Infant Baptism? Infant Salvation? What does the Bible say?


In my theology class last week I had to answer a prompt regarding the practice of infant baptism and thus the question of infant salvation: if an infant dies before the “age of accountability” what is their destiny? Does the atoning work of Christ in someway apply to them?

I have posted my thoughts on the topic below (I was restrained by a word count, FYI) and want you to think about this topic during the week. I will say that my brief look a the topic is not at all complete and is something that I believe requires further study to understand at a deeper level. I will also say that I believe there are some things in life that we need to admit ignorance to and place completely in the hands of God.

I believe this is one of those areas, especially because God’s Word is silent on the matter regarding infant salvation.  All of that said, I challenge you to do independent study on this (this replaces the weekly memory verse for this week).

Scripture is quite clear, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV), and “all have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). Where Scripture is clear on the state of humans, it is also clear on the special place that children hold. This is especially seen in the time that Christ had on earth (Matt 19:13-14; Mark 10:14; Luke 10:21; Matt. 21:16; Matt 18:6)[1]. Although it is clear that God loves children, Scripture is also clear that “all” (literally “everyone”) has sinned and falls short of His Glory, deserving death (Rom 6:23). This author does not see (in the scope of this study) how children (also infants) can be exempt from this judgement and penalty.

Another area where this author believes Scripture is clear is on that of God’s sovereign choice. “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion'” (Romans 9:14). Is it possible that the atoning work of Christ on the cross could somehow be applied to infants without the infant making a volitional decision to put their faith in Christ for salvation? This author will submit that yes, it may be possible. But what, then, is to be made of the action required to believe and have eternal life (John 5:24)?

Based on this brief study the conclusion that unborn infants, or infants who die shortly after birth, are sinners and thus deserve full judgement (as we all do), are subject to the full punishment (as we all are). Apart from faith in Christ there is no hope for salvation. Paul’s question (already stated) is appropriate here: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'”

[1]Bromiley, G. W. “Baptism, Infant.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 132. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.