Question: Why Do Methodist Baptize Infants?
Answer: Great question. According to United Methodist teaching, “any age is appropriate for baptism since all persons stand in need of God’s grace. Infant baptism is a powerful expression of the reality that all persons come before God as no more than helpless infants, unable to do anything to save ourselves, dependent upon the grace of our loving God.”
Article XVII of Methodist Articles of Religion on baptism state:
“Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth. The Baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church.”
It is clear that within current UMC structure Godly parents who wish to “commit” their child to the Lord are encouraged to do so. But how can we know we have received the Holy Spirit? The baptism of Jesus offers one example: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” As parents do we see evidence of the Holy Spirit in our child’s life?
In most cultures only after an individual reaches the “age of reason” — seven, ten, twelve … twenty — can they appreciate the words of God and become convicted of their sin. Before this moment we are:
- Dead in our sins and transgressions.
- Follow the ways of this world.
- Follow the ruler of the kingdom of the air.
- Follow the spirit who is now at work in those of us who are disobedient.
- Gratify the cravings of our sinful nature – which is our fleshly desires.
- Fail to realize that we are, by nature, children of wrath.
“It is by grace you have been saved. This is a gift of God.” Ephesians 2:2-10
For Christ, his adult baptism indicated that he was consecrated and committed to God. An infant is wholly dependent upon others for their care and feeding. If sprinkling water on an infant would save their offspring from hell and a life of sinful behavior, a great many parents of all beliefs, even unbelief, would ask that their child be dipped and flipped for God.
In his baptism Christ was officially approved by God. “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16. As parents did we hear God speaking at our child’s baptism? Will the infant remember God speaking to them?
After the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit was seen descending on Jesus. After our baptism of water we should experience the Holy Spirit descending upon and coming to live in us. In fact, receiving the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of our “new birth.” From that moment forward, the spiritual DNA of Christ is transferred into our spirit. This starts our sanctification — a fancy word that means “set apart,” “made holy.” The old body remains, but a new spirit begins to grow within us. The baptism of Jesus as an adult is our example.
Do you know that his Spirit lives within you? “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him [Jesus] ( you, me, and all who receive Christ into themselves). The Spirit of the Lord provides spiritual wisdom and of understanding, counsel and of might, knowledge and fear of the Lord.” – Isaiah 11. This is but one way to know if you have God’s Holy Spirit. Here are other ways to check your spirit and confirm that the Spirit of Christ is working inside you.
- The Holy Spirit helps us live a righteous and faithful life. The Holy Spirit will never guide you to be unfaithful to God or act in a wicked, sinful, evil, unfair or unjust manner.
- The Holy Spirit helps us to testify about Christ and act as a witness-emissary on his behalf.
- The Holy Spirit helps us to minister to others.
- The Holy Spirit also acts as a comforter who intercedes on our behalf, especially in times of trial.
- The Holy Spirit transforms us into a person of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness — someone who is gentle, modest, self-controled, faithful to God, and refraining from any sexual conduct outside the bonds of marriage.
- The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of his acts and what Jesus said while he was on earth.
Is there any benefit in infant baptism? Perhaps. Probably. But let us also hope that every Christian follow the example of Christ’s disciples who, when told to “wait for his Spirit,” gathered together in worship and became filled with his Spirit and power. In doing so, they taught and preached with authority, healed the sick, raised the dead, and forcefully expanded his kingdom here on earth. May we go and do likewise.