Christians who practice believer's baptism believe that saving grace and church membership are gifts from God by the recipient's faith alone and cannot be imparted or transferred from one person to another (such as from parent to child) by sacraments such as baptism. These tenets render infant baptism meaningless within their belief system. Because infants cannot hear or believe the gospel message, neither can they repent or profess Christ as the Son of God. Credobaptists have differing views concerning the status of children who are too young to profess faith (Matthew 19:14).
Believer’s baptism is held by Baptists to have no saving effect, but to be a public expression of faith, symbolically representative of the inner conversion of the person being baptized.
Some other Christian groups hold baptism to have salvific value. Churches of Christ understand baptism to be an integral part of the conversion process, rather than just a symbol of conversion.:184 Integral teachings of Churches of Christ include the following:
- Baptism by immersion is a necessary part of salvation without which one cannot enter into the kingdom of God, John 3:3–5; 1 Peter 3:21
- The church, set up by Christ with the keys given to the Apostles (Matthew 16:16–18, 18:18) was established on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and required baptism for "remission of sins" amongst the penitent believers and promised the "gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38)
- Without the indwelling Holy Spirit obtained at the time of immersion, there is no salvation, Acts 5:32, Romans 8:9–11, 16.
There are many denominations and faith communities which hold to baptism for believers only, but do not hold that baptism contributes in any measure to salvation. Some of these would hold that it is significant to the quality of life as a Christian, while still others would see being baptized as symbolic, and following commandments, but having no transformative effects, whether with respect to salvation, or with respect to living the Christian life.
With respect to the bullet points above, these would understand the commandment to be baptized for the remission of sins in point 2 to be specific to the Jewish believers being addressed at that point in time. Their being baptized would be seen as publicly distancing themselves from the actions of the religious leaders who had participated in rejecting then crucifying Jesus. This is not to say that these see baptism as only for Jewish believers, but that that particular set of instructions at that point in time was.
Later in the book of Acts, both when Samaritans joined the church for the first time (Acts 8:12ff), and when Gentiles joined the Church for the first time (Acts 10:44ff), baptism followed immediately and was even commanded in Acts 10.
Arguments for Credobaptism
Advocates of believer’s baptism argue that the New Testament does not describe instances of infant baptism, and that during the New Testament era, the early church required converts to have conscious, deliberate faith in Jesus Christ. Defenders of infant baptism counter that the book of Acts records instances of the baptism of entire households, and that these baptisms likely included children. However, none of the passages cited by defenders of infant baptism expressly state that the household included young children who were not capable of conscious belief, while some of the stories about household baptisms explicitly state that all members of the household believed prior to baptism.
Defenders of infant baptism have claimed that baptism replaces the Jewish practice of circumcision, citing Colossians 2:11–13 as New Testament support, and is therefore appropriate for infants. Advocates of believer’s baptism counter that the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 was called to clarify circumcision, long after the practice of baptism was established. In the Old Covenant, males were circumcised. In the New Covenant, all — male and female, Jew and Greek, bond and free — may join the family of God.
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