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Family Baptism

We prefer to describe our practice and belief in relation to baptism as "family" or "household" baptism rather than as "infant baptism."  There are several reasons for this:

(1) We do not only baptize infants.  Those who are converted later in life and have never before been baptized we too baptize as adults.

(2) In baptizing infants or adults, wherever and whenever baptism of families is our practice.

(3) Family or household baptism is the kind of baptism Scripture describes when speaking of those who ought to be baptized.

(4) This description of our practice serves as a reminder of how and why such passages as Acts 16 are used a proof for the practice of baptizing infants as well as adults.

That Scripture speaks of family baptism is clear.  In Acts 16 the households both of Lydia and of the Philippian Jailer were baptized by Paul (vss. 15, 33).  He also speaks in I Corinthians 1:16 of having baptized the household of Stephanus.  So too, we read in Acts 10:48 of the baptism of the household of Cornelius by Peter and those who were with him.  This, then, is the NT pattern for baptism.

It is in this way that these passages are used to support the practice of baptizing the children of believers.  It is true, of course, that we do not know if there were small children in any of these households (it is unlikely that there were no infants at all in all four of these families).   Nevertheless, if family or household baptism is the pattern laid down in Scripture, it is impossible to practice such without baptizing infants, since most households do include them.

We would add that if believer's baptism only is the rule of Scripture, family or household baptism becomes an impossibility.  Even if it so happens that different members of the same family are converted and baptized at the same time in a Baptist church, they still are not baptized as members of a household or family, but as individuals, each as a result of his own profession of faith only.

That we baptize households and families follows from our belief in God's family covenant, i.e., that He sovereignly, graciously, and unchangeably promises salvation to families and households, promising to be the God of believers and of their children (Gen.  17:7; Acts 2:39).

Our practice does not, however, indicate that we presume to think that every member of a household is necessarily saved.  But, then, baptism even of those who profess faith as adults can never be taken as such a guarantee.  Never does baptism prove or say that the person baptized is certainly saved.

That we baptize families or households, following the clear example of Scripture itself, is a memorial to the fact that God Himself is a Family (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and to the fact that He magnifies His grace and reveals Himself in sending salvation to families.  He is indeed the God of families (Ps.  107:41).

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 4
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002


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