Baptism is probably, in Christianity, the single subject why families do not talk to each other anymore, especially when they support different viewpoints. I know of people who were disinherited for taking a different standpoint.
Back to the question though. What are the different viewpoints people hold on to today.
On the one hand you will find that those people that believe that you must baptise an infant, and then you find other saying that a person first have to decide to follow the LORD, and then they can be baptised. Some people might even stretch this last viewpoint to say you only need to get baptised to associate yourself with Christ. But why the different viewpoints?
Let us first look at the viewpoint of those that believe in infant baptism.
These people’s viewpoints are based on a number of views held by people of the church during the Middle Ages. Their basic standpoint was that everyone had to belong to a Kingdom, and this was either the Kingdom of the LORD or the kingdom of Satan. Baptism would then serve as a means to get one out of Satan’s kingdom, and into the LORD’s Kingdom. This also explains why the Roman church even baptised deceased people, to get them into heaven. Another reason was that baptism also served as a token of the covenant with God. In the First Covenant circumcision did this and in the New Covenant this was done by baptism. As circumcision was done to babies, baptism also had to be done to infants. This baptism would then serve as a reminder to you later in life to keep from sinning, and when you do sin, to ask forgiveness from the LORD. They also claim that as their was no longer any difference between circumcised Jews and other people, John the Baptist started baptising people and that this would serve as difference between those that belonged to the LORD, and those that did not. This is then also the reason why you cannot be baptised a second time, as you already belong to the Kingdom of God.
What do the official church documents teach? I have included the viewpoint of the Heidelberg Catechism as well as the Westminster Catechism.
First the Heidelberg Catechism’s viewpoint:
Q. 69. How art thou admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to thee?
A. Thus: That Christ appointed this external washing with water, (a) adding thereto this promise, (b) that I am as certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, (c) as I am washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away
Q. 70. What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
A. It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ’s blood, which he shed for us by his sacrifice upon the cross; (a) and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and unblamable lives. (b)
Q. 71. Where has Christ promised us, that he will as certainly wash us by his blood and Spirit, as we are washed with the water of baptism?
A. In the institution of baptism, which is thus expressed: “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”, Matt.28:19. And “he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.”, Mark 16:16. This promise is also repeated, where the scripture calls baptism “the washing of regenerations” and the washing away of sins. Tit.3:5, Acts 22:16. (a)
Q. 72. Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
A. Not at all: (a) for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin. (b)
Q. 73. Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism “the washing of regeneration,” and “the washing away of sins”?
A. God speaks thus not without great cause, to-wit, not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; (a) but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water. (b)
Q. 74. Are infants also to be baptized?
A. Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God; (a) and since redemption from sin (b) by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult; (c) they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the Christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers (d) as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, (e) instead of which baptism is instituted (f) in the new covenant.
Now for the Westminster viewpoint:
Question 165: What is Baptism?
Answer: Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.
Question 166: Unto whom is Baptism to be administered?
Answer: Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.
Question 167: How is our Baptism to be improved by us?
Answer: The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavouring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.
Compare this to the Bible
The Bible is very specific as far as when and how it should be ministered. To explain this, let us look at a couple of scriptures first. Mark 16:16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Hebrews 6 verses 1 and 2 lends weight to this view : “1 ¶ Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Both scriptures inform us of a sequence of events that have to be followed, first of all repentance and believing in the LORD, and then baptism. If we look at the example in Exodus, Israel had to first believe that they could be saved, before going through the Dead Sea, or baptism.
Let us look at baptism in the light of the following scriptures. John 3 verse 3-8 : “3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
The second scripture comes from Acts 19, a part that describes an event where Paul baptised some believers, an event rarely documented in Acts. Acts 19 verses 1 to 6: “1 ¶ And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” This scripture also advises us that we will prophesy and speak in tongues, two of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
When we look at the scripture in Acts, Paul says that the baptism of John was a baptism of repentance, while the baptism in the name of Jesus is a baptism to those that believe that Jesus was the Christ, and that He fulfilled the first covenant and entered into the new covenant. This means that one first has to believe that Jesus is the Christ, before one can get baptised. John states that one has to be born again “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” which means that one has to die before one can be born again, which corresponds to what Paul wrote in Romans 6. Acts 2 puts it as follows: “38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” All these scriptures declare that there has to be repentance and believing before we can be baptised. Colossians 2 verse 9 to 15 puts it as follows: “9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13¶ And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” After reading these scriptures I find it difficult to believe that people can still believe in infant baptism, as an infant cannot decide to believe in the LORD.
Your question might be what happens then to children who die before they can be baptised? The LORD will not forsake them, just as He did not forsake the children of Israel. Numbers 14 verse 26 to 32: “26 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 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. 31 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. 32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.” The LORD did not reject the children of Israel, although they had to pay for the sins of their fathers as foretold in Exodus. They had to criss-cross the dessert for forty years, but the LORD allowed them to enter into the Promised Land. The LORD did not expect of them to make a decision before they were twenty years old.
The next question that comes to mind immediately is: How is baptism administered? Is it by immersion or by sprinkling? The Westminster Catechism declares it as follows: “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” while the Heidelberg Catechism declares “That Christ appointed this external washing with water“. Both these documents conclude that we should be washed cleaned with water, yet when we administer baptism, the same people uses the sprinkling of water, rather that the immersion showing a complete regeneration. Baptism is an action of going through the water to get forgiveness of sins and to be regenerated as a child of the high God. If this can be achieved by a couple of drops, then it is OK. But I would rather follow the example of the Bible, where even Jesus was immersed in water. The main criterion though is to believe that you will be washed clean when going through the water baptism. And that no infant can do. John 3 verse 5 and 6 confirms this for us, as you have to believe first before being baptised. “5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
The one interesting thing I found while researching this subject was that the original word Baptismo was used in those days even in recipes for food. This meant that you had to take meat and soak it in the marinade, or baptismo it, until it took on the smell and taste of the marinade. That is what has to happen to us also. We have to take on the taste and smell of Jesus, once we have been baptised. This can only occur if we get forgiven, and raised up with Him and filled with His spirit.
When do we have to be baptised, as an infant or as an adult? I believe you first have to believe that the LORD Jesus Christ offers us forgiveness of sins, before you can be baptised. Something I found the other day was when we look at the layout of the tabernacle and the temple, we find something very interesting. Remember Moses had to give the instructions on what the tabernacle and later the temple was to look like after seeing what the LORD showed him what heaven looked like. We find a very interesting similarity. When you had to bring a sacrifice for the LORD, you had to go to the laver, or in our terminology basin, first to be washed clean before you could bring a sacrifice. This to me confirms that you have to be able to decide first if you want to follow the LORD, before you can be baptised. I believe the LORD gave us the sequence of events long ago, but we have been too stubborn to accept it.
Do you know why we do not see any miracles in Church anymore? Because we do not follow the instructions of the Bible anymore. Mark 16;16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” When we follow the sequence given here and confirmed in Hebrews 6 verse 1 and 2, these signs and wonders will follow. Believe me. What do you have to loose? Just your life. But you get the life of Christ in return. Does it not renounce my infant baptism? No, remember Paul also baptised people after they were baptised by John the Baptist. But don’t get baptised because of what I say to you. Examine the Word of God, allow Him to convince you. I can only pray that you will see the light and move into the fullness that God have in store for you.