What Does The Bible Say About Infant Baptism

What does the Bible say about infant baptism? This is a much-debated topic among Christian denominations today. Many religious leaders and scholars interpret the Bible differently, and the subject of infant baptism is no exception. To understand the arguments on either side of the debate, it is important to first recognize what the Bible says about baptism.

The act of baptizing an infant is one of the Christian ceremonies that symbolizes the forgiveness of sin and prepares the child for a life of faith. In the Bible, Jesus is shown to have been baptized by John the Baptist when he was about 30 years old (Matthew 3:13-17). This is often taken as the model for age-appropriate baptism.

The New Testament also records the baptism of individuals who had already accepted Jesus as their Savior (John 3:3-8, Mark 16:15-16). Thus, it can be argued that the ritual of baptism is primarily meant for those who have made a conscious decision to accept God as their Lord and Savior. This is in cotrast to infant baptism which some believe involve a formal ceremony and symbolic immersion to wipe away original sin.

Notably, the Bible does not explicitly endorse either position, and thereby leaves the door open to interpretations of the practice. For example, some Christians believe that because a baby is too young to make a conscious decision, baptism serves as a sign of faith for the parents and represents their commitment to raising the child in the Christian faith. Other Christians, however, interpret baptism as a symbol of grace and faith that only applies to those who personally accept Jesus as their Saviour.

In addition, there are also theological differences in the way baptism is understood. For example, in Catholicism, it is seen as necessary for salvation and helps to remit original sin. In contrast, some Protestant denominations see it as a public act of symbolic obedience, or as a rite of passage within their spiritual community.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not a Christian parent should baptize their infant lies with the family and the Church to which they belong. It is also true, however, that it is a highly personal decision that should not be made lightly. As such, it can be helpful to talk to your church leader or pastor to get further clarity on the Biblical and theological implications for you and your family.

Symbolism of Baptism

Baptism is generally seen by Christians as an ordinance or ceremony and is an outward sign of religious devotion. It is seen as an outward symbolic immersion of the individual into the faith and is heavily associated with the teachings of Jesus.

The symbolism of baptism is different in different denominations, but generally it is a symbol of baptism by water. Immersion in a pool or river is seen as a sign of the washing away of sin and as a mark of new life and submission to Jesus. Some denominations also incorporate a symbolic ‘dry’ baptism, where the person is completely immersed in a cloth. Both types of baptism are seen to symbolise regeneration, and acceptance into the body of Christ.

To further explain the symbolism of baptism, Christian scholars point to several New Testament verses. In Matthew 3:16, John the Baptist says to Jesus, “I baptise you with water for the forgiveness of sins”. Similarly, Romans 6:4 states “Let us consider ourselves dead to sin and alive for God in Christ Jesus”. Baptism is seen as a symbolic joining of the individual in a new life with Jesus.

In addition, Christian scholars argue that baptism signifies the spiritual union with Christ (Galatians 3:27). It can also be viewed as a spiritual engagement of sorts, with the individual committing to the faith and Jesus’ teachings. Ultimately, interpretations of the Bible vary, but the main purpose of baptism is clear: to dedicate oneself to a new life in the faith.

Theological Differences

Theologians of different denominations often interpret the subject of baptism differently. For example, some denominations hold that baptism is not necessarily necessary for salvation and view it as a symbolic act of obedience and commitment. Other denominations believe that baptism is essential for salvation, because it marks the transition between pre-believing and believing in Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Church, for instance, regards baptism as one of the seven sacraments of the Church; it is necessary for salvation and is the only way man can receive sanctifying grace from God. Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox Church believes in baptism as a step of entry into the church, and regards it as an essential part of spiritual life. On the other hand, Baptists and Anabaptists view baptism as an act of adult conversion, and believe that the ritual should be reserved for those who are old enough to make a conscious decision.

Theologians also differ on the issue of whether or not a child’s unbaptized parents would be denied entry into heaven. Whereas Catholics believe that unbaptized individuals can still be ‘saved’ through baptism of desire or baptism of blood, Protestants tend to take a stricter stance and argue that baptism is essential for salvation. Consequently, the traditional practice of infant baptism is more prevalent in the Catholic Church than other denominations.

Scriptural Evidence

In the New Testament, there are several instances where the word “baptise” is used; three of these occurrences reference infants (Acts 2:38-39, Acts 16:15, and 1 Corinthians 1:16). In all three cases, the term “household” is used as an indicator that at least some of the individuals in the group includes children. This has been taken by practitioners of infant baptism as evidence that baptism is meant to extend to infants and children.

Additionally, some theologians cite Matthew 19:14 and Mark 10:14 as evidence of Jesus’ acceptance of the need to extend baptism to infants, because in both cases Jesus blesses children who were brought to him. This blessing has been interpreted to include a recognition of each child’s need for religious observation and symbolic cleansing.

In contrast, other biblical scholars argue that these instances do not necessarily give sufficient evidence for infant baptism. They point to Jesus’ words in  Mark 16:16 that everyone who believes and is baptised will be saved, to illustrate that the ritual is intended for an individual who can consciously accept it; that is, those who are old enough to understand the significance of their action. As such, these biblical passages remain open to interpretation.

Church Tradition

Since the Bible does not specifically address the issue of infant baptism, it is unsurprising that different Christian denominations interpret the practice differently. Ancient Christian thought, however, gives evidence that the earliest churches practiced the ceremony of baptism on both infants and adults. Consequently, some Christian denominations, such as the Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches all incorporate infant baptism into the liturgy, and baptize children shortly after birth.

Even within these denominations, the symbolism and interpretation of infant baptism can vary, however. For instance, while Baptists accept baptism as an act of faith, they usually conduct a public service, called a ‘dedication’ ceremony, for infants shortly after birth. This ceremony is seen as a demonstration of a parent’s commitment to raise their child in the faith and to help the child develop their own spiritual life.

These and other denomination’s present arguments for the practice of infant baptism that draw on scripture, Christian tradition, and the belief that baptism can be a symbol of grace, forgiveness, and a commitment to faith. In contrast, some theologians argue that baptism should be done only for those who can make a conscious decision to accept Jesus as their Saviour.

Parental Responsibility

Overall, the question of infant baptism is highly subjective and arguably highly dependent on one’s personal interpretation of the Bible. Ultimately, it is a decision that a parent should make in conjunction with their church. For example, if a family is part of a denomination which accepts the practice of infant baptism, they may want to already discuss their decisions with the church at the time of the baby’s birth.

As the parent of an un-baptised infant, it is important to understand the importance of faith-raising and the consequences of not providing a spiritual upbringing for their child. Although infant baptism does not guarantee salvation, it can be a deeply moving moment that parents can keep as a spiritual memory of their child’s spiritual journey in life.

Despite the differences in their interpretation of the Bible, all Christians are in agreement that spiritual upbringing begins at the home. Parents of both baptized and un-baptized infants have the privilege and responsibility to teach their children about the Bible and help equip them for their own spiritual journey. This can be done through regular family Bible reading, prayer sessions, and family worship.


In summary, there is much debate among Christian denominations regarding the practice of infant baptism. It is a highly personal decision that should be made carefully and in consultation with your Church. As the Bible does not give a clear answer on the issue, each family must decide for themselves what is best for their child and their religious beliefs.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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