1 Jan 1999

What about unbaptized infants?

Submitted by theshovel
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Where do unbaptized infants go in case they die early? Jose

Hello Jose,

Thanks for writing. As I was raised in a Lutheran background I can remember the sense of fear I had over the baptism question, but I have come to realize that such fear has to do with religion … and not God. Do you understand the distinction?

Consider, why do we think infants should be baptized in the first place? Isn’t it because we have been taught that it provides some form of protection toward those too young to do something about it themselves? After all, we figure that if it gives adults a better chance to be saved then it surely must have some effect upon infants.

But where do we get the idea that a person must go through the ritual of baptism in order to gain life with God? Many will say, The Bible, but the truth of the matter is that the religious system has framed its own methods of reaching God so that quotes from some fantastic words seem to support their agenda.

I say all of this to tell you that God has no such agenda, for what He has done through Christ is miraculous. What He does He does freely and without a cost or without a reason or cause from us. Religion might establish one form of bondage after another, but Christ brought freedom from exactly that.

Jim


Hello Jose, did you actually read what I wrote or did you just scan it for the yes or no answer you were expecting to find?

Unbaptized infants have no idea who Jesus Christ is? Jose

A baptized infant — in other words, an infant who got splashed with water during a religious ritual — has no more understanding of who Jesus Christ is than an infant who has not undergone the ritual.

Do unbaptized go to heaven? Jose

The real question, once again, would be: But where do we get the idea that a person must go through the ritual of baptism in order to gain life with God?

What does the bible say about this? Jose

I could make the Bible say almost anything I wanted it to say — so much so that I could have a person thinking he had to not only go through the baptism ritual but that it would not even count if it wasn’t done the right way and by the right group and by the right official.

What does the Bible make very clear about salvation? Simply that it is the work of God and has nothing to do with what we DO, including rituals like baptism. The same Paul who wrote most of the letters in the New Testament portion of your Bible even made a statement that,

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 1 Corinthians 1:17

If you see nothing else in this statement it should be at least certain that Paul did not consider the act of baptism to be a part of preaching the gospel. The issue at that time had nothing to do with needing to be baptized in order to be saved but that religious men were finding prestige in how many they had each personally performed the ritual upon.

The “you need to do this in order to be saved” ritual of the day was circumcision. Using the portion of the Bible they had at that time the official religious leadership was demanding that uncircumcised individuals could not be saved. This is exactly the same sort of thing you are asking me about concerning baptism. Peter and Paul went absolutely berserk over this issue and demanded that the performance of the ritual had nothing to do with whether one was saved or not.

You can still read your Bible and find adequate Biblical proof to demand that you need to be circumcised in order to be saved — way more than you can regarding baptism — and yet the truth of the matter is that God has established no such requirements to give a person eternal life. If you could perform a ritual in order to be delivered from sin (or as many call it “to go to heaven”) then you don’t need God to save you, do you? The truth of the matter is that God saves the unbaptized in the same way He saves the baptized, and that is by grace through faith. The ritual of baptism has nothing to do with saving anybody. And honestly, we are so far removed from what baptism meant to the early Jewish believers at that time that we totally misunderstand what significance they placed in it. It has simply come to us as a religious ritual that we think God expects us to do in order to make it to heaven.

As far as the practice of baptizing infants it says absolutely nothing. That’s right, nothing at all. It is merely the logical extension of the religious belief that the ritual called baptism has something to do with increasing a person’s odds of making it to heaven in the afterlife.

I’m wondering if there is something else behind your questions. Is this a real issue to you? Or do you already have an opinion and just want to challenge me? Or does the issue worry you? Like, did you just have a baby and are wondering if you should have it baptized? Have you lost a child that was unbaptized? By the way, I have lost a baby and I am not the least bit concerned whether or not she was baptized, nor am I influenced that some are able to twist some Bible verses to suggest that God sends all infants who die to heaven. I am far more willing to leave any of my doubts and fears with the God who has poured out His grace because He put His son to death.

Does a person who accept Jesus as saviour also see the kingdom of God; or being saved (see John 3:16) and seeing the kingdom of God (see John 3:5) are the two different issues? John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:5 Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.Jose

Now, you’re going to be wondering why I don’t just get to the point and answer your question, but the fact is that I am answering your real heart’s question: Can I — and those I love — miss out on life with God because of a technicality? In other words, your fear is that you might end up standing before God only to have Him let you know that you couldn’t come in because you didn’t do the right thing. Infant water-baptism just happens to be the present issue. I imagine there are — and will be — many others.

Have you ever noticed the nit-picky technicality found in religious distinctions such as the one you’re asking? And please know, I’m not at all scolding you for asking it either, because your questioning only reveals that something about all this doesn’t sit right with your heart. Religious thinking is what forces us to wonder if Jesus might have been trying to trick us with legalities such as, Can I be saved and yet not see the kingdom of God?

Consider this verse that is found in the same writing of John:

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

Through Moses came those detailed requirements from God that have stirred up endless debates and arguments for centuries. Is it any wonder that the Jewish rabbis spent most of their time arguing about the true meanings behind what God told Moses? Do you realize that those who try to understand law never come to the knowledge of the truth but only keep the vicious cycle of debate perpetuated?

But grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. There is nothing he ever said that was meant to keep us wondering about his intentions and meanings. He did not come to establish a new set of rules and requirements but instead to become the very fulfillment of any and every requirement. He did this, not by any kind of a detailed attempt at religious observance, but instead by the doing away with the one to bring in the other. In other words, the new birth. Read through that whole section of John 3 again without all the verse and numbers breaks and see if you don’t see the contrast between legality and life:

Nicodemus came to Jesus as a representative of the official religious leadership at that time, which was the Pharisees. He began his dialog with:

Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him. John 3:2

Nicodemus probably had more of an interest in finding out about Jesus and his intentions, but the wording makes it clear that he was most likely sent by the Pharisees in a private setting in hopes of getting him on their side. Jesus had become so influential and obviously desired to harness that, plus they didn’t want any bad publicity (which is what they ended up getting loads of).

The Pharisees would have understood something as simple as the performance of a ritual like water baptism. If you will remember, they even went to see John the baptizer for that very purpose. But John saw right through them and went off on them calling them snakes and talking about the bad tree that produces bad fruit and how the axe was ready to cut the roots. Ouch. Keep in mind, these guys were just like the official religious clergy of our day, and this was making them look really bad.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3:5

Even after Jesus made the comment, Nicodemus said nothing about understanding water baptism, but simply, “How can these things be?” He didn’t have clue as to this new birth Jesus was talking about. If water baptism had anything to do with being born of water then Nicodemus would have had no problem discussing it. Instead he was mystified, for Jesus was describing a birth that comes from the very spirit of God. What Jesus continued on with was not something different but was still describing the same miraculous birth from God.

Isn’t it ironic that what Jesus said totally baffled those who were the religious leaders of the day, and yet the religious leaders of our day are now telling us what he really meant? The truth is that the religious mind is just as mystified by the miraculous birth from God today as it was back then. Please know that being born of God is not something you have done but something miraculous from God’s Spirit.

Hello Jim, Thank you for answering all my questions. What do you mean when you say, “…nor am I influenced that some are able to twist some Bible verses to suggest that God sends all infants who die to heaven.”? Jose

Sometimes we want to believe something — or should I say, NOT believe something — so bad that we will pretty much force the Bible to say what we want it to say. There is a complicated logic that some use to prove that infants who die before a certain age won’t go to hell and suffer for eternity. But the logic is shaky at best. For many years I simply realized that it is far better to trust the goodness of God over some shaky pretext!

Then again, what if we have only forced ourselves into trying to disprove our OWN belief that God is waiting to throw people – including infants – into a place where they will suffer and burn for eternity? What if God is far, far better than anything we have ever imagined?

Jim

New Testament: 

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