Why We Can and Should Baptize Our Infants
Samuel Kuo—Cerritos, California, USA
Many members of the True Jesus Church know that they can baptize their
children, but often they find it difficult to articulate why. Recently,
this topic came up in a conversation and I heard a long-time member
speculate, “Isn’t it because the faith of the parent is imparted onto
his infant?” This answer sounds attractive, and may also be the first
reason that surfaces in our minds. However, taken verbatim, this is
completely unscriptural; there is no biblical example of anyone’s faith
as another’s. So the question remains: why do we baptize our infants
even though they cannot believe and repent? And why should we, if we
Before we address these questions, it is beneficial to first look at
this issue from a historical perspective.
Infant Baptism in Church History
When we examine the history of the Christian church, we should remember
that the baptism of infants was practiced in the early church without
significant controversy. As one scholar wrote,
Although Christian baptism was often surrounded by contention in
the patristic centuries, especially in the western church, the
period saw no significant disagreement about the acceptability of
baptizing babies. There is no precedent in the era of the Fathers
for the baptismal divide of the sixteenth and subsequent
The only controversial views of note in the early Christian centuries
were those of the Latin Church Father, Tertullian (c.160 – c.225 AD),
who wrote in his De Baptismo, “And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even
age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable;
principally, however, in the case of little children.” In summary, he advocated the deferment of baptism because he
thought it to be more profitable.
However, it must be understood that he was not an outright opponent of
infant baptism. To him, it was still acceptable to baptize young
There were other contentions with baptism, but on the whole, the church
continued to baptize young children for centuries.
It was only in the 16th century, during the Reformation, that
infant baptism started to become a divisive issue. Factions arose that
completely opposed infant baptism and considered it an invalid
institution. A division arose between those who supported
paedobaptism, the baptism of children, and those who supported credobaptism,
only baptizing those who could confess belief.
The most significant group to arise during this time was called the
“Swiss Brethren,” who later came to be called the Anabaptists by their
opponents. The movement started in Switzerland, spread almost
instantaneously over many countries, and ran as a side current to the
main stream of the Reformation.
Conrad Grebel is known as the father of the Swiss Brethren. He had been
led to the evangelical faith by the Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli, and
became a prominent member of the church in Zurich. However, he was soon
disappointed with both Zwingli and Martin Luther. Grebel and others felt
that these reformers were not moving fast enough in purifying the church
and applying the principles taught in the Scriptures. (Luther and
Zwingli often cooperated and waited on the State before instituting
They detested how many members who converted to Protestantism in mass
conversions did not change their lives, but continued to use the
doctrine of salvation by faith only, without good works, as an excuse
for loose living. Seeing the low quality of the converts, the Swiss
Brethren insisted that membership in the church be limited to those who
consciously committed themselves to Christ. They objected to easy
memberships in the church by way of the State.
Because of these views, they vehemently opposed infant baptism. They saw
it as an invalid practice. Those baptized without professing faith
needed to be baptized again.
These criticisms culminated in January 1525, when an ex-priest named
George Blaurock, who had been baptized in his infancy, asked Conrad
Grebel to rebaptize him. After Grebel complied, Blaurock baptized
This event marked the birth of Swiss Anabaptism. The opponents of this
movement called its members Anabaptists, which literally means, “one who
baptizes again.” The movement quickly spread to other parts of
Switzerland, to southern Germany, and Monrovia.
Given this history, it should be no surprise that the orthodox Christian
denominations (i.e., Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox) and the
denominations stemming from the Magisterial Reformation (i.e.,
Lutherans, Calvinists, Reformed tradition) continue to practice infant
baptism today. The denominations that have been directly or indirectly
influenced by the Anabaptists (i.e., Mennonites, Amish, Baptists)
practice a strict credobaptism. Pentecostal denominations typically practice credobaptism as well.
Why We Can: God and the Household
As with many doctrinal controversies, we need not choose sides too
quickly, lest we jump into ideological traps. We must have a clear
biblical understanding of why we can and should baptize our young
To begin, we must understand that the spirit of God’s covenant with His
chosen people is “to you and your descendants after you in their
generations in an everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:7; cf. Deut 29:10–13;
Josh 8:35). God extends His covenant to the entire household. Yes, the
Anabaptists’ concern was valid: every individual and every generation
must build their personal relationship with God (cf. Isa 54:13; Jer
31:31–34). Nevertheless, God’s grace and God’s covenant are given freely
to everybody within the household of faith. Therefore, we do not baptize
infants. We baptize infants in the household of God.
Another principle we see in the Bible is that one adult believer can
represent his or her entire family. In the Old Testament, we see that it
was through Noah’s faith that his entire household was saved (Heb 11:7).
In the Gospels, when Zacchaeus accepted Jesus Christ in faith, Jesus
told him, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk 19:9, emphasis added). During Paul’s second missionary journey,
the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to heed the things spoken by Paul,
following which, she and her household were baptized (Acts 16:14–15).
Similarly, the Philippian jailer believed and his whole family was
baptized (Acts 16:30–33). Lydia and the jailer serve as two specific
cases of how individual believers could represent their entire
household. Like Noah’s and Zacchaeus’ families, grace and salvation
came to these households through one person’s faith. In both
incidences, not a word was mentioned about the faith of the other
household members. They confirm that God desires to save entire
households as a unit, not just individuals.
More importantly, in these two cases, we see the direct connection
between the individual’s household and the sacrament of baptism. In
other words, water baptism is allowed to be administered to the family
members of a believer, including their children.
All of these biblical examples confirm Peter’s proclamation on the day
of Pentecost, “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” (Acts 2:38–39a, emphasis added). So, can an infant believe, repent,
confess sins, and integrate into the holy community? Certainly not.
But we cannot forbid their baptism for these reasons. Since they are
part of the household of a believer, they are accorded the covenant
promises. Grace has come to the entire house.
The Anabaptists’ concern of weak Christians and loose living is still
But we must remember that:
The baptism of the entire household does not guarantee that every
member will be saved in the end. Even though the entire household,
including the children, enters into God’s covenant of salvation
through baptism, it is still essential that every member establish
their own faith and relationship with God. The heads of the household
who have brought their children to baptism need to take up the
responsibility of also teaching them and guiding them in the faith.
This is related to the next issue of why we should
baptize our young children, knowing now that we can.
Why We Should: Faith and Duty
Some members hesitate to baptize their children in fear of them sinning
greatly against God, and leaving the faith when they are older. They
think that it may be better for their children to make their own
personal choice as an adult. So they may hold similar views to that of
Tertullian, who advocated the postponement of baptism.
Though raising children who eventually commit
apostasy is a natural fear in Christian parenthood, the best course of
action is still to baptize our infants. There are several reasons we
The first reason is that although young children may be innocent from
conscious sins, the Bible tells us that all
are sinners (Rom 5:12–14), including infants (cf. Ps 51:5). Thus,
young children need to be baptized for the forgiveness of
sins—especially since it is impossible to predict if they will be able
to live until they can make their own decision. Who can know the
future? If misfortune were to strike, wouldn’t the decision not to
baptize our children become the greatest regret?
Secondly, as parents, we instinctively seek to give the best to our
children. When they are only a few weeks old, we have them vaccinated
because we desire for them to live healthy lives free of preventable
diseases. Similarly, without a second thought we enroll our children in
formal schooling, even as young as three years old, because we know that
education is essential for a productive life. We never hear of parents
delaying until their children are adults so they can decide for
themselves if they want to be vaccinated and go to primary school. That
would seem absurd! But if we are so magnanimous with earthly things like
health and education, should we not be even more eager to give the best
gift to our children—to baptize them and allow them a chance to enter
the heavenly kingdom (cf. Jn 3:5)?
Finally, as parents, we know that raising godly children is our
God-given duty (cf. Mal 2:15; Deut 6:4–9). The very act of baptizing our
young children serves as a great driving force in fulfilling this duty.
Since baptism ushers them to the Lord (cf. Gal 3:26–29), this fact alone
drives us to make every effort to ensure that they can remain
in the Lord. After all, in any discipline, wouldn’t we strive so much
harder knowing there is no turning back over knowing there is a
“safety net” underneath us?
This is similar to approaching a marriage with or without a prenuptial
agreement. The first choice presumes failure and allows for divorce,
while the other completely commits to the marriage, knowing that there
is no return. Similarly, we must approach the baptism and upbringing
of our infants with the same no-holds-barred mentality.
As we have seen, baptizing our children is not only acceptable, but is
encouraged. May the Lord continue to give us wisdom not only in
defending infant baptism, but also in the upbringing of our precious