- Acts 2: 39 - 47
The Reformed Church practices infant baptism. Since the time of the Reformation, there has been considerable dispute concerning this practice. At the time of the Reformation, a group arose called the Anabaptists who denied baptism for all infants. They insisted that baptism should only be administered to adult confessing believers. They argued that it is impossible for infants to confess faith. Some even argued that God could not be said to work in the hearts of infants at all. All children were to be considered ungodly until they could show evidence of faith and repentance.
Some Protestants who do not go so far, maintain that even if God does work in the hearts of little infants, they should not be baptized until they are old enough to show evidence of repentance and faith in their lives. These insist that there are no examples of the baptism of infants in the New Testament. They maintain that this practice is based on nothing more than human sentiment, perhaps the sentimental affection of parents for their own children.
Indeed, most of the examples of baptism given in scripture were those of adults. The scripture records for the most part only the history of the preaching of the gospel to first generation Christians and these must indeed first confess their faith in the Lord Jesus and repent of their sins before they are baptized. It is true that in scripture, there is no specific example of the baptism of infants. The question is a bit more involved than this however.
The Heidelberg Catechism sets forth what the Reformed Churches believe about infant baptism. Infants, as well as adults, are included in the covenant and church of God. Redemption from sin through the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, are promised to them as well as to adults.
The basis for the baptism of infants is the truth of God’s covenant. See Gen 17:7. According to the truth of the covenant, God gathers His church in the line of continued generations with believers and their children. According to the promise of God’s covenant, the blessings of salvation belong to covenant children. While we cannot determine this for certain from scripture, we believe that covenant infants are usually regenerated in infancy. There is mention of covenant infants being known of God from birth in Jer 1:5, Psa 71:6, Luke 1:15, and Gal 1:15. Significantly, the catechism says that gift of faith is given by the Holy Spirit, the author of this gift also to covenant infants.
In the Old Testament, children were circumcised 8 days after they were born. Circumcision, according to Rom 4:11 was ‘a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith.’ It was not merely an outward sign of belonging to the nation of Israel. If infants were included in the covenant in the Old Testament, they surely are not excluded when the promises of the covenant were all fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament the truth of the covenant was revealed in richer and broader realization. It would hardly follow then that children would be excluded after they had been included in God’s covenant before. The day of Pentecost marks the opening of the New Testament Age. Peter, preaching the gospel on the day of Pentecost, proclaimed, “For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.” Acts 2:39