Why Do Babies Need to Be Baptized?

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, listener Esther called in to the show to ask Patrick two questions. Her first question was why do we baptize people using the Trinitarian formula instead of just in Jesus’ name? And her second question was why do babies need to be baptized if it is a form of repentance and babies wouldn’t know anything about repentance?

Patrick began by addressing the question of why we use the Trinitarian formula in the sacrament of Baptism instead of Jesus’ name. Esther was correct in saying that in chapter 3 of Colossians, Paul says, “‘And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’” (Colossians 3:17) However, Jesus gives us even more specific instructions at the end of Matthew, as Patrick points out. “‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’” (Matthew 28:19-20)

That being said, these two pieces of advice are not mutually exclusive. The three names in the Trinitarian formula do not refer to the titles of Jesus, but rather the three persons of the Trinity. “The Father is God. And the Son is God. And the Holy Spirit is God. They are one God, but three persons.” In that sense, when we baptize somebody “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, we are baptizing them both according to Jesus’ instructions and to Paul’s instructions because we are still referring to Jesus, the Son of God, in the Trinitarian Formula.

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As for Esther’s second question, Patrick turned to St. Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem. After hearing Peter’s preaching, the crowd in Jerusalem became inspired and asked him what they should do. He told them to repent and be baptized. Patrick admitted that if that was where the passage ended, he would understand the argument against infant baptism. Clearly, if it was simply a call for repentance, only those capable of recalling and recognizing sin would be baptized. However, Peter continues by saying that the promise of salvation is made “to you and to your children, and to all those that are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39)

Baptism is not just an opportunity for repentance, but a welcoming into the Church and the possibility of salvation for the one being baptized. The original sin that marks all souls is wiped away and that opens the door to all other sacraments. When people say that they will opt to wait for their children to grow up and decide whether they want to get baptized or not, they are doing a grave disservice to their children. Those children are not being given the opportunity to have the fullness of God’s life in their souls.

As a final thought, Patrick left Esther with a comparison to the Hebrew tradition of circumcision. Jesus, the new Adam, came to earth to fulfill and complete sacred scripture. In the Old Testament, Jews were required to bring their male children to the Synagogue to be presented and circumcised. Circumcision for the Jews was an agreement to the covenant between that child and God, but the baby could obviously not agree to this either. “He didn’t choose to be circumcised. In fact, I’m sure if a little, 8-day-old boy could understand what circumcision was all about, he wouldn’t choose it. And yet, his parents enacted this covenant with God on behalf of the child and it was a real covenant. So, in the same way, but better, (because Jesus raised Baptism to the level of a Sacrament) just as the baby boys were circumcised and this was done for them by their parents, Baptism, which replaces circumcision, is done for the babies by their parents.”

Listen to the whole question and answer below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.