Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 11, 1954

Following Through On An Argument - Baptizing Babies

J. Early Arceneaux, New London, Texas

After Jesus had arisen from the dead, and his disciples were gathered around him, he gave them what is known to us as the "Great Commission." He said to them, "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28:19-20) It is by "teaching" that God gets the gospel into the hearts of men. That is the method or plan God has used for converting a man. It was Paul who declared that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17)

Faith is a prerequisite to obedience. The gospel was to be taught; it was to be believed by those to whom it was taught; and upon believing it, they were to be baptized. This, of course, excludes both infants and idiots. Babies and idiots are both incapable of intelligent hearing, hence, cannot be true believers. They are not responsible in God's sight. Given time, the babies will grow out of their condition, but the idiots won't. Neither of them is capable of rendering intelligent obedience to the commands of Christ. The child cannot think, cannot reason, cannot understand the gospel.

In spite of that obvious fact, however, there are people who use this verse from Matthew to make an argument in favor of baptizing babies. Matthew said, "Go teach all nations, baptizing them . . ." The advocates of infant baptism make quite an argument over the fact that babies are a part of the "nation"; and since the command is to "baptize all nations," there is ample authority here for the baptizing of every infant who is a part of any nation.

But let us think of that just a moment. Is this a command of God to baptize infants? Yes, says the preacher who practices such. But let us reduce this argument to a syllogism; look at it; and then see some of the consequences:

Major premise: The command of Christ is "baptize all nations"

Minor premise: Infants are included in the term "nations"

Conclusion: Therefore Christ commanded the baptism of infants.

Do you see anything wrong with that? Are you willing, to accept that as true gospel teaching? Well, let us try that syllogism out with something other than infants. Look at this one:

Major premise: The command of Christ is to "baptize all nations"

Minor premise: Idiots are a part of the nation Conclusion: Therefore Christ commanded that idiots should be baptized.

Now we can just follow that right on through with every class of people you want to name who make up a part of the nation — not only babies, but also idiots, infidels, murderers, criminally insane, and every other kind of irresponsible or wicked person. What is wrong? Is it not perfectly clear that there is a fallacy in the major premise. Christ did NOT give the command to "baptize all nations." His command was "Go ye therefore and teach all the nations, baptizing them . . ." Who were to be baptized? Why, those who had been taught! That excludes the babies, the idiots, and the infidels. For the baby and the idiot cannot be taught; and the infidel will not be taught.

Isn't it strange that a man will make an argument like the foregoing all his life, and never really see what is involved in it ? Jesus did not say, "he that is baptized shall be saved," but "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Our Catholic friends teach that baptism alone saves; our denominational friends teach that faith alone saves. But Jesus put the two of them together, and said it takes both of these to save a man. Faithful preachers will continue to preach it just as Jesus gave it. They will not cut out either faith or baptism; they will not declare that either of them is non-essential. False teachers will continue to emphasize either faith or baptism, and thus lead many unlearned people astray from the truth.

Any argument which proves too much proves nothing. And the attempt to justify infant baptism on the use of the word "nations" does include far, far too much for anybody. For the same argument that would justify baptizing babies would also justify the baptizing of idiots and infidels and criminals. And who believes that that was what Christ commanded?