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Dear COA Family,

One of the questions that I get constantly asked is this: How can the practice of infant baptism be justified
by the church?

After all, many Scriptures in the Bible speak about repentance and belief in Christ as being critical
criteria for receiving baptism.

Take, for example, the Apostle Peter’s significant exhortation to the Jews in his first sermon after
Pentecost: “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness
of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

Or Jesus’ instructions to his disciples before his ascension: “Whoever believes and is baptised will be
saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

Both of these requirements would definitely rule out infants from getting baptised as they have no
understanding of what they are doing.

Yet, by taking such a view, we are misunderstanding the meaning of baptism, or sacraments in general.
The sacraments of Christ, namely baptism and Holy Communion, are primarily about what God
does in us through his love and grace for us. It is not just about our cognitive or rational decisions to
follow Christ. God works through the sacraments to effect faith in our lives, adopt us into his family and
increase his grace in our lives (Article 27, 39 Articles of Faith).

Take, for instance, the practice of circumcision for Jewish boys at eight days of age. Any male who does
not subject himself to circumcision will be cut off from being God’s covenant people (Genesis 17:14).
God was incorporating infants into the community through circumcision before they even had
knowledge of what they were doing!

And there is a very close link between circumcision and baptism in the New Testament. The Apostle
Paul writes, “Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,
having been buried with him in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12). Just as circumcision was effective for
young boys in the OT, baptism is just as applicable to our infants as well. This is also the reason for
conversion and baptism for whole families in the NT when they believed in the Lord Jesus. (See the
example of the Philippian jailer and his family in Acts 16:31-33.)

I suspect that much of our reservation about infant baptism centres around our reluctance to “make a
decision” on behalf of our children. We are afraid that they may wish to change their minds about
believing in Christ in the future. Of course, that would be very sad for us. But, if you think about it, we as
parents and caregivers often make decisions for them anyway according to what we think is good for
them. We would never ask them if they would like to go to school to receive an education, for example.
Instead, we would just select a school which we think would be suitable for them and benefit them most.

Similarly, we know that the best gift for our children is belief and trust in a personal God who loves them
and directs them in all that is good for them.

So, in conclusion, infant baptism is thoroughly legitimate and beneficial
for our children. It is God’s mode of working through the sacrament and
the faith of the community to open the spiritual eyes of the child and
sensitise them to his presence. It is the beginning of God’s work of
salvation for their lives. We should not only be not reticent about it, but
actively embrace it and encourage other parents to obey God’s
command in this.

Revd Ian