And they were bringing children to [Jesus] that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.
But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
(ESV: Mark 10:13-16).
There are many who, like Jesus’ disciples in this passage, would prevent children and infants from coming to Jesus. Unknowingly, they too are like the disciples whom Jesus rebuked. Those who believe that Baptism is a sign of a person’s commitment to God bar the baptism of infants and children because they believe that children can not have a knowledgeable faith in God and commit to Him; they cannot “decide for Christ.”
My four year-old daughter recently commented to me that Jesus died for our sins and that when she becomes older she would be able to come to him. I asked her what she meant by this, and she informed me that she and her younger brother were too young to “come to Jesus.” Apparently, her teachers at her preschool had inculcated this teaching in her that she had to be an adult to “come to Jesus,” presumably because of their belief that Baptism was a sign of a person’s commitment to God, rather than a sacrament bestowing God’s saving grace. This would make sense if that was, in fact, true. As argued previously, however, baptism is an act of God’s grace that bestows salvation upon the one baptized rather than a demonstration of a person’s commitment to God.
If I was sick and went to the doctor and he prescribed medicine to heal my illness, how absurd would it be of me to then claim credit for my healing. How ridiculous of me to say, “I decided for the medicine,” and “I chose to receive the medicine and be saved,” as if I deserve the glory for my healing. No, it wasn’t I that healed me, it was the medicine. In addition, the doctor can not take the credit for my healing either, as all he did was dispense the medicine.
Likewise, when I was baptized, it was neither I nor the pastor performing the baptism that deserve the credit for my salvation; it is the Word and Grace of God bestowed by baptism that effects the healing that saves.
Similarly, the Gospel of Mark records:
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that [Jesus] was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(ESV: Mark 2: 16,17)
The point of this passage is that everyone is sick and needs Christ’s salvation to live; “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (ESV: Romans 3:22-25).
Jesus came to heal the sick and save the lost. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19, bestows God’s grace upon the one baptized. Faith is the vessel that receives this baptism as a promise of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord and Savior. Faith believes this promise of God; it is passive, while God’s Word is active. The Word gives and Faith receives; the Word saves and Faith trusts. Though a person may be too young at his Baptism to know and understand what it means, when he is older and believes in God’s promise of salvation bestowed through Baptism, this is the faith that receives the promise.
As well, it cannot be convincingly proven that children are incapable of having faith in God and in His promise of salvation given in Baptism. Children have faith in many things: who their parents are, that they’ll be provided food each day, that they’ll be kept safe, and in countless other daily matters. Likewise, children are capable of having faith in God through Jesus Christ; a faith, I would argue, that is more pure than the faith of adults. Jesus himself held up children as demonstrating the ideal faith:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
(ESV: Matthew 18:1-4)
So, in support of the baptism of children and infants you have the clear testimony of Scripture that Baptism is God’s work and not man’s, Christ’s commendation of the faith of children, and Christ’s command to allow children to come to him. If Christ institutes Baptism, commands that it be bestowed, commends children, and commands them to be allowed to come to him, who are we to resist?
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
(ESV: Romans 6:3-11)