Baptizing infants is foreign to many in West Tennessee. For those who are unfamiliar with the practice, we’ve provided the following explanation.
In the Old Testament, God established the covenant with the father of our faith, Abraham, in Genesis 17, promising him that it would be “an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
Genesis 17:12-14 describes the sign of the covenant, circumcision, “to be given to every male eight days old.” Verse 13-14 reiterates, “My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
Ultimately, being circumcised did not make a man right with God any more than today baptism makes a person right with God; it was an outward picture of an inward reality that existed for God’s children.
What God repeatedly says in the Old Testament is to circumcise your hearts, and that He will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants. Deut. 10:16, 30:6, Jer. 4:4.
Romans 2:29 says a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit.
Colossians 2:11-12 says, In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the old nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.
When Jesus came, He instituted the sacrament of baptism. Matthew 26:26-29.
In Acts 2:38-39, when Peter is preaching to the Israelites, who had been accustomed to the practice of circumcising their infant boys since the covenant was inaugurated with Abraham, he tells them, Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.
Acts 15, among other places in the New Testament, demonstrates that circumcision is no longer required as a sign of the covenant.
As circumcision was a sign and seal of the covenant in the Old Testament of spiritual cleansing and being brought into the covenant community, so baptism is a sign and seal of that same covenant in the New Testament, of spiritual cleansing, and of being brought into the covenant community.
Just as circumcision did not save or make a person right with God in the Old Covenant, neither does baptism in the New Covenant. It is a sign and seal—a sacrament.
It is an outward sign of an inward reality that exists for God’s children.
As 1 Peter 3:21 says, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God…
Baptism of infants is just one aspect of baptism. Believers who were not baptized as infants or children are also baptized upon making a public profession of faith.