A Lutheran Case for Infant Baptism

By Jordan Ellis Christensen

The common arguments from North American credo-baptists against the baptism of infants can be summarized as such:

  1. Infants cannot believe and therefore should not be baptized.
  2. Paedobaptism is not found in Holy Writ.
  3. Baptism is a mere declaration of faith and since infants cannot declare their faith they do not need baptism.

Response to the first argument:

There is a very common misunderstanding of what exactly faith is and how faith is conceived amongst Evangelical Protestants (i.e. Baptists, Pentecostals, Non-Denominationalists, Charismatics, Nazarenes and some Reformed). For these, Christians faith is defined as a conscious decision. Faith, for them, is conceived and born from one’s will. That is why amongst them the experience of conversion is so important. The decision one makes in the sinner’s prayer is vital for them. There are, however, logical and biblical problems for this understanding of faith.

First let us look at the logical issues with this definition. Is one a Christian when one is sleeping? The Evangelical will surely heartily agree that one is a Christian whilst one is sleeping. But is one making any conscious effort to be a Christian whilst one is sleeping? Is one confessing our Lord Jesus whilst one is sleeping? The answer is no and yet one is still a Christian whilst one sleeps. What about the Christian who gets into a terrible accident and ends up comatose for the remainder of his days—is he still a Christian? What if in his comatose state he talks in his sleep and says offensive things? Is he still a Christian? Yes, he is still a Christian because faith is something far deeper than conscious choice.

Secondly, let us look at the biblical issues. The Bible simply does not teach that faith is born of a conscious choice but rather that it is a gift from God.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2.8

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

St John 1.12-13

“And he [Jesus] said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

St John 6.5

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

St John 6.44

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

Acts 13.48

“So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

Romans 9.16

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake”

Philippians 1.29

Now let us look and see if Holy Writ teaches that infants can believe:

“For you, O Lord, are my hope,
    my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
    you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.”

Psalm 71.5 & 6

“Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.”

Psalm 22.9

“At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.””

St Matthew 11.25-27

“Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”

St Matthew 21.14-16

“…for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

St Luke 1.15 & 41-44

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

II Timothy 3.14 & 15

It is therefore clear from the Holy Scriptures that infants can indeed believe. Infants can believe because faith isn’t a conscious choice but is something deeper and because God has granted it unto them. It is no more miraculous for the adult who is dead in his sins to come to faith than it is for the infant.

Response to the second argument:

Contrary to popular belief amongst credo-baptists, paedobaptism is found in Holy Writ:

“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Acts 2.38 & 39

“Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.””

St Luke 18.15-17

“And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.”

Acts 16.33

Response to the third argument:

Nowhere does it say or teach in Holy Scripture that Holy Baptism is a mere declaration of faith but rather it clearly teaches that Holy Baptism is efficacious unto salvation, that in its waters, because of God’s promise and Word attached to it, one is granted faith, washed of one’s sins and born again.

“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

Ezekiel 36.24-27

“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

St John 3.5

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

St Mark 16.16

“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 2.38

“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’”

Acts 22.16

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his deathWe were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Romans 6.3-5

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Hebrews 10.22

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”

I Peter 3.21

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Colossians 2.11-12

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

I Corinthians 6.11

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Galatians 3.27

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Titus 3.4-7

In Conclusion:

Since infants are born sinners they need our Lord Jesus and thus they need to be baptized. Since faith is a gift that God gives through Word and Sacrament and is not born by one’s will, infants should be baptized. Additionally it was the unanimous view of the Church Fathers that baptism is really indeed efficacious unto salvation, as this article meticulously proves. There is nothing better that parents can do for their children than bringing them to our Lord Christ in Holy Baptism and instructing them in the faith.

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