31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house…. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16:30-34 ESV
Dear Church Family,
A couple of discussions I’ve had recently about infant baptism have inspired a few observations on how to (and how NOT to) read your Bible. One of the most common arguments supporting infant baptism is that Acts mentions “households” that are said to be baptized. One is the household of Cornelius in Acts 10, and another is the household of a Philippian jailer in Acts 16.
These accounts are instructive because of what they say, but also because of what they reveal about certain tendencies humans have when they read the Bible. One tendency is to assume things that are not stated if those assumptions help support a predetermined interpretation. Another tendency is to ignore or overlook elements that challenge your desired interpretation.
In the case of Acts, my first observation is that Luke, the author, gives no indication that he is trying to address the issue of whether or not infants can be baptized. That being the case, it is highly questionable whether firm conclusions should be based upon these accounts.
In the matter of assumptions, the most glaring one is that infants were present in the households in question. This is certainly not stated in Acts; it is speculation, pure and simple. Personally, I would go even further: Even if they had been present, I would suggest that it is possible that Luke would assume that the readers would understand that he didn’t mean to include them in the household baptism. If asked, he might have said, “Well, of course not the infants.”
That last assertion may sound a little speculative on my part, but that is where the other tendency about Bible reading comes in: what is being conveniently overlooked in these household baptism texts? In the case of Cornelius and his household, the ones who were baptized (10:48; 11:17) are also said to have heard the word (10:44), received the Spirit (10:44-47), spoken in tongues (10:46), and repented (11:18). Those who claim infants were among those who were baptized in 10:48 don’t usually mention these other elements, maybe because it is especially unlikely that Luke is saying infants were, for example, speaking in tongues.
In the case of the Philippian jailer’s family, Acts 16:31 says that the ones who believe will be saved. Consequently, it is to the entire household that the word is spoken (v. 32). Finally, the entire household rejoiced at their (or his) conversion (v. 34). Were infants rejoicing at their own or the jailer’s conversion? It seems more likely that Luke has older people in view than infants. These are just a few observations on which to reflect. As we read scripture, we should always try to reflect upon what we might be improperly assuming or overlooking?