My wife has a friend who recently lost a child, still-born I believe. In the aftermath, an article written by Dr. Albert Mohler (from 2009) about whether or not infants who die go to heaven, was posted on Facebook. Shelly read the original article from Dr. Mohler’s website to me the other night.
There are many places Dr. Mohler went off the rails, but the first is when he makes the statement about Ambrose: “His first error was believing in infant baptism, and thus in baptismal regeneration. Baptism does not save, and it is reserved for believers – not for infants.”
Scripture Says, “Baptism Saves”
This is a blatant refutation of Scripture which says Baptism is for sinners and for the forgiveness of sins, and according to 1 Peter 3:21, most certainly does save.
All sinners, including babies, are saved by grace through faith. It is a proud and arrogant stance to say infants can’t have faith, as infant faith is demonstrated multiple places in Scripture (David’s claim he trusted in God while at his mother’s breast; Jeremiah chosen and consecrated in his mother’s womb; John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother’s womb) and even demonstrated in everyday life, as when an infant stops crying when placed in his loving mother’s arms.
There may even be some scientific evidence that infants are capable of understanding repentance (or at least the difference between good and evil).
God is a God of means, however, and His means of grace are clearly revealed to us in the Scriptures. We are not just given faith like a bolt out of the blue (not that God can’t work that way if He chose).
His means are the preached Word of the Gospel into the ears of sinners, the washing of regeneration with the Word in Baptism, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
Infants can have the Gospel preached into their ears, and obedient, faithful parents present their children to Jesus to be baptized so that their sins are washed away, they are regenerated, given the Holy Spirit, and faith is worked within them.
We can’t know the fate of all infants, Scripture is replete with examples of infants suffering the same fate as their parents (the Amalekites, all the infants in the flood, etc.), but we can believe the promises of God, that his Salvation lies in the finished work of his Son, and that work is applied to us in our baptism.
Objections to Scriptural Baptism
The most common response when faced with this particular truth of Scripture is: “That’s silly. You’ve built an entire doctrine around one verse. What about the thief on the cross?”
The Scriptures don’t say, and neither do I say, that baptism is the only means of grace and the only way of salvation for sinners, but it is most certainly a way, and here’s why: Baptism is nothing more than the application of the saving act of what Christ accomplished on the cross to sinners dead in their trespasses and sin.
You and I were not there on that hill in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago when the sins of the whole world, including all your past and future sins were atoned for. You and I were not on a cross next to the savior hearing him tell you, personally, “This day you will be with me in paradise.”
So, then how does one actually receive the benefits of what was accomplished 2 millenia ago?
The Bible says in Word and Sacrament. Baptism is nothing more than the saving Word of God, and the Word is Jesus and all those found in Christ will spend an eternity with him, and it is Baptism that places us in Christ.
Baptism is a Source of Comfort
God doesn’t need anything from you. Baptism is not, nor has it ever been an act on your part of first time obedience, demonstrating that you are a repentant follower of God. Baptism is a gift, given to you to wash away your sins, make you apart of what Christ accomplished on the cross, and a source of comfort in all of your moments of despair, that no matter how dark and distant you might feel, or how life might seem, you are intimately connected with the Savior of the world.
It is time that we stop believing this 500 year old deception that baptism was merely a suggestion of Christ and meant only for logically cognizant, adults who’ve made a confession of repentance, and start believing in what it truly is: a gift from God given to us for the forgiveness of our sins and a tangible, personal reality in our lives that God keeps His promises and gives us real, tangible, personal gifts for our own sake and comfort.
We can trust that infants baptized into Christ will be with Christ should they die in infancy. When it comes to un-baptized infants of believers, we just have to trust that God is more merciful than we can imagine.