Is Acts 16:31-34 evidence of infant baptism in the primitive church?
I studied with a Catholic guy long time ago… He argued that they believed in baptizing infants because there are example(s) of such in the Bible, citing Acts 16:31-34; 16:15. I tried to convince him on the essence of ‘faith’ in salvation(Gal. 2:16; Romans 3:25-26;Romans 6:8) of which infants can’t even understand. but the phrase —all family/household in the two passages— didn’t allow him to see it. What’s your ‘say’ on the passages, please?
This passage (Acts 16:31-34) has been used many times by those who believe in infant baptism. They do so because, arguably, this is the only passage which at least has the appearance of possibly showing infants were baptized in the New Testament. The problem is that this passage definitely does not say that infants were baptized. It does not even mention the ages of those baptized. If this is the best “proof” of infant baptism, then it is truly very weak evidence.
Let us grant, for the sake of argument, that there were infants in this household (even though the passage does not say this). Even if there were infants in this household (which we do not know), then this passage would not prove that such infants were baptized. Let me explain. Imagine that I told you that my family sang Christmas carols together. What if I were to tell you that there was an infant in my family. Would you think I was lying? Of course not. Everyone knows that infants do not sing, so anyone who heard the statement would automatically assume that I meant that all those capable of singing sang Christmas carols. The fact is that it was common knowledge in the early church that it would be completely illogical to baptize an infant, because the early church taught that before anyone was baptized they must have put their faith in Jesus and repent of their sins.
Is anyone prepared to teach that the New Testament teaches that we can be saved without having faith in Jesus? Obviously, no. Add to this, we know from the writings of the early church Fathers, that only adults were baptized. Anyone claiming that infants were baptized in the first century would be flying in the face of all the evidence. There is literally zero evidence of infant baptism in the church before the third century. Anyone telling you differently is either ignorant of the evidence or is not being honest. The claim that Acts 16:31-34 is evidence of infants being baptized is simply not true. Unless someone can provide evidence that infants were among those baptized, then they ought to stop making this false claim. A better interpretation of the passage is that all those in the Philippian jailer’s house who were capable of putting their faith in Jesus did so, and they were baptized into Christ.