Dr. P. H. Welshimer was senior minister of First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio. Each year during most of that time, he preached on Children's Day a sermon he called "Why I Did Not Baptize The Baby."
As a young preacher, I obtained a copy of Dr. Welshimer's outline and followed his example. The majority of the material presented here is his. To keep the work contemporary, I have revised it somewhat but the message remains the same. I present it here for the reasons he gave in his introduction:
“There is a reason for this sermon; Many Canton churches sprinkle the babies. Members of the Christian Church, reared in other churches and not thoroughly conversant with the Scriptures, sometimes ask that their babies be sprinkled. The Christian Church does not baptize babies. Thus it is under an obligation to give reason for refusing to baptize them. Infant baptism is either scriptural or unscriptural. If scriptural, it should be practiced. The study of scriptures reveals that infant baptism is not taught, either by [Biblical] precept or example.”
In presenting Dr. Welshimer's message, I often began with the following quote from a statement in A Living Faith Pamphlet published by Westminster (Presbyterian) Press in 1962: “If the baptism of infants can genuinely express what baptism means in the New Testament, well and good. If not, we should discontinue it, no matter how long it has been practiced.” This statement is significant because it was published by a denomination which has practiced infant baptism throughout most of its history, but which, in many quarters, is abandoning the practice.
It is the responsibility of Christian parents to protect and nurture their children. Not only so they may become worthwhile citizens and attain a measure of happiness in life, we also have the weightier responsibility of preparing them to wage and win the battle against sin and error in order Mat they may be saved both here and hereafter.
Jesus said “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth at the sea.” (Matthew 1:6 KJV).
More Protestants, as well as Catholics, are sprinkled in infancy than not. The influence of the practice is great enough to make thinking parents pause. On the basis of probablism, we ought to sprinkle babies. Most nominally Christian people sprinkle babies, so it is probably the right thing to do. This is very popular thinking. It is also very false logic.
I am a father. I am responsible for the souls of my children as you are of yours. I am also a minister. As such. I have the responsibility of knowing and teaching the Word of God. In light of this double concern, I find it necessary to state clearly why I do not baptize babies, and more particularly, why I did not baptize my own infant children.
Why do others do it? The origin of sprinkling as a substitute of baptism is a matter of recorded history. We cannot know the personal motives of those who made the change.
In AD 753. Pope Stephen was driven from Rome by Adolphus, King of the Lombards. He fled to Pipen. While he was there, he was asked by the monks of Cressy, in Brittany, if, in the case of necessity, baptism poured on the head would be lawful, in place of immersion. This was 723 years after the beginning of Christian baptism in AD 30 (Acts 2:38). Even then, it was allowed only in case of extreme emergency. The common practice remained immersion.
In 1311 AD, the Counsel of Revenna declared sprinkling or immersion to be valid. There was no claim that sprinkling was scriptural. The change was made by a majority vote of the College of Cardinals. It was the product of the superstitious theology of the middle ages which had long since lost sight of the Biblical reasons for baptism.
Two basic errors are involved in the evolution of infant baptism. First,. those who established the practice, as well as those who continue it have lost sight of what Christian Baptism is, as is represented in scripture. Not just immersion in water. Christian baptism is immersion in water of a repenting believer for the remission of sin (Acts 2.38). Having lost sight of the scriptural nature of baptism, they attribute to the ceremony itself the power of salvation.
Their conclusion is that any “mode” by which the saving water is applied is valid so long as there is, on the part of the clergy, the proper element (water), the proper intent (the salvation of the candidate) and the proper formula (“in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”).
The second error has to do with the condition of the infant before God, that the baby is guilty of the sin of his parents back to Adam. For example, a generation ago, in a revival meeting in southern Illinois, the preacher declared. “There will be babes in hell not a span long because of the sin of Adam.” The theological term for this error is “the doctrine of original sin.” It not only violates scripture by substituting the teaching Of Augustine of Hippo for that of Paul of Tarsus, it also makes of God a pagan deity who like the ancient Moabite god, Molech, must he appeased by the parents on behalf of the baby.
Logically, if babes are damned by original sin, and if sprinkling water on their heads to the accompaniment of priestly pronouncements can save them. I want my baby baptized too!
An examination of infant sprinkling in light of scriptural teaching about baptism can be very enlightening. The action of baptism, sometimes called the “mode” of baptism is described in the Greek language of the New Testament. There are five forms of the word, bapto, in the New Testament. Our English “baptism” is the transliteration of one of them. No other word is used to name what we call baptism. Any freshman Greek student can tell you that the action described is “dipping, plunging, or immersing.”
Martin Luther, translated the word with taufin, the German equivalent of immerse. This reformer said, “I would that those to be baptized would be altogether dipped.” The aorit form of of taufin is tunk. From tunk we derive the English word, dunk. The Dutch Reformed Church, because of its insistence on baptism by immersion, came to be called “Dunkards.”
John Calvin, because he lead the Greek testament, recognized immersion as the proper mode of baptism. John Wesley referred to immersion as Biblical practice, even though he taught that the mode of baptism was indifferent.
That which is accomplished by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins is what makes the act Christian baptism. Mark 16:16 tells os that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. In Acts 2:38-39 the offer of remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, spoken to 3,000 Jews who had heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, was made on condition of immersion. I Peter 3:21 says. “baptism saves you ... by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Romans 6:3-4 teaches that “...we were... buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God, the Father, we too might live a new kind of life.” John 3:3-5 records the words of Jesus Himself as He alluded to baptism as the beginning of new life by water and the Spirit. It is popular among Evangelicals today to separate the new birth from Christian baptism but, significantly, fourteen hundred years passed between the Master's utterance of these words and the first theologian to make this separation.
Biblically, it is evident that certain conditions must be present for even immersion to be considered Christian baptism. The gospel must heard. Saving faith comes by hearing. The gospel must be believed. By grace you have been saved through faith. The believer, must change his mind about God, about Jesus, about himself and the value system by which he/she will live. “Repent and be baptized”...“except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” Faith must be confessed. “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation...” Whoever confesses me before men, him will I also confess before my father and the holy angels.”
Only a person who has heard, believed, repented, and confessed the gospel is a fit candidate for baptism.
Two questions are in order about infant baptism. First: Are babies lost? Jesus said, “suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom or heaven” ... ” Except you turn and become as one of these, you cannot enter the kingdom.” The purpose of the new birth is to turn turn sinful adults into babes in Christ.
Second: Can an infant meet the conditions of Christian baptism? To be baptized, one must hear and understand the gospel. To be baptized, one most believe the gospel to be baptized, one must repent; make a change of the mind that involves resolve of the will to make Jesus Christ Lord of his life. Christian baptism is for the remission of sins. To believe that a baby is sinful, it is necessary to accept the Augustinian doctrine of original sin.
In the light of Biblical teaching regarding baptism, several significant truths are apparent concerning infant baptism. That which is practiced as infant baptism is not Biblical baptism in either form or purpose. Those who are baptized as infants are not, Biblically, proper candidates for baptism on two counts. First:, babies are not guilty of sin and have no need to be immersed for the remission of their sins. Second: babies are incapable of hearing with the understanding, believing, repenting or confessing Christ.
Why did I not baptize the baby? It is not a scriptural practice. As a Christian committed to doing Bible things in Bible ways for Bible reasons. I cannot compromise what the Bible says for the sake of conformity to religious tradition. According to scripture, I could not baptize a baby even ir I wanted to What is called infant baptism is not baptism at all. No one can really baptize a person, infant or adult, who does not believe the gospel or who has not committed himself to a life of obedient faith in Christ. Because this is true, it is obvious that even many adults who are immersed to the accompaniment of the proper formula are not, in fact, baptized
One of the greatest reasons for not baptizing babies is the positive harm done to the child. The person who is sprinkled as an infant grows up believing that (s)he has been baptized. This produces a false security that usually prevents the individual from seriously considering baptism as an adult. Consequently, the person is deprived of the experience of being confronted with the need to make his/her own decision for Christ.
Another profound reason not to baptize infants is the positive harm done to the infant's parents. They become publicly committed to a serious theological error. It becomes extremely difficult for them, even if they become aware of the Biblical teaching about baptism, to act contrary to something they have, in good faith, taught their children.
I cannot baptize either your babies or mine, even if I wanted to. Baptism is for those who have come to a personal faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God and who have made a calculated decision to make Him Lord of their lives.
Wat I can do is plead with you to commit your own life, as a parent, to the awesome task of teaching your children the truth about baptism and all the other essentials of salvation as found in God's word and to support your teaching by letting go of yourself and allowing God to be glorified in your life and in your family.