Last year a priest accidentally drowned an infant during a baptism in Romania. Baptism is a command from God (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-5; Galatians 3:26-28; Titus 3:5). As a command from God, all those worshipping God should obey it. Though many disagree to it's purpose and who should receive it. There is no real historical evidence for the baptizing of infants before 200 A.D.
The earliest reference seems to be in Irenaeus, "Against Heresies" (ca. 180 A.D.), "For He came to save all through means of Himself - all, I say, who through Him are born again to God - infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men." (2,4)
Hippolytus, around 215 A.D. speaks in favor or it: "Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether on a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them."
Eusebius (263-340 A.D.) was a church historian. He says in his Church History: "Novation (250 A.D.), aided by the exorcists, when attacked with an obstinate disease, and being supposed at the point of death, was baptized by aspersion (pouring) in the bed on which he lay; if indeed it be proper to say that one like him did receive baptism." Novitan later recovered but never received scriptural or biblical baptism (immersion). He was also seen as being unlawfully or incorrectly baptized by those around him. The Greek word for baptism is "Baptizo" which means to immerse, dip or wash in a liquid. The English word "baptism" is from the Greek word "baptizo" and means "immersion, submersion, and emergence." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 96) It means "to dip, immerse, or submerge." (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, p. 94).
Baptism coupled with repentance was seen as the way to salvation, and receiving the Holy Spirit. The purpose of it was to save the hearers of the word by the washing away of sins, and which made a new creature in Christ Jesus. (Acts 2:38, 8:12-16, 10:36-48, 18;8, 19:1-5, 22:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17.) Here are some historical documents which point this fact out.
The letter of Barnabas contains a chapter on water baptism. The writer most probably was the 1st Century Jew named Joseph, a Levitical priest from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus who became a follower of Jesus. He "was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24) and was nicknamed Barnabas ("son of encouragement") by his fellow Christians (Acts 4:36-37). He talks about circumcision being a seal to ancient Israel, along with the importance of the cross, the grace of God and the name of Jesus (in chapter nine). Later he talks about water baptism and the cross. Various passages from the Hebrew Scriptures are used to support his view of the requirement of water baptism for salvation. The author also attacks Israel, who would not receive the water of baptism which brings the remission of sins, but would build their own. Barnabas said that Israel rejected baptism, and that the disciples of Christ practiced it in order to receive remission from sins. He continues on, quoting Jeremiah 2:12-13, Isaiah 16:1-2, 45:2, 33:16-17 and Psalm 1 in reference to what he believed about water baptism, and then, after discussion of the passage in Psalm 1 he concludes the discourse by saying, "We go down into the water full of sins and filth, and rise up bearing fruit in our heart, resting our fear and hope on Jesus by the Spirit. 'And whoever, shall eat of these shall live forever.' He means this, whoever shall hear these things spoken and shall believe shall live forever." Here water baptism is a requirement to wash away sins. It's connection strongly here with the name of Jesus..
The letter of Ignatius was written about 110 A.D. In his epistle to the Ephesians he wrote about baptism in 4:9, "For our God, Jesus Christ, was according to the dispensation of God conceived in the womb of Mary, of the seed of David, by the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptized, that through His passion He might purify water, to the washing away of sins." His epistle to Polycarp in 2:14 says, "Please Him under whom you war, and from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter, but let your baptism remain as your shield. Your faith as your helmet, your charity as your spear, your patience as your whole armor." Sins are washed away in the water according to him. In other words, water regeneration (after repentance) comes by our faith and through the grace of God.
The Shepherd Hermas was a allegorical book that was highly esteemed by many, and it was written around 139 A.D. Commandment 4:3 says: "When we went down into the water and received remission from our former sins." Similitude 9:15-16: "Into the water, therefore, they descend dead and arise living." The account of the tower (Vision 3:7) built up of stones that have passed through the water seems to imply the saving efficacy of baptism. We plainly read in 11:5-6, "Hear, then, why the tower (church) is built upon water: it is because your life was saved and will be saved through water (baptism)." Shepherd 15.3 explains, “And do you want to know who the ones (stones) that fall near the waters but are not able to roll into the water are? They are the ones who heard the word and want to be baptized in the name of the Lord." The word of God plainly states that, "Jesus is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Therefore the practice of baptism in the name of Jesus was still in effect. In conclusion, the writer plainly states that repentance, faith, and reformation of life must precede baptism, but it is only in connection with the baptismal act that the remission of sins actually takes place.
Similar is the teaching of Justin Martyr in his First Apology, which was written in 145 A.D. "I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers’ wombs, is manifest to all. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Esaias the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, says the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if you refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” Salvation is clearly seen by Justin through baptism and in the name of Jesus Christ, though he's the first to mention the father and Holy Spirit as well.
Tertullian (160 - 220 A.D.) was the son of a Roman army officer, and was trained in Roman law. He became a Christian in his middle ages and wrote a treatise which reported the traditional view of baptism. What follows are excerpts from De Baptismo in which we clearly see the state of baptism only a hundred years after the last of the twelve apostles. Chapter 1, The reason for his treatise was to combat the Cainite heresy which denied the importance of water baptism. "Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. Like little fishes we are born in water." Chapter 4, After describing water as the vehicle of the Holy Spirit in view of Genesis 1:2 he begins his argument to distinguish baptismal water from all water on earth. "There is no distinction between those whom John baptized in the Jordan and those whom Peter baptized in the Tiber. All waters, therefore, in virtue of the pristine privilege of their origin, do, after invocation of God, attain the sacramental power of sanctification; for the Spirit immediately supervenes from the heavens, and rests over the waters, sanctifying them from Himself; and being thus sanctified, they imbibe at the same time the power of sanctifying." Chapter 12, All must be baptized with water because of what was written in John 3, "Unless a man is born of water (baptism) and the (Holy) Spirit. Without (water) baptism, salvation is attainable by none." So for Tertullian, through faith water was deemed the vehicle for washing away sins.
Tertullian is the first to mention the name of father, son and Holy Spirit in a baptismal formula. In this, he simply shortens the already changed apostolic formula of simply the Lord Jesus Christ to the added titles of father and Holy Spirit by Justin Martyr, a fellow Greek whom he had both read and admired. Tertullian is also the first to mention a trinity, of which he (admittedly) borrowed freely from's work of Timaeus.
After the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., many are forced to accept a new doctrine (the trinity). This includes that water baptism is now only performed in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit. The name of Jesus in baptism was then only used infrequently in baptism after this council.
The World Book Encyclopedia (Volume 16, Pg. 7270) But the doctrine of the three in one is considered to be a mystery for which there is no adequate explanation. The first authoritative statement of belief in Father, Son and Holy Ghost was made by the earliest general council of churches held at Nicea in 325 which also declared the Son to be of equal substance with the Father. New Catholic Encyclopedia (Volume X, Pg. 437) Nicene Creed: A profession of faith agreed upon, although with some misgivings because of it's non-Biblical terminology, by the bishops at Nicea I (325) to defend the true faith against Arianism. The World Book Encyclopedia (Volume 16, Pg. 7270) But the doctrine of the three in one is considered to be a mystery for which there is no adequate explanation. The first authoritative statement of belief in Father, Son and Holy Ghost was made by the earliest general council of churches held at Nicea in 325 which also declared the Son to be of equal substance with the Father. Dictionary of the Bible, by Scribners (Volume 1, Pg. 241) The original form of words of baptism were into the name of Jesus Christ or Lord Jesus. Baptism into the Trinity was a later development. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition (Volume III, Pg. 365-366) The teaching of the Apostles, indeed, prescribes baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but on the next page speaks of those who have been baptized into the name of the Lord- the normal formula of the New Testament. In the 3'd century baptism in the name of Christ Jesus was still so widespread that Pope Stephen, in opposition to the Cyprian of Carthage, declared it to be valid. From Pope Zachariah (Ep. X.) we learn that the Celtic missionaries in baptizing omitted one or more persons of the Trinity, and this was one of the reasons why the church of Rome anathematized them; Pope Nicholas, however (858-867 AD), in the Responsa ad censulta Bulgarorum, allowed baptism to be valid tantum in vomine Christy (in the name of Christ Jesus) as in the book of Acts. Cambers Encyclopedia (Volume 2, Pg. 112) The first recipients of baptism were adults. Infant baptism was a later development that led to sprinkling.
The Council of Carthage of 419 A.D. is where infant baptism for the remission (forgiveness) of sins officially begins. CANON 90. "That infants are baptized for the remission of sins. Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother's wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the layer of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema."
Did any of the early Christians believe in the theory of the original sin? No. Apology of Aristiaes: "And when a child is born to any one of them, they praise God; and if again, it chance to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins" (Syriac Version, c. 15, ed. J. Rendel Harris, Camb. TS)., "You see how many are the benefits of Baptism. And yet some think that the Heavenly grace consists only in forgiveness of sins: but I have reckoned up ten advantages of it. For this cause we baptize infants also, though they are not defiled with sin: that there may be super added to them Holiness, Righteousness, Adoption, Inheritance, a Brotherhood with Christ, and to be made Members of him" (see Aug. c. Julian. I. vi. f.) "The early theological development of the doctrine of the original sin contributed to the importance of infant baptism." (Christianity Through The Centuries, p. 160) St. Augustine (followed by St. Gregory the Great, St. Anselm, Gregory of Rimini, the torturer of infants, Bossuet, Berti) taught that they (infants) are damned, although punished with very light suffering” (Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, Parente, Piolanti and Garofalo, page 27). “Marriage is not the cause of the sin which is transmitted in the natural birth, and atoned for in the new birth; but the voluntary transgression of the first man is the cause of original sin” (Augustine 354-430 A.D., Quoted in The Teachings of the Church Fathers, Edited by John R. Willis, page 276). They believe that the infant is born into this world guilty of sin. They think that the baby is inherently totally depraved. However, Jesus taught differently. We read the following. Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:2-6). Ezekiel said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezekiel 18:20). "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17) Every person is responsible for his or her own sin. And in order to commit it one must know what it is to sin.
What does Church History say of infant baptism? Martin Luther (Lutheran), in "Vanity of Infant Baptism", part 2, page 3: "It cannot be proved by the Sacred Scriptures that infant baptism was instituted by Christ, or begun by the first Christians after the apostles." Neander (Lutheran Historian), in "History of the Christian Church and Religion", Vol. 1, p. 311: "Baptism was administered at first only to adults, as men were accustomed to conceive baptism and faith as strictly connected." Bishop Burnett (Episcopalian), in "Exposition of the 39 Articles", Article 27: "There is no express precept, or rule, given in the N. T. for the baptism of infants." Dr. Wall (Episcopalian), in "History of Infant Baptism", introduction, p. 1: "Among all the persons that are recorded as baptized by the Apostles, there is no express mention of any infant." “It is but fair and right to acknowledge at once that Scripture does not, bid us baptize children.” (Cardinal Newman, Parochial and Plain, Sermons, Vol. VII, p. 219).
When did the Roman Catholic Church accept sprinkling and infant baptism? History tells us that infant baptism was introduced long after the New Testament was written. It didn't even become officially approved by the Catholic Church until the Council of Ravenna (1311) and Trent (1547). Notice what the Encarta Encyclopedia (Microsoft) says: "During the late 4th and 5th centuries, Saint Augustine laid the foundations for infant baptism...According to him, people are born with an affinity for sin and, as descendants of Adam and Eve, share in the guilt of original sin." The General Council of Trent, Seventh Session (1547) Canons on the Sacraments in General: (a) "If anyone, shall say that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, or that there are more or fewer than seven, namely baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony, or that any one of these seven is not truly and intrinsically a sacrament - anathema sit." Also this excerpt, "Infants, unless regenerated unto God thru the grace of baptism, whether their parents be Christian or infidel, are born to eternal misery and perdition." (The Council of Trent Catecism) "The first law for sprinkling was obtained in the following manner: Pope Stephen II being driven from Rome, by Adolphus, King of Lombards, in 753, fled to Pepin, who, a short time before, had usurped the crown of France. While he remained there the Monks of Cressy, in Britany, consulted him whether in case of necessity, baptism poured on the head of the infant would be lawful. Stephen replied that it would, yet pouring and sprinkling were not allowed except in cases of necessity. It was not till the year 1311 that the legislature, in a council held at Ravenna, declared immersion or sprinkling to be indifferent. In Scotland, however, sprinkling was never practiced, in ordinary cases, till after the Reformation-about the middle of the 16th century. From Scotland it made its way into England, in the reign of Elizabeth, but was not authorized in the Established Church." (Edinburg Encyclopedia).
How did sprinkling spread among Protestants? In 1556, a book was published at that place, containing, "The form of prayer and ministration of the sacraments, approved by the famous and godly learned man,," in which the administrator is enjoined to take water in his hand, and lay it upon the child's forehead. These Scottish exiles, who had renounced the authority of the Pope, implicitly acknowledged the authority of Calvin; and returning to their own country, with Knox at their head, in 1559, established sprinkling in Scotland. From Scotland, this practice made its way into England in the reign of Elizabeth; but was not authorized by the established church. In the Assembly of Divines, held at Westminster, in 1643, it was keenly debated, whether immersion or sprinkling should be adopted; 25 voted for sprinkling, and 24 for immersion; and even this small majority was obtained at the earnest request of Dr. Lightfoot, who had acquired great influence in that assembly. Sprinkling is therefore the general practice of this country. Many Christians, however, especially the Baptists reject it. The Greek Church universally adheres to immersion. - Art. Baptism, Vol. III, pp. 245-246. (Edinburgh Cyclopedia).
There are many who support unscriptural ideas such infant baptism, sprinkling and the trinity baptismal formula. Some try to justify infant baptism by saying that whole households were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, but nowhere are little children mentioned being baptized (Acts 10:36-48; 16:31-33). And nowhere are infants commanded to obey it. In fact, believers alone are required to be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:26-40; Romans 10:13). What belief can a baby hold? None, as they cannot even speak. History shows that baptism was for only believers, and by immersion in the name of Jesus. During the years following the deaths of the apostles many doctrinal changes were made by the Catholic Church and Protestant Churches, causing them to disobey the scriptures. But we have a choice today, either to follow every word of God (Matthew 4:4) or the vain traditions of men (Colossians 2:8). So what will it be for you? As for me and my house, we will follow the Lord God (Joshua 24:15). Have a blessed day.