Aldersgate United Methodist Church - Molino, Florida
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Rejoicing in Hope
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Infant Baptism

Infant Baptism in the United Methodist Church

1. We do not believe or teach that infant baptism “saves” a child.  While some churches believe that baptism of infants is a rite of salvation, we believe that salvation comes through profession of faith in Jesus (Romans 10:9-10).  Baptism is a sign of a covenant.  In the Old Testament, the Israelites were circumcised as a sign of the covenant between them in God. It did not mean that they were automatically going to be faithful followers, but it did mean that God was reaching out to them in a relationship with them.

2. Infant baptism does have scriptural basis.  Yes, infant baptism has its roots in church tradition, but that does not mean it is a new or unbiblical idea. While the cases may not be as distinct or dramatic as the baptism of John, the baptism of Jesus, or the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, scriptures do indicate that infants were baptized, there are several references in the New Testament to the baptism of entire households. The Greek word for “household” is oikon and refers to all the inhabitants of the house including slaves, servants, infants and children.  Peter baptized the household of Cornelius. (Acts 11:14) In Philippi, Paul baptized the household of Lydia and the household of the jailer (Acts 16: 15, 33). In his first epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks of baptizing the household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 1:16).

3. While believer’s baptism is specifically about the believer and his or her conversion experience, infant baptism is more about God.  Think of salvation as a gift. God’s grace is offered to all who would receive it.  This grace is offered through his son Jesus’ death on the cross.  If an infant or young child receives a book for a gift, it would be a while before he/she can read it and understand it, but he has still been offered the book as a gift.  Salvation is like that. Salvation has been freely offered to him in baptism, yet he is not old enough to understand it or receive it. We believe God’s grace has been reaching out to him before the world was created. John Wesley called this prevenient grace, that is grace that goes before.

4. United Methodists do baptize adults. While infant baptism may be standard practice in the United Methodist Church, anyone may be baptized. For the professing believer, it would be done at the time of the profession of faith. We believe all believers should be baptized.  However, we believe the work of the Holy Spirit at baptism is valid. Therefore, when a person who was baptized as an infant professes his or her faith as a child or even as an adult, the believer is not re-baptized as a believer.

5. United Methodists do not condemn or refuse to practice baptism by immersion. While it is the exception to the rule, there are United Methodist Churches that practice immersion baptism for professing adults.  The primary reason adults are sprinkled is that most churches do not have a baptistry facility for immersion. Some will do it with a horse trough or other portable device, or schedule a baptism service at a swimming pool or even a natural body of water, if the believer chooses this method.  While the mode of sprinkling has been condemned by other traditions, United Methodists do not have an official stance against immersion.

6. The Greek word from which we derive our word “baptize” has several different translations. As with many Greek words, your preferred translation often depends on your theological tradition. Seminaries of some other denominations teach the importance of the Greek translation of bapto and its derivatives as meaning “immersion.” The United Methodist understanding of this word is “to dip” or “to make wet”.  This word is used in scripture to indicate washing of pots and pans (Mark 7:4), the Israelites being baptized in a cloud (I Cor. 10:2), the dipping of bread into a liquid at the Last Supper (John 13:26), and even the disciples’ sharing in Christ’s death (Mark 10:38). So we believe sprinkling, pouring, or immersion are all valid means of baptism.

7.  Infant baptism is not a dedication. Some denominations and traditions have a baby dedication. In this ceremony, there is a prominent section where the parents take some vows to raise the child in the church and in the love of God. This is also a major component of infant baptism, however, this is only part of the service. Baptism is a sacrament and is less about the parents and more about God’s free gift of salvation.

 

This article was written by Rev. Jason Huffman and published  on his November 25, 2013 blog, Thoughts on Life and Ministry.