Ah, the joys of Unclehood. My neice was born a few days ago, and much to everyone’s delight, she has all her fingers and toes. There was the possibility that she didn’t, but thankfully my brother’s inability to count to 20 was the true culprit.
But I have decided to write for her, and for a few dear friends of mine, my answer to her possible future questions about why she was baptized a week and a half after she was born.
There are the strong biblical arguments for infant baptism… The parallel between baptism and circumcision… Entire households being baptised because the man of the house believed. But I don’t want to give my niece strong arguments; I want to give her confidence that her baptism was effective.
Baptism is not an outward expression of faith. Water is an outward expression of baptism.
I don’t completely understand that, but it is clearly true. Look up the 21 times baptism is mentioned in the New Testament and try to come to another conclusion. I don’t understand how the Holy Spirit works within me, but his work is undeniable. Faith is a product of that work. That process is clearly connected with this baptism of water, the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins that was preached by a madman in the desert. How that connection is made is quite outside my abilities to comprehend.
However, this much is certainly true. Baptism, this process or event, whatever it might be, intimately binds each of us to the Father as his child. It is literally a rebirth, not by once again exiting the womb, but by entering a new life as a new person.
So when my god-daughter asks me why she was baptized at such a young age, I will have only this reply. I rejoiced when I heard the news that she would soon be joining my family, those of us who share a last name, and who have either by blood or by marriage come together as a single group. I was thrilled when I got the call from my brother that mother and child came through the birthing process healthy and happy. And I can’t wait to see her when I go home.
But this is nothing compared to the joy that comes with welcoming her to my eternal family. I have no words to describe the news that she will soon be joining my heavenly family, those of us who share Jesus name, and who have by his blood come together as his church, his bride. I am thankful for the day that I will pledge to encourage her in the truth, to share with her the joy of her salvation. And I long for the day I get to see her, and my whole family, in our eternal home.
So why do we baptize infants? At what age should one be baptized? When does one understand enough, or want it enough, to be baptized? My friends, I can tell you this much, I understand so little of baptism, that if my baptism relied on my understanding, it would be null and void. And I don’t want my baptism anywhere near as much as I need it, and I have needed it since I entered this world. Arguably, I’ve needed it since God designed me at the beginning of time, and that need is in no way reduced simply because I don’t understand the process. I need cell division and particle physics; my lack of understanding doesn’t affect my need.
There are many more questions concerning baptism that I have completely left unanswered, I admit this freely. For that matter, I’ve hardly answered the questions about infant baptism. I understand that this baptism is as foreign a concept as we could come up with, which incidentally, is just another reason why I am so convinced it is clearly from God. And I am grateful that the One who has to plan the why and how and when of the whole thing has a head big enough to keep it all straight. But this much I know, on the day of my niece’s baptism, our Father welcomes her to his family as surely as we do. Her baptism is effective, not because we do the right things or say the right things or sprinkle or dunk, but because the Lord of all Creation baptizes his children with his Holy Spirit.
Good questions! Hopefully some of my comments will help. I don’t think I’m as biblically knowledgable as my brother, but I have a few views on what you asked.
What is the eternal condition of a baby who dies post-birth, pre-baptism?
I can’t answer this one except with, God knows the heart of the child. Even if it’s alive a few minutes, days, months, or even if it’s miscarried or aborted. I’ve always wondered about this, but as I’m not God, I’m not sure what he does about these circumstances.
But their relatives, the ones who say “you’d better baptize the baby b/c if you don’t and he dies, he’s going to hell”
Yeah, I don’t like this at all either. We know that being baptized doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to Heaven. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t baptized. Once again, God knows the heart of every person and that is the deciding factor as to whether you’re going to Heaven or not.
What is the eternal condition of an adult, who was baptized as an infant, yet hates the Lord and worships the devil, or himself?
This question is kind of similar to the ones above. God gave us free will, so we have the choice to believe in Him, or something else. So, even if someone were baptized at an early age, jet rejects Him at a later time in their life, I think they’d go to Hell. Once again, God knows their heart, and that’s all that counts.
Well, hope that helps.
Hi!!!!! We missed you!!!! Congratulations!! I cannot think of a better Godparent in the WORLD than YOU!
So, I think what you said was very nice. It confused me, though. I don’t buy the circumcision or household argurments for various reasons, but those don’t matter since you didn’t talk about it anyway. And I don’t particularly care about whether people dedicate or baptize, as long as they’re bringing their children up in the Lord, which I know my friends (the ones who prompted the question) will do.
But their relatives, the ones who say “you’d better baptize the baby b/c if you don’t and he dies, he’s going to hell” - they concern me; I think that’s silliness. So I’m curious and want clarification from someone I consider rational and with a strong biblical understanding. What is the eternal condition of a baby who dies post-birth, pre-baptism? What is the eternal condition of an adult, who was baptized as an infant, yet hates the Lord and worships the devil, or himself?
I guess my thing is that the Bible says a bunch of times “repent and be baptized”, “believe and be batpized”, etc.
Ok! We LOVE you and we MISS you and we hope everything is BEAUTIFUL where you are!
Love! (Seth and) Steph
Good to have you back on the blogosphere, man! Congrats on the new neice :)
According to this, “Polycarp (69-155 AD), a disciple of the Apostle John, was baptized as an infant.” So it looks like it was a very early practice of the church, which is also a good sign that we should be practicing it in the same way.
Posted with : The Way