What about infant baptism?

Grace Communion International (GCI), baptizes adult believers and their infant children. GCI finds support for this in the incarnational Trinitarian understanding of Holy Scripture summarized in this post. A video of an infant baptism ceremony is linked below.

The New Testament speaks of whole households being baptized upon the conversion of that household's head (Acts 16:15, 31-33; 1 Corinthians 1:16). It is likely that there were infants and children in these groups, though these texts do not provide conclusive evidence of infant baptism.

A more persuasive text is Acts 2:39. In Luke’s account of Peter’s speech on Pentecost, Peter speaks of the covenantal promises of God given to believers and their children. In doing so, he verifies that believers' children are already included in the household of faith prior to any personal profession of faith. 1Corinthians 7:14 likewise indicates that the children of believers are in a different category than the children of unbelievers, although neither text specifies exactly what the difference is or how it is to be denoted.

Incarnational Trinitarian theology affirms from Holy Scripture that it is the faith of Jesus Christ, not our own faith, that draws us (Ephesians 2:8; Galatians 2:20 KJV). Christian baptism signifies what God by grace, of his own initiative, has done for us. It is upon the truth of this already accomplished fact that faith comes to rest. As Paul notes, it was “while we were yet powerless” that Christ died for all humanity (Romans 5:6). Christ lived on behalf of all humanity, died for all humanity, and rose again for all humanity. Similarly, he was baptized on behalf of all humanity, and in that way all have been baptized in Christ, whether or not they are old enough to understand that reality. Powerless and helpless humans (adult and infant) are loved and affirmed by God in spite of their current inability to understand or respond.

This video shows an infant baptism service in a GCI congregation.

When adults are baptized they are able to give their free, personal response of faith to God’s claim and call upon their lives. Those who are baptized as infants also come to a point in their lives when they can consciously give their allegiance to Christ. For those who are baptized as infants, a confirmation process provides opportunity to give public acknowledgement of their faith. James Torrance put it this way:
In the practice of infant baptism, we believe that in faith we are doing something for the child, long before the child comes to faith, in acknowledgement of what Christ did for all of us nineteen hundred years before we were born. But in faith we pray that Christ in his faithfulness, and in his own, time, will bring this child to personal faith. The efficacy of baptism is not in the rite or in the water, but in the faithfulness of Christ.
In most churches, infants are welcomed into the community of faith and their special status before God is recognized either by a blessing or by baptism. Either way, the community of faith (parents, extended family, care givers, and all members of the local congregation) have the covenantal responsibility to work together to bring up the child “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Daniel Migliori says this:
While the practice of infant baptism is not absolutely necessary in the life of the church, it may be permissible. And whether it is permissible depends on whether it is being practiced as a routine social rite, or as a form of cheap, magical grace, or instead with the clear understanding that it proclaims the unconditional grace of God in Jesus Christ and calls both parents and community to responsibility for the care, nurture, and guidance of the baptized child in the life of faith, hope, and love. (Faith Seeking Understanding, 2nd ed., p. 286) 
Migliori’s book has an excellent discussion of the permissibility of infant baptism from a Trinitarian theological perspective (including a critique of Karl Barth’s negative position).

When infant baptism is practiced responsibly by the community of faith it can be viewed as a sign of God’s gracious initiative and a powerful expression of the fact that God loves us before we ever begin to respond to him. Infant baptism proclaims that God’s love, grace and salvation are purely his gift. Any human response to this is just a matter of time as to when it occurs.

Given this understanding, GCI baptizes believers and their infant children (when the infant's parents or guardians request it). GCI believes that infant baptism is a scripturally permissible and spiritually blessed expression of God’s unconditional grace and love. As these infants come to faith, they are provided with a confirmation process in which they publicly express their faith in Jesus, providing for them a “rite of passage” that helps mark their conscious acceptance of the grace that has already been given them.

Comments

  1. This is very well stated and helpful as we begin to think about, practice, and experience God the Father, Son and Spirit in this way in the local Church, and proclaim the Gospel in Word and Deed! Thanks!

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  2. Anonymous4/16/2011

    I thought this change would eventually happen. It's a good, logical result of seeing Jesus as salvation.
    Ben

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  3. Anonymous7/25/2011

    *****
    Let's be literal: Acts 2:37-38 says, "... MEN and BRETHREN, what shall we do? 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."

    Q. CAN a baby REPENT of their SINS?
    A. No.
    Q. Does a BABY receive the gift of the Holy spirit?
    A. No.

    The doctrine of "infant baptism" come from PAGANISM. [See "The Two Babylons" by Alexander Hislop,Loizeaux Brothers, 1916, and Babylon Mystery Religion by Ralph Woodrow, 196, ISBN 0-916938-00x], of which GOD says, "Learn NOT the way of the heathen.

    Sadly the now defunct Worldwide Church of God has APOSTATIZED and many have followed their pernicious ways (2 Pet. 2:1-2)! God has always tested His people with FALSE TEACHERS and FALSE DOCTRINES to prove whether His people really love Him and will follow Him or some man or organization of men.

    See: Jer. 23; 10:21; 12:10; 22:22; 50:6; Ezk. 22:25-29; 34:2; Mic. 3:11-12; Mt. 15:14; and 2 John 1:10, IN YOUR OWN BIBLE! And God does NOT change (Malachi 3:6 & Heb. 13:8)!

    Remember: "If there come ANY unto you, and bring not THIS DOCTRINE [THE BIBLE], receive him NOT into your house, neither bid him God speed" (2 John 1:10)!

    Jesus warned, "Take heed that no man DECEIVE YOU" (Matthew 24:4-5,11,24)!

    Could YOU be deceived?

    *****

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  4. Dear anonymous,

    I once held your view concerning baptism. However, I (and GCI, the denomination in which I worship and minister) have come to hold a different view - the one outlined in the original post.

    I would encourage you to read Acts 2:37-38 in light of what Peter states in v39, namely, the inclusion in the new people of God both adults and the children of those adults. To read Peter's statement in vv37-38 as a step-by-step formula that must be followed in all cases, does not make sense in light of v39 (and in light of several instances noted elsewhere in the book of Acts).

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  5. Dear Anonymous, The only apostasy CGI is guilty of is deviating from is Hyslop. Fortunately his book is not the Bible. The Bible, on the other hand, indicates that the whole of Israel was baptized unto Moses in the Red Sea. Now that included children and serves a sufficient precedent for a New Testament baptism of whole families along with what Ted wrote.

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  6. Another scriptural support for infant baptism is that Baptism also pictures circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12) a ritual performed on infants and adults. Churches that include infant baptism with confirmation of faith later in life have reasonable biblical precedent.

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  7. Ralph Woodrow once considered Alexander Hislop as an authority in matters of Pagan practices BUT then Woodrow found out most of Hislop's reasonings are also mythical that is why in his new book Babylon Connection? Ralph Woodrow corrected most of his teachings in his own book Mystery Babylon Religion. therefore Hislop is now an obsolete authority in this regard.

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  8. Baptists and evangelicals are absolutely correct...there is no SPECIFIC mention in the New Testament that the Apostles baptized infants. There are references to entire households being converted and baptized, but we orthodox cannot prove, just from Scripture, that these households had infants, and neither can Baptists and evangelicals prove, just from Scripture, that they did not.

    One interesting point that Baptists/evangelicals should note is that although there is no specific mention of infant baptism in the Bible...neither is there a prohibition of infant baptism in the Bible. Christians are commanded by Christ to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and to baptize all nations. No age restrictions are mentioned. If Christ had intended his followers to understand that infants could not be baptized in the New Covenant, in a household conversion process as was the practice of the Jews of Christ's day in converting Gentile households to the Covenant of Abraham, it is strange that no mention is made of this prohibition.

    So, the only real way to find out if Infant Baptism was practiced by the Apostles is to look at the writings of the early Christians, some of whom were disciples of the Apostles, such as Polycarp, and see what they said on this issue.

    And here is a key point: Infant Baptism makes absolutely no sense if you believe that sinners can and must make an informed, mature decision to believe in order to be saved. Infants cannot make informed, mature decisions, so if this is the correct Doctrine of Justification/Salvation, Infant Baptism is clearly false teaching. But the (arminian) Baptist/evangelical Doctrine of Justification/Salvation is unscriptural. Being forced to make a decision to obtain a gift, makes the gift no longer free. This is salvation by works!

    Baptism is a command of God. It is not a work of man. God says in plain, simple language, in multiple locations in the Bible, that he saves/forgives sins in Baptism. We orthodox Christians accept God's literal Word. We take our infants to be baptized because God says to do it. Our infants are not saved because we perform the act of bringing them to the baptismal font...they are saved by the power of God's Word pronounced at the time of the Baptism. Christians have believed this for 2,000 years!

    There is no evidence that any Christian in the early Church believed that sinners are saved by making a free will decision and then are baptized solely as a public profession of faith. None.

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/06/the-origen-of-baptistevangelical.html

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  9. Maybe the Baptism debate has been approached from the wrong direction. Instead of starting with our disagreements, let's start with what Baptists/evangelicals and orthodox Christians AGREE upon: All persons who believe and have faith in Christ as their Savior should follow his command and be baptized as soon as possible.

    So the next question is: Can an infant believe and have faith?

    If I can prove to you from Scripture that infants not only can but DO believe and have faith, would you accept infant baptism as Scriptural?

    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/09/the-bible-says-that-infants-can-have.html

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  10. Anonymous8/05/2015

    Hi there,

    I agree at least partly with Anonymous. Acts 2:39 is taken out of context to support infant baptism. Those listening to Peter's sermon were convicted for what they did to Jesus. When they asked what they could do, Peter told them to repent (first) then be baptized.

    What is the promise in verse 39? First, it is not just for the believer's family. It is for, "as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." The promise is that salvation is available to all. Baptism does not save (that would be salvation by works) but is a human response to being saved.

    Some logical questions that come from thinking about infant baptism - Can someone profess that someone else has been saved? Can a person respond to being saved before they are saved? Are we saved without our knowledge?

    There is a human element, to respond to God's grace. Repent and believe in Jesus Christ!

    Thank you for your time

    - Eric (GCI member)

    ReplyDelete

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