Do infants need to be baptized? Is baptism necessary for Christians?
What is your opinion on whether babies should be baptized or not? I am a
member of the Church of England, so I would say yes but is it really
necessary to be a Christian? My freind is a non- denominational Christian
and hasn’t been baptized. Is he a Christian, or is the essence of being a
Christian simply come from believing in Christ?
First of all, the question of the mode, timing and purpose of baptism is
one of the most debated issues in Christianity. This is amazing to me
because I believe both the New Testament passages and the teaching of the
early church are so clear on this subject. By the way, I grew up in the
Episcopalian sect myself. This is the group which split from the Anglican
Church at the time we rebels here on the other side of the Atlantic split
off from the king a few years ago. In other words, I grew up under the
same tradition you have experienced.
As to the purpose, timing and mode of baptism, let me refer to the
scripture. A good place to start is with the first gospel sermon ever
preached, as it seems reasonable to assume that God would want to set a
clear pattern the first time around. In Acts 2:36-41 we can see a group
of people who were cut to the heart over the gospel message. They asked
Peter what they should do about the fact that they were responsible,
because of their sin, for the death of Jesus Christ. Peter said that they
should repent (of their sins) and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ
so that they could be forgiven of their sins and receive the Holy Spirit.
This is reminiscent of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:5 that no
one would enter the kingdom of God without being born again of water and
the spirit. Peter mentioned that this teaching (repentance and baptism)
would be for those who heard him that day, for their children (ie. those
who were to come after them) “and for all who are far off–for all whom
the Lord our God will call.” This is a clear statement that the example
in Acts 2:36-41 is for all people for all future time. Based on this and
other passages I will list for you to read at your leisure (Galatians
3:26-29, Colossians 2:9-15, Romans 6:1-10), I believe that for anyone to
be “saved,” in other words for anyone to be forgiven of their sins–be be
included in Christ and receive the promised Holy Spirit, they must be
baptized, after repenting of their sins.
What was taught and understood by the very early church? It is
interesting to note that scholars are absolutely unanimous in this area.
The church fathers taught that baptism was the point in time at which
believers came in contact with the blood of Christ–that it was when they
were forgiven of their sins. Even those careful scholars who teach that
for some reason this teaching does not apply to us today will admit that
this was the unambiguous teaching of the early church. If you are
interested in a collection of some of the early church “fathers” on this
subject, I would suggest you look at the book, “Born of Water” by Rex
Geissler. It is available to purchase or to read for free on line at
www.greatcommission.com. A few sample quotes are available in an article
at my web site on the history of Christianity (go to the articles section
and search for church history).
The teaching of the apostles and of the early church is clear that one
must be baptized in order to come into Christ–to be forgiven of sins.
This brings us to the mode of baptism. Here the word baptism, which is
transliterated from the Greek, will be helpful. The word means dip,
immerse or plunge in the original language. The meaning is clear. The
intent of the New Testament writers, and apparently of God himself is that
the believer be immersed in water for forgiveness of sins. Will a person
who has been poured with water be saved, if he or she believes, upon
baptism? I will not speculate on this, but will simply point out that the
original teaching is clear, and I suggest we should obey this teaching.
The mode of baptism is immersion in water.
The third question is one of timing. At what point in time ought one be
baptized? If there is any teaching in the New Testament which is central
to everything taught by Jesus and his apostles, it is that our personal
faith in Jesus is part of how we are saved from our sins. Add to that
what Peter said in Acts 2:38, which is that we should repent of our sins
at (which presumably means before) our baptism. This begs an obvious
question. Is an infant likely to have sufficient faith in Jesus to be
prepared for baptism? Is there any chance that a baby will be able to
obey the command to repent before they are baptized? The answer to these
questions is extremely obvious. I conclude that the candidate for baptism
into Christ is a person who is mature enough intellectually, emotionally,
or in whatever way is necessary, to put faith in Jesus and in the gospel
and to repent of their sins. Infants are not qualified for baptism.
Small children almost certainly are not qualified either. What is the
magic age? The Bible gives none, and neither will I. However, your
question seems answered.
Yes, baptism is an absolute essential part of Christianity. Unless I am
completely mistaken, it is the point in time when one is forgiven of their
sins, saved, given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Should an infant be
baptized? Definitely not. Why do some religious groups (including the
one I grew up in) teach infant baptism? This is for them to answer, but
we can gain some insight into the reasons by looking at the history of
Christianity. Since you did not ask this question, I will leave it with
you. I would be happy to get you in touch with some friends of mine in
the UK if you are looking for someone local to do some more studying on
this matter. I can also suggest some further reading. Let me know