Although there is no direct command in the Bible to baptise children, this does not necessarily mean that infant baptism is unbiblical. In discussing the doctrine of infant baptism, it is important for us to understand the implications of the covenant God made with Abraham and how it relates to believers today.
After Abraham exercised faith in God’s covenant promises (Gen. 15: 6), the Lord gave His chosen people a distinctive mark – the rite of circumcision for all male children when they were eight days old (Gen. 17: 9-14). In our article last week, we saw how God’s covenant with Abraham applies to us and to our children as well:
1. The covenant promises made to Abraham are also extended to “Abraham’s seed”, that is, those who are in Christ: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3: 29). As such, today’s believers enjoy the blessings of the covenant of circumcision.
2. In the rite of circumcision, blood had to be shed for the remission of sins (Heb. 9: 22; Ex. 24: 8). But with the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross of Calvary, all bloody ordinances are now abolished, with circumcision giving way to baptism.
3. By God’s gracious appointment, children born into a Christian home share the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant, and therefore receive baptism as a sign and seal.
What further truths can we glean from God’s Word in support of the doctrine of infant baptism?
⦁ God’s Perspective of Children
Children have a special place in God’s heart. In the Old Testament, children were considered the people of God and an integral part of Israel:
1. Children were present when God renewed His covenant with Israel: “Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it” (Deut. 31: 12-13).
2. Children – “your little ones” – were permitted to enter the Promised Land while the unbelieving multitude perished in the wilderness: “Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness” (Num. 14: 30-32).
3. Parents were instructed to teach God’s Word diligently to their children: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: [extra space after colon] And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6: 6-7).
Children are also mentioned in the New Testament. Many of the passages relate to Jesus’ ministry to them.
1. Jesus loves children. We see this tenderness expressed by our Saviour in His public ministry: “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18: 2-6).
Christ showed His love for children when He attended to them and healed them – the demon-possessed daughter of the Canaanite woman (Matt. 15: 28); a demon-possessed boy (Matt. 17: 18); and Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5: 41-42).
2. Despite His busy schedule, our Lord received the children who came to Him: “Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence” (Matt. 19: 13-15).
Children are precious to the Lord. Though they are young and weak, God takes notice of them. He is concerned for their young souls and desires that they be saved: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in Heaven” (Matt. 18: 10). “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. 18: 14).
(… to be concluded)