What might God think of infant baptism?


Year after year I sat in church (a most excellent church) watching - mostly strangers - bring their babies to be baptised. It was part of our church life and was accepted without question. It was how things had always been, and only change catches your attention.

As these (usually unknown) parents made a confession of faith and made very spiritual vows to raise the baby in a Christian manner I thought nothing of it, other than the service was lovely and the baby was cute.

As the (usually unknown) godparents made very spiritual vows to ensure that the child was raised in a Christian manner I thought nothing of it.

As the baby was sprinkled with water from the baptismal font a large acetate was displayed overhead with the scripture from Mark 10:13&16 saying ' Then they brought little children to Him that He might touch them...and He took them up in His arms, and blessed them' and this gave what was happening below a feeling of scriptural security.

Finally we the congregation would make very spiritual promises and the baby would be welcomed either into "the church", the visible church" or the "family of God" (varies from minister to minister) and the baby would be shown to us all.

It was lovely!

The sad thing was we rarely saw any of the participants again. Never mind. The service was lovely.

Then one day I was suddenly a little uncomfortable with what was going on. I knew (we all knew really) that most if not all of these unknown parents and godparents were making confessions and taking vows dishonestly.

They were getting there baby 'done in the church'   It is what churches are for isn't it?  That and weddings and funerals.

Sometimes there were Christian parents from our church getting their babies baptised and that was very pleasant because we knew they were making confessions of faith that were genuine and were making vows that they really intended to keep.

Then as time went on I got very uncomfortable. There was .. well ..a lack of Kingdom integrity about the whole thing and in my inward parts I was even in what I would call 'spiritual pain' as these baptisms were taking place.

Oh, I listened as the words about Abraham and outward mark of circumcision was equated to baptism for today's parents, but it all began to ring untrue.

However I had no intention of being more than.. well, quite uneasy with the whole thing until I got the phone call.

A lovely man whom I had the honour of leading to the Lord in the kitchen of our home a year earlier phoned me and said that he wanted to be baptised and felt that God had laid on his heart that I was to be the one who baptised him. This was (and still is) a very godly man who has followed Christ with a passion since the moment he gave his life to Jesus.  I was honoured that he was asking me. He suggested a local beach that Sunday morning and I agreed. 

Come the sunny Sunday morning at 7.30 I was met not only by this man and his wife, but a lady complete with towel who also wanted to be baptised. My wife and I had also been instrumental in leading her back to the Lord a year earlier and she also said that she felt the Lord had witnessed to her that she was to be baptised by me that morning.

As I baptised this good friend, suddenly his wife came wading out and also asked to be baptised. My wife had been instrumental in bringing her back to the Lord and I had been helping to disciple her so we knew the reality of her faith also.

I can honestly say that it was one of the most fulfilling half hours of my life!

A week later a young girl who came to my home every Wednesday for Bible teaching suddenly asked me to baptise her! Again we agreed on the next Sunday morning on a different beach. Her father and friends showed up and there was quite an excitement. Unfortunately this beach necessitated a long walk into the water before we even got waist deep, but we got there and I baptised her. Again, a wonderful feeling of Kingdom service!

As we walked in to shore there was one more surprise waiting. Her father came towards me and asked if I would go out again and baptise him. He was a Christian of longstanding but he suddenly knew that what he had watched was right and he stepped forwards and out we went.

Five people in a matter of a few weeks. What was God up to?

I didn't have long to wait to find out!  

A close friend who is a minister of the same denomination told me that my church would be most upset if they heard what I had done. I was shocked  I had no idea that what I had done was wrong.

I went straight to my minister, with whom I had an excellent relationship, and told him what had happened.  So began the first of two lengthy healthy debates on baptism.

I believe with all my heart the whole thing was the Lord's doing, because as we debated the matter I became more and more convinced that what I had done was in fact very scriptural and what I watched regularly in church was very unscriptural.

I was glad to hear the case for infant baptism from a man I respect greatly. In fact one of the finest ministers I have ever met. Yet I was aware that the debate had only solidified the reasons for my unease over the previous year.

It was only on this one issue that I was not in agreement on. The minister and the church were a major source of blessing and thankfully no friendships were effected even to this day.  That is how it should be.

But it is a subject that has brought a measure of division between the more traditional denominations and the more recent Pentecostal/Charismatic denominations so it is a subject that does need aired.

So here goes!

Let’s start with Abraham.

God established an everlasting covenant with Abraham and with all his physical seed.

Children of Israel came into God's covenant through natural Jewish birth.

The Children of Israel - in reality the children of Abraham - were God’s chosen
people. A people brought into covenant through no merit of their own.  Pure grace.

Such a person was physically born into this covenant through natural birth and the so the seal ..or ‘God’s stamp of ownership’ ..or God’s guarantee of this position of grace was also a physical one - circumcision of the flesh.(the foreskin)

No circumcision of the flesh meant no part of God’s Covenant no matter how fine a person you were.(Gen.17:4) For instance, no uncircumcised person could partake of the Passover. (Ex.12:48)

The physical outworking of the old covenant established through Abraham proved to be almost the mirror image of the spiritual and greater covenant that God would later establish through Jesus.

Under the New covenant one is spiritually born into the family of God through the new birth, or being ‘born again’ and so the seal - or ‘God’s stamp of ownership’ - is a spiritual seal whereby the circumcision mark is the circumcision of the heart. 

This spiritual seal - the evidence of ‘God’s stamp of ownership’ - is the deposit of God’s own Spirit within the heart resulting in the new man.

In Ephesians 1:13 Paul says..
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Much more pleasant than circumcision as a seal.

Both seals were established right at the start of the person’s arrival into their position of grace. The first seal without, through physical birth and the second seal within, through spiritual birth.

'O seed of Abraham His servant, You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

Psalm 105: 6

Entrance into the Old Covenant depended on whose physical seed you were born from, and the physical seal was the circumcision of your flesh. That's why, in the Old Testament, it was so important for Jews to know who their earthly father was.

Entrance into the New Covenant depends on whose spiritual seed you are born from and the spiritual seal is the circumcision of your heart which is the clear evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. That's why, in the New Testament it is important to know who your spiritual Father is.

'having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible'

 1st Peter 1:23

Scripture is careful to use the words 'incorruptible' seed in the New Testament covenant so that it will be equated correctly with corruptible 'seed' in the Old Testament covenant.

Scripture is careful to use the word 'circumcision' (of the heart) in the New Testament covenant so that it will be equated correctly to 'circumcision' (of the flesh) in the Old Testament covenant.

Paul says in Romans 2: 28-29
After all, who is the real Jew, truly circumcised? It is NOT the man who is a Jew on the outside, whose circumcision is a physical thing.  Rather the real Jew is the person who is a Jew on the inside, that is whose heart has been circumcised, and this is the work of God’s Spirit

Paul showed that prior to baptism - 'being buried with Christ' - there must be this spiritual circumcision by Christ which clearly results in the 'putting off the body of the sins of the flesh'.

'In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,'  Colossians 2:11

He spoke of this spiritual principle in 1st Corinthians 15:46 when he said ‘It is not the spiritual which comes first, but the physical, and then first the spiritual’.

Now that is easy to understand. I think.

Circumcision of the flesh followed the Jew's physical birth just as circumcision of the heart follows the believer's spiritual birth.

So Old Testament physical circumcision does not equate to New Testament water baptism. It equates to spiritual circumcision. Being 'born again'

And yet, somewhere along the line, this circumcision of Hebrew babies is used as the foundational doctrinal prop to permit the baptism of babies in our churches. The theology is that baptising babies has something of the same effect in the New Covenant as circumcising babies in the Old Covenant.

I do not believe that this is a valid mandate. Because as we’ve seen circumcision did not equate in spiritual terms to baptism.. in any way at all.  (Even if it did equate to circumcision the type remains the same. Circumcision followed natural birth therefore baptism would follow spiritual birth, not precede it)

The children of Israel were in Egypt - which in spiritual terms typifies the world, where Pharaoh typifies Satan, and Moses typifies Jesus.

Moses engages Pharaoh and finally - through the blood of a lamb - defeats Pharaoh and his magician’s powers of darkness, and delivers God’s people out from under Pharaoh’s authority.

This - being transferred out of Pharaoh's kingdom  into new life in God's Kingdom - was the grace of God and the exercising of their faith in God by believing that God had raised up Moses as their deliverer, and leaving all to follow him.  

However they were not free from the old kingdom until they had passed beneath the waters of the Red Sea.

The uncircumcised Egyptians - those who belonged to Pharaoh’s kingdom - were not permitted to pass through, and so God’s chosen people were safely separated from Egypt through the exercise of their faith and passing beneath the waters of the Red sea. 

They had made their decision to follow Moses and now having passed through the water there could be no going back.

In 1st Corinthians 10 : 2 Paul says that as these children of God passed beneath the waters they were ‘baptised into Moses’.

The New testament equivalent of course talks about believers being baptised into Jesus.

In Romans 6:3 Paul says.. ‘or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death’.

Again in Galatians 3:27 Paul says.. ‘for as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ’

Again I see scripture being careful to use the words 'baptised into Jesus'  in the New Testament so that it will be equated correctly to 'being baptised into Moses’ in the Old Testament.

‘Baptised into Moses’  ‘Baptised into Jesus’

“First the natural”, Paul says, “then the spiritual” 1st Corinthians 15:46 [see illustration]

Now under the Bible’s ‘law of first mention’ the first time an issue is mentioned we find that within that first little scriptural seed the whole truth that develops on that issue is to be found.

For instance where the serpent first appears in Genesis and says ‘did God really say’ we find that that contains his working pattern throughout scripture.(e.g. 'if you are the son of God')

When baptism first appears the issue is to do with repentance and turning away from sin and from following the pattern of this world.. because love of this world is enmity with God.

People came to John it says “confessing their sins, and he baptised them in the Jordan”  Matthew 3:6

“I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance.” Matthew 3:11

Jesus affirmed this baptism of John's by submitting Himself to it, even though, as John knew, He had committed no sin.   Jesus never asks us to walk a path He has not already passed along. He still says 'follow Me'

As Marks gospel comes to an end we see the great commission in part.

Jesus tells His disciples.. “preach the gospel to all mankind” ..(that’s part 1) ..”whoever believes.. and is baptised (that's part 2) will be saved” ..(that’s part 3).

In Acts, right at the start of the church we see the clear order of God's in action.

Peter had preached the gospel (part 1). Then he to them, "Repent, (part 1) and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (part 2); and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' (part 3)  Acts 2:38

I don’t think we have been given any authority from scripture to reverse that order, no matter how pleasing to our minds it may seem.

Matthew Henry commenting on Acts 2;38 says.. " Peter shows them the course they must take. Repent: This is a plank after shipwreck. This was the same duty that John the Baptist and Jesus Christ had preached, and it is still insisted on: "Repent, repent, change your way" Be baptised every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ. Believe in the Name of Jesus, that is, firmly believe the doctrine of Christ, and make an open solemn profession of this, and renounce your infidelity"  They must be baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ. Believe in the Name of Jesus, that He is the Christ. The Messiah promised to the fathers. They must be baptised in His Name for the remission of their sins. This is pressed upon each individual person: Every one of you. . "Even those of you who have been the greatest sinners, if they repent and believe, are welcome to be baptised"

Indeed in Acts 2 we read of Peter proclaiming that the promise of salvation is not only for the Jewish people but now it is for all. Not only for you and your children he tells them, but now also '' to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."  Jews and Gentiles.

As Matthew’s gospel comes to a close Jesus tells His disciples to make other disciples .."teaching them to obey ALL that He had commanded them" ..that’s part 1.. “baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.. that’s part 2.

As I said, we have no scriptural mandate to reverse the order that Jesus plainly laid down.

Baptism is a public profession and pledge, an oath of fealty to Christ, the taking one’s stand with Christ, the symbolic picture of the change wrought by faith already. (In fact in many nations - especially in the Middle East - the public act of water baptism will be the act that really identifies the believer with Christ and bring persecution)

'Then those who gladly received his word (step one) were baptized (step two) and that day about three thousand souls were added to them'. Acts 2:41

'Then Simon himself also believed (step one) and when he was baptized (step two) he continued with Philip', Acts 8:13  

'Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart (step one), you may (be baptised in the water - step two)" And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water',  Acts 8:36

'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized' Acts 9:16

Acts 18:8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing (step one), believed (step two) and were baptized (step three)

No where, simply nowhere in the New Testament is there any mention of God's order being reversed. Yet learned theologians have produced great volumes in order to convince us that what we see plainly in scripture is not what God intended us to see. 

In the new testament God's order is spiritual birth from Father God's incorruptible seed (1) marked immediately by the spiritual circumcision of the heart, then - and only then - the passing beneath the waters of baptism.  In other words just as the Jew had the mark of circumcision that proved he was in covenant relationship with God, so the believer must have the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart to prove his is in covenant relationship with God before he can receive baptism.

In Acts 10:47 Peter says to the Jewish believers from Joppa..
‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit as we have?”

In other words baptism would have been forbidden if there was not clear evidence of the Holy Spirit having been received.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.' Acts 10:44

Peter says clearly that no one could now forbid baptism with water since there was clear evidence of their acceptance that they had received the Holy Spirit.

Scripture is clear that there must be evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in a professing person and Peter speaks of  the Holy Spirit.."whom God has given to them that obey him" Acts 5:32

How far we have moved from the integrity that the early church demonstrated in the book of Acts!

In the baptism of infants we often quote the scripture where the disciples were keeping the children away from Jesus until He rebuked them and took the little children on His knee and blessed them.

Then they brought little children to Him that He might touch them...and He took them up in His arms, and blessed them. Mark 10:13&16

So often has it been used in infant baptism that we’ve almost come to read that He took the little children and baptised them.

He did not baptise them. He blessed them. There is a difference.

That blessings did not save them. Nor did it guarantee their salvation. That would be their freewill choice.

However what Jesus did here, was to give us a mandate for us to bring our little children to be blessed by Him.

My father broke all the rules of his day in church by refusing to have me baptised. He had me 'blessed' but not baptised. Apparently he found it difficult to find a minister who would do this, but eventually a Methodist minister agreed to do it privately.   Sadly, my father died two years before I was saved, but not only was I saved, I was free to be baptised as scripture intended. However as the church I attended for seven years only did sprinkling I was baptised (my wife and I both) by full immersion at a Baptist church.  Not only that but I have known Christ's blessings upon my life in a very special way indeed.   Thank you dad for being so brave all those years ago.

No where in scripture is there one sentence where we read of a  new born baby being baptised, let alone hundreds of households queuing up to have thousands of babies baptised.

We do read though of thousands of adults choosing to be baptised after they have heard the word and received it gladly.

'And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.' Acts 2:40

The good news was preached. Those who believed were baptised. God's order.

Infant baptism is contra Biblical. It is a long standing tradition made of man, and a tradition opposed to the clear will of God. It is a tradition that the combination of state and church liked, and it was against this backdrop that the Anabaptists appeared.  They could be criticised in some doctrinal areas but I do believe that God raised them up and gave them the honour of laying their lives down in their thousands to bring the unscriptural nature of infant baptism into public view. State and church authorities thought that by torturing them and killing them they could kill the simple scriptural principle they lived out.

But like the martyrs of the reformation, it was God at work, and it seems that it always takes the blood of martyrs to bring reformation, especially when something has been common theology for more than 1,000 years.

The gates of hell will not prevail against those referred to in Revelation '12:11, 'And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death'

Where a whole family is baptised in scripture it is reasonable to assume from what is written that the family were all of an age to understand and make a freewill choice to be baptised.

The much abused Acts 16: 31 is clear evidence of this, where Paul and Silas told the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved - you and your household”

The abuse of this portion of scripture comes when it ends here.. and it used to paint a picture of ‘babies’ being baptised because dad believes.

The following verse (32) removes this picture because it clearly states that Paul and Silas spoke to the jailer AND to ALL the others in the house. The result was exactly as Paul and Silas had declared. The whole family were saved and baptised.(33)

The last verse recording this incident (34) refers to the jailer’s joy. It does not say the jailer was filled with joy because his family were baptised, it says he was filled with joy because he had come to believe and his family had also come to believe.

'So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household' Acts 16: 31 -34

Note that the order of scriptural integrity is maintained. Belief, then baptism.

Let's imagine that only dad believed, and that he had three children who were not believers and grew up to be baal worshippers and died baal worshippers. Would Paul's promise stand ..'you will be saved, you and your household'

Hardly!  Imagine meeting them and thousands like them in heaven, all wondering what they were doing there.

Crispus was another man who saw his household saved. Again it makes clear that they all heard and all believed.

'Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household' Acts 18:8

Having shown this twice I don't believe scripture needs to repeat it with Stephanus (1st Cor: 1:16) and Lydia (Acts 16:15)

Indeed the theology that states 'if dad is saved the whole household will be saved automatically' cannot apply in the latter because it talks of Lydia hearing. In fact scripture shows that both she and her household were baptised before she invited the Apostles home so it would imply that her household were with her when she heard the gospel. Indeed it says that was a lady who 'worshipped God' so doubtless her household (sons / daughters / servants?) were already of the same mind.

'Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, (then) she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." So she persuaded us. Acts 16: 15

  Here's the good news for a Christian parent.

It is God's heart to have children who are 'holy' in His sight. Listen to God's heart being expressed so graphically through the prophet Malachi..

'And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, 
With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, 
Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, “For what reason?” 
Because the Lord has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, 
With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion 
And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring.  Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth' Malachi 2:13

The outworking of God's heart on this issue is, I believe, that any child of a believing parent. (that is one whom God has called into His covenant) who dies before adulthood will be accepted by God as 'holy'

David was in covenant with God. His sinned grievously wounded God's heart. He not only committed adultery with Bathsheba, but also had her loyal husband murdered.

Yet when the first child of that terribly ungodly relationship died within days of its birth, we read of where David declared that his illegitimate and uncircumcised child was with God. He said that the child could not come back to him, but that he would be going to where the child was. 

'Then his servants said to him, "What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food." And he said, "While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." 2nd Samuel 12:21 

This wonderful issue of grace exists unchanged in the New covenant. Even where there is only one parent in covenant God will regard the children as 'holy'

'And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.1 1st Corinthians 7:13

This is why as parents we must use this period of their childhood to raise them, by word and deed, in the sure knowledge of God, so that when they come of age they may choose whom they will serve

"Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children' Deuteronomy 4:9

"Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth' Deuteronomy 11:18

Baptism awaits those children who, when they have come of age choose freely to respond to the gospel. This response can be at any age of understanding, while they grow up safely as 'holy' under their Godly parental covering, or later when they leave and cleave to their partner. 

God is good.


When scripture first unfolds we see a principle at work where only Noah was righteous and that meant his family were saved while the heathens..the foreigners..perished..

Rahab the prostitute who hid the spies in Jericho was saved.. and that meant that her whole household were saved also..

This is good stuff. Saved if dad or mum are saved.

However every coin and every spiritual principle has two sides.

Achan disobeyed God and not only was he put out of the camp but his whole family perished with him. Joshua 7

Likewise Korah Dathan and Abirim. Numbers 16: 27-33

Not so good!

Doomed if dad is doomed.

The children of Israel understandably did not like this side of the coin and quoted the parable “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth have been set on edge”

First through Jeremiah God declares the days are coming when people will no longer use this parable (Jeremiah 31: 29) and through Ezekiel 18 God explains in great detail that the new principle would be that only ‘the soul that sins is the one who will die’.

The parents righteousness would not save the children’s lives, nor would the parents unrighteousness cost them their life if they are righteous.

In other words life or death would be an issue between the Lord and each of us individually.

Unlike in the days of Noah or Rahab, Mum or Dad’s standing will not save their children. Each of us are now accountable to God for our own individual destiny.

Those who favour infant baptism declare that 'The infant officially enters into the covenant community, the visible church, by his baptism.  It affords him all the rights and privileges of being in the visible church'.  

Only the new birth from above brings a person into the true covenant community, the family of God. Any other 'covenant community' is a counterfeit, and a spiritually destructive one at that.   The visible church is not the true church, but the true church exists within the visible church.  It is  unsaved ministers, elders, worship leaders and Sunday school teachers in the visible church that have wrought much pain upon the true church.

Telling non Christians that they are now 'welcomed into the church / visible church / church family /family of God' can lead them to interpret this as meaning they are now Christians being embraced as Christians within the Christian family.

In Ezekiel chapter 44 verse 6 God says to Ezekiel again.. (and we can sense His outrage here)

Say to the rebellious house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says “Enough of your detestable practices, you brought foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh into my temple, desecrating My temple..”

Three verses later the principle is restated clearly..

“I, the Sovereign Lord, declare that no uncircumcised foreigner, no one who disobeys Me, will enter My Temple, not even a foreigner who lives among the people of Israel”

The spiritual equivalent for today is obvious.

And yet month after month we see people whom we’ve never seen before, and usually never see again, bring their babies to be baptised.

Foreigners with uncircumcised hearts being brought into God’s people through a sacrament given to God’s people.

We ask these nice people to make solemn vows with their mouths that they would not otherwise have any intention of making, and after baptising the helpless infant, we as a church then agree to accept the child into the family of God.

Something we have no scriptural right to do.
In fact as the above scripture clearly shows, the opposite is in fact true.

These are usually uncircumcised (in heart) parents bringing their always uncircumcised (in heart)babies into the Temple as part of a social ritual that has become part of the fabric of the church and society.

In later years the church, should it get their attention, will tell them that they need to be saved. The sad thing is that many evangelists will tell you that it is hard to get through to many adults the truth that they need to be saved because they insist that they were baptised and accepted into the church at birth when they were infants.

Baptise them now and try and get them saved later is not a Kingdom of God principle. Never has been. Never will be.

Yet those who practise infant baptism (paedo-baptism) confidently state.. 'Those converted without any background will naturally and rightly see that obedience to God's word will mean baptism. If they have been baptised as children, yet have not been brought up in Christian nurture, they will be shown that God has overruled their lack of teaching and understanding of faith, and has now done inwardly what formerly was done outwardly'

There is no scriptural mandate for presuming on God as the hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of baptised babies who never came to faith in Christ demonstrates. When a minority of babies baptised come to faith later in life this is no cause for then saying 'see, we got it right here!'

And yet so strongly is this tradition woven into some of our denominations that a man cannot in certain denominations be an elder unless he has had his children baptised. The man who dares to adhere to the integrity of scripture on this issue cannot hold the office of elder.  I know of a most God fearing man who was removed from eldership because he wished his children to be free to choose baptism for themselves when they came to an age of understanding.  

The other sad side to this arrangement is that when a person does get saved and then dearly wants to go through the wonderful sacrament of baptism they have it refused to them because they were baptised before they believed. As babies they had baptism forced upon them and this has now robbed them of the joy of willing baptism.

It is because of this that many people who are baptised as children but come to faith later (as in my wife's case) are forced to go to another denomination for this sacrament to be carried out as per scripture.

And then we have ‘sprinkling’.

The gentle, inoffensive, ritual of ‘sprinkling’.

One church magazine article defending ‘sprinkling’ states ‘As used by those who wrote the New Testament, baptise means a ceremonial washing.. by sprinkling’

One could hand the New Testament to a million new readers and I do not believe one would come away with that impression upon their spirit.

Under the law of first mention we see people coming to the Jordan where they could have lined up and been ‘sprinkled’ - but they were immersed.

Likewise Jesus could have set the standard and been ‘sprinkled’.

One does not get the image of Phillip ‘sprinkling’ the Ethiopian. In fact scripture is, as usual, completely clear that he went into the water.

'Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart you may" And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water,' Acts 8:36 

The Ethiopian was a court dignitary. He would have been wealthy, well dressed and of good social standing.  Unlike Naaman the army commander (who we will discuss shortly) he had no pride problems about going into the water.  Phillip could have led him to the water's edge and gently sprinkled him, but he wouldn't because it was not the way it was done.

Full immersion is an important facet of our spiritual life. It graphically acts out the death of the old life and the beginning of the new life lived for Christ.  In Jesus' day when a slave was purchased at an auction the slave would be led to a tank at the side of the platform. The old owner would put his hand on the slave's head and then the new owner would put his hand upon the previous owner's hand.  The new owner would push the slave under the water and there the old owner would slide his hand away and the slave would re surface with only the new owner's hand upon his life.  How graphically the church of the day would have understood the spiritual implications of water baptism.

Full immersion signifies that when we are baptised into Christ Jesus we are in fact being baptised into His death. 

We are signifying our belief that if we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, then we shall be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection. 

We are signifying that our 'old man' whose 'father was the devil' has been crucified with Him and is dead, but that the life we now live is the new life in the resurrection power that raised Christ from the grave.  

' ..buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead'  Colossians 2:12

'Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin'' Romans 6:3

Powerful stuff indeed.  Does infant baptism or sprinkling convey the power in this sacrament of baptism?  Certainly not. But sadly - and here is deception's rub - once you accept infant baptism as the normal practice the consequence is that you must accept sprinkling as the normal practice for few parents, especially the parents of unbelievers, would allow their babies to be submerged under the water!

It may have been - we do not know - that Paul ‘sprinkled’ the jailer and his family. We dare not assume so because it is contrary to its foundational practice in the Gospel, but if Paul did, then it would only have been because there was not an alternative, and to avoid it because of that would have been legalism.  The thief on the cross had no baptism of any kind because of the squeeze of circumstances.

In church we have no such squeeze of circumstance. Therefore no such excuse. 

Let’s go back to the Old Testament for a look at the natural equivalent of a spiritual principle.

Leprosy equated to sin in spiritual terms.

And we have the story of a proud leper - Naaman, the commander of the army of the King of Aram - coming to Elijah to be made clean.

Elijah’s instruction was an offence to his flesh.

“Go wash yourself seven times (God’s number for completely) in the Jordan”

Naaman was not keen to humiliate himself in front of others.

“I thought he would ‘wave his hand over the spot’..” Naaman said.

There would probably be a similar offence, a similar turning away in rage, if ‘sprinkling’ - i.e. waving the hand over the place - was done away with, and the scriptural pattern of immersion was restored to the whole church.

If anyone thinks that 'wash yourself seven times' equates to sprinkling I would say this. Next time you have a dirty breakfast plate go to a bowl of water and wash it seven times. You will find yourself dipping the whole plate under the water and not removing it from the water until it is clean.

In scripture only blood is sprinkled. 

'Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry'. Hebrews 9:18 

Washing is a thorough cleaning. 

Sprinkling is not washing and washing is not sprinkling. Scripture is able to say sprinkling when it means sprinkling and washing when it means washing

'let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water' Hebrews 10:22

A congregation seeing infant baptisms week after week could be led to believe that the church was alive and growing. Introducing true scriptural baptism - which necessitates the church preaching the gospel, sinners receiving the gospel gladly, confession and a turning away from sin and then public baptism -  would soon reveal the truth as to the measure of the Lord’s favour upon them.

Each baptism would mean a new born again believer into their midst.  The Lord adding to the number rather than the church adding to the number.

The author of a church teaching paper which declared that the New Testament ‘baptise’ means a ceremonial washing by sprinkling must have avoided some words in Strong’s Concordance in order to arrive at this statement.

‘Baptized’ is used 61 times and ‘Baptize’ is used nine times in the New Testament and each time Strongs Concordance (numbered 909) unpacks the Greek word as follows..

909 baptismos - from 907; ablution (cerem.or Chr); - baptism, washing.
907 (from which it says Baptismos comes from) reads..
907 baptizo-from a der.of 911; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the N.T) of ceremonial ablution, espec.(tech) of the ordinance of Chr.. baptism;- baptist, baptize, wash.
911(from which it says 907 is derived from) reads
911 bapto- a prim.verb. to whelm i.e. cover wholly with a fluid;
in the N.T only in a qualified or spec. sense, i.e (lit) to moisten (a part of one’s person), or (by imp) to stain as with a dye: - dip

The qualified or special sense I understand is where the word baptize (909) is used for ceremonial sprinkling of hands and plates in Mark 7:4 and Mark 7:8 

And indeed it was this very thing the worthless ritual sprinkling of cups, plates and hands, that Jesus used to verbally scourge the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

Listen, and again sense the Lord’s sense of outrage..

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding on to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash (baptiso 907) And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups (baptizo 909) pitchers and kettles.

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written ; “These people honour Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me. They worship in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men”

And He said, “you have a fine way of setting aside the commandments of God in order to observe your own traditions”

Did we pick up baptising non born again babies - and babies of non born again parents from reading the Bible, or from the tradition of the elders?

I think we know the answer.

And I think to use the ‘baptizo’ when used in a ‘qualified or special sense’ i.e. Jewish tradition - to override the whole thrust of baptism from Naaman at the Jordan to John and Jesus at the Jordan qualifies for the rebuke of Jesus

“you have a fine way of setting aside the commandments of God in order to observe your own traditions”

The absurdity of such a theological conclusion ‘As used by those who wrote the New Testament, baptise means a ceremonial washing by sprinkling'..is of course that Jesus gave the church and world His understanding of the word ‘baptise’ with a demonstration not only at the Jordan but also on the day of Pentecost.

John's water baptism was a type of Christ's promised Holy Spirit baptism. A complete dipping or submerging in God's Spirit. John proclaimed 'I indeed baptise you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit' Mark 1:8  

He is the Baptiser. He promised baptism with the Spirit and He completely soaked, overwhelmed, covered them with His Spirit. 

This is not the 'seal' or 'deposit' or 'guarantee' (Ephesians 1:13) that we receive when we come to faith in Christ's finished work at Calvary as when Jesus breathed on His disciples in John 20:22 and said 'Receive the Holy Spirit' (They had confessed Jesus as Lord, but now, on that first Sunday they believed in their hearts that He rose from the dead and so they were saved'  Romans 10:9)

Rather it is it is the promise of Jesus in Acts 1:4

"you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now"

and which came upon the same disciples (who had received the Holy Spirit) at Pentecost.

This baptism of the Holy Spirit would bring the power of God upon the believer's life.

'But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth' Acts 1:8 

Sometimes the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes at the point of Salvation as in Acts 10.

Sometimes, as in Jesus case, water baptism and the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit' can occur at one and the same time.

In most believer's experience it occurs at a later date to their salvation (as in every case that I know of) 

This is what I believe happened when Paul met believers at Ephesus.

Indeed this narrative mirrors the events in my own life. I was saved at a Methodist gathering and later baptised at a Baptist Church, but it was only when I moved to a wonderful Spirit filled Presbyterian church a year later that I was asked 'Have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit since you were saved?' and I had to confess that I had little idea what they were talking about.  I was encouraged to attend a 'Life in the Spirit' seminar which went on for many weeks and after seven weeks of teaching about Jesus' baptism in the Holy Spirit leaders laid hands on me and I was baptised in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. It was the beginning of the Christian ministry that i walk in today, and I thank God for that church.

Paul asked these disciples if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed and their answer revealed that they as yet knew nothing of the Holy Spirit baptism that Jesus was baptising with since Pentecost. This baptism was usually, but not always outworked through the laying on of hands.

These disciples were believers who had been baptised in water for forgiveness of sins and this was known for obvious reasons as being baptised into 'John's baptism' - though Jesus and His disciples did the same prior to Calvary / Pentecost - Matthew 4:17, John 4:2))

Remember that these were termed disciples, committed believers in Jesus 'who would come after John', who could not be believers unless the Holy Spirit was already deposited within them as the promised guarantee or the 'seal' of their salvation. Salvation was not the issue here. As I have said the issue was have you been baptised by Jesus in the Holy Spirit.

'And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John’s baptism." Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied'

There is a belief amongst those in favour of infant baptism that Paul put them through a second water baptism, but the issue here is clearly not that of their water baptism under John or one of his disciples 

To believe that Paul put them through another water baptism would mean that every single believer - baptised for repentance by John (as Jesus was) and every believer baptised for repentance by Jesus' disciples when they were with Him - would have to be re-baptised, and there is no feeling of this in scripture. 

However if Paul did baptise the Ephesus disciples in water again as well as laying hands on them for the baptism of the Holy Spirit it is but further evidence - if further evidence is needed - that water baptism would only have been given where there was clear evidence of faith.

Baptising babies does not bring them faith. It does not 'engage them be the Lord's.' It does not bring then into the New Covenant, or the covenant community which is the family of God. 

It does not guarantee anything.  On the contrary it can give the recipient - and their parents - the false and dangerous understanding that they are saved.  No matter how carefully minister's craft their wording at baptism it would take a substantial measure of Kingdom understanding to see that salvation was not what was being conferred on the child. 

If I was the devil I would love that deception to be loosed within the church

Little wonder that Colin Urquart’s book on deception in the popular 'Explaining' series of booklets lists this as such. 


Deception because it deceives many unknowledgeable people into believing that - as with the Roman Catholic 'baptism unto regeneration' - that their salvation has been taken care of.

One more sacred cow associated with this subject needs put to the sword of the Spirit.

Jesus asked for disciples. All disciples are believers, but not all believers are disciples.

The noun 'believers' is only used twice in the New Testament (Acts 5:15 & 1st Timothy 4:12) whereas the noun 'disciples' is used 265 times. In Matthew 72 times. In Mark 46 times. In Luke 38 times. In John 79 times. And in Acts 30 times

Jesus laid down very strong conditions for being a disciple, such as..

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" Luke 14:26

"Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" Luke 14:27

"Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" Luke 14:33

"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" Matthew 10:37

""If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed" John 8:31

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" John 15:7

Disciples walk in unquestioned obedience to Jesus, their lives laid unconditionally on the altar for Him and the gospel.

It is disciples that Jesus sends into the world with the instruction to make other disciples, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus told them to obey.  As the disciples do this Jesus is working with them, ensuring that they bear fruit that glorifies the Father.

One of the joys of being a disciple is baptising those whose lives they have effected for the Lord.

'Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' Matthew 28:16 

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs' Mark 16:15 

Leading someone to Christ, helping to disciple them, and then baptising them makes the book of Acts come alive!

It was always God's heart that disciples would be baptisers. 

When Jesus proclaimed 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' and people came forward to be baptised I am sure they headed for Jesus Himself (I would have!)  However Jesus made sure that it was His followers who baptised. The days of the Old Covenant priesthood was over.

'Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)' John 4:2 

Baptisms do not have to be in church. The earth is the Lord's and everything in it!   Rivers, Sea, swimming pools, bathtubs ...

'Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him'. Acts 8:36

But baptisms do have to be for believers who display the evidence of a heart circumcised by the Holy Spirit. i.e their old flesh life cut away.

Baptising true believers who have come into the Kingdom of God through faith as evidenced by the changes wrought by the Holy Spirit within is both scriptural and one of the greatest joys of being a disciple. - and yet some streams within the Body of Christ maintain that Christ's 'ordinary' disciples cannot baptise, teaching that only college trained and ordained ministers may baptise.

I simply believe that this is contrary to scripture

Please ask God now in prayer what He thinks of infant baptism. And sprinkling.

God bless.