Why Baptize Babies?

Why Baptize Babies, Does it Matter?

Rev. G. Mark Sumpter, Pastor of Faith OPC, Grants Pass, WA

In the discussion of the administration of the water of the rite of Christian baptism, the question about the subjects of baptism gets most of the attention. To whom should the sacrament of baptism be administered? Does the Bible teach that covenant children are to be baptized or only those of age, based on their profession of faith? But soon in the conversation another question comes: What does it matter anyway if we baptize at a very early age? Don’t we both, Baptists and Presbyterians, as church-going families with children, give ourselves to training the children in the love and grace of Christ? Don’t we both teach our kids to pray? Don’t we both teach our kids to sing to Jesus, memorize specific Scriptures and the catechism? Aren’t all faithful parents in earnest working at correcting and training their kids in obedience unto the Lord? So, whether baptized or not the kids of the church and Christian home get Christian nurture, right? Does it matter?

It does:

1. Its administration is obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ in His great commission (Matthew 28:19).

2. Signs in the Bible are directly associated with a teaching ministry, and in particular, a teaching ministry to children (Josh. 4:21-22).

3. Our children fundamentally need the security of belonging, of being included. They are kids. Baptism includes them in God’s Kingdom, under His ownership (Acts 2:39).

4. Baptism is a witness and summons to the parents to carry out their responsibilities to train, correct, nurture and admonish their children (Matt. 28:19; Gen. 17:7; Gen. 18:19). Just as a wife and husband have responsibilities to one another, respectively, according to one’s role in faith, so are parents called to faithful responsibility to the child who is set apart for Christ–holy in Him (1 Cor. 7:14).

5. Baptism includes the child in God’s story of the out-working of history–the story of the Old Testament, the New and beyond (Acts 2:39; and note the persons included in God’s story of grace in Hebrews 11, for example, Noah and his sons 11:7; Abraham and Issac 11:17-18, et al, and Hebrews 12:1-2). The child knows that he, like his parents and his grandparents, and other senior generations, shares in the generation by generation work of God. Baptism includes the child in God’s tale.

6. Baptism mirrors the societal relations that we know in the biological family and city of man. Just as our children bear a surname in God’s institution of the family and just as they hold a certificate of citizenship testifying to membership in God’s institution of the state, so he’s associated with God and His people with entitlement, expectations and opportunity in the institution of the church (Eph. 4:4-6; see Paul’s welcome into membership in the church Acts 9:19, 26-28). All three institutions ordained by God are rightly represented, starting with the child’s birth.

7. Water baptism of children unites them to the visible, historic body of Christ, distinguishes them from the world and reminds them to take up the tangible practicalities of weekly public worship and congregational service in the life of the church. They help to make up of the recognized body of Christ today, not merely the church of tomorrow (The Book of Ephesians). The historic marks of the church, specifically the administration the sacrament of water baptism, cover the younger generations of the church. The marks are not merely for the older generations.

8. Baptism includes children in the conquering work of the epoch or era of Christ’s earthly glory (John 17:4). It’s the day of the great glory of the One who is the express image of God, who has brought about His regenerating work. The Book of Hebrews denotes the superiority of Christ over the prophets, the angels and Moses, and specifies that this age is under His triumph and finished work (Heb. 2:5). The coming of Jesus signals the dawn of the era of fulfillment, and thus, water baptism, associated with Christ’s atoning, cleansing work, is their basis for claiming the promise of salvation.

9. Baptism of children keeps the corporate, historical identity of the covenant people of God in view (Acts 2:39). The materiality of water, as a means of grace, reminds the church of her glorious ways of ministry, preaching, fellowship, meal-sharing, prayer, evangelism, diaconal work and more, and it helps to keep at bay the notion that the secret work of the doctrine of election is all that matters. We must not allow the secret work of God to eclipse the tangible, revealed things, especially the means of grace (Deut 29:29).

10. Baptizing children is the gospel in miniature. Helpless, dependent children display the mark of discipleship in the kingdom (Matt. 18:3). Fleshy works fail; complete dependency on God, the granting of the gift of faith in Christ, secures life (Eph. 2:8-10). Man’s strength does not save, only God (Rom. 5:6).

11. Baptism is the seal, the stamp of God’s love for all ages, all generations of the church–from birth to death. His care doesn’t skip over anyone (John 3:16; 1 John 2:12-14).