On Valentine's Day (no reason...that just happened to be a Sunday that worked), Camille was baptized. I was raised in a Mennonite family, as were many of my friends. In the Mennonite denomination, you are baptized when you make a profession of faith and ask to join the church. I know our decision to baptize our kids when they are babies raises questions of theology in the minds of our friends and family. In fact, when I told one of my best friends we had Adeline baptized, she said, "you mean dedicated." No, she was, in fact, baptized. I've never felt condemned by my friends, but I thought I would use this post to explain what our church believes, and how we came to the same understanding of what the Bible teaches regarding baptism.
First, I want to say what infant baptism is not. It is not a guarantee that your children will go to heaven. It does not mean they are Christians. It is not an empty ritual or a right of passage.
I am going to summarize and quote passages from "What Christian Parents Should Know About Infant Baptism" a booklet written by John Sartelle to explain further...
We serve a covenant God. When God made and everlasting covenant with Abraham---a covenant of salvation from generation to generation, He used circumcision as a sign of the covenant (Gen 17:11). When an adult from outside Israel became a believer, he was to be circumcised. Passages in the Old Testament so closely identify the sign with the real event that God actually uses the word circumcision instead of salvation. The saved person or community is called "circumcised"; the unsaved person or community is called "uncircumcised" (Isa. 52:1; Ezek. 44:9; I Sam. 15:6).
This does not imply that circumcision saves an individual. The thesis of Romans 4 is that Abraham was saved by FAITH, not by circumcision. Yet, God commanded circumcision as a sign of salvation. In Genesis 17, God gives an extraordinary command. God tells Abraham to apply this sign of salvation to infants born into his house. This is astounding. How could the sign of salvation be applied to an infant who had not yet believed" But right there it is: "...and every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations" (Gen 17:12)
Now, we come to the NEW covenant in Jesus. He told His disciples to make other disciples and to baptize them (Matt 28:19). God uses an outward symbol to denote an inward spiritual reality. Like circumcision, baptism too is a sign. Baptism means being set apart to a holy life. Just as utensils and people were anointed with water or oil in the Old Testament and set apart for holy use, so in baptism the person is anointed and set apart for holiness. Baptism is a sign of an event, not the reality itself. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we are saved by grace, not by any works of righteousness. Our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and our lives are made holy by being born again. Baptism is an outward sign of this inward work.
In light of that fact, the following verses may seem surprising. As people were converted, not only were they baptized but their families were also. Lydia, a business woman from Thyatira, believed the gospel, and Paul baptized both her and her household (Acts 16:15). Likewise, an unnamed Philippian jailer believed, and he and his household were baptized (Acts 16:33-34).
Every doctrine in the New Testament has its roots in the Old. We are moved to tears at the beauty and unity of Scripture as we see Aaron slay the lambs and then see Jesus slain at Calvary, punished by God for our sins. We feel a kinship to Joshua as we see his family gather to eat the Passover lamb in old Israel, and we gather to partake of the body and blood of God's lamb in the new Israel. But most precious is that God does not withhold a blessing He gave His people in former days. We follow in the footsteps of Abraham circumcising Isaac when we bring our children to be baptized.
In the Old and New Testaments, we see God working through families. In Genesis 17:7, God made a covenant of salvation with Abraham. He told Abraham that the covenant was not only for him, but for his children and many generations to come. Four hundred years later, Abraham's family had grown to be a great nation of over one million people. Enslaved in Egypt, they prayed to God...."So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And God saw the sons of Israel, and had regard for them." (Exodus 2: 24-25). Another example is David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. Solomon seriously transgressed against God. His kingdom would be divided because of his sin, but the Lord would not do this in Solomon's lifetime, because he was David's son. David had been dead for years, and yet God treated Solomon with special regard because of his father. We can now begin to see why God directed the sign of the covenant to be applied to the children. They are set apart, special before the Lord. God showed favor to Solomon because of David, but the kingdom was divided under Rehoboam's reign (Solomon's son). In the New Testament, we see the same examples as Jesus heals children not through their own faith but through the faith of their parents (Matt 17:14-18, Luke 7:11-17, John 4:46-54). Another example is Paul's answer to the question of if a man becomes a Christian, should he continue to live with his non-Christian wife. In I Corinthians 7, Paul says if the wife will live with him, he is to stay with her. He says the unbelieving wife is "sanctified" by the believing husband. This does not mean she is saved. The Greek word for "sanctify" means "set apart." The holy life of a Christian is a "set apart" life. Paul was saying the wife is set apart, viewed in a special way by God, because her husband is one of God's people. So why not baptize her? As an adult, she is responsible for making her own profession before the Lord. The infant stands in his father's faith, unable to make his own profession, but bearing the mark of his father's faith upon him, which calls him to his Lord in his earliest years.
Baptism is the sign of salvation applied to our children, it is a call to raise them as God directed. We give our affirmation to the following vows during baptism:
Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before him a godly example, that you will pray with and for him, that you will teach him the doctrines of our holy faith, and that you will strive, by all the means of God's appointment, to bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
Covenant children are set apart. They are blessed with parents who want to honor and serve Christ. They are taught the Scriptures, prayed for, and trained by godly parents and by the church from a young age. It is God who initiated, drew the terms of, and seals His covenant with His people. He graciously binds Himself to the promises of His Word. And He calls His children and His children's children to keep His covenant and know His blessing from generation to generation.