Why baptize babies?
Of course, we all know that there is one category for church members (saved) and one category for others (lost). Understand that this categorization is based on God’s membership roles, and we don’t have access to them (other than local church elders exercising fruit inspection). Being a member of God’s church is essential, while being a member of a human church organization is merely but highly recommended.
Paul wrote of one body, one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-5), but what exactly is that? This is not a trick question, but takes into consideration the fact that Paul spoke of the body of Christ in several ways — the physical body of Jesus, the gathered assembly of believers and the spiritual body of believers that transcends space and time. These three are one in the same way that God is one, yet three. There is nothing confusing about this, except perhaps that people are not used to taking the doctrine of the Trinity seriously (which is why I wrote Colossians–Christos Singularis).
So, people get baptized because they believe, and they baptize their kids because they believe. Everyone is baptized on the same basis — belief. In my case, I have confessed it. In the case of my children, I am trusting that God will do what He has said He would do — be faithful for all time unto all believers and their offspring (Deuteronomy 12:28, Acts 16:31). I baptize my children, not because of their faithfulness, nor because of mine, but because of God’s.
Baptizing children does not save them, nor does it put them under the covenant. God alone does these things. But because baptism is a public act of testimony, it makes public the fact that I and my family consider ourselves to be under God’s covenant. It stands as a witness to God’s faithfulness. Those who are baptized are saying publicly to the world that they are submitting themselves to God’s blessings through their obedience, or to God’s cursings through their disobedience. Either way, God remains faithful to His covenant by exercising grace to the faithful and judgment to the unfaithful.
But more than this, the baptized are saying that by confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they publicly submit themselves to God’s authorities: conscience, family headship, church authorities and civil authorities. Baptism signifies entry into the communion of God’s people. It is not simply about me and Jesus, but is about God and His people in Christ.
Reality is more complex than many people are comfortable with. The oneness of God includes Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a complex oneness. And Christ’s church is also one in a similar kind of complex way. However, the complexity of reality does not make Christians nominal — laziness does that!
Being a baptized child of the covenant provides a decided advantage because of the likelihood of hearing the gospel from a family member, and having the advantages of faithful Christian teaching and discipline by a faithful father. It’s kind of like the advantage of going to the “right” schools and meeting (fellowshiping with) the “right” people, or of being trained for a particular profession from a young age by an expert.
And more than this, being a baptized child of the covenant before I have confessed my own faith in Jesus Christ, causes my parents and family to impose the expectations of faithfulness upon me. They treat me as if I actually do belong to God’s faithful people, and that treatment then provides a kind of encouragement for me to live up to their expectations. It makes me feel like I belong, and when I feel like I belong I find myself acting like I belong. It helps me understand that I am not alone, but that I have the support of a community that trusts God so much that they give their children to Him.