptized in Moses
St. Paul tells us clearly that ALL the People of Israel were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. The reference clearly being the crossing of the Red Sea wherein the whole people, from the aged to the infant, were, in St. Paul’s wording “baptized.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2).
Can Parents/Sponsors Speak For Children?
Scripture teaches us that a believing wife sanctifies (makes holy) her unbelieving husband, and likewise a believing husband sanctifies an unbelieving wife. Not only that, through this the children are also made holy!
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy. 1 Corinthians 7:14 DRB
If even an unbelieving spouse can be made holy AND thereby the children are made holy by the believing spouse – then certainly the parents can represent their children at baptism – just as they did under the Old Covenant in circumcision.
St. Cyprian (c. 250 AD), in answer to those who were opposing infant baptism even at this early date writes:
But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. (Epistle 58.2)
In fact, this whole letter is written in favor of infant baptism. Read it here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050658.htm
The relationship between circumcision and baptism is made clear in Scripture. Baptism is the circumcision of Christ. The Law of the Old Covenant was that circumcision was to be performed on infants who were 8 days old. There is nothing indicating that this practice should change in the New Covenant with baptism. Baptism makes clean the recipient, not cleansed from dirt – but cleansed from the stain of the sin of Adam – which we are all born into. (1 Peter 3:21). It is not the water which cleanses, that’s just the sign, rather it is God who does the work – or “operates” in baptism. Clearly also in Matthew 19:14 we are not to suffer the little children from coming to Him, and forbid them not. Those who would argue against infant baptism are forbidding the little ones from coming to Him.