57. The Baptism of Infants

  1. Prerequisites

    For a child to be presented for baptism, at least one parent must be a communing member of the Church, in good standing, normally of the local congregation. In order to present a child for baptism, parents shall make prior arrangements with the session. Before presentation for baptism, the session shall ensure that instruction has been given to the parent(s) as to the nature, privileges, and responsibilities of baptism for the parents and the child. Only parents who are communing members of a church may be permitted to take parental vows. If only one of two parents is a communing member and taking vows, it shall be the duty of the minister to inform the congregation of the situation, including that the one parent is not a member of this congregation and is not taking the vows. In extraordinary circumstances, at the parents’ request, the session may permit the baptism of a child of parents who are communing members of another church which is approved by the session, on behalf of and with the written permission of the governing body of that church. In such a case, the session shall inform the other governing body, in writing, when the baptism has been administered.

  2. The Administration of Baptism to Infants
    1. The Institution of the Sacrament

      The minister ought to read the words of the institution of the sacrament of baptism from a passage such as Matthew 28:18-20.

    2. The Meaning and Nature of the Sacrament

      The minister shall first summarize before the congregation the teaching of the Word of God and the Confession and Catechisms of this church as to the meaning and nature of the sacrament of baptism. In doing so, he may use these or like words:

      The Lord Jesus Christ instituted baptism as a covenant sign and seal for His church. He uses it not only for the solemn admission of the person who is baptized into the visible church, but also to depict and to confirm His ingrafting of that person into Himself and His including that person in the covenant of grace.

      The Lord uses baptism to portray to us that we and our children are conceived and born in sin and need to be cleansed.

      He uses it to witness and seal to us the remission of sins and the bestowal of all the gifts of salvation through union with Christ. Baptism with water signifies and seals cleansing from sin by the blood and the Spirit of Christ, together with our death unto sin and our resurrection unto newness of life by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ. The time of the outward application of the sign does not necessarily coincide with the inward work of the Holy Spirit which the sign represents and seals to us. Because these gifts of salvation are the gracious provision of the triune God, who is pleased to claim us as His very own, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

      In our baptism, the Lord puts His name on us, claims us as His own, and summons us to assume the obligations of the covenant. He calls us to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, to renounce the devil, the world, and the flesh, and to walk humbly with our God in devotion to His commandments.

    3. Exhortation to the Members of the Congregation to Improve Their Baptism

      Then the minister may exhort the congregation in these or like words:

      As solemn vows are about to be made before you, and baptism is now to be administered, you who are baptized will do well to take this occasion to reflect on your own baptism. Christ has put His name and claim on you. He calls you to be repentant for your sins against your covenant God, to confess your faith before men, and to live in newness of life to God, who sealed His covenant with you by the blood of His own Son.

    4. The Ground of Baptizing Infants

      The minister shall then give instruction as to the ground of the baptism of infants. He may use these or like words:

      Although our young children do not yet understand these things, they are nevertheless to be baptized. For God commands that all who are under His covenant of grace be given the sign of the covenant.

      God made the promise of the covenant to believers and to their offspring. In the Old Testament, He declared to Abraham: “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto you, and to your descendants after you.”[1] For this reason, in the Old Testament, God commanded that covenant infants be given the sign of circumcision.

      The covenant is the same in essence in both the Old and the New Testaments. Indeed, the grace of God for the consolation of believers is even more fully manifested in the New Testament. He declares that “For the promise is for you and your children.”[2] He promises, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”[3] He affirms that if even one parent is a believer, the children are “holy.”[4] Moreover, our Savior admitted little children into His presence, embracing and blessing them, and saying, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”[5]

      And so, in the New Testament no less than in the Old, the children of believers have an interest in the covenant and a right to the covenant sign and to the outward privileges of the covenant people, the church. In the New Testament, baptism has replaced circumcision as the covenant sign.[6] Therefore, by the covenant sign of baptism the children of believers are to be distinguished from the world and solemnly admitted into the visible church.

    5. The Covenant Commitments of the Parents and the Congregation

      The minister shall then require the parents to vow publicly their duty as Christian parents to present their children for baptism and to nurture them in the Christian faith, by answering these questions in the affirmative:

      (1) Do you reaffirm your own faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?

      (2) Do you acknowledge your child’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?

      (3) Do you claim God’s covenant promises in [his/her] behalf and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for [his/her] salvation, as you do for your own?

      (4) Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon God’s grace, that you will seek to set before [him/her] a godly example, that you will pray with and for [him/her], that you will teach [him/her] the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all the tools which God has given us, to bring [him/her] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

      The minister shall then require the congregation[7] to vow publicly their duty to assist the parent(s) in the Christian nurture of the child:

      Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child? [If so, say, “We do.”]

    6. Prayer

      The minister shall then pray for the presence and blessing of the triune God, that the grace signified and sealed by baptism may be abundantly realized.

    7. The Baptism

      Then, calling the child by name, the minister shall say, as he baptizes him with water, without adding any other ceremony:

      [Name of Child], I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    8. Charge to the Parents

      It is then fitting that the minister give a charge to the parents in the following or like words:

      Beloved in Christ Jesus, we give thanks to God for this child that He has given you, and for your expressed desire for [him/her] to know the Lord and to follow Him all [his/her] days. Along with the great blessing of the gift of this child have come responsibilities that you have just acknowledged and to which you have solemnly committed yourselves, and I charge you to continue steadfastly in the commitments that you have made today before God and these witnesses, humbly relying upon the grace of God in the diligent use of the means of grace—especially the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer.

    9. Prayer

      The whole service of baptism shall then be concluded with prayer. It is well in such prayer to thank the Lord for His covenant of grace, rejoice that this child has been included, and to ask the Lord to graciously enable him to be a covenant keeper, daily dying to sin and walking in newness of life in Christ.

  1. Genesis 17:7.
  2. Acts 2:39.
  3. Acts 16:31.
  4. 1 Corinthians 7:14.
  5. Mark 10:14.
  6. Colossians 2:11–12.
  7. If the session has permitted the parents' request for the baptism of an infant to take place in another church, the congregation present at the baptism should not take this vow. At a subsequent date, with explanation (especially in exclusively credo-baptistic churches), the vow should be administered to the home congregation.


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