Perhaps you, too, have asked some or all of the questions that have come to the minds of many Christians concerning “child” salvation; questions that have caused parents serious heartmeditations and sometimes anxiety, if not doubt, when a little one has been taken away by death.
We present some of the questions:
1. If none but members of the Church (Body) of Christ are sure of heaven, how does a baby become a member of that Body?
2. If, according to God’s Word, salvation is by grace, through faith; “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”, how can a baby, who is incapable of exercising faith, be saved?
3. If only those who are born again enter the kingdom of God, how can a baby, who has not experienced this new birth, get into that kingdom?
4. In the light of I Corinthians 7:14 is there not a marked spiritual difference between the baby of saved parents and that of unsaved parents? Therefore if the baby of unbelieving parents dies, will it be eternally separated from the child of believing parents?
5. Has the baptized baby a spiritual standing before God, not experienced by the unbaptized baby?
6. If parents do not believe in infant baptism, should they present their baby for public dedication in the congregation of the Lord?
7. When the Body of Christ is raptured will all the children in the world, who have not reached the age of accountability, (those dead and alive) be caught up to meet Christ in the twinkling of an eye? If so, will their resurrection bodies be “baby” bodies?
1. If there is anything clearly taught in the Scriptures, it is the fact that during this period of grace there is one and only one Church. That Church is designated “The Body of Christ”. In connection with this one Body this seven-fold unity is presented; “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace. There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:3 to 7. We emphasize the one Body, the one faith, and the one hope.
The manner and means by which members of the human race become members of this one Body is declared in Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “by grace through faith.” Now this question; if we have Scriptural authority for dogmatically affirming that there is no salvation, during this age, for any individual who is not a member of the Body of Christ, we should be deeply concerned as to how a baby can and does become a member of that Body. Recently I have heard two explanations; one was given by a Lutheran pastor who declared that a baby, presented by parents for baptism, then and there becomes a member of Christ’s Church. The other pastor who is recognized as an able Bible expositor was speaking on Revelation 3:5: “I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life.” He contended that all babies were born with their names written in the Book of Life. But when each child reached the age of accountability, his or her name remained in, or was blotted out, of that Book, according to whether or not the child believed the Gospel as soon as he or she was capable of exercising faith, Now, I am quite sure that neither of these explanations will entirely satisfy the great majority of Christians. Let us go on to the other questions as we get all the light possible from the holy Scriptures.
2. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” We may receive some help by adding the words of Mark 16:16, “he that believeth not shall be damned.” The Greek word here translated “believe not” is also translated “infidel”. Now surely a little child cannot be charged with being an infidel, or “believing not”. While the age of responsibility to God may be much younger in the life of one child than in that of another, yet every child, before reaching that particular age, is wholly incapable and irresponsible in the matter of exercising faith. We read these words in the Bible: “The Judge of all the earth will do right.” And while it is stated in the Scriptures that no unrighteous man shall enter the kingdom of God, it is also stated that righteousness is imputed by God to believers. Inasmuch as the child cannot exercise faith, and thereby obtain this imputed righteousness, surely God will no more hold the child responsible for its unrighteous doings than He will for the child’s inability to believe.
3. In His conversation with Nicodemus, the Lord Jesus emphatically stated that a man must be born again, born from above, to enter the kingdom of God. The question then is this, does this imperative apply to the baby, and. if so, how can the baby be born again by the exercise of its own volition? Now we refer to the verse of Scripture which has been used more frequently, perhaps, than any other verse in the Bible, the words of the Lord Jesus when He took the little child in His arms and said, “for of such is the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14; (R.V.) “for to such belongeth the kingdom of God.” This Scriptural plain statement of the Lord Jesus Christ has perhaps satisfied the hearts of more parents than any other statement in all the Bible; and has convinced most teachers of the Word that little children do not have to be regenerated.
4. But now we refer to a verse of Scripture which has troubled many Christians. We quote I Corinthians 7:14: For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean; but now they are holy.” After carefully studying this verse of Scripture there seems to be a difference in the spiritual standing, before God, in the children of believers and those of unbelievers. As we go back from the time of this writing, several centuries through the history of Israel, back to Abraham, we seem to find Scriptural confirmation, that there was a difference. But as we advance from this statement, penned by Paul, to the ministry of reconciliation and to his explanation of the “Dispensation of Grace”, we fail to find any such confirmation. Any student of the Bible, reading the life story of Abraham, from the 16th to the 22nd chapters of Genesis, and who then follows through the history of Israel, will be convinced that God certainly placed a difference between the children of Israelitish parents and the children of heathen, as He did between Israelitish men and, women and heathen adults. And yet, when this is acknowledged, there is no Scripture to prove that the children of the heathen, dying in infancy, died as lost sinners. There is Scripture that the iniquities of God’s people were visited upon their children. Presently we shall deal with the spiritual state of the child, as it relates to the ministry of reconciliation presented by the Apostle Paul, in chapters 5 and 6 of Romans, chapter 5 of II Corinthians, and the 1st chapter of Colossians.
One of the outstanding theologians, who is a recognized leader in his denomination, teaches that baptism has taken the place of circumcision. He printed a message on infant baptism. He acknowledged that infant baptism cannot be definitely proved by any particular Scripture; that it can only be proved by inference and implication.
There are other Bible Teachers who seek to disprove the baptism of infants by Acts 8:12—this language, “they were baptized both men and women.” Their claim is, that some of these men and women had little children, but the children were not baptized. There is nothing said about their baptism. They also use Mark 16:15 and 16 to prove that saved people only should be baptized. However, all of them include infants among the saved people. But they are unwilling to express an opinion as to whether or not the children are members of the Body of Christ, and as to how they became members. It is, perhaps, because of this uncertainty that many church organizations have stood for the sprinkling of infants, to feel a little better about the matter and by that rite have counted them members of the churches. It is even taught in some of these denominational creeds that the baptism of the child unites it to Christ; God accepting the faith of the child’s sponsor.
There are many Bible teachers, including some who are recognized as able Bible expositors, who prove by the opening verses of the tenth chapter of I Corinthians that the children of Christians should be immersed in water with their parents, because the babies belonging to the Israelites were baptized with their parents, unto Moses in the cloud and the Red Sea. This doctrine is designated “household baptism”. They also quote in support of this doctrine the following Scriptures which refer to the baptism of households. Acts 10:7, Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, I Corinthians 1:16.
Their answer to their critics who say that a baby, incapable of exercising faith should not be baptized, is Genesis 21:4 and Luke 2:21. These two babies and many others were only 8 days old when circumcised and presented to the Lord; and therefore, were not circumcised because of their faith but because of the faith of their parents. Therefore the babies of God’s people today should be presented to God with some kind of a religious ceremony. As one mother and father urged me to such a ceremonial presentation said, “we want to take no chances”. Before we consider our next question, we quote Matthew 18:2 and 3: “And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
From these words of the Saviour, it would seem that we have the assurance that little children need not experience the Divine transformation called “regeneration”. However, it is taught by many of God’s servants that there is a difference between the “kingdom of heaven”, which Christ presented to Israel—and not Gentiles—and the Body of Christ revealed through Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Matthew 10:5 to 8, Ephesians 1:19 to 22. And therefore, it is imperative to get the babies of Gentiles into the Body of Christ, or else we should not be dogmatic in stating that only believers who are members of the Body of Christ are saved. By what Scriptures can we get them in? Surely we should give them the Scriptures from early childhood.
5. In the matter of “baby” salvation, what advantage hath the baptized? The answer by many Christians is, “much in every way”. With more than 200 million church members in Christendom, their christening with holy water means cleansing from original sin. Such teaching is not worthy of one moment’s consideration, because it is wholly without Scriptural authority or support, and is practiced by an order of priests who have no official place nor spiritual ministry in the true Bible Church. In that Body of Christ there are no popes, cardinals, archbishops, or special order of priests; only “members one of another”. Romans 12:5. But how about some extraordinary ecclesiastical authority or special clerical rights claimed by bishops, reverends, doctors of divinity, or some other titled officer in some denominational church organization? Have they Divine right to establish their own forms and ceremonies to add children to Christ’s Body? Is there any efficacy or merit or saving value in any rite or ceremony that they can perform in behalf of any baby, whether that baby be the offspring of believing or unbelieving parents? Bible Christians ask for Bible authority and not for the bylaws and constitution of some sectarian organization. They should say to the clergyman, “show me in the Scriptures where you received your special super-authority and where the Word instructs you to practice the ceremony that will help the baby. Is not “baby” baptism clearly taught in the Scriptures? Where? What chapter and verse in the Bible? It has been reasoned from the Scriptures, rather than proved by them, by some very spiritual “covenant” theologians, that the sprinkling of believers’ little children is the seal of the New Covenant, as circumcision was the seal of the Old Covenant. Where is it stated that circumcision was the seal of the Old Covenant? John 7:22 is the refutation of that; for Abraham was not an Old Covenant saint. What was the seal of any God-made covenant covering the salvation of children during the 2100 years from the birth of Abel to the circumcision of Abraham, at the age of 99, Genesis 17:6 to 20? Where is it stated in the Scriptures that baptism is the seal of he New Covenant? Where do we find any Divine command to do away with circumcision at the time John the Baptist began to baptize with water? Were not believers’ children being circumcised 27 years after Christ died, even after the last record in the Bible of water baptism? Compare Acts 19:1 to 6 with Acts 21:18 to 25.
Those who believe in the immersion of infants are comparatively few. They are the only “non-covenant” Christians who teach and practice infant baptism in any manner. With few exceptions the others, considered evangelical Christians, who practice infant baptism, teach that the Church of Christ is “Spiritual Israel”, made up of Jews and Gentiles, baptized spiritually unto Christ, as the seed and children of Abraham. But most of them are uncertain as to when the infant is baptized spiritually into Christ. Perhaps the Premillenarians, in these “covenant” churches, practice infant baptism because they have agreed to be governed by their church creeds and, not because of a Holy Spirit, Scriptural conviction; for any one of them will acknowledge that the baptized infant has no spiritual advantage over the unbaptized infant, and the baptized infant is no more a member of the Body of Christ than is the unbaptized infant. Infant baptism is not consistent with the Premillennialist’s teaching.
We should all be sure that an unscriptural religious ceremony is not Scriptural or of Scriptural value because it has been incorporated in church creeds and taught by church fathers for several centuries. How many times do we hear a doctrine or a practice justified or endorsed by the statement, “well our church has always done it”. Our appeal is the Holy Scriptures. It has been said many times that more than 96 per cent of Christians, play “follow the leader”, and permit others to do their religious thinking for them. And of course the majority of religious parents want to be religious with their babies and even spiritual Christian parents, much concerned about the spiritual welfare of their little ones, will follow the instructions of their spiritual advisers, and present their babies for a religious ceremony without searching the Scriptures for Divine authority. Their argument is that the clergymen and Church-leaders are supposed to know, or they are satisfied because their particular denomination has long taught and practiced the ceremony.
6. Concerning the public dedication of babies, it is as difficult to prove that it is unscriptural or “anti-scriptural” as to prove that it is Scriptural. Undoubtedly many people have been touched spiritually by the dedicatory message of some spiritual servant of the Lord in such a service. Therefore, it might be argued that, if there is nothing Scripturally wrong in such dedication, and it may prove a spiritual blessing to those who attend, why not hold such dedication services in our churches, even though the babies be not baptized, inasmuch as there are many other practices in our churches which are neither definitely sanctioned nor forbidden in the Word of God?
There are some men and women of God who believe that the Scriptures not only sanction the public dedication of babes, but definitely teach that it is the duty of Christian parents to so present their children. Of course they find their Scriptural authority in the history of Israel, under the laws and ceremonies of the Old Covenant, with Jerusalem and the temple the center of worship and the service of God. They admit, if they have searched the Scriptures, that they have practically nothing in instructions to members of the Body of Christ. The presentation of the child Samuel, in I Samuel 1:24 and the presentation in Luke 2:17 to 27 are often quoted to show that children should be dedicated publicly. Some would reason and could prove by the Scriptures, or rather by its silences that we have as much Divine authority for the public dedication of children as we have to organize a Sunday School, with primary departments and cradle rolls.
7. As to the rapture of babies when the Lord shall call the Church to meet Him in glory, what “premillenarian” has not asked the question, “what will happen to the little children? Perhaps, apart from any definite statement in the Bible, all such believers have reasoned that the Lord would not be so cruel as to rapture believing parents and leave their little ones on earth for the time of great distress that is surely coming. But how about the more than 300 million little children, under the age of accountability, whose parents are either unbelievers in our so-called Christian lands or idolators in pagan countries? If we teach that any one of these little ones, dying in childhood, will be numbered with the redeemed in the Church of God, then why will not every such one be raptured when the Lord appears for the members of the Church which is His Body? If this is to happen, it is impossible to imagine the great sorrow that will fill the hearts of mothers and fathers when they shall be separated from their little ones. We should be slow about stating only a few people will be “snatched up” when the Lord comes for His Church. Some Christians seem to think, from I Corinthians 7:14, that only the little ones of believers will be taken when Christ calls away His Church. But most of us do not believe that this verse teaches this.
Perhaps we can prove from Romans 5:12 to 21 that the reign of grace through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord, by His obedience unto death, is made efficacious in behalf of the young child not responsible for its inherent sin, not guilty of willful transgression, and not capable of intelligent faith in Christ or the exercise of volition in acting in obedience to God’s Word. If sin came to the child because of Adam’s sin, and by his offense, condemnation came to all, why should not the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness reign by Jesus Christ, inasmuch as the child cannot intelligently answer to God for a condition which resulted from the sin of another? Surely, we do not believe in the necessity of the washing away of original sin by a religious ordinance instituted and practiced, by a church-organization wholly ignorant of God’s message of salvation by grace, and grace alone.
The fifth chapter of Romans seems proof to most Bible teachers that Christ’s redemption provides for the baby.
“If any man be in Christ, there is a new creation.” II Corinthians 5:17, This new creation is a part of the ministry of reconciliation. God has been reconciled. Believers are cut off from Adam and the old man. This is the message of reconciliation. “The new creation” provides for the little child in this dispensation of grace rather than the “new birth”, which was associated with Israel and her covenants. Gentiles were considered a non-covenant people by Israel and by God. Way back before Israel, and her covenants, God preached a message of grace and righteousness by faith to sinners, from Abel to Abram in uncircumcision. Neither adults nor children were baptized or subjected to any religious rite during those 2100 years. Any mixture of ritualism or religious ceremonies in God’s reign of pure grace in this age has been injected into it by religious men, contrary to the will of God. No amount of water placed by any man, however pious, will avail one iota for either adult or child.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.