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Infant Baptism
Are the traditional claims of Catholicism right?

Being the first of seven sacraments in Catholicism, baptism is foundational and essential. Sometimes, it is administered to adults and children who convert to the Catholic faith and understand the concept behind the ritual. Quite often, though, it is administered to infants who have no understanding at all. Catholic doctrine states that when anyone is baptized (adult, child, or infant), nine primary things happen.

The one baptized:

(1) is born again,
(2) is filled with the Spirit of God,
(3) is positioned “in Christ,”
(4) becomes a child of God,
(5) becomes a new creation,
(6) receives the gift of salvation,
(7) receives the gift of eternal life,
(8) becomes a member of the Church,
(9) is freed (cleansed) from original sin.

Are these claims true or does the Bible paint a different picture altogether in this area of doctrine? This remainder of this article will focus on infant baptism. However, the points addressed are sufficient in answering that question regarding older participants in the sacrament as well.

Baby Dedication Versus Infant Baptism

The Bible records Jesus being dedicated to God as an infant. The command was recorded in Leviticus 12:1-8 that forty days after the birth of a son and eighty days after the birth of a daughter, Jewish parents were to bring their newborn child to the tabernacle (later on, to the temple) to be consecrated to the Lord. That was the time required in the Law of Moses for the cleansing of the mother. One of the Gospel writers mentioned when and how this took place for Mary and her newborn infant Jesus:

     Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)

This biblical story seems to be somewhat supportive of infant dedication (minus animal sacrifices, of course). However, that was an Old Testament requirement, not an ordained New Testament ceremony. There is no biblical precedent for it in this era. However, I believe it is acceptable prayerful act. Infant baptism is another matter, primarily because of the false claims associated with it. For that reason, infant baptism should not be practiced. Jesus (who is our example) was not baptized as an infant, but as an adult, at the age of thirty. (See Luke 3:23.) Here is the biblical account:

     Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Now fast-forward three-and-a-half years. Right before closing out His ministry on the earth and ascending into heaven from the Mount of Olives, Jesus commanded His followers to make baptism a required part of a true conversion experience:

     “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

He is also recorded saying: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16) On the day of Pentecost, after the power of the Holy Spirit fell in the upper room, Peter preached the first sermon of the New Testament era. He then finished his message by presenting the following mandate with its associated promises:  

     “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)[1]

Even though Peter indicated the promise was for our children, he never implied that baptism should be administered to infants. Both of my children were baptized at a young age, but only after they expressed a sincere desire to receive Jesus as Lord of their lives. Another important Book of Acts example involves the apostle, Philip. After finishing his witness to the Ethiopian eunuch, that government official responded, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Clearly, a spiritual kind of ‘informed consent’ was necessary then and should still be expected now. Philip would have withheld baptism from the eunuch if he did not truly and deeply believe. (See Acts 8:26-39.) It should be withheld from infants also. Babies cannot believe with all their heart.

In these examples, it is clear baptism was only administered to individuals mature enough to sincerely repent, believe the Gospel, and commit to a life of discipleship. A newborn cannot fulfill any of these directives.

Household baptisms

Supporters of infant baptism often point out that certain individuals in the early church, after their conversion, had their entire households participate with them in baptism. However, the Scripture never suggests that infants were included or children so young that they could not comprehend the meaning of the rite. For proof, check out this list of the four “household” baptisms recorded in the Bible, reading the passages yourself:

  1. Cornelius’ household (See Acts 10:1-48.)
  2. Lydia’s household (See Acts 16:11-16.)
  3. The Philippian jailer’s household (See Acts 16:16-34.)
  4. Stephanas’s household (See 1 Corinthians 16:15.)

One thing is undeniable—the Bible does not promote the practice of sprinkling during the rite of baptism. The very word “baptism” is descriptive of full immersion. That was the manner it was implemented for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and for all who became part of the church in the beginning. The Jewish followers of the Lord understood this, because baptism in the New Testament was an overflow of the ritual miqvah bath of the Old Testament era, which was required of priests before ministering to God in the temple, as well as other purposes. To this day, for a miqvah to be “kosher” and the purification process to be effective, observant Jews insist that full immersion is necessary.[2] The same is true for the New Covenant practice of water baptism. Even if we are Gentiles, we want to be “kosher,” right?

Contracting the disease of sin

The phrase “original sin,” first used by Augustine, is a traditional way of describing the “origin of sin in the human race” and the passing on of a sinful nature. It was Adam’s transgression in the beginning (partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) that brought a sinful status and a sinful state on all mankind. A corrupt nature, prone to rebellion, and guiltiness before God, has been transferred to all of Adam’s offspring because of the fall, as well as a condition of spiritual death. The Catholic Catechism explains it this way: “original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense: it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’—a state and not an act” (CCC 404). Original sin has been a controversial and debated doctrine among theologians of various Christian denominations for centuries.

Without resorting to the use of that terminology, the fact that human beings are brought into this world with a fallen nature is verified by the following scriptures:

     Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalms 51:5)     

     Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (Romans 5:12)     

     Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)

It is a great mystery how the transfer of this sin-nature takes place. Are the souls of babies created perfect by God, simultaneous with conception, but then contaminated because of sinful influences they encounter and sinful choices they make? Or are souls created along with bodies during the reproduction process, a combination of the soul of the mother and father, thus inheriting a fallen state all the way from Adam? Is this fallen nature unaffected by spiritual rebirth and in need of being constantly subdued even after a person makes the willful decision to serve God? There are many opinions offered, but the fact of the matter is simple: there is a battle that rages within every human being. Listen to Paul’s words:

     For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:19-25)

Notice in this passage, Paul does not say the problem is in his soul, but in his flesh. James also indicated an ongoing battle with the lower nature when he exhorted:

     Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
Does baptism remove “original sin”?

The Catholic Church teaches that during infant baptism “original sin” is removed, regeneration takes place, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit occurs, placement in the body of Christ happens, and the gift of eternal life is granted. During that ritual, the baptized infant becomes a child of the Almighty God. This doctrinal stance is verified by the following three quotes from a Catholic website:

“Even if nothing else was said in Scripture implying infant baptism, we could conclude it to be necessary just from this simple fact: babies need to have original sin removed from their souls.”[3]

“The Catholic understanding is that baptism is a sign that effects what it symbolizes, bringing about several things. One of these effects is regeneration—God’s very life comes into the person, taking away the guilt of original sin and infusing sanctifying grace into the soul, making the person a new creation.”[4]

“When we are baptized—when we are born again, when we are born of the Spirit—we are in Christ. Infants need to be baptized, just like anyone else, so that they can be “in Christ,” so that they can put on Christ, so that they can become children of God, so that they can become members of the body of Christ, so that they can be granted eternal life.”[5]

The Catholic Catechism also offers the serious admonition: “The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer baptism shortly after birth.”[6]

If that last quote is true, trying to dissuade others from this practice of infant baptism would be a grievous and terrible offence, robbing innocent, helpless newborn babies of magnificent blessings from God. However, if this doctrine is false, promoting it is just as serious a transgression—because doing so grants false hope that can lock its victims inside the walls of religious deception for their entire lives. So, this is not a trifling matter. For one view to be right, the other must automatically be terribly wrong.

The biblical perspective on baptism

There is no scriptural proof, nor any scriptural precedent, for the astounding claims the previous Catholic quotes made concerning the efficacy of infant baptism. If this concept was true, Catholic children should be some of the godliest in the world, and that certainly is not the case. I and many of my childhood friends are living proof—just ask the nuns who taught us in grade school. A conscious awareness of surrender to Jesus’ Lordship is necessary for regeneration to take place, as the following verse conveys:     

     But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

An infant cannot consciously “receive” Jesus as his or her Savior. An infant cannot consciously “believe” in His precious and powerful name. Therefore, an infant, through sprinkling, cannot be “born again” (regenerated). Catholics who believe this is a correct interpretation of biblical truth usually have a genuine, sincere desire to include babies in God’s redemptive plan, to protect them, and to impart the best that can be provided to them spiritually—I acknowledge that. However, sincerity is not always proof of veracity. Most likely, we have all been completely wrong about certain religious concepts we sincerely held at various stages of our journey. Far too often, the tragic result of believing in infant baptism is this: Catholic infants who were never regenerated at baptism grow up to be Catholic adults who assume they have already obtained this salvation experience, so they do not seek after it. Therefore, established church tradition, instead of enriching them, ends up robbing them of the beauty and value of this life-transforming encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.


The word “regeneration” only appears twice in the Bible. It is so translated from the Greek word paliggenesea (pronounced pal-ing-ghen-es-ee’-ah). One time, it refers to the spiritual rebirth of those who repent and believe; the other instance, it refers to the complete, supernatural transformation of this fallen world and a return to Eden-like, paradise conditions. (See Matthew 19:28.) Here is the passage that describes the “regeneration” of people who become recipients of God’s grace:

     But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

Does this sound like a spiritual happening taking place in infants or adults? Read this passage again carefully and I believe you will agree, it must be referencing adults, for the following two reasons:

(1) Regeneration is described coming to those who are capable of attempting religious “works of righteousness” to obtain salvation.

(2) Regeneration also comes to those requiring “mercy” from God because of a sinful past.

Believing that this happens during infant baptism grants a false sense of security to Catholic parents concerning their children. Quite possibly, it could also prevent Catholic adults, many of whom are genuine in their love for God, from receiving the wondrous things the Father desires to impart. Let me restate and reemphasize the dilemma: those who have been sprinkled as infants will most likely assume they already possess certain benefits of the Gospel that only come when a person is truly born again. In the process, unfortunately, James 4:2 is fulfilled: “You do not have because you do not ask.”

I participated in all the sacraments of the church growing up (except matrimony, holy orders, and extreme unction, of course), yet I never experienced spiritual rebirth (regeneration) until I consciously, as a nineteen-year-old seeker of truth, repented of my sin and invited Jesus to live in my heart and be Lord of my life. What a transformation took place in my life spiritually as a result, something I am very passionate about sharing with others. My motive is not to “prove I am right” religiously, but rather, to open the door compassionately so that others can experience this incredible spiritual impartation.

Wasn’t John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit as an infant?

One reason for the belief that dedicated infants can be filled with the Holy Spirit is what the angel of the Lord said to Zacharias about his soon-to-be-born son, later known as John the Baptist:

     But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:13-16)

The assumption is this: if John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while still an infant, any other child, once dedicated to God, can also be filled with the Holy Spirit. But the Bible never offers such an expectation spiritually. It is just a hypothetical idea based on an isolated event in Scripture that cannot be applied as a general rule for all infants consecrated to God.

Other scriptures that are misinterpreted

One of the main biblical passages, often misinterpreted concerning baptism, is from the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus. Just three verses are necessary for this point to be made:

     Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7)

Quite often, both Catholics and Protestants think the word “water” here refers to water baptism, so many assume that water baptism and being born of the Spirit happen simultaneously. I believe it means something altogether different. First, Jesus insisted that human beings must be “born of water and the Spirit,” then He followed up with the statement, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit.” So, it can be logically deduced that being “born of water” is being “born of flesh.” It is a reference to the breaking of the water during childbirth when the amniotic sac breaks, and the amniotic fluid pours out.

In other words, Jesus was saying that all human beings must pass through two stages to inherit eternal life. First, we must be born into this world as human beings (“born of the water”), to face the trials and tests that are here, to learn the lessons that can only be learned by passing through this fallen world. Second, we must be “born of the Spirit,” which is necessary for redemption and restoration to take place, and for the gift of eternal life to be granted. Neither stage can be bypassed on the journey to becoming fully manifested, resurrected, glorified sons and daughters of God—destined to be “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” forever (Romans 8:17).

You see, only by deserving judgment can we ever know the mercy of God. Only by making errors can we know the great value of being embraced by His forgiveness. Only by going through pain can we experience the healing that flows from the compassionate heart of Jesus. So, to see God more completely, we must pass through this fallen world that is so opposite to Him in so many ways. Not only do we see Him in greater measure, if we yield to His influence, we also become more like Him—which is truly a lifelong journey. Therefore, to enter the kingdom of God, we must first be “born of the water” (born as human beings in fleshly forms). Then we must be “born of the Spirit,” receiving within us the regeneration of a new spirit infused with God’s Spirit.

What about children who die as infants?

One of the most troubling questions that both Catholic and non-Catholic theologians have wrestled with for centuries is the issue of where infants and little children go if they die. This is certainly a legitimate concern. The doctrine associating salvation with infant baptism grants a comforting assurance of eternal well-being for the children of Catholic families. But what about infants or young children who die without being baptized in the church? What is their eternal destination? To provide an answer to this probing question, the concept of Limbo was proposed among Catholics, probably during the Middle Ages. However, it has never been formally adopted by the church. (See Question #22 in the book The Beliefs of the Catholic Church). 

Actually, we know very little about the afterlife of infants or young children who die at an early age. The primary Scripture passage on which many base their hope is Mark 10:13-15:

     Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

There are two other parallel passages highlighting this key event in the life of Jesus: Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17. In Matthew and Mark’s version of the story, the Scripture states that the people brought “children” to the Lord, so translated from the Greek word paidion (pronounced pahee-dee’-on). Luke’s version is different, though, using the Greek word brephos (pronounced bref’-os), which is properly translated “infants”:     

“Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them.” (Luke 18:15)

The entire three-verse passage is often used as proof of the Catholic concept that infants can be granted the born-again experience through baptism, at which point they are ushered into God’s kingdom. However, that interpretation stretches what Jesus said beyond His intended meaning to accommodate a theological stance. The Savior of mankind never alluded to infant baptism in this passage. However, these often-quoted words of the Messiah do imply that God will somehow mercifully treat those who die in their early years and most likely usher them into His kingdom, when their souls leave their bodies. Also, He made no stipulation concerning the belief system, race, religion, nationality, or culture those children belong to; instead, it seems to be an all-inclusive statement. Therefore, the real meaning of Jesus’ words remains a great mystery. Such a view cannot be proposed with absolute assurance, but it seems plausible.

The Bible teaches that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth immediately after his death on the cross, to preach the Gospel to the dead. He did that apparently to give Old Testament saints—who had trusted in insufficient animal sacrifices—an opportunity to accept His substitutionary death as their means of salvation, opening the door to Paradise to them. (See Ephesians 4:9, 1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6.) If He offered such an opportunity to adults in the afterlife, He could certainly do the same for infants and children who die before they understand these important biblical concepts. (Traditionally, this point of maturity is called “the age of accountability”—a concept not clearly defined in Scripture, but implied—See Deuteronomy 1:39.) The Bible does not go into detail concerning these things, but we do know that God is just, gentle, loving, and compassionate, so whatever the process may be—we can trust that the Everlasting Father will never treat little ones unfairly or unjustly. Yes, in this area of doctrine, we must simply trust.

The circumcision argument

Catholic theologians also share the following argument concerning infant baptism: that according to Paul’s writings, baptism has replaced circumcision and that circumcision was normally administered when a child was eight days old. So, it logically follows that baptism should also be administered to infants. Just as male Jewish children are not old enough to understand or acknowledge the symbolism of the circumcision ritual to which they are subjected (an act that acknowledges their inherited covenant relationship with the God of Abraham), so newborn Christian children do not have to comprehend what is happening to them for baptism to be effective and right. Please consider the following two responses to this premise:

  1. Circumcision in the Old Testament—God explicitly commanded that Israelite sons be circumcised on the eighth day (Genesis 17:10-13). But nowhere in the Bible (Old or New Testaments) does God explicitly command the baptizing of infants. This practice is based on symbolism and doctrinal assumptions.

  2. Circumcision in the New Testament—Circumcision in this era, though still practiced literally, is representative of a higher spiritual reality. The Complete Jewish Bible of Romans 2:28-29 insists, “For the real Jew is not merely Jewish outwardly: true circumcision is not only external and physical. On the contrary, the real Jew is one inwardly; and true circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal; so that his praise comes not from other people but from God.” Physical circumcision by itself was and is insufficient to signify the establishing of a covenant relationship with God. Even in ancient times, it was not really efficacious unless the Israelite who was circumcised physically (in his flesh) was also circumcised spiritually (in his heart).

Here is the passage of Scripture some Catholics use to try and prove the connection between circumcision and baptism (as translated in the New Catholic Bible). Speaking to believers in Jesus, Paul insisted:

     In him also you were circumcised, not with a physical circumcision but with a spiritual stripping away of the old nature with the circumcision of Christ. When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12 NCB)

You may want to read those two verses again, slowly and carefully. Although the thoughts run together, clearly, Paul is not equating baptism with circumcision. Verse eleven shares that when we are “in Christ” (under His Lordship, the position we assume when we are born again) that we are “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands.” In other words, God cuts away from our hearts the dominance of carnality and worldliness. We are not entirely free from the lower nature, but we are graced to throw off its control. When verse twelve adds that we are also “buried with Him in baptism,” it is not a continuation of the same comparison. It is similar. It is connected; however, it is a different analogy.

  • Circumcision is an emblem of the cutting away of the curse of a sinful nature and the influence of a fallen world.
  • Baptism is an emblem, a sacred ceremony, representing the idea that those who are crucified with Christ are also buried with Him (dying to self and dying to this world). Then, just as Jesus rose from the dead, they rise out of this death to self (symbolized by the waters of baptism) to “newness of life”—a new heart, a new beginning, a new life—spiritually resurrected (Romans 6:4).

Let it be emphasized: in both these areas, the substance is far more important than the shadow. The thing symbolized is far more important that the symbol by which it is represented. What baptism represents is far more important than baptism itself. The supernatural transcends and supersedes the natural. Baptism is a wonderful, God-ordained ritual, but what it represents is far more wonderful.

Countless millions of people have been baptized in various Christian denominations, as infants or adults, by sprinkling or immersion. Many such persons participated in the ritual but never experienced the reality of what was being symbolized. They were never truly buried with Christ (dying to self and to the world); and they were never resurrected with Him (living an overcoming life of victory over sin and oneness with the Father). Thus, they are Christians in name only and baptism was nothing more than an empty ritual. That is a tragedy when it happens—to be so close, yet so far away.

In circumcision and baptism, is the faith of parents sufficient?

In an article about “Infant Baptism” on a Catholic website, you can find the following explanation about the parental role: “The faith of the parents sufficed when it came to circumcising a child. Do we not see that principle in the New Testament as well? Jesus saw the faith of the friends of the paralytic and healed the paralytic in Matthew 9:2. When people cannot have faith, the faith of family or friends suffices. So it is with infant baptism. The faith of the parents sanctifies the children, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:14. This is just as much a New Testament concept as it is an Old Testament concept.”[7] Responding to this assertion is dependent on unveiling the meaning of one of the key scriptures mentioned: 1 Corinthians 7:14. 

     For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 

The word “sanctified” means two primary things:

  1. Cleansed from the defilement of evil,
  2. Set apart for God’s purposes.

It would be easy to take Paul’s statement beyond its intended meaning. Just because someone is sincerely devoted to God, his or her unconverted spouse (guilty of ungodly behavior) is not automatically saved eternally (fully “cleansed from the defilement of evil”). Of course not! They are sanctified only in the sense that they are dedicated to God by the intercession of the godly partner in the marriage. In a sense, God is legally released, or possibly, prayerfully persuaded, to deal with that person more profoundly. That spouse possesses a definite advantage spiritually whether he or she recognizes it or not.

So it is for the children of a devoted parent. Apparently, God honors the parent’s commitment by pouring out a greater measure of grace on the children, to protect them and to guide them, helping them to make the right choices in life. Are they automatically saved? No, they must make the decision on their own to serve God to truly be saved. They are “holy” only in a qualified sense, having been dedicated to God by their parents. Inanimate things are considered holy if they are dedicated to the Creator. Some examples include: a parcel of ground (Exodus 3:5), the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8), the place where the ark of the covenant was located (Exodus 26:33), and the garments of the priests (Exodus 28:2).

Describing these things as “holy” does not mean they are holy by nature, but holy by association or assignment. Parcels of ground, days of the week, storage space under a tent in the wilderness, and clothing to be worn in religious rituals can only be holy by association with God or assignment by God to a sacred purpose. In a similar fashion, children are “holy” because of association with at least one parent who is actively living a holy life or because they have been prayerfully assigned by their parents to the purposes of God. Upon reaching an age of being able to understand the difference between good and evil, they must then make the quality decision themselves to serve God to receive from Him the gift of being holy by nature. (See Ephesians 4:22-24.)

As already quoted, in Acts 2:38-39, Peter presented an unequivocal mandate to those who heard him preach His Pentecost message: Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Then he followed up with the statement: For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 

Does that mean “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is automatically given to the children of those who received Peter’s admonition? No, it simply means that such a promise is available to them as they mature in life, if they also choose to repent and be baptized.

A final thought on baptism

Peter was the Bible writer who compared baptism to the flood in Noah’s day. Here is the passage making that comparison, speaking of those—

     Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:20-21)

Being ‘baptized in water’ did not cleanse the world permanently. It soon became corrupt again. It will take a baptism of fire at the end of this age for the process to be fully effective. (See 2 Peter 3:10-12.) Similarly, water baptism, even for an adult, is not sufficient by itself. Those who desire to truly be dedicated to God should seek Him also for the “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Water does not have the power to change a person’s character, but the “consuming fire” of God’s supernatural presence does (Hebrews 12:29).

Water baptism does not take away “the filth of the flesh”—for an infant or an adult. Subduing the fallen nature requires impartations from God that are far more powerful. If done properly, though, water baptism is an indication that someone is attempting to have “a good conscience toward God.”

A few months after my conversion, I was baptized in water. It was a very blessed and sacred moment, and the presence of God was present in a very special way, because I understood with my heart what this God-ordained ritual of the Church meant. I knew that as I was immersed in the water, I was making a conscious, prayerful decision to be buried with Christ: dead to self, dead to sin, dead to the world, and resurrected in Jesus. I intended to serve Him the rest of my days in newness of life. It was a powerful time of connecting with the heavenly Father in an unforgettable, life-changing, heart-transforming, and worshipful way. I pray, if you have never been baptized with the conscious awareness of its profound meaning, that this blessed event will happen soon in your life.


[1] There are differences of opinion concerning the exact wording that should be used during the baptism ceremony. Some choose to say: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Others choose to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). My purpose in this chapter is not to assess the correct wording, as much as the correct method that should be used: full immersion, not sprinkling. Both wordings are scriptural, so both could be combined in one declaration over the person being immersed. What is most important is the posture of the heart during baptism.
[2] https://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm, accessed 1/22/2022.
[3] https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/infant-baptism, accessed 1/23/2022.
[4] https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/can-infants-be-born-again, accessed 1/23/2022.
[5] https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/to-explain-infant-baptism-you-must-explain-original-sin, accessed 1/23/2022.
[6] CCC 1250, https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/infant-baptism, accessed 1/14/2022.
[7] https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/infant-baptism, accessed 2/2/2022.

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Written by Mike Shreve