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Baptism: Why All the Controversy Part 3: Baptizing Infants

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Infababychristenednts baptism is a huge issue when trying to discuss baptism with others. The Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterians, and Nazarene churches all practice infant baptism. How did this practice begin and what does the Bible say about it?


            Most people want to attribute this practice to the doctrine of original sin, but this is not really the case. Although there is some controversy over whether infants are born with sin inherited from the parents or whether they are born innocent and remain that way until an “age of accountability,” this is not the predominant reason that infant baptism came about. John 3:5, (“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”) had left a strong impression on the church of the second and third centuries requiring the necessity of baptism for entrance into heaven. By the late fourth century, with a high infant mortality rate, requests from parents or family members for the baptism of a gravely sick child to assure his/her salvation began to be difficult to refuse. These “baptisms of necessity” which were an emergency practice became a normal practice. “We cannot give the name of anyone before the fourth century not in an emergency situation who was baptized as an infant” (David Wright, “At What Ages Were People Baptized in the Early Centuries”).


            Once again, as in the sprinkling or pouring development with baptism, infant baptism has a good intention behind it, but it is still a change to God’s plan. As often takes place with these changes, “the practice preceded its doctrinal defense” (Ferguson 369). The practice of infant baptism developed, and then doctrine to support it was developed after it (original sin, not forbidding the children to come to Jesus – Matt. 19:13, the stain of the world – Job 14:4 – 5).

            Infant baptism is not God’s plan. First of all, every account of baptism we have in the book of Acts (2:41; 8:12; 8:38; 9:18; 10:47 – 48; 16:31 – 33; 18:8; 19:2 – 5; 22:16) is about people who could believe, repent, confess, and be baptized for their sins to be forgiven. They had been given the ability to make a choice before God whether they wanted to accept His will for their lives or not. Children cannot make this choice and so parents or sponsors entered into the “contract” with God on their behalf; however, God never authorizes anyone to answer for another person’s soul. Even in the Old Testament, God made it clear that the “soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the fathers suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). The New Testament agrees that “each of us will give an account of himself of God” (Rom. 14:12). A small, well – meaning modification has caused the world to promote a teaching that became a “tradition” or “practice” that was never part of God’s plan.

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