Admittedly, my views on baptism changed dramatically over a period of several years. For any person to go from believing in baptismal regeneration (such as what is held by heterodox systems such as Roman Catholicism and Mormonism), to exclusive believer’s baptism, then finally to the propriety of infant baptism is at times a difficult odyssey. Frankly, if someone had told me less than ten years ago that I would someday adhere to infant baptism, I would’ve told him he’s off his rocker. I grappled with the subject for some time, yet I was resolved to work through the matter and definitively know what I believe.
I realized that if I were to be sufficiently educated on the subject to get close to a place of unbiased conviction, I had to recognize as many assumptions as possible that I ever picked up about the purpose, the meaning and the mode of baptism. I had to, as best I could, go back to square one in my understanding of this doctrine. Once I did that, I believe my thinking was more ductile to the rubric provided in the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura — Scripture is complete in itself, is perspicuous (clear), and is our ultimate authority in faith and life.
Others will claim the same principle and arrive at a different conclusion, and I’m grateful when we can amicably disagree on a doctrine that is important yet not critical. Thankfully, our baptism is not something upon which our right standing before God depends; but our baptism is there to look upon as a reminder of that which we possess in the person of Christ by his work alone.
As mentioned in the beginning of this panorama, I believe children’s eligibility for baptism is legitimate on the basis of the faith of their parents — I believe this way because I see baptism, as well as everything else in our Christian walk, as not primarily a gift we offer God. Baptism is a gift from God to us, his adopted children, the covenant community, a sign and seal of his power to forgive our sins, and his resolve to preserve us unto eternal life. Without question, there are conditions and obligations on the human side of the covenant. But ever since Adam and Eve fell, human beings are incapable of meeting those conditions with our own resources — therefore, God not only has bound himself to keep his promises, but all the conditions of the Lord’s covenants, even the human ones, ultimately are met by God himself.
When we reorient our view of salvation as being effected by God, from God, through God, and for God, this will properly inform our reading of Scripture from its beginning to its end — including the signs and seals God gave to point to that salvation. Based on Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:3-23, true Christians should seize upon our baptism as an assurance of our salvation, and it also should be recalled and leaned upon in our pursuit of obedience to Christ. Preaching on Romans 6:3, Dr. Sproul said,
“We have lost touch with the riches of the sacraments that God has given to his people. Luther used to say, when the Devil would tempt him, ‘Get away from me! I’m baptized!’ Baptism is not what saves us, but in our baptism God gives us a tangible sign of his promise of redemption. All the processes that were wrought through the redeeming work of Christ are contained in that sign. Baptism is a sign of our being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. It does not effect regeneration, but it is a sign of it. It is the sign of God’s promise that all who believe will, in fact, be justified. It is a sign of our sanctification. It is a sign of our being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of our glorification. It is a sign of our identification with Christ. We are in Christ and he is our champion.” (Romans: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, p. 185)
So, in closing, apropos is Martin Luther’s prayer on Psalm 89 from his Summaries commentary first published in 1531 (I don’t agree with everything Luther wrote about baptism, but it is a beautiful prayer nonetheless.):
“Lord Jesus, we thank You for calling us by Your Gospel into Your kingdom of grace. Grant that we be members not of Your visible Church only, but of the invisible community of saints, living temples of Your Spirit. Keep us steadfast in the true faith, and finally receive us into Your kingdom of eternal glory. Amen. …
We glorify You, O God, our most merciful Father in heaven, because You have given us a Savior of whom we know that He is able to save even the greatest of sinners, and because in Him You have made a covenant that shall endure forever. Because You have so graciously received us into the covenant in Holy Baptism, grant us also grace to walk therein, and to reach the end of faith, the salvation of the soul. Amen.” (The Summaries of the Psalms, translated from the Weimar Edition, vol. 38, and the St. Louis Edition, vol. 4)
If you’re uncertain what to believe about baptism, I encourage you to prayerfully study it and come to a conclusion; especially couples before starting a family, if parentage is a calling the Lord has for you. It’s abundantly obvious at this point at which conclusion I hope you will arrive. Wherever you land on the issue of whether children should be baptized, considering the aforementioned evidences, I humbly submit we contemplate this question at every step in our Christian walk as we look back to our baptism:
“‘Is baptism chiefly something I did for God?’
‘Is baptism chiefly something God did for me?’”