BaptismThe Problem: Many Christians argue various combination(s) of the following four points:
- baptism is not necessary for salvation,
- baptism is necessary for salvation but must be undertaken by immersion to be valid,
- baptism is necessary for the salvation of those who have reached the age of reason, but cannot be validly conferred upon children under the age of reason or the mentally infirm who are incapable of understanding the assent of faith.
- baptism is a necessary seal, but it does not wash away sin
What happens to unbaptized children who die before they attain the age of reason? We do not know, but we trust in the infinite mercy of God, who may lead them to salvation in a mysterious way known only to Him. Salvation is available to all through the merits of Jesus Christ. The concept of Limbo has not been formally defined by the Body of Christ, it is not part of doctrine or dogma - it is only theological opinion.
Types for Baptism
Is 55:10-11 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
The waters of baptism rain down upon the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving the seed of the Gospel to him who sows, and the Bread of Life to him who eats, through the Word that goes forth from His mouth.
Gen 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters
Creation was baptized into existence; the wind of the Spirit moved over the waters, and the waters brought forth living creatures, as do the waters of Baptism. We are each little fishes in the image of the Big Fish, Jesus Christ.
Gen 7:4 "For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground."
Not only was the Ark the baptism and salvation of Noah and his family, it marked the start of a new creation, for they were given the same command given to Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (Gen 9:1-4).
Ex 15:19 For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea.
1 Cor 10:1 I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2
and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
The people of Israel underwent a baptism at the Red Sea - they who faced death did not die.
Josh 3:15-16 and when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16
the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap far off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off; and the people passed over opposite Jericho.
Instead, the next generation entered the Promised Land, baptized through the waters of the Jordan, into new life, a land flowing with milk and honey.
The exegesis on 2 Kings 2:7-11 is taken from Danielou's Bible and the Liturgy, pp. 99-114.
Elijah prefigures baptism by crossing the Jordan before being taken up to heaven.
2 Kings 2:7-11 Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle, and rolled it up, and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you." And Elisha said, "I pray you, let me inherit a double share of your spirit." 10 And he said, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if you do not see me, it shall not be so." 11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
John's baptism is a type for the baptism which Christ will institute.
Mk 1:4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Lk 3:3 and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins
Jn 1:29 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Jn 1:33 I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'
Significantly, John himself did not recognize Salvation until the descent of the Spirit. This descent of the Spirit was effected through baptism with water.
Jn 2:1-11 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. 9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
The purifying water held in the jars used for Jewish purification was called "baptismoi." The power of Christ is first revealed in the transformation He worked through this water. Cleansing water is transformed by Jesus Christ into the "blood of the grape" (the Hebrew term for wine) at a wedding feast. In His first miracle, and in one incredibly compact act, the Bridegroom tells us that we are cleansed and married into His Body through water transformed by His Blood, itself the sign, seal, and covenant made present in the Wedding Feast. The next two chapters of John explain how this happens.
With the exception of the exegesis of John 3:23, 25-30, the following exegesis of John's Gospel is a summary of information presented in Scott Hahn's tape set "The Gospel of John".
Jn 2:23-25 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; 24 but Jesus did not trust himself to them, 25 because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.
Faith in Him is a start, but it is not completion. Nicodemus, a man of the class described in John 2:23, who believes in His name, visits Jesus to tell Him of his belief.
Jn 3:1-3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The name Nicodemus means "people-crusher." Jesus intentionally uses a word for "anew" which has two meanings. It can mean "above" or it can mean "again." The context makes it impossible to tell which is meant.
Jn 3:4-6 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Nicodemus misunderstands Christ to mean a birth after the manner of all flesh. Jesus corrects Him - he must be born of water and the spirit. In verse 6, Christ merely re-emphasizes that "water and spirit" do not refer to birth from the womb, but to a spiritual re-birth. Being brought to life in the Spirit is a very concrete thing, as Peter tells us...
1 Pet 3:18-19 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison...
Remember Thomas, who put his hands into Christ's pierced flesh, the flesh of the risen Christ, who was brought to life in the Spirit? Who will say that being born of the Spirit by the washing with water is not a concrete thing?
1 Cor 15:45-49 Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.
The spiritual does not destroy the physical, rather, the spiritual perfects the physical. Grace perfects nature. Our first, natural birth was of water in the womb. Our second, heavenly birth is of water and the Spirit. Christ images all creation in us through the order of creation He has established.
1 Jn 5:6-9 This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. 7 And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 8 There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son.
God's testimony is the testimony of the waters of baptism, made efficacious through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Early Christian comments on Baptismal Rebirth
Jn 3:7-8 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born anew.' 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.
Again, Jesus uses a word for "wind" which can mean either "wind" or "Spirit" and the context makes it impossible to tell which is meant. Jesus is deliberately using confusing terminology in order to rock this Pharisee back on his heels, and force him out of his material thoughts towards a deeper spiritual reality - the reality of regenerative baptism. Now He makes Nicodemus fully realize just how little he knows about the way heaven works.
Jn 3:9-15 Nicodemus said to him, "How can this be?" 10 Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."
Christ explicitly connects His crucifixion with baptism. Just as the serpent Moses lifted up healed the people of the poison, so Christ lifted up on the cross will heal the people of the poison of sin. Baptism accomplishes this cleansing - it is a heavenly act accomplished through an earthly thing, just as Christ is a heavenly Person made present to Nicodemus as a true earthly man.
Jn 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Note that John 3:16 is not restrictive. "Everyone who believes in him... [might] have eternal life," yet this passage does not set up pre-conditions for belief, or explain what constitutes belief in him. That explanation is given elsewhere (see "Salvation through Faith and Works"). How will the baptism of water have efficacy? Through the crucifixion of God's only Son, who will be lifted up just as the serpent was lifted up. It is the water flowing from the side of the Body of Christ, water flowing alongside His Precious Blood, which makes water cleansing to the soul through the action of the Holy Spirit. It is, in fact, the water flowing from the Body of Christ which fills the baptismal fonts of the Body of Christ, the Church.
Christ will baptize, but He is obviously not yet crucified, so how can His baptism be effective? Because it comes from God, and God's grace is timeless. The One Sacrifice will be made - guaranteed - so the Spirit can cleanse and seal through His baptism even before the crucifixion.
Early Christians' comments on Baptismal Grace
Jn 3:18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
The people of John 2:23 believed - so did Nicodemus. But Christ is talking about a belief made living through baptism. As soon as Jesus finishes explaining the importance of baptism to Nicodemus, He heads out to baptize.
Jn 3:22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized.
Jn 3:23,25-30 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized.... Now a discussion arose between John's disciples and a Jew over purifying. 26 And they came to John, and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him." 27 John answered, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease."
Several things are attested to here:
- Everyone is coming to Christ,
- What Christ dispenses in baptism comes from heaven,
- John specifically links Christ's baptism with marriage, calling Christ the Bridegroom, and saying the Bride belongs to Him, Remember, this is at the beginning of Christ's ministry, well before Paul uses the phrase,
- John the Baptist recognizes that the Body of Christ increases through the use of baptism. Through it, we are married to, joined to, the Body of Christ.
Jesus did not baptize Himself. Why not? Let us examine another person who did not baptize:
1 Cor 1:16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else.)
Paul also denied that he baptized...
1 Cor 3:4-6 For when one says, "I belong to Paul," and another, "I belong to Apollos," are you not merely men? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
Because "Apollos watered" - it was Apollos, the local presbyter, who baptized after Paul preached, but it is God who regenerates through baptism and causes the growth. Christ didn't baptize for the same reason Paul refrained from baptizing - it was important to establish the Apostles in their role as bishops, teaching them through practice how baptism was to be done. Even at this point, Christ is preparing His bishops for His Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. This is not surprising. His whole mission on earth will eventually depend on these twelve men doing all and exactly what He taught them, doing it with no written instructions, no one to help them but the Paraclete. As it is, one, Judas, will fail.
Jn 4:10,13-14 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."... Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
John caps the long discussion of water and baptism with the woman at the well. Christ asserts again that He is the source of living water, that the water He gives out is a wellspring of eternal life. This revelation is followed by yet another discussion of marriage.
Jn 4:16-18 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." 17 The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; 18 for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly."
The word Christ uses for husband is the word a concubine uses for her master, "ba'al" - a word which can also means "god." Christ refers to the Samaritans' worship of false idols. That is why the woman replies as she does:
Jn 4:19-26 The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." 25 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." 26 Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."
The Samaritans recognized only the Pentateuch, rejecting all Old Testament prophetic books as uninspired. They looked only for one prophet, foretold by Moses, the prophet not yet come into the world, the Messiah. Christ, the promised Messiah, has told this Samaritan how to attain eternal life - through acceptance of living water.
Zech 12:10, 13:1 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born... On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
Jn 19:33-35 but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witnesshis testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truththat you also may believe.
Baptism is a marriage bond to God. Christ, the source from whom Living Water flows, marries us into His Body, making us clean, purifying us, so that we have within us a wellspring of eternal life. It is no coincidence that the attestation of the witness appears at precisely this point. An officer of the Body of Christ attests to the source of the water that same Body applies in baptism.
Jn 8:34-36 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Christ's sacrifice is open to the whole world.
Jn 10-11 Prior to the raising of Lazarus, Jesus was west of the Jordan. He waited two days, then crossed the Jordan and raised Lazarus from the dead, thus fulfilling Joshua 1:11 "In three days you will pass over the Jordan" and after this crossing God will accomplish wonders (Joshua 3:5) - Thomas confirms the baptismal significance of Christ's Jordan crossing by saying "Let us also go and die with Him" (Jn 11:6). Baptism is new life.
We are buried with Him in baptism and rise from death as we rise from our washing, clean.
Rom 4:23-25 But the words, "it was reckoned to him," were written not for his sake alone, 24
but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Rom 6:1-6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
Col 2:12-14 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
We are raised from the waters of baptism justified, cleansed, made perfect through the Holy Spirit. Baptism is what incorporates us into the Body of Christ - not the sinner's prayer.
Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'
1 Cor 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Heb 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Eph 5:26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit...
Mk 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
While disbelief may condemn, salvation requires both belief and baptism.
Mt 28:19 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..
Baptism creates disciples.
1 Pet 3:20-21 who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Baptism saves you now. It is salvation.
Acts 16:15 And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.
Acts 16:27-34 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?" 31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. 33
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God.
Note that he rejoices in having come to faith in God only after he and his family were baptised in their home.
Mk 10:38 But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"
Lk 12:50 I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!
Eph 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Paul equates the one baptism with the One God and the One Faith. Faith and baptism are necessary. Without the regenerative cleansing of baptism, we will not be One Body with God.
Lk 7:29-30 (When they heard this all the people and the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John; 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
If John's baptism was necessary for the Pharisees and the lawyers, how much more seriously should we take the baptism of the Messiah, to whom John always pointed?
Heb 6:4-6 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.
Heb 10:26 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
Yet, as Hebrews points out, we can lose our salvation after baptism. How can we be washed clean again?
Early Christian comments on Trinitarian Baptism
Early Christian comments on the Necessity of Baptism
The disciples of Pentecost know that baptism is a marriage to the Bridegroom that regenerates the soul, and the head Apostle explains it to those who would be new converts:
Acts 2:38-41 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." 40 And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Many claim that "baptism", which means "to immerse," is only valid if the person to be baptized is fully immersed in water. There is insufficient water in that area of the country to have baptized three thousand persons by immersion.
According to Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon, 7th Edition, "baptismo" means "a dipping in water, ablution." This does not necessarily mean full immersion, as Jewish purification ritual shows:
Num 19:9-19 And a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the people of Israel for the water for impurity, for the removal of sin. 10 And he who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening. And this shall be to the people of Israel, and to the stranger who sojourns among them, a perpetual statute.
11 "He who touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days; 12 he shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean; but if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. 13 Whoever touches a dead person, the body of any man who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is still on him.
14 "This is the law when a man dies in a tent: every one who comes into the tent, and every one who is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. 15 And every open vessel, which has no cover fastened upon it, is unclean. 16 Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain with a sword, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17 For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and running water shall be added in a vessel; 18 then a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the furnishings, and upon the persons who were there, and upon him who touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave; 19 and the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean.
Remember, the purification water was referred to as "baptismoi," yet full immersion was not a requirement.
Acts 9:17-19 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, 19 and took food and was strengthened.
First century houses did not have bathtubs. Paul's baptism could not have been immersive.
Ezek 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
God promised the cleansing of sin by the sprinkling of clean water.
Acts 8:12-16 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16 for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
This passage, which provides evidence of the sacrament of confirmation, also testifies that believers were baptized.
Acts 8:17-24 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 But Peter said to him, "Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." 24 And Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."
Baptism and confirmation are gifts from God, not works of men. Note also that Simon also received an early form of the sacrament of confession, by confessing his sins and asking pardon of the officers of the Church.
Acts 8:25-38 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. 26 But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert road. 27 And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot." 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said, "How can I, unless some one guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this:
"As a sheep led to the slaughter
or a lamb before its shearer is dumb,
so he opens not his mouth. 33
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken up from the earth." 34
And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. 36 And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?" 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
The passage above demonstrates that baptism of faith and desire, precedes the baptism of water, which washes away sin.
Since baptism is necessary for salvation, infants must be baptized.
Mt 18:14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish
Mt 19:13-15 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; 14 but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
Circumcision is a necessary covenant sign in the Old Testament
Gen 17:12-14 He that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised; every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house, or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he that is born in your house and he that is bought with your money, shall be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
Circumcision had to take place on the eighth day - the day which would become the day of new creation in Jesus Christ, Resurrection Day. Baptism replaces circumcision as a sign of membership and entrance into the New Covenant, it is the perfection of the old sign.
Col 2:11-12 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
If circumcision was acceptable for infants, then baptism is also acceptable for infants. After all, why would the perfection of Jewish faith cut off Jewish children who were originally not only permitted, but required, to enter into covenant with God? Christ came not to restrict, but to expand and perfect the saving plan of God.
Lk 18:15-17 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
Acts 2:38-39 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him."
Even the children are called.
1 Cor 7:12-14 To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy.
Every Christian prays for unbelievers, that they might come to believe. It is the faith of the believer which saves the unbeliever, for God grants the unbeliever the grace of faith on account of our faith and prayers, the faith of we who believe. In the same way, but in superior fashion, does the faith of the parents stand in for the faith of the child at baptism, for baptism is not just prayer or supplication, it is a Divine act, performed by God on the human person.
Mk 2:1-6 And when he returned to Caperna-um after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."
Note what Christ does here - he looks on the faith of the four friends who broke open the roof. It is on the basis of the friends' faith that the paralytic is forgiven his sins. The faith of the believer can bring about the healing of an unbeliever.
1 Jn 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
Each of us, adult or infant, is called to God through baptism not because of our assent, but because He first loved us.
Origen (185-253 AD) "The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9). The Council of Carthage (A.D. 252) condemns those who postpone baptism until the eighth day after birth. Baptism perfects Jewish circumcision. St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote to Fidius, "As to what pertains to the case of infants: you said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth,... In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judged that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born."
Early Christians' comments on Baptizing Babies