It is sobering to walk through a
cemetery and view the graves of infants and children. We wonder why their
lives were cut so short and reflect on the grief their parents must have
experienced. But, beyond these things, we ponder the eternal destiny of
these who were on earth but for a fleeting moment.
Many people believe that babies are
sinners when they are born into the world- that, though they have not done
anything wrong, they are stained with Adam’s sin. Therefore, they must be
baptized in order to be cleansed. The consequence of this teaching is that
children who died before they were “baptized” will be tormented in hell.
To get around this, the Catholic Church puts these children in “limbo” (a
place never mentioned in Scripture) for they are too bad to go to heaven
(since they have Adam’s sin), but are too good to go to hell (not having
sins of their own). But, what do the Scriptures teach? Do children inherit
Adam’s sin? Is a newborn baby a sinner in need of cleansing?
Israel had a proverb that Ezekiel
said they would not use any more, “The fathers eat sour grapes, but the
children’s teeth are set on edge.” (Eze 18:2-3). They would stop teaching
that the children would bear the spiritual consequences of their father’s
sins. For the Lord said, “The person who sins will die. The son will not
bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear
the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous
will be upon him-self, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon
himself.” (Eze 18:20).
Babies are not born into this world
spiritually dead because of the sin of Adam or anyone else before them.
Jesus implied that children are spiritually alive when He said, “The
kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:14). Children are pure
until they separate themselves from God due to their own sins- “Therefore,
just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin;
and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (not “because Adam
sinned”; Rom 5:12).
Until children are able to know good
from evil, God does not hold them responsible for their choices and
therefore, He will not punish them for their actions. How do we know this?
He spared the Israelite children under 20 years old from death in the
wilderness and allowed them to enter into the promised land of Caanan.
(Deut 1:39; Num 14:28-31)
Baptism is for those who are cut to
the heart because of their sins- those who are able to repent, that is,
turn from evil to do good- those who desire the remission of their sins.
(Acts 2:36-38) Therefore, babies and children who have not grown to
discern good and evil do not need baptism. They are spiritually alive and
part of God’s kingdom. What a comfort this is as we walk through the
cemetery and see the grave markers of those whose lives were cut so short.
Heaven will be filled with these precious little ones. If we are pricked
in our hearts because of our sins, repent of them, and are immersed in
water for our cleansing, we’ll be able to join them around the throne of
God- because the blood of Christ will make us as pure as they are.
Two pioneer preachers once debated the
subject of infant baptism. It was an outdoor discussion, as was common in
those days- in this instance near a river. When it was his turn to speak,
the preacher who opposed infant baptism grabbed the other preacher and
began forcibly to lead him to the river, telling him and the audience that
he was going to baptize him.
The preacher who advocated infant
baptism was stunned and outraged. In amazement and anger, he cried out,
“No! Stop!!” But the other preacher remained intent on getting him to the
river. Finally, near the brink of the water, in desperation, the preacher
who taught infant baptism hollered, “I don’t want to be baptized! It will
do no good!! When he said this, the preacher who opposed infant baptism
released him and then made the point for which he had made such a
commotion- “That’s just what I have been saying. Since infants do not want
to be baptized, it will do them no good!” So ended the debate.
Those who believed in Jesus were
motivated by their faith in Him to be willingly baptized in the N.T. Here
are some examples:
1) Acts 2:41- “Those who had
received his word were baptized.”
2) Acts 8:12- “But when they
believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the
name of Jesus Christ, they were
being baptized, men and women
3) Acts 18:8- “And many of the
Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.”
Infants and young children
are not capable of listening to evidence concerning Jesus, reasoning as to
its truthfulness, and reaching the conclusion that He is the Christ, the
Son of God, so they cannot be motivated by such conviction to be
baptized. Baptism does nothing for infants except make them fussy and
wet- that same thing it would have accomplished for the angry preacher in
the story above!
If you were “baptized” as
an infant, please realize that this did not “save” you. You had no need
of “saving”- you were pure and innocent. And, you did not seek “baptism”
because of your belief in Jesus. You did not desire it at all. Someone
else desired that it be done.
But, perhaps now you do
know good from evil. You know you have sinned. You’ve studied the
Scriptures and, from the evidence presented, you believe that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God. Let that faith motivate you to repent of your sins
and be immersed in water so that your sins may be washed away (Acts
22:16)- not by same magic in the water, but by the grace, mercy, and love
of God and the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.