Heidelberg Catechism Q74

Q. Should infants, too, be baptized?

A. Yes. Infants as well as adults are in God’s covenant and belong to God’s people. They, no less than adults, are promised the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit who gives faith. Therefore, by baptism, the sign of the covenant, infants should be received into the Christian church and should be distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.


The question of who should be baptized goes back to reformation times.  Before the reformation, it was universally held that all members of the Church and their children were entitled to be baptized.  During the reformation, a group known as Anabaptists arose and declared that only adult believers were to be baptized, consequently they declared that children were not allowed to be baptized.  This question was included in the catechism in order to address the Anabaptist doctrine, which was gaining ground.  In this respect it shows much in common with Paul’s instruction to Timothy about teaching sound doctrine.  Read Titus 1:9-2:1.


As reformed believers, in concert with historic orthodoxy, we believe the Scriptures promise that salvation is available to all without regard to race, gender or age.  It has been said, “God is no respecter of persons.”  By this is meant, the Lord doesn’t pay attention to external things, but places his call in the heart of people of all kinds.  Therefore it is correct to assume that the church will contain children as well as adults and that these children will continue to grow in their love for Christ, just as their adult counterparts do.  Read Matthew 19:13-14.


In the Old Testament God included Abraham’s descendants in the promises.  In fact God specifically declared that the promise covenant would extend through the ages.  Read Genesis 17:7-14. One of the great gifs of the promises of God is that they always intensify from the Old Testament to the new and from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.  When God included Abraham’s descendants in the promises by circumcision, it is to be expected that he would not shrink those eligible for the covenant but would rather expand the boundaries.  And this is done by extending baptism to include all children, not just the male children of all believers, instead of just the Jewish descendants of Abraham.  Read Acts 10:30-48.


When the church proclaims salvation it proclaims the good news for the entire family.  When a child is born into, or adopted by a Christian family, they are raised in an atmosphere of reverence and respect for the gift of Jesus Christ.  This is fundamentally different from an adult who has never been raised in the church nor heard its gospel message preached.  But this is simply an apparent difference, both are being taught and learning to love and submit to God.  And because of this, both are eagerly welcomed into the body.  This is why some passages declare he believed and was baptized, while others declare: Make disciples, baptizing them and teaching.  Read Acts 2:38-39 and Matthew 28:18-20.


Read Isaiah 61:8-9. The descendants of Zion are called a people who are blessed by the Lord.  Obviously, God intended to make a distinction between this group of Israelites and the rest of the world, and the same holds true for His people in general.  They are to be distinguished from the rest of the world.  In baptism, the people of God make a bold statement that they and their children are the Lord’s, specially blessed to hear the gospel and grow in its promises.


In the Old Testament circumcision had a spiritual meaning that included the cutting away of sin and a corresponding change of heart.  Read Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6. As the New Covenant unfolded God declared that he alone can circumcise the heart, nevertheless he still called believers and their children to baptism as a sign of this truth.  Read 1Peter 3:21 and Titus 3:4-6 and Romans 6:4. Consider with me the beauty of baptizing an infant child.  They are unable to understand or even give their cooperation to the event, many children cry and wail when the water of baptism is poured over their heads, but this simply displays the reality of each of our spirits.  None of us come willingly to the cross; all of us are brought there by the Spirit who has been at work in our hearts long before we even recognized it.  When children are baptized, the act declares a wonderful truth about the reality of God’s work in our lives, which is different but complimentary to the message proclaimed when an adult receives this sacrament.



About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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