The Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism

Ever wonder why the Catholic Church baptizes infants rather than waiting for them to reach adulthood or the age of reason? Some Christians argue against baptizing a baby before they can choose on their own, but Holy Scripture is full of references to the importance of baptism, even from a very young age.

Lucy called Patrick Madrid for help convincing a relative to have her young niece baptized. She asked specifically for Scripture verses that might help him to understand how important baptism is. Patrick recommended starting with Christ’s words in John chapter 3:

“Jesus answered, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.’”

“Then you could point out that at the very end of the public ministry of Jesus, he gives the instruction to the apostles in Matthew chapter 28:19. He says, ‘Go into the whole world, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,’ etc. etc. So, it’s sort of bracketed—the very beginning of Christ’s public ministry he says you’ve got to be baptized, the very end of his public ministry he says you’ve got to be baptized,” said Madrid.

Saint Peter also instructs the followers of Christ—young and old—to be baptized.

“In Acts chapter 2, the day of Pentecost—the Church’s birthday—the apostles are in Jerusalem preaching, teaching, and [performing] miracles and wonders and people could understand them in their own languages,” said Madrid. “And … after St. Peter’s speech to the people, many of them are so moved that they say, well what do we do now? And what’s the answer? Repent and be baptized!”

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.”

“It’s not just adults. He says ‘repent’ because he’s speaking to adults, but he doesn’t limit baptism to adults,” says Madrid. Saint Peter says the promise is made to us and our children, therefore eliminating any age requirement.

Madrid reminds us that when the apostles try to keep little children from being brought to Jesus, he rebukes them and says, “Do not prevent the little children from coming to me.” The word Jesus uses is the Greek brephos, meaning infant, a child who cannot yet walk.

“The last thing maybe that you could say is, ‘don’t forget! You’ll be held accountable because this daughter is entrusted to you, this child is entrusted to you by God and you have a duty before God to take care of this child physically as well as spiritually. And if you neglect out of laziness or whatever, you neglect your duty to take care of this child, including baptism—maybe especially baptism—you’ll have to answer to the Lord for that.’”

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