AS IN BIBLE TIMES ADULTS ARE THE SUBJECTS OF
by Bobby Duncan
People are lost and stand in
need of salvation because of the guilt of their own sins - not the sins of their
ancestors. The doctrine that babies inherit the guilt of Adam's transgression is
not true. If it were, then Jesus would have been born guilty of sin.
BABIES ARE INNOCENT
Concerning little children,
Jesus said, "of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14). He never would
have said that if little children are hereditarily totally depraved; he might
have said instead: "of such is the kingdom of the devil."
In speaking of his deceased
baby, David said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Samuel
12:23). David knew his baby was in a safe condition. It was guilty of no sin,
for it had not transgressed God's law, and "sin is the transgression of the law"
(1 John 3:4).
INFANT BAPTISM GREW OUT OF THE
FALSE DOCTRINE OF INHERITED GUILT
We emphasize the fact that
there is no blessing little babies need which is conferred by means of baptism.
Had it not been for the false doctrine of inherited guilt there likely never
would have been the practice of baptizing infants. Notice the following
statement from a nineteenth century author: "Infants are included in Christ's
act of redemption, and are entitled thereby to the benefits and blessings of his
Another writer wrote: "On the
contrary, we have presumptive and positive arguments for the apostolic origin
and character of infant baptism. . . in the universal virtue of Christ, as the
Redeemer of all sexes, classes, and ages, and especially in the import of his
own infancy, which has redeemed and sanctified the infantile age."2
In his Treatise on Baptism,
John Wesley wrote: "If infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper
subjects of baptism; seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved, unless
this be washed away by baptism" (Doctrinal Tracts, p. 252).
If babies were in need of
redemption, and if baptizing them were the means of securing it for them, then
we would not oppose infant baptism. But we have already seen that babies are not
lost, and do not need redeeming. No verse in the Bible hints that they should be
FOUR PREREQUISITES TO BAPTISM
In the New Testament, four
things characterized those who were baptized: (1) they had been taught the
gospel of Jesus Christ, (2) they believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,
(3) they had repented of their sins, and (4) they had confessed their faith in
Jesus Christ. While each of these might not be specifically mentioned in the
record of each case, each is clearly implied.
In the Great Commission, Jesus
commanded: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). This
verse clearly shows that those who are to be baptized are those who have first
Mark 16:15, 16 contains these
words of Jesus: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that
believeth not shall be damned." This makes it abundantly clear that belief of
the gospel must precede baptism.
Peter was inspired of the Holy
Spirit to command: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of
Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . " (Acts 2:38). The apostle was
addressing a great multitude who had just been taught the truth concerning Jesus
Christ, and who believed what they had heard. But they must also repent before
they could properly be baptized. On this occasion those that "gladly received
his word were baptized. . . " (verse 41).
Confessing Jesus as the Christ
is an absolute necessity. Jesus himself said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess
me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But
whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which
is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32, 33). Romans 10:9 shows that the confession must be
made before one can be saved: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the
Lord Jesus. . .thou shalt be saved." The next verse shows that this confession
is made on the way to being saved: ". . . and with the mouth confession is made
Acts, chapter 8, contains an
example of conversion in which each of these four prerequisites to baptism is
clearly seen. Notice verses 35-39: "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at
the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way,
they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what
doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine
heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the
Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both
into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they
were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that
the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."
Infants cannot be taught the
gospel, nor can they believe it. They have no sins of which to repent, and are
totally incapable of repenting. They cannot confess with the mouth, the Lord
Jesus. This being true, infants cannot be baptized in harmony with the teaching
of the New Testament.
WHAT ABOUT 'HOUSEHOLD'
In a strained effort to justify
infant baptism, some have cited cases of "household" baptism such as Lydia's
household (Acts 16:15), the jailer's household (Acts 16:31-33), and the
household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 1:16) - as proof that infants were
baptized. But there is nothing in any of these instances to indicate infants
were baptized. There is no proof there were any infants in any of these
households; and even if there were, there is nothing that suggests they were
baptized. With the New Testament teaching on baptism for a background, one would
necessarily conclude that no infants were baptized.
THE EARLIEST MENTION OF INFANT
Those who favor infant baptism
seek to authenticate its antiquity by citing the writing of Tertullian, who
mentioned the practice around A.D. 200.3 But notice the following from one of
the most candid writers the Methodist Episcopal Church has produced: "Tertullian
is the first writer in the Church who makes any express mention of the custom of
infant baptism. Before his time, A.D. 200, there is not an allusion to the
custom from which its existence may be fairly inferred. It is frequently argued,
that the practice of infant baptism must have been an apostolic institution,
because it prevailed, and became universal, without the least opposition from
any source whatever. But, however strange it may seem, the fact is, that the
first Father, or writer, by whom the practice is noticed, condemns it as having
no foundation either in reason or revelation."4
The fact cannot be
overemphasized that infants are safe; they are not lost. The New Testament
writers said nothing about infant baptism. The only way one can practice
baptizing infants is to depart from the teaching of Christ. If all people would
return to the teaching of the New Testament for every religious practice, infant
baptism would be abolished altogether. Churches of Christ seek to follow the New
Testament in all matters of faith and practice.
1 McClintock, John and James
Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature
(1895; rpt. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), Vol. I, p. 648.
2 Schaff, Philip, History of
the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1910), Vol. I, p.
3 McClintock and Strong, ibid.,
Vol. I, p. 648.
4 Bledsoe, Albert T., Southern
Review (St. Louis, 1874), Vol. XIV, p. 339.
Are babies born with the guilt
of sin upon them?
To what did Jesus compare the
kingdom of heaven in Matthew 19:14? Why?
What reason did John Wesley
give for thinking infants should be baptized?
What four things characterized
subjects for baptism in the New Testament?
Do the "household" baptisms in
the New Testament prove infants were baptized? Why?
The first writer to mention
infant baptism wrote around what date? Did he favor it, or did he oppose it?
What would happen to the
practice of baptizing infants if all people should begin following only the New