Question: Do you believe that the baptism of a little child means that child is saved? And, if not, what’s the purpose of baptizing infants and little children? Aren’t only those who profess faith in Jesus Christ to be baptized. Infants can’t do that.
Pastor Bill responds (pt. 1):
Churches in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition (like most Christian churches) practice what is commonly called “infant baptism” - or what I much prefer to call “household baptism.” While there are certainly instances of the baptism of older individuals who come to faith in Christ in the New Testament, e.g. Acts 8:12,13, 38; 9:18; I Cor. 1:14, there are almost as many instances of baptisms of whole households, e.g. Acts 16:15, 34, I Cor. 1:16 (in this text, the Apostle Paul even seems to say that the baptism of households was the norm in apostolic practice, i.e. I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that I do not know if whether I baptized any other [the literal translation of the Greek word]. “Any other” seems most likely to mean “any other household”.
And it is most significant that, in each of these household baptism texts, there’s no mention of each individual in the household believing prior to baptism. In fact, in the account of the baptism of the household of the Philippian jailer, the original text speaks only of the faith of the jailer - the head of his home: And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:34).
The reason for this that all of the covenants that God has made with man since the fall are covenants made with households:
• God’s covenant with Noah was a covenant made with him and his whole household - as representatives of the families that would soon inhabit the earth, cf. Gen. 9:8ff.
• God’s covenant with Abraham was a covenant with him and with his entire family, as “firstfruits” of God’s promises that “in Abraham’s seed all of the families of the earth will be blessed”, cf. Gen. 12:3ff, 17:1ff.
• God’s covenant with Moses as the leader of Israel was a covenant in which whole families composed “the house of Israel” and “the holy nation”, cf. Ex.19:5ff
• The New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament, i.e. the New Covenant inaugurated by the coming of Christ in the world, his life, his death, and his resurrection, specifically says that it will include whole households, eg. Jer. 31:31ff, 32:38-40.
So, the biblical pattern in both the Old and the New Testaments is that whole households are part of God’s covenant dealings as he delivers his people from sin and death and leads them in paths of righteousness. In the Old Testament the “covenant sign” was the bloody ordinance of circumcision. In the New Testament (with the coming of Christ who fulfills the meaning of circumcision by his bloody death on the cross) that sign is replaced by the cleansing sign of water baptism, cf. Col. 2:11,12. And that sign is to be given to members of the household when there is at least one parent who is a believer in Christ, cf. I Cor. 7:14.
But you’re asking if that means that all of the children who are baptized are saved. We’ll consider that in next week’s Haven Heart to Heart.