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What is the difference between
infant baptism and believer’s
Infant baptism has its roots in the middle ages when the church was faced with a combination of a doctrine of original sin, a high infant mortality rate and hard questions from parents who feared for the mortal soul of their children.
Though the Bible gives no express instruction to baptize infants, some Christian traditions have gone to great lengths to draw from a variety of covenantal texts as justification for the practice (e.g., Noah and I Pet. 3:20-21; Abraham and Col. 2:11-12; Moses and I Cor. 10:1-2). Jesus’ blessing of the children (Mt. 19:13-15) is also construed as an argument that the children of believing parents are included in the covenant and thus should be baptized. In some Christian traditions, infant baptism carries sacramental import and as such confers a saving grace.
Believer’s baptism is for one who is old enough to accept forgiveness of sin for himself, to express faith consciously and to demonstrate some understanding of the meaning of baptism before he is baptized. Baptism for the believer is an eloquent portrayal of the core doctrine of the Christian faith; i.e., the death and burial of the old self and resurrection to new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1-4ff). This practice is consistent with the practice of the early church, seen throughout the Book of Acts.
So, the differences: infant baptism is done to you; it affirms the faith of your parents and signifies the work of God on your behalf, which precedes your own response of faith. Believer’s baptism is something you choose to do, a testimony of faith, symbolizing outwardly what has already happened inwardly.
The debate as to the validity and efficacy of either form will continue among serious scholars. Meanwhile, Scripture makes abundantly clear that the more important matter is whether or not you and I believe in the Son of God (Jn. 3:16ff).
To send questions or to communicate with Pastor McCullough,
write to firstname.lastname@example.org.