Believer’s Baptism

Our focus this past Sunday was Baptism. Our convictional understanding of the ordinance is that it should be exercised as believer’s baptism as opposed to infant baptism. Below I am offering two excerpts on the Biblical foundations of believer’s baptism. This is by no means exhaustive, but will provide some of the substance behind our conviction.

Thomas Schreiner wrote:

Nor does the baptism of the Philippian jailer’s household in Acts 16:31-34 support infant baptism. Verse 31 restricts salvation to those who believe. Should someone argue that the jailer’s belief was sufficient to save his entire household, they would have no textual basis to limit that salvation to infants. On such a reading, the jailer’s faith would save his entire household, and personal faith would not be required for inclusion in the church. Yet such a notion is foreign to Acts and the remainder of the New Testament. One person cannot be saved based on another person’s faith. It appears instead that both the jailer and his whole household believed in God. Verse 34 offers an important piece of evidence that is often missed for interpreting this passage. It says the entire household “rejoiced.” Such rejoicing is only possible for those who understood the significance and meaning of what had just happened, which would not include infants. The smiles of an infant without comprehension hardly fit with what Luke says here! Both belief and joy emanated from those who understood the message of the gospel and responded rightly.

The interpretation proposed for the Philippian jailer fits with the household of Crispus: “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8 ESV). (Baptist Foundations, pgs. 97-98)

On the other hand, some would argue that the Philippian jailer’s faith doesn’t save an infant in his household, but does warrant that infant being baptized. The only problem is based on the above text, assuming everyone in his household isn’t an infant, all should be baptized because of his faith regardless of their age. I’m not aware of a church that practices such (Ware, pg. 33). I believe, as Schreiner argued above, the household believed and was baptized.

Regarding other passages, Bruce Ware wrote:

Consider also Paul’s references to baptism in both Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12. In both cases the appeal to baptism intends to signify precisely these believers’ death to their old life and their regeneration and conversion to newness of life. The sign of baptism is a sign of new life, the very symbolism of a believer’s baptism by immersion. Their being dipped under the water signifies their newness of life in Christ. Only Baptism by immersion provides the symbolism of dying to the old and being raised to the new life in Christ.

Unless one holds that baptized infants are regenerated and become recipients of the Spirit and new life in Christ, their infant baptism fails in its function as a sign of an objectively true spiritual reality. Indeed Paul rules out infant baptism in Colossians 2:12, for he says that this new life becomes a reality “through faith.” Faith is not possible for infants. Faith is based on understanding, since Paul says that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the world of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). (Baptism: Three Views, pg. 27)

About Pastor Matt

Matt Baker is the Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church.
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