Ten Reasons Why
We Baptise Our Children

1.     Contrary to common understanding, baptism is not a sign of faith and repentance. It is, rather, the sign of regeneration. This is why Paul speaks of the new birth as “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Tit 3:5). The washing with water in baptism points to the sovereign work of God which begins our spiritual life, rather than the spiritual activity which is a result of God’s work. God’s work in us can begin much before we are even able to understand the Gospel, not to mention do anything to further that work. Thus infants may legitimately be baptized though they cannot profess faith. It is, after all, possible for covenant children to be regenerated even in infancy (eg. Lk 1:41).

2.      Like circumcision, baptism additionally signified and seals membership in the covenant. Adults are baptized because their profession of faith identifies them as members of the church visible; whereas infants grow as olive shoots on the Olive Tree (Rom 11:16ff) and are therefore to be baptized not to make them members but to seal their membership.

3.     In Colossians 2:11-12, the apostle Paul confirms that baptism has replaced circumcision by suggesting that water baptism signifies heart circumcision, or a “circumcision made without hands” which was in Old Testament times signified with fleshly circumcision. Circumcision and Baptism are, in other words, essentially the same though their outward mode is different. Thus, in Philippians 3:3, Paul intimates that Christians are “the [true] circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus.”

4.     God commanded that infant boys in the Old Testament be circumcised that they may be distinguished as children of Abraham (Gen 17:7ff); in the New Testament, there is neither male nor female (Gal 3:27), so all children of believers are to be baptized into Christ (Gal 3:28) to mark them as Abraham’s seed (Gal 3:29).

5.     When the apostle Peter told the crowd at Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ… For the promise is unto you, and to your children” (Acts 2:38-39), he was clearly alluding to Genesis 17:10 where God was telling Abraham that the promise of the covenant is unto him and his children, and therefore he and his children must be circumcised. Therefore, in the New Testament not only believers but their children should be circumcised.

6.     It is clear that children are welcomed and regarded as part of the church by the Lord Jesus and His apostles. The Lord says: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:14; cf. Lk 18:16). Whatever confusion regarding the place of children in the kingdom that the apostles might have prior to this occasion would surely have been addressed by the Lord’s admonishment. Children are not only to be received as members of the kingdom, but are to be viewed as illustrative of what attitudes adults members should have. If they are to be received, then they should be baptised so that they may bear the sign and seal of the covenant.

Thus, the apostle Paul not only addresses children in the church directly in his letters (eg. Eph 6:1), but spoke of children as being covenantally holy (1 Cor 7:14) as an argument that an unbelieving spouse is covenantally sanctified (set apart) by his/her believing spouse. The only way that Paul’s argument would make sense to the members of the Corinthians church is if they knew as a matter of fact that children of believing parents in the church are holy. How did they know? Probably because it was a common practice to baptise infants!

7.     Though there are no direct accounts of infants being baptised in the New Testament, the New Testament records numerous instances of household baptism: the household of Lydia (Acts 16:15); the household of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33); the household of Stephanas (1Cor 1:16); almost certainly the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:24); and most likely the household of Crispus (Acts 18:8). Though no infants are mentioned in any of these households, the matter-of-fact references to household baptism suggest that the Jews still saw faith as a household rather than individual affair. Therefore, it would have been surprising to them if infants were not to be baptised, and would definitely have prompted the Gospel writers to note the prohibition if it existed. But none did.

And moreover, a plain reading of the book of Acts suggests that whole households were baptise solely on account of the faith of the head of the household. For examples: (1) no mentioned is made of the faith of the members in Lydia’s household; (2) the Greek of Acts 16:34 tells us that it was the Philippian Jailer who believe (the phrase “with all his house” [Acts 16:34] is one word in the Greek, πανοικί (panoiki), which suggests that the household was represented by the Jailer).

8.     Two instances of a large number of people being added to the church are recorded in Acts (Acts 2:41 and Acts 4:4). In the first instance, Luke uses the word ψυχή (psuchē), translated “soul” to reckon the number. In the second instance, he uses the word ἀνήρ (anēr), properly translated “man.” Why this difference? Probably because Luke is a careful historian! In the first instance, he wants to include children in the count; whereas the second instance, he wants to count families (compare Lk 9:14 and Mt 14:21). See how Luke carefully recorded in such a way as to make it clear that infants were part of those who were baptized.

9.     The Church Father, Origen who was himself baptised as an infant in AD 185 believed that the doctrine of Infant Baptism was passed down from the apostles.

10.Our Confession of Faith, expounding Exodus 4:24–26, where the LORD threatened to kill Moses for not circumcising his son, warns that it is “a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance” (WCF 28:5).

In Summary

In short, we baptised our infants because: (1) baptism is not a sign of faith and repentance which infants may not be capable of, but of regeneration of which infants may be bestowed; (2) baptism signify and seals membership in the covenant and children of believers are part of the covenant as olive shoots; (3) baptism has replaced circumcision and has essentially the same nature and function as circumcision; (4) as the infants of believers in the Old Testament were circumcised, so infants of believers today are to be baptised; (5) the congregation at Pentecost understood Paul as telling them that they and their children should be baptised; (6) Household baptisms in the New Testament implies that children were routinely baptised and members of the household were indicated as being baptised on account of the faith of the head of household; (7) Christ admonished his disciples and us to suffer little children to come unto Him; (8) Dr Luke’s record of the large numbers which were baptised and/or added to the church suggests that he had in mind the baptism of infants in the multitude; (9) The early church practised it; and (10) Our Confession warns upon Exodus 4:24-26 that it is a great sin to refuse to have our children baptised.

—JJ Lim