Have you ever heard a Protestant say that Christians should not baptize infants because infants cannot have faith? After hearing this, you may have reflected on certain Bible passages in which the disciples baptized entire households (Acts 16:15, 16:33).
You probably also pondered the fact that everyone born into Adam’s race is born into Original Sin and that baptism washes away all sin including Original Sin. You concluded that infant baptism is perfectly reasonable and Scriptural. You knew your conclusion was correct. Halleluiah!
But would it not be nice to have a two succinct Bible passages to help you explain the Catholic and true Christian position to your non-Catholic friends? In this article, I will focus on John 3:1-8 and Luke 18:15-17 to make my argument for infant baptism.
In John 3, Jesus says to Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God (v. 3). Nicodemus then asks Jesus how one can be born a second time (v. 4), and Jesus replies that a man must be born of water and the Spirit. Thus, being born of water and spirit (baptism) is how one is born a second time.
If your Protestant interlocutor denies the efficacy of baptism, please remind him or her that you accept the plain words of Scripture, and that Jesus could not be any clearer. Additionally, remind this person about St. Peters words, “Baptism…now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). Read this article for more on Peter’s words and why baptism is not a human work.
Jesus and Children
Now, let’s see what Luke 18:15-17 has to do with infant baptism. In this passage, people were bringing their infants to Jesus that He might touch them, but some of His disciples rebuked them (v. 15). Then Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belong the kingdom of God” (v. 16).
A few points are worth examining. First, people brought their infants (Greek: brephos, which literally means infants) to Jesus. Second, Jesus says to let the children come to him. The Greek word for children here is paidion, which means infant or young child. I point out the Greek here simply to show that the translator did not take liberties with these words. Since infants cannot “come” to Jesus by themselves, we could also render Jesus’ command to let the children come to Him as, “Bring the children to me”.
Third, although Jesus says the kingdom of God belongs to infants and young children, He is not saying this to the exclusion of everyone else. Rather, He is emphasizing His teaching that people should not hinder children from coming to Him (v. 16).
Now, this “kingdom of God” language should sound familiar. Jesus used it during His discussion with Nicodemus, namely, when He said that we should enter the “kingdom of God” via baptism. Consequently, since the kingdom of God belongs to infants and young children, Jesus tells us to bring them to Him.
Citizens of the Kingdom
How do we bring infants and young children to Jesus and the kingdom of God, which “belongs” to them? Baptism is the clear and simple answer. No other way exists. Baptism is where Jesus literally touches children (and all who are baptized) with sanctifying grace.
Finally, Jesus uses the humble nature of infants and young children to illustrate how adults should receive the kingdom of God, saying, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (v. 17).
Accordingly, no one can receive the kingdom like a child better than an actual child. Thus, these two passages prove infant baptism is not only efficacious but also something parents should do.
In a Nutshell
I explained the passages more thoroughly than I typically would if I were having this conversation with a Protestant, but I wanted to give you some extra information in case your interlocutor asks follow-up questions. So, a pithier, syllogistic version of this argument could be this:
- If a person is to be born again and enters the kingdom of God via baptism (John 3), and
- The kingdom of God belongs to infants and young children (Luke 18), then
- Infants and young children are to be born again and enter the kingdom of God via baptism.
If you haven’t already done so, please baptize your infant or young child as soon as possible. Give your children the grace they need to confront the onslaught of false teachings and temptations to sin that are sure to confront them as they grow older. Jesus is waiting for them at the baptismal font.