I was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church when I was 6 months old. When I was in my 30s and decided I wanted to go back to church, the first church I was taken to in Miami was a huge Baptist church. I went to the singles ministry Sunday school and they kept asking me, “When was I baptized?”
I said, “As a baby.”
“You need to be baptized again.” They would reply quickly.
However, none of them could explain to me WHY I needed to be baptized again. I explain how God finally lead me to an explanation I could wrap my brain around here.
Where the Roman Catholic Church Went Wrong
Tracking where church leaders strayed from the Gospel Truth
This is the first of several — I have no idea how many — blog posts and podcasts on “Where the Roman Catholic Church Went Wrong”. I’ll be tracking where church leaders strayed from the Gospel Truth — going back as far as I can find sources and proof.
Where did Baptizing Babies Start?
Certainly not from Jesus, Peter or Paul! In the New Testament, we do not find anything about baby baptism. So why did the church start baptizing babies in stead of new believers being baptized after they repent of their sins? Let’s start with Jewish tradition.
The Mark of the Covenant
9 Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. 10 This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. 11 You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. 13 All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. 14 Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.”Genesis 17:9-14 NLT
You became part of the covenant upon circumcision.
Jesus Is Presented in the Temple
21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.
22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”Luke 2:21-24 NLT
Today, many non-denominational churches do “baby dedications”.
What Happens at a “Baby Dedication”?
I’ve witnessed several of these at my church. They do it once a year. Parents will bring their children up on stage and introduce themselves. The kids could range in age from infant to 8 years old. (There really isn’t an age limit.)
The pastor then reads an oath — it’s a vow the parents and/or guardians take to raise the child in a Christ-centered home, teaching them the Bible and the truth about Jesus Christ as soon as they are able to learn. Then the people in the congregation take a vow to assist, as they can, to raise and train these children in a Christ-centered way.
By the 2nd century (100s), the church that Jesus Christ started, already believed in infant baptism. They believed, as the Jews did back in the OT, that you cannot become part of the covenant without being baptized as an infant.
The Truth About Baptism
John the Baptist performed the first baptisms. “Baptizo” in Greek, means to “dip or immerse”.
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; … 2 Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. 3 Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.Luke 3:1-3 NLT
Jesus was proclaimed in the Psalms…
The king proclaims the Lord’s decree:Psalm 2:7-9 NLT
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son.
Today I have become your Father.
8 Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
the whole earth as your possession.
9 You will break them with an iron rod
and smash them like clay pots.’”
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”John 1:29
13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”Matthew 3:13-17 NLT
This was also where the Holy Trinity was revealed. But that’s for a whole other article.
Early Church Writings on Baptism c. 50-150
The Didache — which means “teaching” in Greek — aka, “The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations”.
“The text, parts of which constitute the oldest extant written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization.”Wikipedia
Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism. “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. [Affusion] But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.”The Didache
Basically, what the writers of the Didache were telling early church leaders is when you have a new believer, baptize them however you can. First, look for “living water” — a lake, river, the ocean or sea. If there’s no living water nearby, then any other water — a “mikvah” (Jewish bath) — or Roman bath, even a tub. If there are none those, pour water on them. That’s how it started.
The problem with “affusion”, is that you lose the representation of dying to your old self and rising anew to your new, reborn, sinless self.
Also, you can’t ask a baby to fast one or two days before. You’ll have one cranky baby. That’s for adults. They had to ponder the repentance of their sins and surrendering their lives to Christ and what baptism meant to them.
No babies were ever baptized. They were dedicated to God.
When did the Church Divert?
“The Christian church knew no form of baptism but immersion until the Middle Ages, when the Roman Catholic church-which itself had previously always baptized by immersion introduced the practice of sprinkling or pouring. The great Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said, “In immersion the setting forth of the burial of Christ is more plainly expressed, in which this manner of baptizing is more commendable.” The Catholic Church did not recognize other modes until the Council of Ravenna, held in France in 1311.John Barnett
What is Baptism?
Baptism is an external symbol of an inward transformation.
- BAPTISM ALWAYS PORTRAYS my new relationship with God.
- BAPTISM ANNOUNCES MY PLEDGE of allegiance to Christ, as I am baptized into the name of the Triune God, and fellowship with Him.
- BAPTISM ALWAYS PARALLELS a confession of faith.
- BAPTISM WAS ALWAYS PART of the obedience of faith. Faith demands action, and an immediate action is baptism!
- BAPTISM WAS ALWAYS PRESENTED as a command. An unbaptized Christian is alien to the New Testament. Baptism was not an option, it was obedience to a command.
- BAPTISM WAS ALWAYS ONLY FOR THOSE WHO HAD ALREADY PERSONALLY confessed Christ. Only believers were baptized. No infants or children that could not confess Him for themselves were baptized!
- BAPTISM WAS ALWAYS TO PORTRAY purification.
What does the Roman Catholic Church Believe about Infant Baptism?
Infant baptism is part of the 7 Sacraments that buy you “grace points” to purchase your way into Heaven.
Roman Catholic baby baptism is the first sacrament on your way to Purgatory (We’ll dive into who invented Purgatory in a future post.)
“The Sacraments of the Catholic Church are: “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1131)
The first dose you ever get, you get at infant baptism. That’s why infant baptism is absolutely required because it is the first dispensation of infused grace. And according to Catholic Theology, at that point, grace is infused into you.
That grace becomes an energy in you, moving you toward justification, toward righteousness as you cooperate by good works.”John Barnett
Baptism by itself cannot save a person.
You have to believe first. Jesus said…
“Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”Mark 16:16 NLT
Why do Some Protestant Churches still Believe in Infant Baptism?
It was from the Catholic Church that Lutheran and Reformed churches inherited the form of sprinkling or pouring. The Church of England did not begin the practice of sprinkling until 1645. The Eastern Orthodox Church has never permitted any mode but immersion.
Those three, are kind of a little bit Romanistic and Reformed also. Why do I say that? They believe in infant baptism. They believe that you get into the Covenant by baptism. What the Jews used to have circumcision for has become Baptism today. The Roman Church says that God is done with Israel [“replacement theology”] and will never pick up with them again and the Church has become the new Israel. Circumcision becomes baptism. The priesthood of the Old Testament becomes the priest of the New Testament. The sacrifices of the Levitical system become Mass. Moses and Aaron and the High Priests become the Pope. They have basically taken the Old Testament and given all New Testament names to it and they have built this whole works salvation thing that the Jews had.John Barnett
“The Three Surprises of Heaven”
Charles Spurgeon wrote about 140 years ago…
“My first surprise in Heaven will be that I get there. [Now, that’s humility!]
“The second surprise is all the people that I was sure were going to be there, won’t be.
“The third surprise is all the people I didn’t think were going to be there are there.”Charles Spurgeon
Personally, I don’t know if my non-church-attending, Roman-Catholic-raised father will be there. I don’t know if my devout, Roman Catholic mother who spent a year and a half in a Born-Again Christian nursing home will be there. Some people I do expect to see there are my Uncle Waldo and those cousins — who I know were and are born again, my 2 friends who died of cancer, and most of my church family.
Jesus is coming back soon! Are you ready?
Repent of your sins and invite Jesus into heart right now. If you don’t know what to say…
Pray this prayer humbly and wholeheartedly…
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Please forgive me. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and my life to you. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. I surrender my whole life to you and I will follow you for the rest of my life. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Next Steps in Your New Walk with Jesus…
- Start reading the Bible daily to get to know God. If you don’t have one, I recommend the YouVersion, Bible.app and Through the Word app — both are free and have a lot of great Bible studies.
- Pray every day. Talk to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you daily.
- Find and join a Bible-believing church — preferably a non-denominational one and be baptized!
Infant Baptism was a Divisive Subject in the Early Church
c. 112: Ignatious: “Order the baptized to fast one or two days before.” (From the Didache). Those are adults not babies.1
c. 150: Justin: “Cannot receive “Eucharist and wine unless ‘washed'”.1
Augustine, “De Baptismo” “Donatism”: “Children of God” are baptized children. No, those are believers who when they repent, are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit become heirs with Christ and adopted into the family of God, thus becoming “Children of God”.1
c. 160-225: Tertullian: Opposed infant baptism in his writing “De Anima” and “Of Baptism”. He believed that post-baptismal sins were mortal sins and opposed infant baptism. But he later accepted it.2
In the same era: Cyprian: He supported infant baptism.2
c. 360-420: Pelagius (kind of nuts): Man doesn’t inherit original sin, thus infant baptism is not necessary.2
1525-80: The Reformation: The Anabaptists were the only ones who insisted on adult baptism of the believer. I’ll get into more detail on the Reformation later.2
- Documents of the Christian Church, 1999, 3rd edition, Edited by Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder
2. Christianity Through the Centuries, Earle E. Cairns, 1996, Zondervan.