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Question 2:

Why do some churches baptize babies, but WEBC does not?

I love this question, for several reasons, not the least of which is that this question allows us to define the gospel message clearly and distinctly.

First, just a quick explanation of baptism: Baptism has its origins in Jewish sacrificial washings. We could spend a long time exploring this, but the simple understanding we should consider is that the word baptism comes from the Greek word Baptizo, which was a method by which a garment was changed from one color to another by immersing it in dye. This, coupled with an understanding that the only single-washing ritual the Jews practiced was when a Gentile would become a Jew, should help to understand the purpose of baptism as a whole. Baptism was symbolic of becoming part of the family of God. The changing of the color of a garment in baptizo is the symbolism seen as a person changes from an enemy of God to a child of God.

A good example of what baptism means in the NT era would be to look at the ministry of John the Baptist, who baptized people as symbolic of their repentance. In Matthew 3:11 we read, "I baptize you with water for repentance..."

That is the basic understanding of baptism from Scripture.

This leads us to the question: Why do people baptize babies, or why do they not?

There are three main perspectives on the sacrament of baptism.

First, there is the view that baptism is the initial point of remission of sin in a person's life. In this view, babies are baptized because baptism is the cause and source of the faith and salvation in life. This leads to the conclusion that all people must be baptized before entering into the family of God and the fellowship of the saints. Thus, in this view, baptism is necessary for salvation, and subsequently denies the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.

A second view is that babies are baptized not for salvation, but because the act of baptism joins them together with the family of God in covenant with the church. This doesn't assure salvation, but it simply is an act of inclusion of the child in the church. This view of baptism closely resembles our practice of baby dedication, where we pray for the child and parents, as a church, to all carry the responsibility of teaching that child the doctrines of the faith. The only difference would be that we pray and dedicate, but churches who hold this view would actually baptize the child at that point.

Finally, the last view is that of adult, believers baptism. In this view, which we hold here at WEBC, is that once a person has placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, trusting no other work of themselves or of any other, then it is proper for that person to be baptized as an outward symbol of the new person they have now become through regeneration.

As you can see, in the first view, the gospel that Christ has completed the work of salvation and redemption, and that we must receive it by faith and faith alone, is denied by including works such as baptism. This is a denial of the one true gospel we see in Scripture. It is impossible to make a case from Scripture alone that baptism is necessary for salvation, thus any religion who claims this would be teaching a different gospel. (Gal 1:6-8)

In the two remaining views, the gospel is upheld and proclaimed, which is that only those who truly place their faith in Christ will be saved. The difference being the purpose of the symbolic act of baptism. This is a much different disagreement than with the first view. While we do not see eye to eye with those who baptize babies, neither group would consider baptism as a necessary act included in salvation. We see evidence of this in the thief hanging on the cross beside Jesus. Though he was never baptized, Jesus told him, "Truly, I tell you, you will be with me today in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

But, to answer the question fully, the reason we do not baptize babies is because we see no scriptural evidence of infant or child baptism in the bible. The only place where there is any possible ambiguity is with the Philippian jailor in Acts 16. There it says the whole household was baptized. It isn't clear the ages of the children in this passage, however it does seem clear that they all believed. This would lead us to understand that all in the household were of the age to accept the gospel message for themselves and thus be baptized as a symbol of their faith. Outside of that, all the examples we see in the NT are of those who have already believed and put their faith in Christ.

Simply put, we don't baptize babies because we don't see it in Scripture.

Thanks again to Eric and Heidi for a great question for this weeks topic. I am looking forward to hearing from more of you with questions, just as I was pleased to hear from many of you last week. Please feel free to share any thoughts or questions you may have.

Because of Christ,
Pastor Jayson
jayson@watersedgebible.org

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