Recently I have been thinking about baptism a lot. Then, this Sunday, there was a baptism at church. It was an infant baptism, which comes from a different doctrinal viewpoint to the one to which I hold. This idea of infant baptism has been one of the main catalysts for my recent thoughts on the subject. However, I do not understand where this idea has it's roots within scripture, for I cannot seem to find them.
There are generally three different views on what baptism is and does. The first would be that held by Roman Catholics. They believe that those who are baptized are "Already destined for him through Baptism..." (Roman Catholic Catechism). This is why they baptize all of their children. They believe that in so doing they will destine them for heaven/salvation.
The second viewpoint is that which is generally held by Presbyterians. They believe that baptism does not save, and yet they still hold it as a sign of the new covenant and administer it to the children of their congregation. They baptize their children into, what they call, the covenant family of God. Claiming that all of its blessings are bestowed upon those children who are baptized. Claiming that once they are brought unto salvation that they are merely recognizing what was done for them through the act of baptism.
The third viewpoint is that which is generally held by Baptists. They believe that only those who have professed faith in Christ and understand what that means are the only ones to whom the sacrament of baptism should be administered. They use the many scriptural passages found in the New Testament which state, "repent and be baptized", as the catalyst for this belief. It is through these verses that they reason that since you must repent to be a Christian, and you must do this before scripture calls you to be baptized, then for that reason baptism must follow after such a profession of faith and repentance.
I believe that through scripture and the understanding of who the blessings of God are for that the third viewpoint presented is the one to which scripture presents as the right way to view the sacrament of baptism. This view uses the sacrament of baptism as a way for believers to profess their knowledge and belief in the work that Jesus Christ has done to save their souls. Much in the same way with which the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is celebrated as a communal event amongst believers to show that they believe in the work that Jesus did upon the cross and the sacrifices that He made for His church. If we were to believe all with the Roman Catholics, we would believe that we are saving anyone that we baptized with a little water when they were a baby. This would be to say that these babies have no need of seeking forgiveness or of believing in Jesus as their savior. But they rather are already destined for Him and no matter what they do will be destined for Him. This does not and cannot align with what scripture says. That a man must be born again to see the kingdom of God. Our human actions, whether they be baptism or other, cannot destine or save anyone. In dealing with the second viewpoint, we can see that the Presbyterians in their view of infant baptism seem to have tried to get away from this teaching of the Catholic Church that basically claims that it saves a child by baptizing them, but they fail to fully step away from baptizing infants and therefore cannot change the meaning of this sacrament, no matter how they word its purpose and design. In so trying to change the meaning and wording to accord with the idea that salvation is wholly wrought by God without any actions of man, they make just as bold of a statement as the Roman Catholics do. By claiming the these children who are baptized receive all the blessing of the New Covenant, they are claiming that they receive the blessings of those who have already had the Holy Spirit work in their heart to enact the salvation of their souls. Therefore, they are claiming that God will give these children the same blessings that He bled and died on the cross to bring salvation to those whom He has called and chosen unto himself. Therefore, if you follow reason, they are claiming that those children have the blessings that God has promised only to the beloved, His bride the church. Saying then, that these children that are baptized are already part of God's church and therefore are already believers.
Yet, how can this be since there has not been any profession of faith? They would claim that they are not believers, but will one day come to recognize their baptism. What on earth does this even mean? Do they mean that a persons baptism in some way has a certain power over a person that they can one day realize the work that it has done? Are they stating that baptism has more power, or even equal power to the work that the Holy Spirit does? If they are not claiming these things, then what is there to realize or recognize? If baptism is the outward sign of the New Covenant with God, then how can someone who has never claimed to believe that covenant or to hold to the commands of God claim or receive the benefits that He so graciously bestows upon those who do believe in that covenant?
The answer is simple. If we truly believe that God died for those who He came to save, then we cannot say that babies/infants should be baptized or even come close to "giving" them a piece of the New Covenant. That covenant is for the people of God only! If children grow up in the church and come to a saving knowledge of the grace of God, then they are welcomed into that wonderful and holy covenant, but not until then. No man can be saved through his works or the works of any human being. Therefore the covenant that Presbyterians claim is bestowed upon infants upon the act of baptism is completely untrue and unbiblical.
We need to teach our children about the New Covenant, but we cannot tell them that they are part of it until they come to a saving knowledge of God. If we tell them as children that they are already part of it, why should they ever need to consider anything else in life since they are already part of such a covenant? They will not, rather it is by God's grace that children or adults are brought to salvation and not because of their baptism.