What Is the Bible’s View?
Should Your Baby Be Baptized?
BAPTISM has been part of Christianity from its beginning. Jesus himself was baptized, and he directed that others undergo baptism.
If you will soon become a parent, or recently became one, perhaps you have wondered whether your baby should be baptized. Would this be necessary in order for your child to meet God’s approval?
The churches of Christendom have different opinions about this. Some practice infant baptism. But others will baptize only those who are old enough to demonstrate belief in the principles of religion taught by their church.
The Bible is the only dependable source of information about baptism, for it alone is “inspired of God.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Does the Bible advocate baptizing babies?
The earliest references to baptism in the Word of God are related to the activity of John the Baptist. Concerning him, Mark 1:5 states: “All the territory of Judea and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem made their way out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, openly confessing their sins.” This would, of course, require that they be old enough to recognize their sinful state.
Concerning Jesus, we read: “In the course of those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. And immediately on coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being parted.” (Mark 1:9, 10) At that time Jesus was “about thirty years old.”—Luke 3:23.
During his earthly ministry Jesus did not personally baptize anyone. But, under his direction, his disciples baptized quite a number of people. Did they include babies? The Gospel of John reports: “Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John.” (John 4:1) So Jesus had his followers baptize only persons who had already become disciples.
Knowing this helps us to understand Jesus’ command at Matthew 28:19, 20: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” Jesus did not mean to make disciples of people, even infants, by means of baptism. This command clearly means that a person would be baptized only after becoming a disciple.
It was the same after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Those baptized at Pentecost of 33 C.E. had “embraced [the apostle Peter’s] word heartily.” (Acts 2:41) A group of Samaritans who were baptized was made up of “men and women” who had “believed” the Christian message. (Acts 8:12) The Ethiopian eunuch whom Philip baptized was already a worshiper of Jehovah. (Acts 8:27, 38) Of the ones gathered in the house of Cornelius, holy spirit fell upon “those hearing the word” and they were baptized.—Acts 10:44.
In the days of Jesus and his twelve apostles, baptism was performed by complete immersion in water and was a symbol of something that had already taken place in the heart of the one being baptized. For example, John’s baptism was “in symbol of [in token of, The New English Bible] repentance.” (Mark 1:4) Baptisms that the Bible records as taking place after 36 C.E. symbolized the dedication of the individual to do Jehovah’s will. This could not apply to infants.
But today it is common for babies to be baptized. Also, many churches baptize by sprinkling or pouring instead of by complete immersion. What brought about these changes?
Infant Baptism Appears—Why?
The apostle Paul foretold that a general “apostasy” from Bible Christianity would occur after the death of the twelve apostles. (2 Thess. 2:3, 6-12) At 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul wrote: “The spirit says expressly that in after times some will desert from the faith and give their minds to subversive doctrines.”—NE.
How did “subversive doctrines” appear with regard to baptism? It was due to the adoption of beliefs from pagan Greek religion (Hellenism). The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says of the period following the death of the apostles:
“Alien elements came in from the outside world. Hitherto these had been carefully held in check by the filter of prophetic and N[ew] T[estament] religion. But now, using external agreement as a channel, they came in full flood. Baptism became a syncretistica mystery.”
As a result, early in the second century C.E. the pagan idea that baptism washes away sins and brings about “regeneration” crept into the Christian congregation. Illustrating this are the comments of Justin Martyr, of the second century C.E., concerning candidates for baptism: “They are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated.” “We may . . . obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed.”
To what did this blending of pagan beliefs with the Bible’s teaching about baptism lead? Greek scholar A. T. Robertson explains:
“Out of this perversion of the symbolism of baptism grew both pouring as an ordinance and infant baptism. If baptism is necessary to salvation or the means of regeneration, then the sick, the dying, infants, must be baptized.”
By the third century C.E. infant baptism had become a general church practice. Origen, in the third century, wrote: “Because by baptism native pollution is taken away, therefore infants are baptized.” Origen even claimed, incorrectly, that baptizing babies was “a tradition from the apostles.”
Helping Children Meet God’s Approval
While the Bible does not allow for baptizing babies, it does show what parents must do to help their children to meet God’s approval. The Bible, at Proverbs 22:6, exhorts parents: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”
The most important aspect of this training process is found in the apostle Paul’s words to parents at Ephesians 6:4: “Do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” That means that parents must acquaint their children with the Holy Scriptures, which set forth Jehovah’s mind on matters.—1 Cor. 2:16.
Infant baptism is not taught in the Bible. It stems from the pagan superstition that baptism “regenerates” a person and cleanses him from past sin. However, the Bible teaches that it is, not baptism, but ‘the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, that cleanses us from all sin.’ (1 John 1:7; Acts 22:16) Also, it is not baptism, but “the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah” that qualifies a child to meet God’s approval. (Eph. 6:4) If you are a parent, will you make sure that your child receives that training?
a Blended from the beliefs of different religions.