Part Four of Four
This is the fourth and final part of the articles concerning “The Biblical Doctrine of Baptism.” This installment of “Household Baptisms” is another position held by our precious brethren who seek to justify infant baptism. The argument however is built upon inference, and supposition. The silence of the scriptures with respect to infant baptism (sprinkling) is most revealing. They advance this position on the basis that, although the Bible nowhere teaches infant baptism, there are no verses of scripture that teach against such a practice, at least not in those precise words. This is a complete denial of “The Great Commission” as taught in Matthew 28:18-20.
In Part Two of this series of articles, “The Doctrine of Infant Sprinkling—Is It Biblical?” James Madison Pendleton advanced the conviction that what God has commanded must be adhered to in the exact manner as declared in the Scriptures. It is a dangerous practice to leave the precision of the commandments and implement another teaching contrary to what God has revealed.
“Christians ought to be particularly on their guard against tampering in any degree with the word of God. We should never forget that when we are explaining any expression of Scripture, we are treating what are the very words of the Holy Ghost, as much as if they had been spoken to us by a voice from heaven.” (Robert Haldane)
A further example of the explicit obedience to the commands of God is seen in the construction of the tabernacle with its many parts and vessels. Like all institutions of God, they were to be constructed in the exact manner God outlined. The LAVER is one element that pertained to these vessels which like all others demanded perfect adherence to be followed by the people of God. (Exodus 30: 17-21 & 38:8)
“No washing would have sufficed save that which was conducted at the vessel appointed by God to hold the purifying waters. If, having eyes partially opened to their unclean condition, the priests had sought to purge themselves at some washing place of their own construction, instead of at the Laver; they would have exposed themselves as much to the wrath of God as if they had altogether neglected His commands. He had provided a vessel constructed according to His own will, and which He knew would fit them for His own service. Had they sought another, it would have proved that they either despised His commands, or undervalued what He had furnished for their use. In either case, they would have been guilty of a direct insult against the holiness, majesty, and wisdom of God.” (Henry W. Soltau)
“It is a madness to think that those ceremonies, under their administration, were appointed only for the purification of the body without that of the soul . . . In every state are duties to be performed, and privileges to be enjoyed. So likewise in the gospel state. Without a new birth, we cannot perform the one (duties) or be capable of the other (joy and peace).” (Stephen Charnock)
The obvious result of tampering with the commands of the Godhead is a disregard of what the Holy Book teaches. Whether it be God’s commandments under the Old Testament, or Jesus Christ’s in the New Testament.
Supposition is a two-way street. If you can suppose yourself into a situation, you can just as easily suppose yourself out of it. The scriptures are the only authority that are needed to substantiate any Bible doctrine. All else is human logic and conviction by association, whereas truth is conviction by revelation.
Household Baptisms are laced with the traditions of the Reformers. Again, one can reverse the argument used when it is declared the Bible does not teach there were no infants in these households. Neither, however, does it say there were. Our dear brethren do not place enough regard or convictions upon the last words of Christ Jesus before His ascension, “Go ye therefore, and teach (disciple ye all nations), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 28:18-26)
“It is a historic fact that the ancient Churches were not reformers, in the modern acceptation of that term. We all need to reform and amend our lives, as individuals; but Jesus Christ did not establish His Church on such a sandy foundation as to need the aid of human wisdom to reform it.” (D. B. Ray)
Before looking specifically at Household Baptisms, it might be helpful to reiterate the enormous witness to the meaning of the word “Baptizo.” A multitude of Reformed brethren and others testify one way or another that Jesus Christ taught and commanded the ordinance of Baptism to be administered by immersion to believers only.
“Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Wesley professed belief in immersion but refused to practice it in their churches. Perhaps their antipathy towards the Anabaptists led them to retain Roman Catholic affusion. (Stanley Edwin Anderson)
“First, the name baptism is Greek; in Latin it can be rendered immersion, when we immerse anything into water, that it may be covered with water. And although that custom has wholly grown out of use with most persons (nor do they wholly submerge children, but only pour on a little water) yet they ought to be entirely immersed, and immediately drawn out. This is the etymology that the name seems to demand.” (Martin Luther)
“The word baptize itself signifies immerse, and it is certain that the rite of immersion was observed by the ancient church.” (John Calvin)
“In Romans 6:3-5, Buried with Him, alludes to the ancient manner of baptism by immersion.” (John Wesley)
“That the New Testament word baptize means immerse is declared by: 16 Standard English dictionaries; 7 Standard Etymological dictionaries; 26 Encyclopedias; 20 Bible Dictionaries; 20 Religious Encyclopedias; 50 Greek Lexicons (none by a Baptist); 45 Classic Greek writers; 18 early Christian writers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Hippolytus, Athanasius, Cyril, Basil the Great, Ambrose, Chrysostom; 13 New Testament translations of the first six centuries; 70 famous commentators (only three Baptist); 35 great theologians (none Baptist); 12 authorities on ancient baptisteries; 14 authorities on the Greek church; 38 authorities on the Roman Catholic Church; 15 Lutherans; 60 Church of England scholars; 8 Methodist scholars; 25 Presbyterians; 8 Quakers, and 79 miscellaneous scholars. The grand total is 633 scholars, very few of whom are Baptists, and few duplications.” (Stanley Edwin Anderson)
All of Christendom should be most thankful to the Great God for giving such glory to His name by the works of those wonderful scholars. Truly the saints of the Lord can be wonderfully blessed by their endeavors. Yet a nation could be filled with a multitude of scholars but the scholarly wisdom will not be on a par with the Word of God.
Two portions of the Word declare the manner and the member with respect to baptism. They are:
1) The Ethiopian treasurer in Acts 8:27-40 where Philip preached Jesus unto the eunuch. There was belief on the part of the eunuch, there was the desire for baptism on the part of the eunuch, and a baptism preformed on the eunuch. “And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip.” (Acts 8:38-39); and
2) The baptism of Jesus Christ was the fulfilling of righteousness. In this account all three persons of the glorious Trinity are seen or heard together. (Matthew 3:13-17). “And Jesus answering said unto him, (John the Baptist) Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Also in Mark 1: 9-11, the account is the same, “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
These two records of baptism were a great deal more than sprinkling a few drops of water on the heads of Jesus and the Ethiopian. It would appear that this method and mode as seen in these two narratives should be imitated by all believers.
Acts Chapter 2 records the tremendous events which took place on the day of Pentecost. Although there is no reference to “household baptisms” in this chapter, there is one verse (39) that is considered by its advocates which they believe teaches the baptism of infants, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off.” Thomas Paul Simmons made a very pointed argument why this chapter does not teach this baptism position at all. “The promise is unto you, and to your children.” Can you comprehend this statement? These Jews had been taught to receive children and give them the token of the Abrahamic covenant. There is no doubt about children being baptized on the day of Pentecost.
The last part explains the passage and, if properly considered, will show that any children baptized on Pentecost, or at any other time in the New Testament age, were only such as were called of the Lord. This necessitates their being old enough to receive the gospel and act upon it. The part of the passage we refer to reads; “Even as Many as the Lord our God shall call.” We shall be happy to baptize all the children that the Lord our God calls, but not more; for we have no ground for baptizing those whose baptism God has not authorized.
Verse 37 of this chapter tells us that the people that were there upon hearing “that God made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” their response was “men and brethren, what shall we do?” The answer from Peter was “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Verse 38) To illustrate the fact that all means only those called of God finds confirmation in verse 41. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
The Scriptures where Household Baptisms Are Examined
Acts Chapter 8 has the ministry of Philip. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” (Verse 5) “But when they believed, Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Verse 12). The people of Samaria gave heed unto the things Philip was teaching. They saw the miracles which he performed, unclean spirits coming out of the people, the lame were healed, and all this resulted in great joy. (Verses 6-8) There is in this narration nothing said about household baptism, but at the same time, it is interesting to note that upon their believing, there followed obedience to the commands of Christ as given in the Great Commission.
The church of Samaria believed Philip’s preaching of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus, and were baptized, both men and women.’ G. H. Orchard observed “that the conjunction ‘both’ precludes the possibility of a third party.”
In Acts 10:2; 44-48, Cornelius is referred to as “A devout man, one that feared God with his whole house.” (Verse 2) The gifts of the Holy Spirit which fell upon all of them as seen in Verses 44-48 cannot be thought of as pertaining to infants, for the Scripture states that “The Holy Ghost fell on all them “which heard the word.” (Verse 44) This would exclude those who did not hear, or those who could not because of infancy. The mention of hearing the word, receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, their speaking in tongues, and their magnifying God are all redemptive qualities that unbelievers, as well as infants, could not receive. The question then arose “can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we. And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…” Acts 10: 47-48.
The story of Lydia is truly a wonderful narration of sovereign grace. It is written, “God opened her heart,” and this is always the method of God when imparting redemption. It is a wonder that the audience which attended Paul’s preaching that Sabbath day was made up of women. Only one however is the topic of God’s marvelous grace. “And a certain woman named Lydia; a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira which worshipped God heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 16: 14) Two cities are mentioned, “Philippi and Thyatira,” which are said to be 300 to 400 miles apart. This needs to be held in mind when we consider household baptism.
In the following verse it is said that ‘Lydia was baptized, and her household.’ Does this mean that she had brought infants on a business trip miles and miles from her own home? No mention of a husband which goes wholly against the tradition of the position of men being the head of households. Yet, this is the argument that insists on the practice of infant baptism. In Acts 16: 40, it has been duly noted that this verse qualifies the recipients, for Lydia’s entire household is referred to as “brethren” and they “comforted” them. Again these terms would not be used when speaking of unaware infants, or even adults who were not redeemed.
It is those who need the assistance of the infants to maintain their doctrine. Alexander Carson maintained that “it is not in evidence that Lydia was ever married; and an argument cannot be founded on what is not in evidence.”
“That cannot be a truth which the Scripture nowhere affirms.” (Christopher Ness)
The story of the Philippian jailer recorded in Chapter 16 of the book of Acts likewise offers no evidence for infant baptism. To the contrary, it gives testimony that all in the house of the jailer were given saving faith, then were baptized. The conversion of the jailer and his household reads as follows. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they (Paul and Silas) said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house.” Now if the condition of salvation and baptism were believing on the Lord for the adults, it would be exceedingly contradictory to suggest a different method other than believing would be used for members of the same household. In other words believing would not be necessary for all. This would be an enormous stretch even for those believing in the baptism of infants.
In each verse of Acts 16:31-34, all reference the whole household (Verse 31); “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house,” (Verse 32); “They spake unto him the word of the Lord, and rejoiced, believing in God with all that were in his house,” (Verse 33); “and was baptized, he and all his.” (Verse 34); “And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” Everyone must either take the position that all his house does mean all, or that there were no unbelieving children in the jailer’s household, or no children at all.
The Testimony of the Bible introduces the same facts about Crispus. “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.” (Acts 18: 8) If the observance of baptism did not require believing, one has to wonder why in all the household baptisms mentioned, not one time did the Holy Spirit lead the author of the Acts of Apostles to announce that condition.
“Paul as told in 1 Corinthians 1:16, baptized the household of Stephanas. There is more to be said about this man and his household. “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 16: 15) This addiction cannot be attributed to infant children. The ministry of the saints pre-supposes a knowledge of the saving work of Christ and the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit.
“These are all the household baptisms mentioned in the New Testament, and we see in them no deviation from the Commission of Christ, which requires discipleship as a prerequisite to baptism. On the other hand, they confirm the position that believers alone are scriptural subjects for baptism.
I may say that the allusions to baptism in the apostolic Epistles forbid the supposition that infants were baptized. The baptized are referred to as ‘dead to sin,’ rising from the baptismal waters to ‘walk in newness of life,’ ‘having put on Christ,’ ‘baptized for the dead,’ or in the belief of the resurrection. (Romans 6:11, 4; Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 15:29) Not one of these forms of expression can be applied to speechless infants. Moreover, baptism is defined to be “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” (1 Peter 3: 21)
Without expanding on these topics, what is the conclusion of the whole matter? Clearly this: The commission of Christ, as understood and exemplified in the apostolic age, requires the baptism of believers, disciples; and the baptism of all others, whether unbelievers or unconscious infants, is utterly unwarranted.” (James Madison Pendleton)
The following paragraphs give definition and precise teachings on how baptism relates to the Biblical doctrine of death, burial, and resurrection with regard to the redeemed by the glorious working of Christ in their behalf. It, without any question, would not allow unbelievers, or infants, to partake in the obedient act of baptism.
One of the more recent reformers took a very unsound position when he made the following statement, speaking of the Great Commission: “Though it is entirely possible since they (the apostles) did not understand the words of Jesus in the Great Commission as prescribing a definite formula.” If Matthew 28:18-20 is conceived as not a definite formula, then believers have never had one regarding baptism, and never will.
Our Lord instructed his Apostles who to baptize, and on what conditions, and they went no further…Baptism is met with the New Testament, only in association with a certain set of persons, sentiments and virtues. The baptized are characterized as ‘elect,’ ‘saints,’ ‘believers,’ and their state of mind as that of ‘faith,’ obedience,’ remission of sin,’ ‘following after holiness,’ and ‘enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ;’ names which cannot be given to, and things which cannot be said of, infants.” (Thomas Armitage)
“Faith in Christ will assuredly, sooner or later, be followed by confession of Christ. This is one great reason of the divinely appointed ordinance of baptism. Baptism is the expression of faith. So, in the instances named above, the converts in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, the contrite Saul at Damascus, and the believing jailer, with all his house, at Philippi, were sealed by baptism for the service of their Lord.” (Edward Henry Bickersteth) Also note, Cornelius (Acts 8), Lydia (Acts 16), Crispus (Acts 18), and Stephanas (1 Corinthians 1; 16).
As sincere as our Brothers in Christ are, and truly they mean no disloyalty to the Word of God, all without exception concede that there is not one reference in the entire Bible which commands for the baptism of any faithless being, whether infant or adult. Why they strongly hold to that which is not taught in Scripture is bewildering. Still, it is no doubt an honest conviction on their part.
May the riches of Christ Jesus be with us all.